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Thread: Why is my block not square?

  1. #1
    Junior Member conniemaried's Avatar
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    Why is my block not square?

    This is a BOM club block from my LQS that I am audtioning in scrap fabric. As a novice, I was very careful in my cutting, seam allowances, and pressing. But the strips hoizontally are 1/4" short.but the vertical length (joined strips) is the correct 13". Why would the block be perfect one direction, but not the other? Please help me understand what I did wrong before I cut into my good fabric. Thanks.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 04-14-2012 at 02:56 AM. Reason: per member, wrong picture attached

  2. #2
    Junior Member conniemaried's Avatar
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    OOPS! wrong picture

    Let's try again. Don't know how that happened, and couldn't figure out how to edit out that one. Sorry!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
    Senior Member w7sue's Avatar
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    You are asking the wrong person - I recently did a small quilt that was supposed to measure 26" square finished - it measured 25 one way and 25.5 the other and it looks just fine - not sure where my problem was, but pretty sure it was all the hourglass blocks because I know the center block was the perfect size because it was applique and I did it on an oversize block and cut it down. I know it is all in the 1/4" seam allowances.

  4. #4
    Super Member Pat625's Avatar
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    I can't see anything that would have thrown it off..it all fits together so perfectly, and the points look great...

  5. #5
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    Sometimes it is the amount taken up by last long seams. Due to the bulk of fabric at intersecting seams, the seam allowance needs to be adjusted. I cannot tell from the picture if the short width corresponds to the long seams that join the rows.

    When I did the first 18 inch Civil War Tribute block, I was half an inch off. Told to use a thinner thread and a scant 1/4 inch. The second time, it came out fine. It is always a challenge to me.

  6. #6
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    sweetana3 has it right. The long seams need to be at least a thread width narrower.
    Life is made up of bits and pieces. You won't know how it'll turn out till its done.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Donna H-M's Avatar
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    I took a wall hanging class one time and we sewed long strips together for the background. I sew them all the same direction, top to bottom. It actually curved by the time I was done. Teacher told me I should have turned it and alternated sewing. Maybe that is why?
    Donna

  8. #8
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    Beautiful block, but don't have any answers.

  9. #9
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    I'd like to start by saying ... that is a very good block! And bravo to you for doing a test block with scraps to work the kinks out!

    Are you measuring your 1/4" seams AFTER ironing?

    Are you using fabrics of different weights (ie - looks like you have muslin weight in there and the dark green might be a heavy weight fabric?). When I'm sewing small pieces (1/4" finished) or a block with a lot of pieces, I have to be very careful to either not use fabrics of different weights (ie I can't mix batiks and asians), OR adjust my seam allowance with every combination of fabric. The difference is that the heavier fabrics take up more space to fold over the seam than a batik or a muslin. The smaller the piece - or the more pieces you have (such as your block) can throw the whole block off.

    You can test your 1/4" by pulling 3 of the fabrics you plan to use, cut each piece 1 or 2 inches (whichever is more consistent with the size you will be using) and sew them together. If you used 1" pieces your finished size will be 2.5" AFTER you iron it. If not, adjust.

    And of course sewing over seam allowances needs to be compensated for as well.

    Every time you have a seam you have an "opportunity" for the finished product to be off a smidge. The more seams you have, the larger the discrepancy in the end product. Each of these little smidges will multiple - naked to the eye until you look at the end result.

    It's best to make sure that the parts within the block as perfect as possible - matching all seams and nice points. It's not at all uncommon that the outer edges of blocks are not perfect as a result (for all the above reasons) especially on a complicated block! I think the only blocks I can get to finish perfect on all edges is a square in a square! As long as you can trim the outer edges of the block and still have enough seam allowance to connect it to the next block (or sashing) you are OK.

    Good luck!
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  10. #10
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    Wow, I have been quilting a while, by no means an expert, but had no idea to compensate for the thicker seam allowances and some of the other great suggestions! My blocks are normally "off" a little and maybe now I can fix that. Thanks!!

    BTW, your block is really nice.

  11. #11
    Power Poster alikat110's Avatar
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    Great tips. I agree to compensate for the seam allowances!!!!

  12. #12
    Super Member Jan in VA's Avatar
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    I think the point is, this is fabric -- a soft medium, not stone or wood or metal, which do not have any "give". There will always be discrepancies in blocks, sections, segments because of this give. One can make minute adjustments to accommodate this give, or learn to accept the properties of the medium of their choice and "not sweat the small stuff".
    That said, my piecing is accurate, a bit meticulous, well pressed, and then I do not sweat the small stuff! But, I've been doing it for 30 years; practice makes "better" in this medium.

    Jan in VA
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  13. #13
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I have learned to press open my seams if the block has a lot of joining pieces. You can lose a lot of measure by the seam pressing to one side.
    Got fabric?

