Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tutorial: How to Fix the Meadow Quilt Template

NOTE: this in no way provides a Meadow quilt pattern or way to create a Meadow quilt pattern.  This only applies to people that have taken the class  AND already have a pattern template and their own class notes.

If you took the class and had a great experience, love Lizzy, got tons of tips and advice from her, OR get wonderful flat blocks from your template--that's awesome, and clearly this tutorial is not for you.  It is for the MANY others that have continued issues, didn't get a good template, didn't get the super-special extra tips and troubleshooting advice, and despite all their best efforts still get wonky, wavy and bumpy blocks!  It's not just me and a handful of others, it is MANY people that have had issues, and I hope this tutorial is helpful to them.

Last month I took the Meadow Quilt class with Lizzy House in Phoenix.  It was a fun weekend, but the class was very basic.  We were given ONE paper template to make our blocks with, and then shown how to do each step.  If you're new to my blog, you can click on the My Quilts link at the top of the page and see that I am no newb to sewing curves (or fixing patterns/templates, testing patterns, and creating my own!).  Looking at pictures of the quilts and blocks I saw online I thought the gentle curves would be super simple and easy to sew!

Meadow Quilt block test block #1: after a LOT of starch and stretching, and it is just over 12" square (should be 12.5" square), and it's much worse in person than it looks in this photo!

But my test block made in class was super wavy, waAAaay wavier than I like.  My friend Sara took the class with me and had the same issue (actually everyone around us had wonky blocks too, it wasn't just us!).  Lizzy House's only advice towards the wonky-nature of the blocks is that the next ones would be better and everything would be OKAY and it would all quilt out!  Just look at her big class demo quilt!  Angela Walters quilted it out, so obviously that will be true for everyone.

At the end of class Lizzy house explained how to sew the blocks and rows together and said that if the points didn't match up as nicely as we'd like to just rip and redo--no big deal.  She said we needed to know our own "margin of error" we were comfortable with and then do what it takes to honor it.  I almost laughed out loud because my "margin of error" had been passed the moment I finished sewing my block together and it was all bumpy and I was told just to starch it and accept it.  So I knew if I was going to make the quilt I'd have to figure out how to fix that "margin of error" so I'd be content, no, happy with the results!!

So fast forward a month and I am finally going to work on my Meadow Quilt, but first I wanted to try to figure out why the blocks ended up wonky.  I tried trimming down the corner pieces so they would be symmetrical (because they aren't):

Meadow Quilt block test block #2: I added some extra seam allowance to the straight edges of the corner pieces and used this no-pin method (I know! totally against what Lizzy teaches).  Results: super wonky, wonkier than it should be, even without the no-pin method!

Then I deconstructed my template (by removing the seam allowances and meticulously taping them back together).  The results were that the Eye piece is too long.

Deconstructed Meadow quilt block template.  The Eye piece should lay flat, but that big wave in the center creates issues.

Okay, so I trimmed off about an 1/16th of an inch from either end and made another test block, this time using lots of pins like Lizzy instructed.  Technically this block should fit together exactly!

But it turned out still terribly wavy!! I wanted to throw everything away and never look at another Meadow block again!  Something is wrong with the template:  There is no margin of error to allow for the human element (or the bulk of the seam allowance, the threads, the weight of the fabric, the stretch of the fabric, whether or not things were cut on the bias, etc).

Meadow Quilt block test block #3: trimmed off 1/16" from both ends of the eye.  Result: still very wonky block!!  Grrrr!!

But then I took Lizzy's advice: I went to bed (Actually, I asked my husband's advice, he has a better mind for geometry and wasn't emotionally involved in the quilt haha, then I went to bed).  My husband's advice was to add fabric to the corners to help splay them out.  I tried it (pieced using the no-pin method) and this was the result:

Meadow Quilt block test block #4: WOOHOO!  A flat block, without stretching or manipulating it!!

