I have never been big on making test blocks. I just bought a little more fabric in case one of my first blocks needed to be redone. I actually cannot remember making a test block before. I always was too eager to get started with the project to take the time. And I didn’t know what to do with the finished test blocks.
My latest project, the Singapore Sling quilt, was going to be made with these new templates that my daughter 3D printed. She wanted to make sure they were accurate. My first thought was I would use some scrap fabric to make sure they work. However, I knew I had extra of the Good Vibes fabric designed by Christa Watson for Benartex, so I decided to try a test block with the fabric I planned to use for the quilt (this may sound basic to you, but it was a novel idea for me).
I carefully laid out one block and realized immediately that both my background and foreground fabrics were directional. I tried to line up the templates so the fabrics would be straight and I cut them out using the templates. Then I carefully pinned and sewed the block.
It took me about 15-20 minutes total and I learned a lot of valuable lessons:
- The templates work and appear the be the correct size.
- If I cut the fabric to keep the pattern straight, all of the cuts are on the bias.
- It is really hard to get the fabric pattern perfectly aligned for this block. And I don’t like the look when it is off.
- The tight curves are really tight – I ended up trying glue basting for them and it worked like a charm.
- I will need to be very precise in my seam allowances.
- I need to starch the fabric before cutting and before piecing. The fabric distorted a little with the curves. You can see below that the line does not fall perfectly straight.
- I may need to slightly trim the blocks to get them all square and perfectly the same so the quilt top lays flat.
- I like the finished look of the diamond.
- There is enough contrast between the foreground and the background.
Because I learned so much making the first test block, I decided to do a second one keeping one edge of the template on the straight of grain. I like the scrappy look and it was much easier to cut out.
What did I learn? There are some excellent reasons to make a test block, especially if the equipment or techniques are new to you.
Of course this leads to a new question – what do you do with test blocks? Let me know what you do with them and we will address that in another post!