  14. #14
    Junior Member conniemaried's Avatar
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    Thanks, everybody for the great tips. Now I have several ideas to try on the next sample. I have faith that the next sample will turn out close enough. I love you all--I'm beginning to believe that it takes a village to raise a quilter!

  15. #15
    Super Member jcrow's Avatar
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    Just wanted to say "I love your practice block". The fabrics are beautiful and your work is wonderful. You have all the points. My blocks are off all the time. Sometimers I have to "iron" (I know it's a no-no) it to get it to the right size. Right now I'm working on a quilt and my scant 1/4" that I decided to try for the first time made my blocks too large and I had to cut them all down and now I'm going to have to cut down all my sashing. I can't win. My scant was too scant! Dang!!!
    "Be yourself...everyone else is taken."
    Strong people don't put others down...they build them up."
    "Remember that your instincts are more important than rules"

  16. #16
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    That pattern would finish to 2.5x2.5 inches for each *increment * of your grid. Around the perimeter, add in the 1/4 inch for perimeter seam allowances. You could measure each *increment* of your grid.

    With five *increments of your grid* (some with one or more seams within that grid-increment) you have lots of seams with room for the *width of the thread stitching line* to be off.

    With luck, you could frog-stitch one long seam perhaps and add in 1/16" inch beyond the point(s) in that grid... and/or figure on stretching a bit when matching seams for the adjoining blocks. I.E. if you are matching points every 2.5 inches sewing one block side to the next, you would be stretching perhaps 1/32" of this one block to match the next for that increment? Its fabric, you can do that LOL.

    You might also dampen just the seam on the back with a sponge or wet washcloth and press with the tip of the iron, trying to get that seam *flatter* (dont stretch when wet tho)... you might gain 1/16" of an inch in a couple places.

    Overall, in the end... you can probably stretch that 12 3/4" measurement with all the seams in that block, to match a 13" strips, so, really, I dont think you need to take any stitching out...I really would not rip anything; the blocks looks BEAUTIFUL ! .... I think you can *make it fit* that extra 1/4 inch....
    Last edited by Sheepshed; 04-14-2012 at 11:21 AM.

  17. #17
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Did you use a scant 1/4"? This is where scant is important. Any blocks that are a bit more complex and have points will typically ask for a scant 1/4". This takes into consideration bulk of the seam and thread bulk.

  18. #18
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    Idon't know why but if all my points lined up like yours I'd be thrilled and just square it up and be happy.

  19. #19
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    The block looks perfect! Your points are really nice. I found starching and measuring everytime I sew is the trick. If one block is off it will add up. I unsew when I am off and then go to the next step. Practice does help and you are doing great.
    Linda

  20. #20
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    Do you have any extra "give" in the long seams? I would try to press those seams with a little steam to see if they will pull out a bit. Pressing improperly can also shorten a seam. I think you did a great job with the block.
    Martina
    Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric!

  21. #21
    Power Poster twinkie's Avatar
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    My DH is an engineer and has been very helpful to me in every way when it comes to templates and piecing. He just reminded me of the following point he always makes to me. When making a square with many pieces in it, all you have to be off is 1/32" (maybe the thickness of a credit card) on each seam and when you get done doing 4 pieces, you are off 1/8". Miniscule errors in measurement multiply themselves. Don't know if I am explaining it right but here it is another way. If I am off 1/32" on a seam, you have to multiply it by 2 because you are off 1/32" on each piece that is sewn together. Now, instead of being off 1/32" on a seam, I am off 1/16" for the two pieces, etc. Hope this helps. Now, I just wanted to say, your points are so accurate. You did a great job and I love your block.
    Last edited by twinkie; 04-15-2012 at 03:48 AM.

  22. #22
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    I know pressing has a lot to do with it, as mentioned. My problem was that I stretched it as I ironed and the square was too big.

  23. #23
    Power Poster solstice3's Avatar
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    I think it ollks pretty good. Dare you square it up with a slight trim without making matters worse?

  24. #24
    Super Member 117becca's Avatar
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    i agree w/ being off a scant amount will multiply, but can you stretch it out? I have been successful with that often times.
    my name is becca and i'm a quilt-a-holic :-)

  25. #25
    Super Member MartiMorga's Avatar
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    I am a "beginner" and let me just tell you how I have finally gotten my blocks to measure correctly. It is a trick my teacher's mother taught her for 1/4" seams and she has shared it with us, novices. First you need some mole skin, which can be found with the Dr.Scholls products. Then we measured from needle to scant 1/4" seam allowance and placed the mole skin along that edge. Now we used this fantastic ruler that has a hole in it - where you insert your needle make sure it is straigt and lay down the mole skin. The sticky side stays and does not gum up your machine surface. I finally am getting a 12 1/2" block instead of a 12 x 12 1/4. It is amazing how much a scant 1/4" can add up to in mistakes. Good luck.
    Also, remember pressing is placing the iron on the seam, not moving it back and forth as in ironing.
    Last edited by MartiMorga; 04-15-2012 at 06:21 AM.

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