Hallelujah, a flat block! So then I repeated that process and created this tutorial so others that have the same problems can fix them and have a fun experience (rather than frustrating and wonky blocks!).  This tutorial adds a little extra give to the corner pieces so that the eye is no longer pulling the block in and distorting it!!

How to Fix the Meadow Quilt Template Tutorial

Materials needed:
--1 sacrificial meadow block--preferably one with high-contrast fabrics (a nice wavy one is ideal!  Make one out of scraps if you need to)
--Tracing paper

Step 1: Get one of your wavy/bumpy blocks and cut from the corner of the block to where the petal meets the eye (yeah we're cutting it up!  It's a sacrifice that is worth it!):

Cut where I marked those lines!

 Your block should now lay flat!

This block is now sacrificed to the meadow quilt gods.  May they now smile down upon us.

Step 2: On a cutting mat (or something with a square grid) line up one corner of your block (as best you can) with the vertical and horizontal lines, and try to make each of the cut gaps about the same size.  Then tape in place.

I will be using the top left corner, so that is the only one I taped.

 Step 3: Lay tracing paper on top of the block, lining up the up the corner and edges with the mat's horizontal and vertical lines:

Tracing paper over the block, making sure the edges/corner are flush.

Step 4: Trace where the seam between the corner piece and petal and eye is, being sure to extend the line to the edge of the paper.  Also be sure to mark which side is touching the Eye (I didn't do this, but realized the importance later, however some blue tape did end up in the right place on my finished template):

Trace a nice smooth curved line where the seam is.

Step 5: Remove the tracing paper and add a line a 1/4 inch away from the other one--this is adding the seam allowance and will be the cut line (but don't cut it yet!):

The line on the right is the new one--it is making this new corner piece larger.  Also, see that blue tape?  that is marking which side touches the Eye piece, make sure to mark yours too!

This just show the old template over the new template--see the changes?  You should be have a similar looking lines.  Note how there is more to the right point than the left point--that extra fabric is why we marked the Eye side and gives the eye a little more space to spread out and prevent those bumps!

Step 6: Using the old template, line up the straight edge and curved edge at the sharp points and draw a line:

That little line is going to reduce bulk in the seam allowance.

Step 7: Now you can cut it out!

Yay!  Ready for business.

Step 8: Time to make a test block (continue below for my no-pin method and other tips)!  You want to be sure the new template works! NOTE:  If you are using a print fabric for the medallions you will need to flip this template over to make sure the Eye-side is oriented right.  Regardless of print or solid you will need to mark or layout out your block to make sure the Eye-side is in the correct location:

Meadow Quilt Block laid out--the longer points on the corner pieces go towards the eye.

The rest of this tutorial are for piecing your meadow blocks without pins! (if you do the above changes to your block and piece it with pins, let me know what the results are!)  I really believe that if you always piece from the center of the block to the edge you get better results.

Step 9: The petal piecing is fairly simple, just make sure you are: 1. connecting the petal to the petal/shorter-side of the corner piece, 2. sewing from the center of the block (where the petal connects to the eye) to the edge of the block and 3. the petal overlaps the corner piece by a 1/4" (see picture below) at the starting point.  Then sew following this Curves Without Pins tutorial (a 2 minute video!).  You should end up with some extra corner fabric at the edge--this is good.  Press the seam towards the corner piece with a DRY iron (I know this also goes against what Lizzy teaches, but you do NOT want to distort your blocks at this point!).  

Quarter inch over hang to start

Step 10: Next sew the two side pieces to the eye using the same method above, however instead of sewing from one end to the other and trying to gather extra fabric into the curve (as Lizzy teaches it), you will want to start at the center of the seam (find the center by folding the eye and side blocks in half and finger pressing at the fold) and sew to the end of the block.  Then flip over the block and starting a few stitches before the center mark (so there are a few overlapping stitches) sew the other half of the block together.

The beige stitches at the edge of the block are where I already sewed from the center to the other edge.  Now I am going to sew from the center to the edge that is closer to me.

