Assembling the Dahlia Block

 

…The Earth and the Sun do not hurry; they follow their own path at their own pace. If the Earth were to accelerate and complete one rotation in three hours instead of twenty four, we would be in big trouble! …

Daisaku Ikeda

Yes, you guessed right. Slow and steady is the mantra for curved piecing!

We had reached this stage, when I left you last week! The arcs and the centre had been pieced.

Assembling the Arcs

  • Check the pieced arcs, are they nicely pressed? We press from the fabric side, if not!
  • We had put off the trimming of the excess paper from the arcs till we were ready to assemble them, so as to prevent fraying of the fabric at the edges… we do it now. This is the time to be as accurate as you can be as the ubiquitous ¼” seam will finally come into play.
  • We piece the arcs in pairs. I always end up stitching wrong edges when joining pieces, so in each pair, I marked one arc `UP’ and the other ‘DOWN’ on the paper side, depending on how they will go under the needle on the machine.

 

  • Refer to the Master template and arrange the arcs in two halves. Moving anticlockwise, arcs H to K are lined up around the centre piece Q and arcs D to O around the centre piece R.
  • Actually, you can begin with any adjoining pair; to stick to the Master template, I start with the pair HP. After trying piecing from both ends – from outside inwards and from the centre to the outer edge, I came to the conclusion that you get better results when you join from the edge to the centre.

They do it with pins!

 Now comes the actual sewing together of the arcs.

Essential tools: A box of thin pins, a pair of forceps ( the kind that kids use for their school Biology classes) or tweezers, a pair of small scissors.

At what stage does one remove the paper? The advice available on the net says to leave it on till as late as possible. That seems to be the sensible thing to do too, as you would want to take full advantage of all those alignment markers on the seam line! Nevertheless, I tried out all possible techniques …

..with the foundation paper intact, without the foundation paper except on the corner pieces, trimming the paper up to the dotted seamline on one arc and then on both arcs!

Conclusion – If you have the patience to do it ( I don’t!) , trim the foundation paper up to the seam line. You reduce the bulk while making use of the alignment markers. If you used the needle punching method to make the templates, this step is easy, you need only tear along the punched seam line. I also read of some people sewing a line on the seam allowance, just outside the seam line to work as a guide while joining the pieces together. If you feel up to that…great! What I found worked best for me was leaving the paper on while I pinned the arcs together. I  preferred to tear it away before sewing.

  • Pick up the first pair of arcs, put the UP arc on top before you start pinning and matching the seam corner at one end. Push a pin vertically in through the two arcs, leaving it hanging down. Align the edges carefully and pin to secure – you can pin on the seam allowance also.

  • Once the corner is secure, move to the next intersecting seam on the two layers. Push the pin all the way down at the point where the seams intersect, till only the head is visible on top.
  • Pressing the two layers between your fingers put a pin on either side of the pin from edge to seam line. The centre vertical pin can now be removed.

  • Now match each intersecting seam – remember you have to match the seam not at the edge of the fabric but at the ¼” point on the dotted seam line. Push the vertical pins all the way through at each point, so that the point of the upper layer lies exactly above the lower one. Again add horizontal pins hanging over the edge on either side of each point, removing the vertical pins as you go along. You can add pins at additional points between the seams also, matching the alignment markers ( the tiny lines crossing the dotted lines).
Now we are ready to sew. Have a pin cushion and the tweezers ready by your side!

Use the ¼” piecing foot, set the stitch length at 1.5, set speed to “low” and needle position to “down” if you have the option. Before you begin, it is reassuring to remember that all curves are straight as they are going under the needle a stitch at a time!

  • Start at the outer edge. Check your seam is ¼” right from the edge – the fabric is curved so you need to consciously ensure this!
  • Go very, very slow, taking 3-4 stitches at a time, keeping an eye firmly on the edge of the fabric layers about to go under the foot, to ensure that they are perfectly aligned under the ¼” foot edge. Use your tweezers to lightly pull the erring layer into place. It is helpful to stop after a few stitches with needle down, and realign the incoming fabric.
  • If you have not removed the paper, check to see that your needle is travelling on the seam line. Sew right till you reach a pin leaving it in till the last moment, slowly pulling it out as it goes under the needle.

If you pin carefully (and plentifully), and sew very slowly, there is no reason why you should not get perfectly matched points! Going back to the UP and DOWN arcs, this picture will always be a reminder to me of how I need to follow my own instructions!

  • Once the pairs of arcs are stitched together, join them as follows:

HP to AI to make HPAI

BJ to CK to make BJCK

HPAI to BJCK to make one half HPAIBJCK

DL to EM to make DLEM

FN to GO to make FNGO

DLEM to FNGO to make other half DLEMFNGO

  Attaching the centre halves Centre half Q is to be attached to the half H..K. and R to the other half. I pieced it, the centre half on top, pinning the corners and each seam as for the arcs. A better option may be to fold in the seam allowance and appliqué the centre on the arcs, either by hand or by machine. These are the two halves of the circle ready to be attached to the background.   Attaching to the background

Option 1 – Take the background square of 18.5″. It is better to keep it about an inch lager and trim it to size after sewing. Fold over twice to determine centre lines of each side

Join the two halves of the circle to make the complete dahlia. Fold in the seam allowance and appliqué it to the background, aligning appropriately with the middle lines of the background. There is also a freezer paper method, tutorials available online.

Option 2 – Join the two pieces S and T of background template. Join to top half of flower. Similarly piece lower half and join the two halves together to get your 18.5″ dahlia block.

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