Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Buying a Sewing Machine

Aaaah, sewing machines.  A good machine can be your best friend for life, and a bad one can make you want to give up sewing all together!  It's quite possible that you could have a longer relationship with your sewing machine than you do with some of the people in your life.  Having a good sewing machine is that important!

If you are new to sewing, you may not realize there's a difference between a good machine and a bad machine.  And if you borrowed your mother's cousin's aunt's dead grandmother's sewing machine or bought one at a Big Box retailer for under $100 to see if you like this sewing and quilting thing, you may not know much about sewing machines at all.

Sewing machines come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges.  I completely understand the budgetary need to start out with a borrowed, second-hand, or discount machine.  We've all had to start somewhere.  But I'll tell you, a good and dependable sewing machine with a smooth stitch and great tension can make all the difference in the world in the outcome of your project.  Many students in our classes become frustrated with a project and they don't understand that it's not their fault - they just have a cruddy sewing machine making things difficult.

The age of the machine doesn't matter - you don't have to go all bright, shiny and new to have a good machine.  If you've inherited a machine or purchased one second-hand, the best gift you can give yourself is to take it to a reputable machine dealer and have it serviced.  It will probably cost you around $100, but it could be the best $100 you ever spent.  Nobody wants to spend their well-earned sewing time jacking around with a persnickety sewing machine!  Save yourself a headache!

Theoretically, to piece a quilt, all your machine has to have is a nice, even, straight stitch.  I know several quilters that piece masterpieces using 70 year old Singer machines.  But, as time goes by, you may want to try machine quilting, or zig zag stitching or making handbags, and want a machine that does a little bit more.  Or, perhaps you started with a Big Box machine and it doesn't work so well any more (and never really did....) and you're in the market for a better quality machine.  How on earth do you go about choosing the right sewing machine for you? 

Sewing machines are like cars or religion.  There's all kinds, and sewists tend to be very brand loyal.  But the things that someone loves about their machine may not make any difference to you, so their recommendation has only so much merit.  You really have to think about the features you want and take multiple test drives.   There are lots of choices in the marketplace, and you can be completely overwhelmed if you go to the store without a checklist.  Some sewing machine dealers are like used car salesmen and will try to get you into the most expensive machine.  Some are really great.  Some may be educated about sewing for quilts as opposed to sewing garments or home dec, while others don't really understand the difference.  Going on visits armed with basic knowledge gives you a leg up and will help you make a better informed choice.  Take a deep breath, and I'll walk you through some of basic questions you should ask yourself, your friends or a dealer when you visit a sewing machine store.
Here's some of the first steps you should do and know before test driving a new machine.

1.  Go ahead and ask your friends what kind of machines they have.  Ask them what they like best about them and what they like the least.  Remember that you may be getting a biased opinion, but you will be getting an opinion!  Besides the brand, ask them WHERE they purchased their machine and if they are happy with the dealership.  Buying a great machine from a dealer with poor customer service can be a major headache.

2.  Make a list of sewing machine dealers in your area.  You want to purchase a machine locally from someone who is convenient to you because the store where you purchase your machine is the ONLY place you can receive lessons and warranty service.   You will not receive lessons or warrantied repairs from a local dealer if you purchase a machine on the internet or at a quilt show far from home. You think you're getting a great deal, but you're not.  You're missing the SERVICE portion of the deal.  After the warranty period on a new sewing machine has expired (usually one year), you can take it anywhere you'd like to have tune-ups and repairs made.

