Traditional Blocks Made Simple Quilting Class

My Anita's Arrowhead Block

This past Monday, I signed up for Anita Grossman Solomon’s Craftsy class Traditional Blocks Made Simple. What drew me to this class was the word “simple”. I’m all about learning new shortcuts for making blocks that I would NEVER attempt using traditional methods like cutting from templates or paper piecing. And that pineapple block? Even though I’ve always admired the tweakiness of them, there’s no way I’d ever attempt it… until now. Yes I will and I won’t be scared! Here’s Anita’s Half Drop Pineapple quilt.

Half-Drop Pineapple Quilt by Anita Grossman Solomon

This class was a total blast. Anita’s an excellent instructor. She not only covers how to do it, but also has great “heads up/just in case” tips on how to recover from mistakes and deal with those little puckers when you’re sewing blocks together.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  • Back-stitching bird’s nest – When you sew from the edge of the fabric and do a back-stitch, do you ever end up with a tangled bird’s nest of threads on the underside of the fabric, or have the fabric sucked into the throat plate? I HATE that. Anita will show you how to avoid that.
  • Starching fabric – I have never starched fabric for quilting, but if I had, I would have done it wrong. As a kid when I had to iron my dad’s shirts, the spray starch would flake up on the fabric. Using Anita’s trick, that doesn’t happen.
  • Left-handed cutting – This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I can’t rotary cut with my left hand for the life of me. If you don’t have one of those fancy pants rotating cutting mats like I do, in lesson 3 she’ll show you how to cut those left-handed cuts with your right hand without walking around the table or turning the mat.

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  • Pinning blocks – Depending upon the size of the block or how many seams there are, I always pin before I sew, especially the larger blocks. This lady can do it with no pins!
  • Post-It Notes – Will now be my new best friend. I never in a million years would have thought of using this trick.
  • Selecting fabric – I love her tip for selecting the right fabric for your project. It’s not just about color. Scale plays a very important part in your blocks. Find out how a trip to your local office supply store or print shop simplifies the process.
  • Marking the rulers – I’ve never marked my rulers before with permanent marker. You’ll learn how to mark up a 9-1/2″ square ruler for 8″ blocks and get perfect blocks every time. Oh, and how to remove those marker marks without damaging the ruler. The first time I tried cutting my block without the permanent marker lines and I really screwed it up. After I marked the ruler, squaring up each block was a cinch!
  • Arranging blocks – Anita shows different ways to arrange blocks on the design wall. Just by twisting and turning and grouping them by color, you can create a beautiful color wash effect. I’ve always admired quilts like that and wondered if that was planned. Some are, but Anita’s method was sort of a happy little accident that had big impact. Very visually dynamic.

First Attempt

I watched the first 6 lessons for making Anita’s Arrowhead block. It’s called Anita’s because of her mad rotary cutting skills. Beats me how she came up with new ways for such old school blocks. The 7th lesson is the pineapple block and I didn’t want to start that until I played around with making the arrowhead, first.

I already had a gang of 10″ dark and light floral blocks from a previous project, so I didn’t have to do any prep work.

After I made only TWO simple seams on the 10″ blocks, it was time to cut. Smarty pants me tried doing it from memory. I made 4 cuts instead of 3 and that REALLY screwed up the entire thing. It gave me segments too short that weren’t even sewn together. That block went into the scrap pile. The only thing that turned out was the 4-patch in the middle and the two horizonal sections.

Quilting block cutting accident

See those two vertical sections radiating from the center 4-patch? They’re supposed to be the same size as the horizontal ones. And those four angled pieces in the lower left and right? They’re not supposed to be there at all and neither was the additional 4-patch in the upper left. Needless to say, all those extra pieces made the triangles in the upper right too small. Good Lord, I really screwed the pooch on that one!

As if that wasn’t bad enough… this is just too embarrassing, but here it is. I had all the pieces laid out on my cutting mat. I placed them right sides together, exactly as they needed to be, but in the short 10″ from the cutting board to the machine, I twisted the entire piece and sewed the triangle on the top of the section instead of the side. I ripped it out and fixed it. Then when I sewed the next triangle onto the other side, I DID IT AGAIN! The third picture is how they are supposed to look (left edge of picture got chopped off).

I think I was having a difficult time pacing the quilting wine.

Once I got the hang of it, I had a blast and quickly cut out nine blocks for a little baby quilt. I sewed four of them last night and will do the other five today.

Later that day…

I got the 9 blocks finished, but I didn’t want to stop, so I made 12. Some of the colors didn’t really work well in such a small area. I wasn’t pleased with the purples and blues so I grouped them together to make a color wash, but it’s just not big enough for the grand effect.

Here are two different views of what I have so far. The blocks are not yet sewn together so I’ll prolly end up moving them around again… after I sew some more. LOL In the picture on the right, 2nd row, last block on the right, way too mooshy. The dark fabric had a few light areas in it. Not suitable for this project.

Next up will be the pineapple blocks. I don’t know if I have enough solids in my stash to make an entire quilt. Maybe a very small practice quilt. I know I have lime green and black. It will be a Green Lantern quilt. LOL

Click here to sign up for Traditional Blocks Made Simple.


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