Saturday, 20 January 2018

Pencil Block: A Note to Self

Last year I made this 5" by 5" block from a Japanese book filled with 210 Patchwork Patterns that I bought at a Kinokuniya book store a while ago. I really tried sewing this block by hand as the book suggests, but after a few attempts I simply could not get the result I was looking for. Maybe because of the lack of practice or the wrong choice of the background fabric, but after fiddling with it for a while I  switched to my sewing machine and it turned out quite well.

This book is full of wonderful blocks all sewn entirely by hand and has step-by-step instructions and photos for every block. There are so many blocks that I would like to sew and turn into different projects and maybe even make a sampler quilt one day too.

You can see the block in the middle in the photo below that I used and changed a bit to make these colourful parts look like crayons. I thought that it was such an easy block that I could finish it in no time at all, but I was wrong. I did not count how many small pieces I needed before I started sewing. I was surprised to realise that it took 53 (!) tiny pieces to put this block together. While working on it, I kept asking myself, "why do I make everything so tiny and then make myself suffer?". :-) Anyway, I was happy to finish this little cutie after a few attempts. I started sewing by hand, but to be honest with you my hand sewing left me feeling far from impressed. I just could not get all the seams straight and smooth enough. I also wanted to speed up the process a bit and decided to use the machine. I made a few Notes to Self while sewing that can be applied to any small project really, and  I thought some of you might find them helpful.

1. Starch. Starch. Starch. Really. Before you even cut your fabric for some tiny fussy cutting, it really helps to starch your fabric. Fabric becomes more "stable", it almost feels like thin paper and  it is very easy to cut and sew. I use a normal spray starch that I buy at a supermarket and use for any other ironing needs.

2. Trace. Once your fabric and templates are ready, trace the templates onto the fabric pieces and cut out leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. Use a water erasable pen or any other removable fabric pen. This step will help you have all the pieces of your pattern match nicely and have straight seams. I usually use two pens: Water Erasable Pen Fine Tip or Frixion Clicker Pen.

3. Pin. To make sure that you sew the pieces correctly, pin them first. Place the pieces on your working mat right sides together. Insert the needle at the beginning of the marked line and make sure that it comes out on the opposite side in the corresponding corner at the beginning of the marked line as well. Match the opposite corners and the middle of the marked lines in the same way and stitch together. I love using Clover Fine Patchwork Pins with glass heads or Merchant & Mills Entomology Pins.

4. Press the seams. Make sure to press all the seams flat. Sometimes, when working with small pieces, I use a pen with a round lid to do the job so I don't have to run to the ironing board all the time. This Kikki pen seems to do the trick for me.

As you can see, to sew the next two pieces together, I again pin them together in the corners and in the middle making sure that the needles come out on the opposite side in corresponding places. It is a super cute block, but a bit fiddly if you ask me. Now is the question...what to make with it?

Hope you find some of the notes useful. Happy sewing! Larisa xox


  1. It's a lovely block. I particularly like your changes which give it more character. I can see why you bought the book and look forward to seeing more of the blocks you make from it.

    1. I am still thinking of what to make with this tiny block. :-) I hope you are well, Dina! xox