My First New York Beauty Blocks

A couple of months ago I was issued a challenge at Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild. We were given a vintage quilt block and the only rule was that we need to use the block in a new project. We can use the block as is or deconstruct it. Even though the block is super wonky, I want to use it as it is because I am partial to LeMoyne Star blocks.

I spent a few weeks thinking about how I wanted to incorporate Mr. LeMoyne, and then I started playing in Electric Quilt 8. Somehow I ended up hitting upon this design that uses New York Beauty blocks. One would think that I was confident about curves and foundation paper piecing, but no… I haven’t really done much paper piecing and absolutely no curves.

I printed this out of EQ8 and I have had it hanging up in my quilt room for over a month. I gathered the fabrics that I thought I wanted to use, based on the fabrics in Mr. LeMoyne. And then I did nothing. I was so intimidated that I just couldn’t get out of my own way to get started.

Finally last week I printed the patterns and got them photocopied. (For some reason I could only print one in EQ8. I must not understand how to use that option.) On Wednesday I finally mustered up the courage to begin.

Although I am truly not an expert at these techniques, I have learned some things that might help you if you decide to try New York Beauty blocks. You should search YouTube and watch several tutorials on paper piecing. I won’t go into the basics here- just my impressions of struggling and finding work arounds.

  1. I like to keep some extra paper around the cut lines of the pattern. It doesn’t have to be a lot- I typically had about 1/2 inch. It gives you some room to hold on to things and you end up with a nice clean line when you trim the block at the end.

2. I begin sewing at the cut line, down the printed line and to the next cut line. If you don’t do this you may end up with some holes in your blocks. When you flip the piece to trim it, you will have to gently tug the paper away from the 5-6 extra stitches but that is no big deal- you are done with that line anyway. BTW- make sure you set your stitches a bit smaller than usual. On my Brother Innovis I use the 2mm stitch length.

3. I think it is important to press EVERY. SINGLE. SEAM. I know. . . I know. This seems like overkill, but it makes your blocks come out so beautifully. This would be a big pain if you have to keep getting up and down. I rearranged my space to the left of my machine so that I could sew, press, and cut without having to move. That said. . . GET UP AND MOVE once in a while. Walk and stretch- it is important for your neck and arm muscles.

My paper piecing set up. Everything is close together. Make sure you do NOT iron on your cutting mat. And keep the remote control close.
When you sew all the way to the cutting line you will have to ease the paper down gently by tugging it away from the stitches before you trim.
I really enjoy using the Add-A-Quarter ruler when I am paper piecing. I have it in two lengths.

4. There is no secret to piecing the curves. The little ones are tight and a bit tough. I pin the center and both sides and then ease the fabric together. I made the mistake of trying to start the edge with the pin still in, but my machine was not happy about that, so when I put the fabric on my machine I take out that first pin. The others can be removed as you go. By the time I got to the 15th and 16th blocks, I did not pin the outermost band on the blocks- and they eased in beautifully. In fact, I think they look better than the ones I pinned.

Here’s what I know- these will not be my last New York Beauty blocks. It was fun to do the paper piecing and I am excited to finish the outside piece of the blocks- once I decide what color I want. I expect that this wall-hanging sized quilt top will be finished today or tomorrow. Stay tuned to see the top as soon as I am done!

Day 1

Allyson, Becky and I had a great time sewing together!

The first day of Pillowcase Palooza was a BLAST.

For the first session there were only three of us, but it gave me a chance to get in the groove of how to explain things and how to have things set up. We made 7 pillowcases in about 50 minutes.

At the afternoon session there were five of us sewing for about an hour. Becky came back because she had sew much fun and we added Nicole, Wendy, and Kami (who is here visiting from New York). We knocked out 18 pillowcases and further refined the process by starting to do some assembly line work. Wendy spent most of her time trying to make one of my sergers (the poor thing is at least 17 years old) work, but we never did have success-despite the fact that it had been sewing like a champ for the three weeks previous. Oh well.

Becky, Wendy, Nicole, and Kami working on pillowcases during the afternoon session.

Kami and her mom Teressa helped out between session cutting more fabric because choices were running short. Can’t have THAT! I was so grateful to the ladies who brought fabric with them. Your choices were adorable.

Things really ramped up during the evening session as Carey, Melia, Moriah, Lisa, Janene, Teressa, Julie and I got down to business. Although we were down a serger, we persevered. Several of the ladies became professionsal Burrito Pillowcase makers. That made the seam at the cuff have no raw edges and then we used the serger to go down the side and bottom of the cases. Except Julie. . . who is a dynamite seamstress and managed to do beautiful French seams on my little 1939 Singer Featherweight.