Here you can see that I started before the end of the stitches, that way I don't bust a seam later!
At the end of the Eye you should have some extra fabric--this is good!  Just sew to the end of it and then attach the other side of the block.

That extra fabric means your petal points will be far enough away from the edge of the block!

These are really gentle curves and quite easy to sew without pins!  Just be careful that you are NOT pulling or stretching the fabric, just shift one inch of fabric at a time to meet up (did you go watch that Curves Without Pins video yet??  It's only 2 minutes long!).  Below is a picture of how I use my 1/4" foot (with my needle shifted to give a TRUE 1/4" seam allowance) and gently lining up an inch or so at a time to sew the seam.

I know that sounds slow, but believe me, it's much faster than pinning and sewing and I've been getting much better results letting the extra fabric go to the end of the block then trying to gather it between pins! 

No pins!  Here I am gently pulling the green fabric so that maybe 1/2-1 inch of fabric JUST before the foot is lined up (see that sliver of grey??), which sometimes creates the waviness on the left, but as long as I'm not getting tucks under the foot it's good!

Again, press the seams outwards with a DRY iron.  Once both sides are on it should look like this:

Success!!  A flat Meadow quilt block without massive amounts of starch, stretching and magic!  Also check out how far the petal tips are from the edges!

Step 11: Okay, now you can starch and press your block!  Above it is flat, but if you starch and press it it will be suuuper flat:

Meadow Quilt Test Block #5: Gloriously flat and ready to trim!

Step 12: Now trim your block to 12.5" square, making sure each petal tip is at least 1/4" from each edge.

Meadow Quilt block: fixed, flat, square and a true 12.5"!

You are done!  I hope my Meadow quilt template hack helps you!  If you make a block with this hack and post it to IG, use this hashtag: #FixMyMeadow .

Bonus tip--if you're like me and like have even more margin of error, especially on curved pieced blocks, add an extra 1/4" to the straight edges of your new template.  Then you can trim off more at the end and make sure each corner of your block is square!

Linking up: 
Quilting Mod


  1. I haven't done the class but I love the look of these quilts. You've created a clever solution and I'm going to remember this tip if I need it for other quilts! I always use the no pin method for curves (I watched that same video a while ago!) - it's such an easy and accurate way to sew curves!

  2. What a great solution, Renee. I am a huge fan of only pinning when absolutely necessary, and I love that you deconstructed this to work so well. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how your #FixMyMeadow quilt comes together!

  3. Round of applause, Renee! I have a couple friends who took Lizzy's class when she was in our neck of the woods. I'm not sure if they need it (however, since I haven't seen a finished quilt top yet...), but I'll point them in your direction for the hack.

  4. Friends took Lizzy's class here. They loved her and her class, but they also had some bulgy blocks that only ironing the living daylights, steam and quilting it into submission could fix. It all worked out in the end, but I think perfectionists like us prefer another way. :)

  5. This was fascinating! Thanks for all the tips, no, Tools! I am sure I'll use this down the line. Looking forward to seeing your special finished quilt.

  6. I love how you sorted out where the problem was and fixed. It's one of the things I love most about quilting--there's rarely one right answer to solving a problem or accomplishing a design. When it comes obsessing curves, I don't pin ... and trust that if the pattern is corrections the pieces are cut correctly, it will fit.

  7. Thank you Autocorrect ... not sure how "to sewing" became "obsessing' .. Freudian autocorrect?

  8. WAY TO GO!! I am truly impressed with your picture of the pattern pieces all taped together that CLEARLY shows that the pattern is wrong. That's very disappointing to think that a "professional" pattern would have such issues.

  9. This was a very interesting post! I am so proud of you for not just accepting that "it is what it is" when you discovered that this block was not coming together properly. And sometimes when faced with a problem it is best to sleep on it. You worked out the perfect solution and it is so kind of you to share that knowledge with everyone. You done good!

  10. Great info, thanks for sharing!

  11. Kind of a bummer that the original template is inaccurate

  12. Definitely respect his honesty and try to shield me from legal responsibility. He looks out for the patron.
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