Thursday, December 30, 2010

Card Trick is not impossible

(This post is dedicated to my friend, Franni, who gets high blood pressure and wants to cry at the mere mention of the Card Trick quilt block)

The Card Trick block is something that has mystified me for eons. It isn't that I don't understand how to put one together and have it look the way it is supposed to, it's that I can't understand how I seem to be one of four people on the planet who have figured it out.

Franni tells me the instructions she has seen in the past were confusing and she did not understand them. Well Franni, those who can not explain it simply, do not understand it well enough. Here is my attempt to show everyone how to make the Card Trick without needing massive doses of anti-anxiety meds when they are finished.

You will need:

Seam ripper (just in case)
Rotary cutter (if you do not have one, do NOT attempt the Card Trick block. Your purchase will be well worth it, so I highly suggest investing. I can't live without mine.)
Cutting mat
Omnigrid ruler 9.5 x 9.5 (I also recommend the 6.5 x 6.5 as well as the 5 x 24)
Sewing machine
Steam iron and appropriate amounts of water to make the steam (You do not want to know how many times I thought my iron was broken because it was not steaming, and my silly butt had not filled it with water.)
Ironing board
Beverage of choice (I prefer a little coffee with my cream and sugar)
Catchy tunes

If you do not know what an Omnigrid ruler is, or why you so desperately need one, the short version is it is a clear ruler with bright yellow markings, a 45 degree line, and if you plan on putting any serious effort into quilting, it will be your best friend. You can see through it, so it makes it easy to line up edges for cutting and trimming. With the Card Trick block, you will find the 45 degree line the best invention since dirt. I promise to explain as we go through this.

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(My Omnigrid and rotary cutter)

A note about rotary cutters: USE A SHARP, UN-NICKED BLADE! A nick in the blade will annoy you to no end, and you will press harder when you cut to force it to cut despite the nick. This will make your cutting mat cry. A dull blade is much, much, much more dangerous than a sharp blade. The expense of a new blade is far less than a trip to the emergency room for stitches. Keep the blade retracted when you aren't actively cutting.

On with the show.

First, you need to decide how big your block is going to be. I picked 12 x 12 because I'm making a king size quilt and did not want to have a million teeny blocks to sew. If you are doing a baby quilt, you may want a six inch block, or an eight inch block. Your quilt, your rules. Remember that.

Okay, you have your size, but your color options are limitless. You can have each "card" a different color or shade, like I did. You can have two colors and alternate them, or three colors. Three colors looks neat, especially if you are mixing the card trick with an alternate block such as the four patch. You could make the opposite cards the same color as one of the colors on the four patch, and the other two cards different from each other. Don't forget a consistent "background" color! You need something to go around the cards. I like to use solids for background colors so you are drawn to the cards, but your mileage may vary.

Cut your squares. By now you have decided how big you want your block. Mine is 12.5 x 12.5. It will be 12 x 12 when it's in the quilt, but standing alone, it is bigger. Seam allowances. At the end of this post I will give you a cutting guide for the block, for blocks from six inches (finished) to 12 inches (finished). We will skip that fancy stuff for now, because you are reading this and not trying to cut or sew, right now. You can print this for your own reference, or email me (karlee at uniquebykarlee dot com) and I can send you a .pdf with pictures. Free. I can not help you with the total yardage you will need for your quilt. I can give you tips on how to figure it up, but doing it for you? I'm sorry, I only have two brain cells and figuring your yardage might just implode both of them. Not fun.

Once you have cut and piled your different colors, you'll have a mess like this:

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Woah, Karlee! Back up!! How do I cut good triangles? This thing is LOADED with triangles!!!

Oh. Right. Sorry.

You have your square. Cut your square on the diagonal. Sounds easy, but remember the 45 degree angle on your Omnigrid? Let it help you.

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(Do you see the 45 degree line going from the middle top to lower left? Line that up with the edge of your fabric after you turned it on point. Line up the edge of the ruler with the top and bottom points for additional help, cut.)

