July 25, 2013

Template-Free Polka-Dot-Cafe Block

I made a promise, and I'm keeping it!
Today I'm sharing how to make a 
template-free, no-fuss, perfectly-pointed block
from the Polka-Dot-Cafe Apron project
featured in Patchwork, Please! by Ayumi Takahashi.

Photo Credit:  Cut to Pieces blog
The apron was one of the projects that I loved most,
when I first paged through the book.
That block design is just so adorable!

But, alas...I felt more than a little bit inadequate
when my lovely blocks were stitched together.
As careful as I was, my points disappeared into the seams
when I trimmed the blocks and stitched them together.
I was not alone...almost everyone else in the Zakka 2.0 sew along
expressed some degree of frustration, too.

I vowed to try again someday, to figure out a better way.
Recently I decided to draft the block,
using some "round" numbers and see if I could have better luck.

These are the "finished" measurements I used to draft my block, so I added 1/2" to each element.
 The final block is 6 1/2" square.
It worked!
I'm pleased to show you my method,
if you'd like to make this design, too, without templates.

Fabric Selection:

For my blocks, I used (1) center block A
and (4) contrasting block A pieces surrounding the center.

I used another fabric for all (4) of the small B blocks.

For the remaining triangle pieces, C and D,
I used the same fabric throughout.

Here's how my first trial block turned out,
made in Christmas prints for "Christmas In July".

Cutting Measurements:
NOTE:  I added 1/2" to each of the elements of the block
A  (5) 2 1/2" squares - the center square is of a different print
B (4) 1 1/2" squares
C (4) 2 1/4" squares, cut diagonally to make 8 triangles
D (2) 3" squares, cut diagonally to make 4 triangles for corners

I found it easier...and prettier...to cut out
the pieces for several blocks.

Let's get started with the sewing process for one block...

First, sew one of the 2 1/2" contrasting side blocks A to each side
of the center 2 1/2" block A.

Press the seams toward the center block.

Following the sketch in the earlier photo,
match up the corner of one small triangle C 
to the corner of the first B square.
Stitch all the way along one side of the triangle.
For part of the stitching, there will be only one layer of fabric,
since the triangle edge is longer.

Chain-piece all four of the small B squares in the same direction.

Press all of the seams away from the B squares, toward the C triangles.

Add the other small C triangles to the small B squares,
 in the same way as before.

Chain-piece all four sections, 
with the corners matched to the right angles of the triangles.

Press the seams away from the B squares, toward the C triangles.
Clip away the excess fabric from the back.

Next, lay out the remaining pieces
in a modified 9-patch, so that they are positioned properly.

Sew the triangle sections to the large square A pieces,
to make 3 rows.
Press the seams in the top and bottom rows
toward the triangle sections,
and away from the center squares.

Now the seams will nest together, as you stitch together the 3 rows.

For the last step,
add the large D triangles to the four corners of the block.

Make sure the corner triangles are centered over the edges,
and stitch them into place.

Here's how it looks when they are sewn on.
Trim the excess fabric from the outside edges,
and press the block well.

Trim the finished block to 6 1/2" square.
Line up the 3 1/4" marks with the points of the 1" squares,
so that your block is symmetrical.

Looky there, at all of those perfect points!
Admire your beautiful block,
and make more!

Stop back soon to see what I made with my new blocks!

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  1. Love your fabric choice. It's looking awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  2. They look great, thank you for sharing the pictures.

  3. Very clever. I'm going to have to give this a go because, as you know, I lost my points also.

  4. Such a beautiful block with your new measurements! I will print this out and use your directions!


  5. Thanks Amy, I feel so much better after my own triangle fiasco with the Churn Dash block that you show me how to fix it, or keep it from happening next time!

  6. Well done, Amy! I love your method of drafting it out and making it slightly over-sized so that you can trim it down to perfection. Are you making a Christmas apron, perhaps?
    Julie @ The Crafty Quilter

  7. wow, thanks for all your work re-working this! I was thinking when I first saw the pattern that it was paper pieced. I admit, I didn't even try it when I saw that it wasn't! Now I will get back to it :D

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial Amy! One of these days I may get caught up. I've one of these aprons promised to my DD.

  9. This was one of my faves, too. I wanted to do this sew along but didn't have time. I think I'm glad I didn't. It sounds like a lot of people had a lot of frustration with things.

  10. Just wondering about the sizes here-- did you already add the1/n in to each element of the block, to the cutting directions, or do we need to? Thanks again for working this one out. Looks really nice to try it this way-- any help at avoiding the disappearing points is welcome!

    1. The cutting directions do include the 1/2" added to each element. In my drafting drawing, the measurements you see are the "finished" size for each element.


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