Modern Flight QAL Week 3: Making Half Our Blocks

by | May 12, 2021

Welcome to Week 3 of the Modern Flight Quilt Along!

This week we’re really getting into things and we’ll be piecing half of our blocks. If you haven’t paper pieced before and feel intimidated just remind yourself… this block is just one piece of paper and only FOUR seams. You can handle four seams, right?! Most quilt blocks are WAY more seams than that. So you’ve got this. 

I’ll walk you through a block step-by-step AND there’s a video linked below where you can watch me make one and talk (at length, haha) about it while I do.

For this week you’ll need:

  1. Your Modern Flight pattern.
  2. Your printed out A and B block templates.
  3. The fabric you cut last week.
  4. Your standard sewing supplies–machine with adjustable stitch length, thread, rotary cutter, cutting mat, etc, etc.

A Brief Overview of Paper Piecing

What is paper piecing? It’s the process of using a paper template to build a quilt block.

Why do people choose to paper piece instead of using traditional piecing? Because you can do amazing shapes and angles with paper piecing that aren’t possible with traditional piecing! Paper piecing is great for words and images and making fresh shapes and angles that give your quilts a modern feel. Some people try it and it’s not their favorite but for many people it opens up a whole new world of quilting that they are excited to explore.

What’s the basic process?

  1. Print out a template that is the mirror image of what you want your finished block to look like.
  2. Using a short stitch length (you’ll see why later), add fabric pieces to the block using the lines printed on the template. After piece #1, you’ll add pieces with the “good” fabric side facing the existing fabric on the block, sew it in place, and press it back. So as you build your block, the “good” side of the fabric always ends up facing AWAY from your paper template.
  3. Trim your block.
  4. Rip those paper pieces off the back! The short stitch length you used when adding your pieces allows your needle to perforate the paper so it’s easy to rip off.

That’s it! I’ll go into more detail with this specific block below, but this is the basic process you’ll use for all paper piecing you ever do.

This Week:

First, some tips to keep in mind:

  1. I’d recommend glue basting your center diamonds so they stay in place while you’re lining everything else up. Use a washable glue stick and a lukewarm iron. The back side of your fabric should touch the back side of your paper block and your diamond piece should completely cover the A1 or B1 section of your block. Confused? I talk about this in the video briefly!
  2. Remember that in paper-piecing, your paper block is going to be the REVERSE of your finished block. When you’re pairing up your fabric with your blocks, the “good” side of your fabric pieces should look like they don’t fit on the printed side of your block (because they’ll end up on the back). So don’t accidentally pair up all your A templates with your B block and vice versa.
  3. When you’ve completed a block, leave your paper on the back of your blocks right now to hold everything nice and square until we’ve assembled our top. This is a personal preference. If you’ve paper pieced before and you like to rip that paper off early, go for it.

Here’s a video walking through the block assembly. If videos aren’t your thing, I walk you through it step-by-step in writing below!

Let’s Get Started!

You’ll recall this picture from last week’s post. This is where we’re going! As you can see, we’re using our paper block to build our fabric block that is a mirror image of it.

Optional Step 1: Glue baste your diamonds.

The first thing I like to do is glue baste my center diamonds. They’re big and floppy and holding them in place while also holding on the second piece you’re trying to line up and sew is just not for me. To do this, take your center fabric piece (which will be either a diamond OR trapezoid shape, depending on how you cut things). Place it with the “wrong” side touching the “wrong” side of your paper block. Hold your block up to a light source and look through your paper. You should be able to see from the shadow of the fabric that it’s completely covering your A1 or B1 section with room to spare all around. This is how you’d position that piece even if you weren’t going to glue baste it.

To glue baste, set your diamond fabric aside. Get a glue stick out. Apply a few dots of glue to the back of your paper block WITHIN the A1 or B1 section. Now place your fabric back onto the paper block in the same position you had previously–“wrong” side down and with it covering the entire A1 or B1 section. Apply a warm (but not hot) iron to set the glue. No you should be able to wave your paper block around and your fabric stays in place. It’s fine if the edges flop a bit. You want to use as little glue as possible and never glue on the actual seam lines (the printed lines on your paper block).

