Monday, September 18, 2017

Testing, Testing

I have a new project in mind. It will be a long term project, probably a couple blocks a month for a year after I get it planned and some of the cutting and prep done.

As part of the planning, I made a test block. No, these are not the project fabrics, just a leftover partial charm pack I had on hand, and a FQ for background.
Test Block 

What I learned from this test block: 
  1. The finished block size should be 14" so I cut my background 14-1/2" square before making the block. I should make the block oversized, then square up and trim down as needed after the block is finished. This block is a scant 1/8" too small. 
  2. I used the Easy Dresden tool, followed the instructions for the 5" line, and used their pattern for the 3-1/2" center circle. This Dresden looks "chubby" to me. I want longer blades with a smaller center circle for my project so I'll have to adapt accordingly.  
  3. Glue basting worked great; a tiny dot at each point was perfect. The edges are machine stitched down, as is the circle. 
  4. The blades point to 12, 3, 6, and 9 but in my EQ drawing the Vs are at those positions. Does it matter?
  5. My friend Suzanne Marshall, award winning applique artist, recommends cutting away the background behind applique so the batting will fill out all the shapes. I cut away the backing behind the blades and within the circle, leaving seam allowance where the circle was attached. The center looks like it caves in, although that could fill out with batting. Or it may not be an issue with a smaller circle.
With so many concerns about this test block, I needed to make another to get it right before I cut them all for my project. No, these aren't the project fabrics either, just scraps from my scrap drawer and background quadrants cut from stash. 
Test Block #2

  What I learned from test block #2:
  1. Making the background oversized and then trimming down worked much better. I'm planning a scrappy background so assembling the background in quadrants worked well. Bonus, the intersection of the seams at the center was very helpful for centering the wreath.
  2. Still using the Easy Dresden at the 5" line, I extended the length at the narrow end for a total length of 6 inches. When I sewed the blades together and pressed the seams open, the seam allowances overlapped, and the center opening came out too tiny. I think 5-3/4" would work better. 
  3. The center circle here finishes at 2-1/2" diameter, and I like this proportion better. 
  4. The Vs are at 12, 3, 6, and 9. My project will actually have snowballed corners, and I think I'll try adding corner pieces to these two blocks to decide which alignment I like better. 
  5. I trimmed away the background from behind the blades but not from behind the center circle. The layers there seem to give it some dimension. 
  6. Even though this is just a test block, I should pay attention to value contrast. There isn't enough contrast between the blades and the background here. (Contrast won't be a problem in my new project). 

I'm glad I took the time to make test blocks. I have no other purpose for them so they'll go in my "spare parts" drawer for now, but they served their purpose well as tests and learning exercises. 


  1. Well thought out. I look forward to seeing what develops.

  2. You put a lot more thought into your dresdens than I did. But I love making Dresden blocks and now that I looked at yours I think that will be my next project (after Christmas quilting is done). Thanks.

  3. These are great lessons learned and test blocks. I agree that the proportions of the blades and center are more visually appealing in the second block. Also, since you just demonstrated making these two test blocks, I think your plan of a few a month for a longer term project sounds quite doable!

  4. I like your test block. It's a great idea to use a test block. I have used the dresden ruler full length and just used it on the 5 inch length. Seems like my 5 inch went together easier than the full length. Good luck.

  5. Making test blocks is so helpful before committing to your first block. It takes extra time, but boy is it worth it.