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(Repeat with the half triangle, when necessary)

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Off to the ironing board we go.

A few words about ironing: Iron before you cut. Iron between sewing bits together. Iron your seams to the dark side, not toward the light, not open, iron to the dark side. Why the dark side? They have cookies. No, just kidding. If you iron to the light side, it will show through, especially if you are using white like I am. Iron to the dark and you can't see it. The only time you are ironing too much is when you scorch your fabric; then you've gone too far. If it isn't scorched, you haven't ironed too much.

I've seen people get so lost when putting a block together, it only makes sense to lay it out and sew in small bits. Lay it out, in a grid. You have nine mini-blocks in this one block, so lay out the mini-blocks in a grid with a little bit of a gap between them. Like this:

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("But Karlee, it looks bad! Some of the bits are bigger than others and, and, and, and....." Yes. I know. It -needs- to be like this. Do NOT trim down what you think is too much. I will show you why, shortly.)

Look at your grid, carefully. You now see the mini-blocks, right? Start sewing them, one by one, and putting them back in their place on your grid. Keep your ironing board near your sewing machine unless you feel the extra exercise is necessary, then put it on the other side of the house.

You may sew them in whatever order you please, but I start in the upper right corner and work right to left, top to bottom. The first block I sewed was the upper right, and after I sewed, I ironed. I ironed the seam to the dark side.

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The three piece mini-blocks really aren't that hard. Sew the two little pieces first, then open them and sew to the big one. Iron the seams, to the dark side. If you sew carefully, you can coax the seam of the two little pieces to the dark side as it is going through the machine. This will encourage that seam to lay toward the dark as you iron it.

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The center mini-block gives the most problems for most people. It has points. People like points to match up. People cry, cuss, and scream when the points do not match up. Here is how to make it EASY. I promise. Follow the pictures.

First, fold half the block in on itself, like this:

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(I pushed the top ones back a bit so you can see it better. Match up your edges when you sew.)

Sew the two inside seams to make two big triangles, but DO NOT SEW THE TWO BIG ONES. Go iron. But. I want you to iron it a special way, to make lining up the points EASY.

Look carefully. First, I laid the blocks back in the grid the way they were supposed to be, and then flipped them upside down laterally. I then ironed one seam to the left, and one to the right.

Ironing them in two different directions does a couple different things.
1. It makes butting up the points EASY.
2. It cuts down on the bulk at the exact center of the block.
3. By cutting down the bulk, it will lay flat. The flatter it lays, the prettier it is.

Here is a picture of the seams butting up so the points will be perfect. With one seam going one way, and the other going...well, the can -feel- when they match up exactly.

Sew down the long side, and iron the seam whichever way you please. It does not matter on this one, unless you are using a light color on one of the blocks. In that case...iron to the dark.

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(Perfection! Without tears!!)

Fast forward, all nine of your mini-blocks are sewed, and you need another cup of coffee. I know you are eager to now sew the little teeny blocks into your massive masterpiece, but DON'T!!!! STOP!!!!

No really. Don't. There is work to be done.

Years ago, I was in a quilt guild, and one of the ladies was 97 years old, and just a gem of a quilter. She had learned to quilt from her childhood best friend's mother. An Amish woman. Well, Flossie gave me a tidbit of information that I have carried with me since I met her, and it was the best, most important, most *valuable* thing, ever.

Square it.

Take your nine little mini-blocks back to your cutting mat and square them up before you do anything else.

First of all, you have little tag things hanging off each corner of the mini-block. This adds unnecessary bulk to your finished block. It also looks sloppy.

Squaring up isn't as hard as it sounds, and that 1/16th of an inch, or even the dust you shave off, can make all the difference in the world. I promise.

Take one of the two-piece mini-blocks, first. Line up the 45 degree line on your Omnigrid with the seam.