3.  Know that there are 3 kinds of machines out there:  mechanical, electronic, and computerized.  
  • Mechanical machines are gear driven and don't have computer chips.  They are workhorse machines and have a limited number of stitches and features.  You manually have to turn a dial or push a button to change stitches, and you may be limited to the sizes of stitches built into the machine.  They are usually priced at the lower end of the spectrum, and the heavier they are, the better the parts are.  Plastic is lighter than metal.  Just sayin'.  Mechanical machines are not a bad thing; they're just basic, entry-level machines.
  • Electronic machines have computer chips and boards in them.  They offer a wider range of stitch styles and sizes, and have features not offered on a mechanical machine.  They range in price from a couple of hundred dollars up to a several thousand.  The majority of the machines you will be looking at will be electronic.
  • Computerized machines are also electronic, but they have the capability to be programmed to perform a task without guidance.  Machines with embroidery capabilities tend to fall in this category, and pricing usually starts in the thousands.  This is probably not the category you will be looking at for your first machine.
4.  Sewing machine brands have become very intertwined over the last 10 to 15 years.  Back in the day, Singer made Singers, Pfaff made Pfaffs, Viking made Vikings, etc.  Nowadays, many of the well know brands have been bought out and are owned by a different parent company.  For instance, Singer made Kenmores for a while, but that partnership ended in 2011.  Viking owns Pfaff and Janome owns Elna.  Confused yet?  Ask the dealer who "makes" the machine your are looking at, and ask WHERE it was made.  You may look at very similar machines with two different brand names, but they really are the same on the inside because they are designed and made by the same parent company.  And just like any other consumer product on the market, one of them may cost more because of the brand name.  Don't pay extra for a "name" if the company made a similar machine for a different brand.  Also, just because the salesman tells you that a machine has German or Swiss engineering, doesn't mean it was made there (like it would have been in the past).  The machines you are looking at are probably being made in China, Japan, or Taiwan.  Very inexpensive machines made in China are going to be of the quality you would expect - Chinese cheap.  Taiwanese and Japanese fabrication is more reliable.  Remember, the heavier a machine is, the less plastic parts are inside.  Plastic wears out sooner, metal doesn't.  If you have a choice narrowed down between two machines, pick them up and compare the weight.

5.  Think about the features you'd like your machine to have.  Here are a few to consider.
  • Needle Up/Down - This is an electronic feature that determines the placement of the needle when the machine stops running.  Needle Down is really handy when you stop to reposition your fabric or to pivot.
  • Needle Threader -  This gizmo is just like it sounds; it aids in threading the needle.  It's a wonderful tool for those of us with older eyes!
  • Speed Control - Do you want the ability to adjust your sewing speed?
  • Free Arm - If you think you might ever wish to sew clothing or handbags, you might like a Free Arm feature.
  • Size of the Harp - the what?  The harp is the opening of the space between the needle arm and the motor.  A larger space makes machine quilting and sewing large bulky things easier.
  • Feet - You are definitely going to need a 1/4" foot, and most likely a walking and/or darning foot if you're going to do any kind of machine quilting.  Ask if these feet are included, and if not, how much additional cost is involved.
  • Additional accessories - Extension tables and carrying cases or covers fall in this category. Are they included, and if not, how much extra cost is involved?
6.  Determine your budget.  Nothing is worse than falling head over heels for a machine that costs more than you are willing to spend, or overspending and then having buyer's remorse.  You'll end up being dissatisfied with whatever you choose and that's no fun.  But, I will encourage you to purchase the best machine that you can readily afford.

Now it's time to test drive.  Make sure you allow yourself enough time to properly test out machines; 10 or 15 minutes is not enough time to make a decision that could last for years!  Go to the dealer armed with real quilting fabrics.  Most dealerships have scraps to sew on, but they are NOT quilt-weight cottons.  I advise you to take pre-cut squares and strips.  Ask to test drive with a 1/4" foot.  Chain sew several pieces in a row to see how well the 1/4" foot feeds.  Believe me when I tell you that not all 1/4" feet sit properly on the feed dogs!  Take a small ruler with you and actually measure the quarter inch seam.  If you already machine quilt, take a quilt sandwich with you and test that out also.  If there are any other features that you are interested in, take the time to try them all out thoroughly.

Ask the dealer specifically about machine training (if you think you'll need it), warranties, and trade-in/trade-up programs offered.  Ask what the typical service turn-around time is.  You are interviewing the dealership itself for services as well as looking for the right machine for your needs. Hopefully, with a little bit of time and planning, you will soon own the machine of your dreams!

