Monday, July 7, 2014

Attic Window

I have been very busy lately putting together a family reunion, which will occur next week.  In spite of all the busy work and planning, I still make time to sew.  It is my time to listen to an audio book, feed my creative muse and chill.  In spite of problem solving and occasional disasters, I find sewing restorative so I come out of my cave with my imagination humming and my soul revived.

I have been making 54 very small attic window blocks for a quilt I have been working on for several months.  I previously recommended Kaye Woods method on U-tube for sewing Y-seams, but she is doing tumbling blocks, which have a wider angle.  I had difficulty using her method on my attic windows, which have a 90º angle.  It is still necessary to stitch a Y-seam, but I have a way that turned out consistently accurate blocks, and I want to share that with you.

1.  Cut your fabric on the grain.  This is very important as you will see later.  Cut one end of the side and bottom pieces on a perfect 45º angle (use that ruler - don't guess).  For this small block the orange square will finish to 2 inches.  The side pieces will finish to 3/4 inches wide.

TIP:  I almost always cut my pieces 1/4 inch larger than necessary so I can trim the block to perfection when I am done.  The orange piece is 2" + 1/4"(seam allowance one direction) + 1/4" (seam allowance the other direction) + 1/4" safety margin = 2 3/4 inch cut.  The side pieces are cut 3/4" + 1/4" + 1/4" + 1/4" = 1 1/2 " wide and likewise for the length (i.e. 3/4" extra to cover seam allowance and safety - mine are a bit longer just because they are).  Yes, there is waste.  I call it the "cost of doing business" or "striving for perfection."

2.  Put one side piece, right sides together on the center square.  Line up the sides perfectly.  A tiny 90º triangle corner of the orange will show and its sides will be 1/4 inch.  Once the two pieces are aligned measure 1/4" from each side and mark a line each way making a small cross on the top fabric to show where the needle goes in.

In this photo the fabric slipped slightly for the camera.  Be sure to align the two fabrics exactly before sewing or the 1/4" marking will not be in the right place and your window will be wonky.  Don't worry that the left end doesn't match the end of the orange square.  That is the result of an ultra-generous safety excess and will be trimmed later.

3.  Put the needle down exactly in the center of the cross.  Take one stitch forward, one stitch backward, one stitch forward and sew all the way to the end using a scant 1/4" seam.

TIP:  There is no need to press until all the seams are sewn because they don't interact properly until they are all in place.

4.  Now flip the pointed end back as far as the corner stitch allows without excess tension on the fabric.  Line up the straight edge of the flipped part with the grain of the fabric. Pin it in place.

5.  Place the second side piece on top of the orange square, right sides together.  Line up the straight edges (orange and white) and the 45º angle edges (white and red).  This photo shows the edges so perfectly lined up that you can't see orange and red behind the white except as shadows.  This is the perfection we are striving for.  There is no need to mark the corner this time.

6.  Pin if desired and turn the whole piece over.

7.  Lower the needle right next to the stitching from the first seam or in the same hole if you can.  Stitch forward one stitch, back one stitch, forward one stitch and on to the end.  (It is the camera that makes that first seam look curved because of the folded fabric underneath.  Actually it is nice and straight).

TIP:  Check now to be sure that you did not catch the fold of the lower fabric (red) into your first stitch.  If you did, you must free it and re-stitch or you will have....a wonky window.

8.  Fold the orange square in half diagonally by bringing the lower right corner to meet the upper left corner wrong sides together, edges matching perfectly.  This makes an orange triangle inside the red and white side pieces.  Remove the pin from the red and the two 45º cuts will line up ready for the third seam.  As before, drop the needle at the junction with the previous seam without catching any folds underneath.  Forward, back and forward again, but this time be especially gentle with the fabric.  This is a bias seam and is easily stretched, which will cause.........a wonky window.

9.  Time to press the seams of the window (orange) toward the side pieces and the angled seam open. Everything will lay nice and flat and the seam junction should be a perfect 90º.

10.  Turn the block over, press again just because, and get ready to trim.  A square ruler is the ideal tool.  For this little window I used a 3 1/2 inch square, but they come in several sizes for your convenience.  First the side pieces, which I want to be 3/4" wide + 1/4" seam allowance = 1".  Line up the ruler's 1" lines along both straight seams and match the diagonal line with the angled seam.  Cut off the excess.

TIP:  It pays to take time, sew carefully and match seams perfectly so that everything lines up when the seaming is complete.  It also helps to make a couple of windows from scraps to get the hang of the dreaded Y-seam.  It is not so bad when you do it right.  Practice!

11.  Now to trim the orange window piece.  The square piece needs to be 2" + 1/4" seam allowance = 2 1/4".  Turn the block so you can cut, and lay the 2 1/4" ruler lines along the seam lines being sure that the diagonal is aligned with the corner seam of the side pieces.  Then chop off the excess.  See?  Those funny ends that were too long are gone now.  Believe me, that bit of safety fabric is worth the waste.

Here is the finished block with a perfect Y-seam.  It may seem like a lot of fussiness, but it goes quickly once you know how to do it.  You can also process a lot of blocks in a hurry by chaining them at each step.

No wonky windows on my watch!
My 54 are finished and sewn together.

1 comment:

  1. I love red, yellow, and blue quilts -- the primaries. I have always loved the attic window pattern. In fact, I use it for my email address. Happy sewing!