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Line up the edges where they need to be. For this block, take the finished size and divide by three, then add a half inch. For me that is 4.5 inches. My mini block, when trimmed, should be exactly 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. See the bits hanging off? Trim them. If you have to take a little bit off of all four sides, THAT IS OKAY. I'm giving you permission to cut off of all four sides to square your block. (Some people need this permission. You now have it.)

I took a close up for your benefit, and because this part is very important.

Where you have two fabrics coming together at the seam, make sure they join at the exact corner. If they are not going to join up at the exact corner, slide your Omnigrid around until they DO. This applies for all three types of mini-blocks.

(For reference...this is what I took off two sides of that mini. This much coming off CAN make a difference if you DON'T remove it. I promise.)

Three piece mini. It *looks* wonky on that white side, doesn't it? It is. I'll fix it by squaring it up. Remember: Keep the seam in the exact corner, even if you have to slide the Omnigrid around. This one had bits taken off all four sides to get it to perfection.

You get the idea. It is also okay to do this to the four piece block in the center. Cut, turn, cut, turn, as many times as you need to get it square and get the seams exactly in the corners.

Iron those mini-blocks again. They may have gotten rumpled when you were cutting.

Lay them back in the grid again.

Do you see the difference after you squared them up? No? Have a look at the "before".

WOW. What a difference, huh?

NOW you can sew the mini-blocks into strips. I work top to bottom.

A few things before you get started. Because I have a white background, I ironed away from it. This means SOME of the corners are not going to have one seam going one way and the other seam going the other. That's OKAY. Don't go trying to fix it...just work with it.

Sew your first three mini-blocks together and STOP. You need to iron, AGAIN, BUT.

Butbutbut. This next part is going to HELP you match up the rest of those points.

DO NOT go ironing willy-nilly.
DO NOT iron those two seams in the SAME direction.

No, no, no. Iron them in the opposite direction. On the top strip, I iron them both to the center block. On the middle strip, I iron them away from the center block. On the bottom strip, I iron them to the center. They are consistent, I can feel where they need to meet, and all is right and happy in the world.

But Karlee!!!! If I iron the top to the left, and the middle to the right, and the bottom to the left...

Uh huh. That works too, but it actually looks neater on the back doing it opposites instead of sames.

Get the three strips finished, then sew them together, using the same method of butting up the seams as before. You will find that since you squared everything up before you started this, all your seams match without bunching and your corners match properly.

In, out, in, then when you are done putting the strips together, iron the two last seams to the middle.

Now, flip it over. Look at your Card Trick.


Perfect point...

Perfect point...

Perfect point. This last one is on the edge, and not in the middle. Once it has been sewn into the quilt, it should meet up with the edge of the next block or the border.

Congratulations! You've made a Card Trick block while managing to keep your sanity.

Now for the sizes of the squares you will need for various size blocks.

First, there are two different triangles. Triangle A and Triangle B. Refer to the picture to see where what goes.

"A" Is a half square
"B" Is a quarter square

Cut as many of these pieces as you need from your various fabrics.

For a six inch block: For "A" you need to cut a square 2 7/8 x 2 7/8. For "B" you need 3 1/4 x 3 1/4.

For a seven inch block: For "A" you need a 3 1/8 x 3 1/8. For "B" you need 3 1/2 x 3 1/2.

For an eight inch block: For "A" you need a 3 1/2 x 3 1/2. For "B" you need 3 7/8 x 3 7/8.

For a nine inch block: For "A" you need 3 7/8 x 3 7/8. For "B" you need 4 1/4 x 4 1/4.

For a 10 inch block: For "A" you need 4 1/8 x 4 1/8. For "B" you need 4 1/2 x 4 1/2.

For an 11 inch block: For "A" you need 4 1/2 x 4 1/2. For "B" you need 4 7/8 x 4 7/8.

For a 12 inch block: For "A" you need 4 7/8 x 4 7/8. For "B" you need 5 1/4 x 5 1/4.

Happy sewing! Remember, if you need me, I'm only an email away.

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