Buying a sewing machine doesn't have to be a scary process.  Do your research, take some time, and consider carefully.  Fall in love with your choice.  Hopefully, the two of you will have a long and productive relationship for years to come!

Monday, March 26, 2012

One Week, One Thing - March 26

Hey, you guys!  I completely forgot to do last week's One Week, One Thing post and none of you reminded me!  I've been a little bit under the weather, and I'm blaming the meds.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Two weeks ago, my goal was to cut out blocks for a shop sample.  I will say that the blocks are not only cut out, but the entire quilt is finished!
The pattern is Dottie by Cluck Cluck Sew, the fabric is Ten Little Things by Jenn Ski, and the kit is available in our shop.

Because I was feeling kinda punky, I didn't accomplish much more.  I did make a handful of EPP Diamond Stars, but that's about it.

This week, I think I'm going to quilt my Double Diamond EPP quilt top!  What about you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Math For Quilters, Part 4

In this last installment of Math for Quilters, I'll show you how to figure out yardage for your quilt back and for binding.

BACKING:  There are many charts for calculating backing available in quilting resource books; however, I will give you my rule of thumb.

If the longest side of your quilt is 80" or less, you can piece your quilt back with a horizontal seam.
  • Add 6" to the width of your quilt top.
  • Multiply this number x 2 = Linear Inches Needed
  • Linear Inches Needed / 36" = Total Yardage Required
Cut the fabric in half cross-wise (selvedge to selvedge), remove the selvedges from the seam sides, then sew the two pieces together lengthwise (along the long edges).

If your quilt top is longer than 80", but no wider than 80", you can piece your quilt back with a vertical seam.
  • Add 6" to the length of your quilt top.
  • Multiply this number x 2 = Linear Inches Needed
  • Linear Inches Needed / 36" = Total Yardage Required
Cut the fabric in half cross-wise (selvedge to selvedge), remove the selvedges from the seam sides, then sew the two pieces together lengthwise (along the long edges).

If both the length and width of your quilt top is greater than 80", you will need to piece your back with 3 panels.

  • Add 6" to the width of your quilt top.
  • Multiply this number x 3 = Linear Inches Needed
  • Linear Inches Needed / 36" = Total Yardage Required
Cut the fabric in thirds cross-wise (selvedge to selvedge), remove the selvedges from the seam sides, then sew the three pieces together lengthwise (along the long edges).

BINDING:  The formula for calculating binding is a simple 4-step process, but you do need to decide how wide you wish to cut your binding before doing the math.  This is the calculation for cross-grain (WOF) binding.  If you want to make bias binding, I suggest you purchase 1 yard to minimize the number of seams required to piece your binding.

1.  (Length + Width of Quilt) x 2 = # Linear Inches of Binding Required
2.  # Linear Inches of Binding Required / 40" usable WOF = # Strips Needed
3.  # Strips Needed x Binding Width = # Linear Inches of Fabric Needed
4.  # Linear Inches of Fabric Needed / 36" per yard = Yardage Needed (rounded up)

For example, if I have a quilt that is 72" x 80", and I cut my binding 2-1/4" wide, here are the steps I would follow:
  • (72" + 80") x 2 = 304" of linear binding required
  • 304" / 40" = 7.6 strips needed (rounded up to 8)  If your calculation is very close to being a whole number before rounding up (like 5.8 or 6.9), I recommend adding one more strip to your count.  I'd rather have too much binding than not enough!
  • 8 strips x 2-1/4" wide = 18" of fabric needed
  • 18" of fabric needed / 36" per yard = 1/2 yard of fabric
I would then buy the next increment of yardage (5/8 yard) to allow for squaring up the fabric, etc.

I hope you have learned something from these last 4 posts.  I know it's a lot of information, but it's kind of like undergarments.  You need a good foundation for the the rest of it to look good!

Next week:  Buying a Sewing Machine!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Math for Quilters, Part 3

Are ya'll still with me on this math thing?  Has your head exploded yet?  Are things, heaven forbid, starting to actually make sense to you?  I hope so!  It's a little bit harder doing this online (in a one-way conversation) instead of face to face, and I appreciate you hanging in there.  Again, if there's something that's not making sense, just leave a comment and I'll try to answer as best I can.