The funniest part of the night was that ladies who are usually calm and laid back were all of a sudden competitive and wanted to make sure we had beat the afternoon session before they could pack up and leave. My heart was warmed by the two teenagers who came and did a beautiful job sewing and adding to the joviality of the evening.

I am so grateful for each of these ladies who cam and gave of themselves to add a little sunshine in a child’s life. You immensely brightened my day, as well. At the end of the evening the tally was 49!

Pillowcase Palooza

This is an example of a pillowcase made with the “burrito method”.

Can you imagine having to leave your home in a hurry and having to stuff all the belongings you can carry into a garbage bag? This is a reality for children every day who need to leave their homes and enter the Foster Care system. Right here in Utah County.

In 2009 AllPeopleQuilt.com launched the “One Million Pillowcase Challenge” to donate pillowcases to Foster Care organizations, hospitals, and other groups that support children. As of December 19, 2019 907,763 pillowcases have been made and donated. They are hoping to reach 1,000,000 during 2020.

In January of 2020 pillowcases will be my focus. January is my birthday month and I like to choose a charity to bless during this month. I will be sewing them and teaching others to sew them. I will be collecting donations of fabric and money to make pillowcases. We will gather at my home (and maybe at yours?) to cut and sew fabric into little bags of love that will be donated to the Utah County office of Utah Foster Care.

I’ve started!

I know what you are thinking. . .

“How can I get involved?”

  • Donate fun bright 100% cotton fabric. (NOT FLANNEL) It takes ¾ yard of the main fabric for a pillowcase. 1 yard can make the body of a pillowcase and the folded cuff of another.
  • Make pillowcases (tutorial and patterns below) at home and drop them off at one of our collection locations during regular business hours.

Civil Science Engineering-  3160 Clubhouse Drive, Lehi, UT

Lehi Free Press- 29 North 100 West, Lehi, UT

Curves- 127 E Main Street, Suite B, Lehi, UT

  • Join me to cut and sew pillowcases on one of the following dates: (You will need to sign up for a time slot HERE. You will receive an e-mail with information.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

  • Gather your friends and sewing buddies and make pillowcases. You can drop them off at one of our donation sites or you can donate them on your own. (Make sure you enter your count in the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge)

Here are some patterns that you can use to make pillowcases.

Roll It Up Pillowcase

Burrito Method Pillowcase

Half Square Triangles

These are the basic tools needed to make half square triangles. (You don’t need a gripper handle on your ruler, but it makes me feel a lot more secure cutting.

Half Square Triangle. It’s a simple block, only. . . not. Even though there are only two pieces of fabric sewn together to make the block, they can be a little tricky because of one thing. Bias.

“What is bias?” you ask. It is anytime that fabric is cut in a diagonal direction. There is MUCH more stretch to the fabric on the bias and quilters must take care to avoid stretching the fabric- especially when sewing.  This is what makes things wonky (which is a universally recognized and used quilting term!).

Why do we care? Well, every HST has at least one side that is cut on the bias, so they can be a little squirrelly to work with.

There are several ways to make HSTs and there are many posts explaining these methods in detail so I will just give you an overview of my favorites. I encourage you to go watch a few YouTube tutorials if you need more help.

The Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmer by Kari Carr is the best HST tool I have found.

Basic HSTs (Fig. 1)

Start with two squares, right sides together. Lightly draw a line across the square diagonally using a marking pen or pencil.  Sew a ¼” seam on each side of the line. Cut on the line. Trim and press. Or press and trim. I use this mostly when I want to use a charm pack or when I am using directional fabric. If you have an Accuquilt you will be making this type of HST but if you sew carefully, you may not have to trim at all.

Four-At-A-Time HSTs (Fig. 2)

This technique uses no marking, so it is a fast method. You put two squares together with right sides facing and then sew ¼” from each edge. Cut diagonally both ways from the corners and *poof* you have four lovely HSTs.

A pile of HSTs ready to be trimmed.

Magic 8 HSTs (Fig. 3)

This technique starts with larger squares of fabrics because you will end up with 8 HSTs. You will draw diagonals both ways across the square sandwich (right sides together) and then sew ¼” seams on both sides of each diagonal. The cutting is where the magic happens. You will cut on the drawn diagonal lines, but also perpendicularly on the square going both ways.

This is what the Magic 8 looks like when it is cut into 8 pieces.

The hardest part of making Magic 8 HSTs is the math. Quilting math is better than regular math, but still not my favoirite. I really like the chart that Rachel Rossi made on her blog about this method because she pads the numbers just a bit so that you actually have a bit of fabric to trim. No need for me to re-create the wheel- check it out!

If you are anything like me, you will be drawn to quilts with HSTs. I just love their simplicity and the complexity of the patterns they can make.