McCall’s Quilting Intern’s First Quilt: Part 2

My first quilting weekend was very successful!

The hardest technique for me to master was cutting fabric, as crazy as that sounds. Even after replacing the blade on my rotary cutter, I still had trouble getting through a few layers of fabric. Aunt Kate taught me a little trick to help with this: instead of pulling the ruler away immediately after making a cut, pull the fabric away instead to see if you’ve sliced all the way through. If not, just make the same cut again! I used this hint quite a bit.

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Learning to use the rotary cutter

Since I chose a lot of blocks that use half- and quarter-square triangles, I learned another trick for making precise diagonal cuts. Make your first diagonal cut, then turn your mat and make the second. Sounds simple to experienced quilters I’m sure, but I was very thankful to learn that one!

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Pressing seams

Very quickly, this iron became my best friend. In this picture, I’m setting my seam by laying the iron on it for just a few seconds before I open the fabric and press – always toward the darker fabric if possible! Who knew how important seam placement could be? I had to re-press quite a few until I had them going in the right direction to make sewing easier.

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Sewing on the machine for the first time

The first block I chose to make was Shoo-Fly, found in McCall’s Quilt Block Reference.

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This was a great block for me to start with. It’s listed as a beginner block and it is great for learning how to cut and sew half-square triangles and do some simple strip piecing. The Shoo-Fly Block instructions on McCall’s site includes a great tip for sewing half-square triangle units. Rather than cutting the corner triangles apart and then sewing, draw a diagonal line down the center of the wrong side of the lighter fabric square. Layer this square with the darker fabric, then sew a ¼″ seam on either side of the line. Cut apart and you’ve finished 2 triangle units!

The second block I chose to try was Party Hats. I learned right away the importance of laying the fabric pieces out to make the block before AND during the sewing process. It is very easy to sew the wrong triangles together and have to rip seams and start over.

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Party Hats - Placed Pieces

This one was more difficult as it requires sewing on a bias. I made some errors, but overall my completed block turned out pretty well!

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Completed Party Hats

These two blocks were so fun to make and I learned so much by creating them. What was the first block you ever made?

Check back soon for more updates on my progress!

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12 Responses to McCall’s Quilting Intern’s First Quilt: Part 2

  1. Peggy Ann says:

    You are learning a lot of great techniques. Those are everything that a beginner learns in a beginning quilters class. I hope that you learn as much as you can and have fun doing it.

  2. Joni says:

    Good job! Like Peggy Ann said – we all have to learn those skills at the beginning. Some other beginners blocks that are fun are Jacob’s Ladder and Disappearing 9 patch. My first 2 quilts were disappearing 9 patchs and I learned ALOT by repeating the same steps over and over! Have fun!

  3. Connie Sue Tscharner says:

    They say put one foot in front of the other and soon you will be Dancing with the Stars! In quilter language you start with one block and then you will have a quilt! I started with one block and moved onto the next. You are doing a terrific job! Hope you are enjoying yourself!

  4. Barb says:

    Great job. Can’t wait to see more.

  5. Joanna says:

    Don’t remember. I do like the blocks you have made, especially the shoo fly. Even if it’s simple, it looks great.

  6. bjohn says:

    You did great! As for having trouble cutting with your rotary cutter, try lifting your hand and the handle higher when you’re cutting. It would be easy to show you but it’s hard to explain in words. I used to hold my cutter handle too parallel to the fabric. I was basically using the handle to push the cutting wheel out in front of my hand, similar to rolling the wheel of a wheelbarrow out in front of you. But I learned that I got much more CUTTING PRESSURE if I held the handle more upright and kept the wheel just slightly in front of me. Picture someone riding a unicycle. In this position you are pressing DOWN into the fabric instead of just pushing the cutter in front of you. If I ever have a spot that I don’t cut all the way through, I feel it is almost ALWAYS because I didn’t have my cutter in the correct position to press DOWN instead of just pushing/rolling it. Good luck to you!

  7. Annette Schultz says:

    looks like you are off to a great start . I bet you could not ask for a better teacher than your aunt, it’s always nice to be able to pass on some family traditions. Enjoy the process and you’ll be on the next quilt before you know it ( a.k.a. ….hooked )
    in stitches

  8. Kathy says:

    Thank you so much for the tip! I’ll try that next time I cut (hopefully tonight).


  9. Irene Bearss says:

    I noticed you were sitting when cutting. I found that it is much better to stand and to do what bjohn said in above comments. also don’t forget to change the blade now and again. Happy Quilting!!

  10. Kathy says:

    Thank you for the advice, Irene! Last night I worked on another block and bjohn’s advice really did make a difference. I’ll try standing as well, then I’m sure to have perfect cuts!


  11. Robin F says:

    I think you are doing a wonderful job. I love your choice of fabrics as well.
    I also wanted to say that I believe your Nana, will be very proud of you when you show her your first quilt. Actually I believe she’ll be quite impressed!
    Looking forward to your future posts and progress!

  12. Ann Bowman says:

    My first quilt was a simple 9 patch and then I did a smapler that gave me lots of practice too but this was in the days before rotary cutters etc. How blesssed we are now days to have modern tools and lots of help via the net. Keep on keeping on and you will do just fine.

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