Let's review what we've covered so far:  determining the underlying grid base of blocks, resizing blocks by changing a grid unit size, calculating sizes of finished quilts by deciding on block, sashing and border sizes, and determining the number and sizes of blocks, sashes, and borders we need to cut to finish our quilt.

Here's a graphic of our sample quilt, along with the chart we made up of how many of each part we need as well as the cut sizes of each part.
Quilt Size:  50" x 63" Finished

If you were making the quilt in this example, it's time to raid your stash or go to the quilt shop for yardage for each component to set the quilt blocks together.  I'm assuming the (12) 12" finished blocks are already made - we're just working on setting the blocks together.  There are tons of reference books and online tutorials for making quilt blocks, so I'm not getting into that here. This is more on how to actually put a grouping of blocks together into a quilt.

How much linear (or cut) yardage for each setting component do you need?  You really need to know these figures, or you'll run short, and we all know how frustrating that can be!

Helpful Hint:  Although today's fabric is manufactured to be 44"/45" wide, you should only count on 40" of usable width when calculating necessary yardage due to varying selvedge sizes, etc.  When working with fat quarters, use 20" as your guide for width.  A linear yard of fabric measures 36" long.

Sashing:  We know we need 17 pieces cut 1-1/2" x 12-1/2" by using the chart above.  We can either cut our strips 1-1/2" across the width of the fabric (WOF) or 12-1/2" WOF.  Which way is the most efficient use of fabric?
 
If we cut one strip of fabric at 1-1/2" by width of fabric (WOF), how many pieces at 12-1/2" can we subcut?
WOF / subcutting measurement = #pieces
  40" / 12.5" =3.2
We can get 3 sashing pieces from a 1-1/2" by WOF strip. 

How many strips at 1-1/2" each would we need to cut to get 17 sashing pieces?
Qty of Pieces Needed / # Pieces per Strip = # Strips Needed
17 pieces total / 3 per strip = 5.6 strips
We can get 17 sashing pieces from (6) 1-1/2" x WOF strips.

How many linear inches of fabric would we need if we cut our sashing using 1-1/2" x WOF strips?
Total # Strips Needed x Width of Cut Strip = Linear Inches of Fabric Required
6 strips x 1-1/2"  wide = 9" Linear inches of fabric (1/4 yard)
I would purchase 1/3 yard (12") so that I was sure that I had room to square up the fabric.  If using fabric from my stash, I would make sure I had at least 10" on hand.

How many sashing pieces can we cut from one 12-1/2" x WOF strip?
WOF / subcutting measurement = # pieces
40" wide / 1-1/2" subcut =26.6 sashing strips

So, one cut of 12-1/2" across the width of the fabric will yield more than enough sashing strips if we subcut at 1-1/2" wide.  But, how much yardage would you need to buy for a 12-1/2" cut?
Linear inches needed / 36" per yard = yardage required
12-1/2" / 36" =.347 yard
This rounds up to 3/8 (.375) yards or 13-1/2".

Now we know that we will need less fabric (1/4 yard) if we cut (6) strips 1-1/2" wide than if we cut (1) 12-1/2" wide strip (3/8 yard).

I suggest that you use these calculations (both ways) any time you need to cut rectangles to determine the most efficient use of fabric.

POSTS (or CORNERSTONES):  According to the chart, we need 6 squares cut 1-1/2" x 1-1/2".  We can probably use scraps for these, or purchase the smallest amount sold by the quilt shop (an 1/8th yard or a fat quarter).

INNER BORDERS:   If you are going to cut your borders length of grain (parallel to the selvedge), you would need to buy yardage a couple of inches longer than your longest border to allow for shrinkage or squaring up.

Here is the calculation for determining cross-cut (or pieced) borders.

We need (2) inner borders for the sides of our quilt cut at 1-1/2" x 51-1/2" and (2) borders for the top and bottom cut at 1-1/2" x 40-1/2".  We also know we need to cut the strips at 1-1/2" x WOF.

