What do I do while waiting for fabric to arrive? I plan.
In this case, I plan the design for the whole project. The introduction to the 1990 reprint of the project said the instruction manual was less than helpful for anyone trying to follow it. From what I gather, their work in the project was making individual quilts as shown in the print and that the compilers of the original project were not quilters. I’ve been too wrapped up in getting started on this project to see for myself, but I know I couldn’t figure out how to make the pattern from just the instructions because I needed to see the block in order to understand the construction process. I also know I make quilts very differently than the women in the 1930’s.
For one, I don’t cut templates of triangles with scissors then sew the pieces together. I cut squares with a plastic straight edge and rotary cutter, draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the fabric, sew a quarter inch on each side of the line, then cut the diagonal. I never have to worry about misshapen pieces because I cut a tad too wide or too narrow. My sense of order is rewarded when the completed top lays flat and square.
The challenge of a sampler quilt, in this case, was figuring out the size of the block that would satisfy the various styles of 30 different patterns. There would be no problem with the nine applique squares since the background fabric could be cut to any size. I decided on a couple of rules for the blocks.
The blocks need to be a reasonable size. I did not want to work with teeny, tiny pieces. As much as I admire Dear Jane quilts, I refuse to work with a 4-inch block. Besides, the Dear Jane quilt had 225 blocks, my WPA quilt only has 30.
The cuts need to be even increments of halves or three-quarters, not in odd measurements like 9/16 as if my rulers even measure in 16ths of an inch.
It turns out a 12-inch block works perfectly for both the 9-patch and 4-patch style of blocks in the set. The only one that doesn’t fit my in my rules is an 11 strip Log Cabin block. The math for a 12-inch block says each strip would be 1.09 or 13/32″ which is not a measurement on my ruler. I could have the strips a smidge larger 11/8″, but that tiny difference adds up. 1/32 of an inch more for each of the 11 strips and the block ends up being 12 3/8″ which is definitely too big. I’ve done that before and let me just say, it wasn’t pretty. Since this isn’t the first block I’m planning on making, I have time to ponder how to solve the problem.
While waiting for the fabric to arrive, I sorted the 30 different prints by the type, either pieced or applique. Then I ranked them from easy to difficult. Then began the process of drafting each block. Is it 4-patch or 9-patch? How many squares are there? How many triangles are there and how many of them are half- square or quarter-squares? What size do I need to cut the squares and triangles? For this, I use my fabric calculator because I enter the finished size and number and types of triangles I need, and it tells me the size I need to cut the fabric and yardage required. I love when the math becomes simple.