Step 2: Add Piece A2

For the rest of this tutorial, we’ll assume we’re making an A block so I don’t have to keep referring to “A1 or B1”. But the process for B blocks is exactly the same.

So you should have a paper A template in front of you. If you glue basted, your A1 fabric is already adhered to the paper. If you didn’t you can just hold it in place as we go here.

Now, I would normally tell you to change the stitch length on your machine to a shorter length at this point. However, those short stitches are very annoying to unpick so for this first block I actually do the opposite and change my stitch length to a slightly longer (and very easy to remove) stitch. I’ll use this to add my A2 piece of fabric to the block. Then I’ll check that the A2 fabric fully covers the area it needs to. If it does, I’ll go back over that seam with a shorter stitch length. I only do this for the first block while I make sure I am positioning my fabric where I want it.

So you’ve got your paper block and your longer stitch length set. Now grab your precut A2 piece of fabric.

What we are going to do is hold our A2 fabric onto the back of our paper block with the “right” side of the fabric touching the “right” side of the diamond fabric. We’ll wiggle things around until our A2 fabric is lined up so that it hangs over the black printed line that separates A1 and A2 on the block template. Then we sew along that line between A1 and A2.

The goal here is that after we sew along that line, we’ll flip the A2 piece of fabric back and press that seam so that the A2 fabric covers the A2 section of the block.

Hard to wrap your head around? I do a demo in the video and here’s a little photo depiction for you.

1. Here’s an example of where I’ll be placing the A2 fabric piece on the other side of the paper.

2. Here’s the piece placed on the fabric side of the block. The right side of the white fabric is touching the right side of the purple fabric.

3. Holding my fabric in place, I flipped my block over and sewed a seam along the line between A1 and A2 using a short stitch length.

4. I flipped the paper section back along the seam I just added. Then lined up a ruler, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance from the paper.

5. I ran my rotary cutter along the ruler to trim off extra fabric.

6. Flipping the block back over, you can see how the piece I added looks after trimming.

7. Finally, I used my iron to press back the piece I added. In the end, the piece I added covers the entire A2 area with the “right” side of the fabric facing out.

Step 3: Repeat for A3-5

We’ll repeat the process to add our A3, A4, and A5 fabrics.

Remember: you ultimately want to be using a short stitch length (I use 1.6 on my machine versus its 2.5 normal setting) to add your fabric. For your first block you might try a long stitch as you experiment, but for future blocks you want to rock that short stitch or you’ll have a nightmare of a time trying to remove your paper from the back of your blocks later.

Position fabric, sew, trim, press back.

That’s it! The key on the first block is just experimenting with where you want to place your fabric so that when you press it back, it fully covers the intended section. If you place it too high on the block, it might leave a gap at the bottom. Too low and it might leave a  gap at the top. Crooked and… well, gaps everywhere? Paper piecing is actually a very forgiving process so do a little experimentation to see where you like things and then you’ll be able to speed through all the rest of your blocks because you’re repeating the same process.

Depending on what background colors you’re using, I always recommend going through and adding all of your A2 pieces, then all A3 pieces, etc, etc rather than piecing a whole block and then another one and another. More efficient and more consistent!

That’s It! Put on some good music and knock out half of your blocks and you’re done for the week!

But wait! Let’s talk about this week’s prize!

Week 3 Prize Sponsor: Aurifil Thread!

If you have used Aurifil thread before, you know that it’s amazing. Smooth and low lint and bright… just fun to quilt with.

The Prize: They’ll be giving away TWO of their Color Builders packs to one of our lucky quilters. Each pack has three color-coordinated spools of thread. Check out the snapshot below for some ideas of the options you’ll have!

So How Do I Win? To qualify this week, post a photo of some of your finished blocks! Be sure to use the #modernflightqal hashtag and post no later than midnight CST on Tuesday, May 18th. You must have a public Instagram account for your post to count!

That’s it! Happy Quilting and I’ll see you back here next week with some completed blocks.

– Kate

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