How many strips do we need to cut for the side borders?
If the border measurement is greater than 40", you will need to piece your border strips.
(Border Length x 2) / 40" usable width of fabric = Number of Strips Needed
(51-1/2" x 2) / 40" = 2.575       (3 strips of fabric are needed for side borders)

How many strips do we need to cut for the top and bottom borders?
If the border measurement is roughly 40" or less, you can get one border cut from each strip.
(2) 40-1/2" borders = 2 strips of fabric needed for top & bottom borders

Total number of Inner Border Strips:  (3) for sides + (2) for top and bottom = 5 Strips cut 1-1/2" x WOF

**IMPORTANT!!!!  If you are going to JOIN your border strips (for length) using a bias/diagonal seam, you need to allow additional inches for that!  You will lose inches in length by seaming this way.  I recommend purchasing extra fabric for an additional strip to accommodate the diagonal seam.

Yardage for Inner Borders:
# Strips Needed x Width of Cut Strip = Linear Inches of Fabric Needed
5 Strips x 1-1/2" wide = 7-1/2" Inches

7-1/2" / 36 inches per yard = .208 yards (Round up to 1/4 or .25 yards)

OUTER BORDERS:  The process is exactly the same as the inner borders.
Border Measurements:
    Side Borders:                              (2) 5-1/2" x 53-1/2"
    Top/Bottom Borders:                  (2) 5-1/2" x 50-1/2"

Number of strips needed for side borders (use the formula above):
(53-1/2" x 2) / 40" wide = 2.675 strips    (Round up to 3 strips)

Number of strips needed for top and bottom borders:
(50-1/2" x 2) / 40" wide = 2.525 strips     (Round up to 3 strips)

Total number of Outer Border Strips Needed:  6  (3 + 3)

Linear Inches of Fabric Required for Outer Borders:
6 Strips x 5-1/2" wide - 33 Inches

Yardage Required:
33" Needed / 36" Inches per Yard = .916   (Round up to 1 yard)

Wow.  That was a lot for one post.  I hope you stuck with me up to this point.  I hope you are not too overwhelmed; just think about each step as you go through the process, and it will all begin to make sense.  If it doesn't, just holler!  I'll do my best to clarify it for you!

Next Week:  Figuring yardage for Backing and Binding!

Monday, March 12, 2012

One Week, One Thing - March 12

I'm not late - It IS still Monday, right?  Daylight Savings Time (especially in the Spring) kinda throws me off kilter!

It was a so-so week, but I did accomplish what I set out to do.  Here are all 12 Granny Square blocks made for a baby quilt.  Shower is in June, so I have plenty of time...but, I'd rather get 'er done and move on.
Sorry for the cruddy picture - my design flannel is in front of a window, and photos taken during the day don't come out as well as at night.  The line of fabrics is Backyard Baby from Michael Miller.  I wish I could get this one finished this next week, but there's REAL work cutting in line!

I also finished piecing my EPP Double Diamonds! 
I'd like to get this one quilted ASAP too, but it will have to wait also.  :(

For this week, I have a shop sample to begin using Ten Little Things by Jenn Ski for Moda.  It's a layer cake project, and I hope to at least get all the block parts cut out.  Since it is Spring Break, I may have to take my daughter to the mall on my day off, which seriously cuts into my sewing time.  We'll see how it goes.

What's new for you this week?

Win a Pot of Gold!

We're giving away a Pot of Gold (aka $100 in TQA Cash) on Saturday, March 17!  For every $20 you spend this week in store or online (before taxes and/or shipping), you will be entered into our drawing!  This offer is good the entire week of March 12-17 with the drawing to be held at 5pm CDT on Saturday.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Math for Quilters, Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of Math for Quilters!

You've built your blocks.  Now it's time to set them all together with sashing, posts, and borders.  If you're not familiar with the terminology:  sashing is the spacers between the blocks, posts (or cornerstones) are the little squares where the sashing intersects, and borders are the frames around the center of the quilt.

Are you ready for this?  Grab a calculator and a cup of coffee!

