Thursday, 24 August 2017

Block Keeper - a tutorial

Many years ago, I wrote up a tutorial for Leanne at She can Quilt as part of a Finish Along tutorial week for a block storage thingy. Just a few weeks ago I took my own version along to our local patchwork group and there was some interest in it. I realised that I never posted it here on my own blog. So here, once again, is my block-keeper tutorial in all it's glory!


Hi there! I'm Jennie and I blog over at Jennie's Threads. I live in the UK and I've been quilting for about three years now. This year I have got rather addicted to BOMs (Block of the Month) - I'm sewing along with three, designing my own, and I'm very very tempted with a couple of others. I'm also making a few long term quilts, so I have loads of blocks knocking about in boxes, rolled up corners and folded in piles. This isn't a great way to store them, so I've made myself a block keeper. And Leanne was lovely enough to ask me to write a tutorial for you all.

You will need:
Some pretty patchwork 18.5" x 38.5"
Batting approx 40" x 20"
Piece of calico/unloved fabric  40" x 20" (you won't see this in the finished keeper)
2 pieces of Bosal 17.5" x 17.5" (this is a thick interfacing - mine was fusible)
Velvet 38.5 x 18.5"
6 pieces of ribbon each 10"
Fabric for binding (about 130" of binding)
Basting spray.
Normal sewing supplies.

I started off with two lovely blocks: ET Phone Home from Lynne at Lily's Quilts and Lone Starburst from Anna at Six White Horses. You could use orphan blocks, do some improv piecing, or just pick your favourite print. I know that the biggest block I'm going to make is probably about 16"x16" so I made my block keeper slightly larger than that, but if you know you are going to be making 24" blocks, then you could go bigger to avoid folding them. For a keeper for 16" (ish) blocks you need to have a "quilt top" 18.5" x 38.5". I added some borders to build the size up and then added a piece of fabric 18.5 x 3.5" between the two blocks - this will act as the base.

Add some wadding and some backing fabric and quilt as you wish. You won't ever see the backing fabric in the finished piece, but I know my machine doesn't like wadding directly on the feed dogs, so don't pick a favourite - a piece of calico (muslin?) is just fine. On the section that will form the base, densely quilt straight lines about 1/4" apart, so it will hang nicely when the block keeper isn't full.

Lay the quilt sandwich you have just created face down and position the ribbons as shown in the diagram.
The dotted lines show the position on the blocks and base, but these
are on the front and you'll be working from the back.
Allow about an inch of the ribbon to lie inside the quilt and the rest to hang over the edge. Pin in place from the underneath (the front of the quilt) so you can remove the pins later. With the final two pieces or ribbon, pin in place at the ends to create a loop for hanging/carrying.

Take the two pieces of Bosal and place centrally over the two patchwork blocks. This will leave a gap in the middle over the base section - make sure it doesn't extend over the seam lines of the base section. The Bosal is a heavy weight interfacing about 1/8" thick. It has some give to it but provides structure to the block keeper. What I used was fusible, but by the time I'd layered everything up, the heat of the iron through the layers wasn't sufficient to melt the glue. This is where the basting spray comes in. Be generous and stick the Bosal in place. Lay the piece of velvet over the top of the Bosal and again spray baste. The velvet prevents the blocks from slipping down and ending up in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the block keeper.

Set your machine to a long stitch length and stitch 1/8" across the top and bottom and over the ribbons on the sides.
A nice wonky line.... but it does the job

Remove the original pins and repin the ribbons well inside the keeper against the velvet.

Put your machine back to a regular quilting stitch length, and stitch through all layers at either side of the "base" section - I did this from the front to make sure I stitched directly on the seam line. Bind your quilt in the normal manner. I bound mine by machine, sewing the binding on the back then folding to the front and top stitching in place, but the Bosal makes the whole thing quite inflexible so some of my lines weren't very straight.

Fill with blocks, tie up the ribbons and hang on the wall - pretty and practical!


I still store all of my blocks in this - the ribbons on the side have started to fray quite a lot - but I'm not surprised after 4 years of use. It is also much, much fatter - full of all the blocks that aren't quilts yet!

It's been a while....

So my blog and I took an unexpected break... but hopefully this post means I'm back...

So what's been going on? Well back in January I took a risk: I left my permanent, though ill-defined job at the end of my maternity leave. It wasn't heading in the direction I really wanted my career to go in, and whilst a permanent job is huge reason to stay, career progression was a huge reason to leave. I took a 6 month contract going back to what I love to do - payroll. And when it ended at the end of June, I was made permanent! 6 months of unknown, and wondering if I had done the right thing paid off! I work from home, with some travel, so I get to spend more time with the girls, and no time commuting, which is such a luxury.

But a full time job with two toddlers is not the easiest of things to juggle. And when I have time, I'm inevitably spending it sewing. Instead of blogging. That means that I have a load of stuff (including lots of finishes) to share with you, but I just haven't had the time to write them up.

The weather wasn't great all the time on holiday!
This is at St Mawes in Cornwall.

We've just come back from our summer holiday. To be honest it wasn't the best we've had. Sidmouth was Sidmouth, but there was some stress involved this year and the line-up wasn't quite as good as some years, so we're going to think very carefully about whether we go next year - some of the factors are not in our control, but I need to deal with that unknown. And the second week camping in Cornwall was fabulous. But camping with a 15 month old has it's own challenges, and once Jess started screaming rather than sleeping every time we put her in the car, we called time and headed home a few days early.

But when the sun shines, just look at the colour of the sea.
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall.
We've been back a week now. And we're all finally back in our routines (we'll ignore Jess's sleep routine - or lack thereof). And it's time to look ahead to *whispers* Christmas. That's four months away (sorry) - what is scheduled during that time, what work trips do I need to travel for during that time, what do I want to achieve by the end of the year. Well obviously that last part is ridiculously over-ambitious, but part of it is to blog more regularly.

So I'll try and catch up over the next week or so and post some more pictures from our holidays and let you see what I've been working on!