Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tips and Tricks for Assembling a New York Beauty Block

The New York Beauty block is a show stopper.  It has huge impact and offers a great opportunity to play.  Although you can find lots of New York Beauty blocks that I like on my Pinterest board, my all time favorite example of how spectacular this block can be is by Lynz of Domestic Light and Magic.  It makes me stop and gasp EVERY time I see it.


This tutorial offers a few tips and tricks on assembling the three portions of a New York Beauty block.  For templates or paper piecing tutorials, I can only offer my favourite resources:

1) A super resource for all things New York Beauty is the sew-a-long by Sew Sweetness.  You can loose an afternoon clicking on these links, checking out each and every tutorial.

2) Two of my favorite tutorials on paper piecing are by Jeni Baker and Jennifer Mathis.  The tute by Jeni Baker is what set me on this path in the first place, but Jennifer has a wonderful video that I found to be very helpful.

3) You can find a wide variety of New York Beauty templates, from beginner to advanced, on Ulas Quiltseite.  Good old McCall's quilting also has free templates available.  Alternatively you can draw your own with a tute by Sew Apparently.

What do I offer, then?  Well, the practicalities of putting these curved pieces together so that you have a block of the perfect size (what ever size that may be) time and time again.  Let's get started!

First, your templates.  I am sure you have just printed them out on normal printer paper.  Immediately trace them onto pieces of thin card board so you can use them repeatedly.  On the two straight sides of the L-piece and curved piece, make a note to yourself to add 3/4 - 1 inch.  On the curved sections, make a note to trace that line exactly.


No need for fancy template plastic or special thick paper.  I use a cereal box and it works a treat every time.  


Align your template on your fabric.  As it says, squeeze your template in 3/4-1 inch on each long straight side.  In this example I am tracing on the wrong side of the fabric, but for directional fabrics it might be easier to trace on the right side to get prints oriented as you want them.  No matter what, your lines will be hidden in the seam allowance.  

Here, you are tracing on the curved section,.  Along the two short straight sections on the top left and bottom right.  Just extend an imaginary straight line beyond the template to the edge of the fabric. 


Cut along the three lines to create something like this:


Repeat the same theory when cutting out the quarter circle section.  Move your template in 3/4-1 inch from long straight edges, mark your curved edge and extend that curve to the raw edge of the fabric with an imaginary continuous line.  


When this quarter circle piece is cut out, it will look like this:


Using the tutorials mentioned earlier, go ahead and piece your arc section.  To align the L-shaped section with your arc, fold them each in half and finger press.  


With right sides together, align the two finger pressed folds and pin.  Note that the paper is still attached to my arc here.  You will not remove the paper until the block is totally finished....even though you will want to WAY before that point.  Trust me.


Starting at the center point, align the raw edges of the fabric and the arc template.  In my opinion, there are not enough pins in the world for this step.  Pin, pin and pin again.  Just make sure your L-piece of fabric lies flat and the raw edge is aligned with the edge of the paper.  Do not worry about matching the ends of the L-shaped piece with the edge of the arc.  The L-shaped piece will be longer by 1/2 inch or so.  


Sew long your template's guide, press the seam toward the L-shaped piece and cut the seam allowance in quarter inch increments to allow it to relax.  Be careful to not cut the seam you just stitched.  


Ta da!  Love that feeling of accomplishment.  You should have something that looks like this:  


Notice that the cream/low volume section extends beyond the edge of the paper arc.  It's alright.  We will take care of that later.

Again, fold the semi-circular portion and the L-shaped portion in half and finger press.


Align the fold with right sides of the fabric together and pin...


...and keep pinning.  As before, just make sure the raw edge of your fabric aligns with the edge of your paper arc.  Start pinning in the center and work your way out.  There will be extra fabric extending beyond your paper template.  This section is a bit more complex than the last as it curves naturally.  Do not fight the curve.  You might tear your paper template and then your biased edges will stretch very easily.


Sew on your template's guide, press the seam to the center fabric and again trim the seam allowance in quarter inch increments to let it rest flat.  


Your block should look something like this:


In this example, my block is 8.5x8.5 inches unfinished, 8x8 finished.  To trim, I have aligned the 8.5 inch line on the vertical left so that it runs along the edge of my arc template.  I have aligned the diagonal line through my center point.  On the horizontal bottom edge, the 8.5 inch line is again aligned with my paper template.  


Trim off the L-shaped fabric on the top and right.  Flip your block 180 degrees so the L-shaped piece is on the bottom.  Again, align the 8.5 inch line on the vertical left and horizontal bottom with the edge of your L-shaped raw edge.   Align the top horizontal edge and right vertical edge of the ruler with the arc.  Your diagonal line should run from the tip of your L-shaped piece, through your center arc point and into the semi-circle.


Trim along the right and top of your block to create a perfect 8.5 inch square.  


That was easy, wasn't it?  That extra 3/4 inch - 1 inch added onto the templates takes a lot of stress out of trying to "ease" pieces together.  There is more wastage that having perfectly aligned pieces, but for my sanity I am fine with that. 

Put four of these block together and you will have something that looks like this.  


I would love to hear how you get on if you use this tutorial in making your own blocks.  If you find a section that is not clear or if you find an error, please leave a comment below and I will continually edit this post to improve it for everyone.  

Best of luck and happy stitching!



20 comments:

Suze said...

Thank you for the great tutorial. I read it completely from top to bottom and was mesmerized. I am not a huge fan of paper piecing yet. Being a math major, one would think that I can rotate objects easily in my head - NO, NO, NO! It is a nightmare for me. So I have to put quite a bit of thought into it and then, of course, the longer I do it, the easier it becomes. I love the idea of adding extra fabric as a cushion and then trimming it off. It seems that I usually end up with a tiny hole where I didn't have quite enough fabric or I end up with a big wad of extra fabric that seems to have no purpose in life. I have bookmarked this and now I know I have resources at hand to makek me feel more confident in my next attempt. Thank you very much. I was astonished that no one else had apparently left you a message and want you to know how much I appreciate the tutorial and especially a thorough tutorial - not the type that just say "Quilt as desired!" lol

Debbie said...

All sorts of good info here! Thanks for sharing!

Cindy Mizer said...

The link for the McCall's downloadable free pattern is broken. Maybe because the pattern is still for sale.

Nicky said...

You are tempting me to add NYB to y now short list! What have you done Cindy?

Anonymous said...

Why didn't I think of it before?? That extra 3/4 inch! No wonder I am so stressed when I do curve piecing as I always have problem easing the curve. Thank you very much for a very useful tip. Lol

Betty said...

Thanks Cindy, it's all very clear now!

Sandra @SewofCourse said...

Great tutorial, Cindy! It reminds me that a New York beauty is on my to-do list, too...

Archie the wonder dog said...

Brilliant, thank you!

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