I've drawn a sample quilt in EQ7.

And here are the sample quilt facts:
Notice that these are FINISHED sizes!

FACT:  You MUST add 1/2" to the finished size of any piece in a quilt - block segments, sashings, borders - before you cut any fabric in order to allow for (2) 1/4" seam allowances.  This is known as the "cut size", as opposed to the "finished" size".

This table was designed for you, the student, to fill in the numbers based on the quilt picture and the quilt facts.  Since you're not working this on paper with a pencil, I have filled in the answers for Finished Size, Quantity, and Cut Size.  Compare this chart to the quilt diagram to see how I calculated the answers.


What is the finished width of this quilt?  50"
What is the finished length of this quilt?  63"

Helpful Hint:  Remember to SUBTRACT the 1/4" seam allowance as pieces are sewn together when calculating the size of the next piece to be added (especially when calculating borders!).

You now know exactly how big your quilt will be based upon the block, sashing and border sizes you have chosen.  You can alter any of these dimensions to make a different sized quilt.

Next week:  It's time to shop!  How much fabric would you need to buy to make this quilt?  I'll show you how to figure that out!

Monday, March 5, 2012

One Week, One Thing - March 5

My One Week, One Thing pledge continues.

This past week I accomplished both goals I set for myself.  The Amish With A Twist (also know as the Black Beast) is bound and hanging in the store behind the checkout counter!  It is beautiful, if I may say so myself.  We have opened up 12 more slots in this program; if you are interested but haven't signed up yet, we've made room for you!
I also quilted and bound the Four Patch Easy Peasy sample.  We haven't cut the kits just yet, but hope to have them cut and packaged up this week.  I'll announce in the newsletter when they are ready.

I also took time this week to play with a new block.  The "Granny Square" is all the rage on the modern blogs these days; however, the block tutorial has you make this block completely with squares set on point, where you then cut off the edges to square up the block once you are done.  However, this method results in bias edges all the way around the block.  Not my favorite, and certainly not ideal for the novice quilter.  So, since I have been playing with Marti Michell templates, and Set B was used is February's project, I decided to see what I could do.
The block as I made it uses templates B12 for the squares (you can also just cut 2-1/2" squares), B13 for the side setting triangles, and B14 for the corner triangles.  If you use the B13 and B14 templates, make sure to change the grainline to the long side of the triangle on B13 and the short side of the triangle on B14.  If you don't, you'll have bias edges just like we were trying to avoid!  The block measures 9" unfinished (8-1/2" finished).  You can also make this block using template Set A and 2" squares - but your finished block will be smaller.  I haven't made one yet to check the measurements.

My stepson and his wife are expecting a baby and the shower is in June, so I plan to use this block in a quilt for them.  My goal for next week is to get at least the 12 blocks made for this quilt.

And last, but not least, I am still plugging away on my English Paper Pieced Double Diamonds.  I have made the half blocks for the top and bottom edges; and have sewn the blocks onto one of the edges.
I hope to get the other edge sewn in tomorrow night at my small group meeting.

I still have to pull fabrics and make the corner blocks, but looking at this photo, I COULD leave them off and have 45 degree corners!  Should I add corner blocks to make a square quilt, or leave it 'as is' with an interesting corner treatment?  Help me out and vote!!

What One Thing are you going to do next week?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Math For Quilters, Part 1

Okay.  It seems like there are lot of you who want to see the Thursday Tidbits.  I'll begin with a multi-part series on what I call Math for Quilters.  This is based on a class I developed back in 2006, and I'm currently covering the material with my staff.  We'll start with basic block grids and sizes, and then progress to the math formulas to calculate and cut out a complete quilt.  This may seem a bit intense for my first Tidbits, but it's a topic that very near and dear to my heart!  PLEASE don't be scared.....I'll hold your hand and walk you through all of it!

I know for many of you, math is a four-letter word.  In order for your projects to come out the right size and nice and flat, as well as being able to determine how much fabric to buy, you're gonna have to do a little bit of math.  But relax - it's 3rd grade math, not calculus!!  Having these formulas in your "toolbox" will allow you the freedom to plan and create any quilt in any size!

