I can think of no better word to some up my approach to this quilt than CONSERVATION. It’s not in the sense that I usually mean it. I’m not trying to improve the environment here. No, this time around, it’s all about making things work with the bare minimum. Workspace-wise, this is what I’m calling the bare minimum:

That’s it. That’s my workspace for the next month. A tiny corner of my airbnb (which I am thankful for, don’t get me wrong) and some white-woman livelaughlove bullshit hanging like the Sword of Damocles over me. And I’ve quilted in worse conditions, don’t get me wrong. I’ve posted up on coffee tables. I’ve cut pieces by measuring with an elementary school ruler, drawing the lines, and cutting fabric with those very scissors. I’m agog that 25 years later, I still own those scissors.

But that isn’t my life, and that hasn’t been my life for a very long time. And I truly don’t think I’d be capable of succeeding at Moda Blockheads if I had any less than this. So let’s go over what I have:

Y’all, that cutting and pressing station is the real MVP here. My buddy, the anchorman of my quilt discord channel, the unsinkable Ashley Hay in the Bakery, gifted me this mat as a going-away gift, and it is *perfect* for small spaces. I have it pictured unfolded, which is nice when it can be used that way. The space was honestly too small, though, so I’ve been using it folded, flipped to whichever side I need it.

Whether you’re using one of these mats or not — but definitely if you are — it’s a good idea to sew together all the units that will then require trimming on the rotary mat first. For me, this is mostly flying geese and half/quarter square triangles. When using this mat, it means I can get them all cut and then flip to the pressing side to lay out the pieces, assemble them, and press as I go.

The other thing that might be of interest here is the multiple rulers. I know that it seems prissy of me to say that this is bare essentials. When I have my full space, I usually only use a 24″ x 6″. But in tight quarters, you absolutely need something that’s going to be able to cut the full width of a fat quarter . . . and that two-foot ruler is simply unwieldy when you’ve got the machine, the iron, and the light flanking it. One nice thing here is I can store both rulers inside the mat when I’m not using them.

Also, don’t even think of commenting on the additional light. I am 41 years old and have perfect vision. I’m not jeopardizing that to hoard a 2″ x 4″ footprint. But let’s check out this week’s pattern:

This week’s block was Cooee, which was a funny name (it’s explained in the notes) and also a really fun block. I’m naturally the sort of person who seeks patterns and studies construction. This is one of those blocks where the assembly doesn’t immediately pop out at me. It was easy to make, but it’s cleverly done to create a bit of a deception. This is the sort of block that I’d be really interested to see what would happen if an entire quilt was made of these. One day, I’ll have my big computer again. With proper editing software, I may revisit this.

Just like with the first pattern, Moda has provided alternate color layouts. Honestly, I didn’t see a big difference between them, though. But here’s the magic of being a smidge (okay, a whole-ass month) behind on this BOM: some of the participants in the Facebook group are really clever and fast. That very day, several people posted an alternate layout that involved flipping the two of the outer HSTs and laying out the stripes that look like a braid.

Or, for those of us who must compare things to food, a strudel.

Strudel!

I can’t stress how much I love this block.

Anyway, I have this image set to large so you can see the measurements for the squares, because this is the second part of my conservation efforts. I have a limited amount of fabric and since I’m not sure how to convert the fabric amounts Moda Dea provided us with, I’m mostly just crossing my fingers that I’m good. I do have a backup plan if I’m not, but let’s hope for the best.

With that in mind, I want as few scraps as possible. There are a few ways to go about this. The first way is to cut pieces out individually instead of in strips. The problem with this method is that, even if you use scissors instead of a rotary tool, it’s easy to cut too deep and damaging the remaining fabric, potentially to the point where you won’t be able to use that section anymore.

The second option is to cut strips as consciously as possible. In normal circumstances, this is easy to do. Find all the pieces that are the same height, cut your strip to that height, and work your way down the length. If your pieces are varied and some are notably long, it will help to start with those so you don’t get to the end of the strip and not have enough left. You can also do the math beforehand to figure out which pieces will fit best in the strip, but I’ve found that it’s too easy to either make a minor error, either in measuring the strip or cutting the pieces, that will end up with the strip coming up short.

For this sampler, since I don’t know what blocks are coming up, planning is a bit more complicated. If I was able to guarantee that I’d use a complete strip on each block, it wouldn’t be so tough, but that’s not possible. I’m going to have partial strips left over, and I need to make sure they’re a reasonable size to guarantee they’ll be usable in the future.

So, back up to my instructions for my layout. Of the pink, I needed

  • 1 square @ 3 7/8″
  • 4 squares @ 2″
  • 2 rectangles @ 2″ x 3 1/2″

The biggest unit here is that first square, so it might seem most logical to cut my strip 3 7/8″. I can cut the rectangles so they’re 3 1/2″ tall and trim off the final 3/8″. This isn’t bad at all. A totally reasonable scrap. But for the squares, I’ll only be able to cut one at a time, and then I’ll have a leftover strip of 1 7/8″ left. That’s small enough that I don’t know if I’ll be able to use it on future squares.

Alternatively, I can cut my strip 4″. I’ll have only 1/8″ to shave off the big square, and the smaller squares and rectangles I can cut 2 at a time by cutting 2 pieces of 2″ x 4″ and another piece 3 1/2″ x 4″, and then cutting them all in half. My only waste there is the 1/8″ sliver, and if there’s anything left of the original strip, it will be 4″ wide, plenty to find another use for.

The Cooee block looks complicated to assemble, but it’s a modified log cabin. Despite the braid illusion, it’s actually comprised of four identical square units, where the center block is an HST and the expanding strips around them are made of multiple pieces. In the original design, it’s two square on one side, a square and a rectangle on the other. To achieve the braided look, this is slightly altered. Either way, laying out the pieces before you assemble them is essential here. Find the smaller squares you’ll be making, piece the rectangles that flank the HSTs, attach the smaller rectangles before the larger rectangles, and finish it all off!

I didn’t much care for the first block, and that’s okay, but I am absolutely in love with this strudel.

One thought on “BH4 Block 2: Cooee, a.k.a. the Strudel

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