Tag Archives: blocking a quilt

Blocking Tropical Sunshine

I haven’t blocked a quilt in years – so it was way harder than I remembered. I thought a mini would be easy. Uhhh.. NO!

If a quilt is six feet square the corners are pretty far apart and a tiny error will probably not be noticed. This is only 28″ square. It MUST be perfectly square. It’s staring you right in the face  – and a judge armed with a 12″ square ruler will readily see the tiniest error.

I pinned and unpinned and wet and re-wet and was almost in tears at one point.

I finally came up with the masking tape idea. You must first establish a perfectly square/straight edge to work from. I lay one of the laser lines along one edge of the tape and the other across the quilt.

First I measured across the middles to establish the size – which was 24″ from the outside edge of the narrow purple border. I even checked each row of blocks making sure they were straight. Finally I checked the corners with the 12″ ruler and measured across the diagonals – exactly 34″. It’s drying now.

When it’s perfectly dry I will trim and bind it. Sew on the hanging sleeve and label and start on the next one which is 36″ x 46″.

The octagons are blocked

The hardest part was making the “blocking boards.” We had to use plywood since we don’t have  24″x 8′ – 1″ thick – interlocking styrofoam in Panama – which is what my quilter Margaret Gunn uses in her blocking tutorial. My husband David deemed the 1/4″ plywood to “floppy” so we used 3/4″ – which is heavy as hell!

We had some carpet remnants left over from redecorating our office building – so we used them – it would have been much easier, quicker and neater with two pieces of 4′ x 8′ carpet.

1 two pieces of plywood

We moved all the studio furniture to the back – and thank goodness there was enough room on the floor for an 8′ x 8′ table. We had to move the beading workbench outside on the patio because there wasn’t enough room to comfortably walk around the table.

2 tools to make the blocking boards

Here are some of the items we used to make the table – we ended up using two gallons of the contact cement. Well… not quite two – we knocked over the can and spilled quite a bit. What a mess that was! A real Laurel and Hardy moment as we tried to keep the puddle from spreading and getting all over the front of the carpet.

4 David gluing the back of carpet

Here is David applying the contact cement to the back of one of the pieces of the carpet.

3 sticking carpet to plywood

I walked up and down on the freshly glued carpet until I thought my legs would drop off. It just didn’t want to stick – it kept bubbling up. It could have had something to do with not waiting the 20 minutes until the contact cement dried on the wood and the carpet before joining them. When all else fails read the directions. We learned our lesson and waited on the other pieces.

5 joining two plywood pieces

This is how David joined the two pieces of plywood and he used 4 bigger ones underneath because it was bowing in the center. The plywood is on two large banquet tables. That is Laura in the corner.

6 covered rug with sheet

I didn’t want the quilt to touch the carpet so I pinned an old Indian sheet down as a barrier.

I filled the washing machine up to the top – added the quilt and 6 color catchers – no soap – just tepid water. I swirled it around in the water with my hands – I didn’t turn on the machine to agitate it. I let it soak for a few minutes then emptied the machine and let the spinner run for a bit – I wanted it damp – but not too dry. The color catchers came out with purple stains – but I don’t see any stains or running on the quilt.

8 laser

This is the laser level we used to square up the quilt. I ordered it from Amazon – I decided on this model when I read one of the customer comments from a quilter. The flash on the camera is so bright you can’t see the red laser line in the photo.

It sure beats using rulers and set squares. A bright – very visible red line shoots out in both directions and all you have to do is pull and tug and massage the seam of the quilt into place.

9 laser on center blocks

We made sure that the blocks in the center of the quilt were also in line  – not just the borders. We really didn’t have to pull and push very much – the quilt was amazingly square straight out of the washing machine. Nothing was really wonky – just a few minor adjustments to get everything squared up.


Here it is – blocked.  I left the air conditioner running at its coldest last night. The surface was dry to the touch this morning – but I am not going to move it until tomorrow morning. I have the AC on now and I will leave it on again tonight. It is freezing in here now!

12 is that straight or what!


Is that straight or what!! We measured across the diagonals with a metal measuring tape – and they turned out exactly the same – 89 and 7/8 ths inches. The quilt is supposed to be square but it is off by 15/16 ths of an inch. We certainly weren’t going to pull out all the carefully placed pins and start over for such a small difference.

Tomorrow, before removing the pins I am going to mark the cutting line on the border. Then I will sew one or two lines (with very small stitches) just inside the cutting line. This stitching will make sure the quilting stitches will not unravel when I trim the border to 5 inches. They will be hidden in the binding. I would not have thought to do this step – but my quilter Margaret said it was very important since I would be cutting into the quilting lines.



I can’t wait to get this plywood out of the studio – the smell of the contact cement is overpowering. I don’t know what I am going to do if the quilt smells like contact cement. I guess I will have to spray it with Fabreeze and air it outside – if it will ever stop raining.