Let's start today with quilt blocks. 

FACT:  Most patchwork blocks are based on an evenly divisible grid.  Can you visually see the even divisions in these quilt blocks?
When you hear the term "9-patch", this is a clue to the grid base used within the block.  A 9-Patch block has nine patches - 3 across by 3 down, hence a 3x3 grid.  If you are having trouble "seeing" the even divisions within a block, sketch it out and draw grid lines across it to determine the underlying base grid.  In some blocks, the patches may span 2 or more grid spaces or a grid space may be made up of smaller patches, like the 4x4 "Double 4-Patch" block shown above.  I don't want to complicate things at this point, but keep in mind that a 9-Patch block (on a 3x3 grid) does not always mean that there are 9 equal squares in the block.  The UNITS of the block must equal 9 and be the same size.  If you have any questions about this, just ask me!

Can you determine the GRID base for the following blocks?
(1.) 6x6, (2.) 5x5, (3.) 4x4, (4.) 5x5, (5.) 4x4, (6.) 6x6, (7.) 5x5, (8.) 4x4
 Once you establish the grid base for your block, you can calculate a finished block size by deciding on a unit size for the grid.
For example, if the black square in the first block is 2" finished, the entire block will finish at 6" (2" x 3 across = 6").  Change that black square to 3", and the finished block size is now 9" (3" x 3 across).  Decrease it to 1-1/2" and now it's 4-1/2" finished (1.5" x 3 across).

Can you calculate the block sizes for the rest of the blocks shown above if the grid unit size is 2"?  What about 3"?  Here's a hint:  Determine the underlying grid and multiply by the grid unit size.

Resizing Quilt Blocks
Once you have determined the grid base of a quilt block, you can resize the block by multiplying the grid by a new unit size, or by choosing a new finished size and dividing by the grid to create a new unit.

Huh?  For example, look at the following block.  The grid = 4x4, the small square = 2", and the finished size = 8".

To resize by the block by changing the Unit Size:
   Grid x Unit Size = Block Size

What size will the block finish if the small squares are now 3"?
   (Answer:  12" )

To resize by changing the Block Size:
   Block Size / Grid = Unit Size

What size is the small square if the block now finished at 6"?
   (Answer:  1-1/2")

Is your head spinning yet?  Just keep thinking in the grid, and you'll be fine.  But blocks are the basis of most quilts, and having the power to create blocks in any size (instead of what your pattern or book tells you) gives you the freedom to create whatever size quilt you want!  Isn't that liberating?

If any of this isn't clear, just drop me a comment and I'll try to respond.  Next week - calculating quilt sizes!

EDITED 3/5:
Cindy asked if I could provide the grid blocks with the actual grid overlaid on top of them.  Please excuse my less than stellar drawing skills - but you should be able to see the blue lines on top of the quilt blocks.

 Rebecca asked on Facebook how to calculate sizes for blocks that don't fit the "square" mold of basic quilt blocks, like Tumblers.

Here's my smart-aleck answer....EQ7.  I use Electric Quilt Software to draw basic blocks and rudimentary quilt layouts because it's faster than graph paper and EQ does the math for me.  I probably use one-tenth of its total capabilities, but it saves me time and brain cells when I'm drafting a new quilt.

But for Tumblers, here's how you plan a quilt.

The height of the row is easy.  It is based on the measurement of the tumbler from top to bottom.  Multiply the height by the number of rows to get your finished length measurement.

 Here's a diagram showing how to calculate the width of the row (drawn in EQ7, I might add....).
I hope this visual works - because I'm having difficulty describing in words.  You can't take the width of the wide part and multiply by the number of total blocks in the row, because the angled part of the block next to it occupies the same "width space".   But if you look at the diagram, and measure your finished tumbler as shown, you should get a ballpark measurement of 1 "block" width.  You'll have to add on the width of half-blocks to make the edges straight, but you'll get fairly close enough to a finished width of a quilt by using this formula and multiplying by the total number of tumblers in row.

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