Monday, August 1, 2016

Farmer's Wife 1930s FAIL: Block 88, Pernicious Prudence

Great Expectations: FW1930s Block 88 "Prudence" Precut and Ready to Piece
Well, not every post can feature a smashing success.  Farmer's Wife 1930s Block 88 "Prudence" is an evil beast, and I think I'm going to have to trash this attempt and start over.  I hope I have enough of that green and blue floral fabric, because I really love how these three fabrics play together for this block.

I attempted to piece this block using the foundation paper piecing pattern on the CD that came with the Farmer's Wife 1930s book.  As you see in the photo above, there are a LOT of little fabric patches to piece to the foundation papers, which is time consuming but not a big deal.  The trouble came when I was ready to attach those segments together to complete the block, and it's two seams that each have EIGHT angles to contend with -- the beast of all Y seams.  It's not a Y-seam, or even a W-seam; it's a zigzag seam. 

To make matters worse, I made a bad decision when I was piecing those skinny outer triangles.  I realized after stitching two of them to the foundation paper that the red rectangular scraps I'd selected out of thrift were slightly too small, leaving a less-than-full seam allowance on the wide end of the triangle.  I decided that this would be okay and I would just make the adjustment when I sewed it to the next unit, not realizing that the skimpy seam allowance right where the triangle bottom adjoined the pieced octagon in the center would make it IMPOSSIBLE for me to align my pieces properly.  I tried, failed, carefully ripped out the stitches and weighed my options.

Wicked Final Block Seams
See what I mean?  And the red triangle piece has part of its seam allowance missing so I couldn't match up raw fabric edges at that crucial center of the octagon.  Once again, as usual, being too lazy to rip out and redo ONE seam resulted in MANY wasted hours, MANY wasted seams, and wasted fabric as well!

Ready to Attempt EPP (note wretched, ragged, skimpy red seam allowances in center)
Having nothing to lose, I decided to try an EPP (English Paper Piecing) experiment.  I printed the block diagram onto cardstock at actual size, and carefully cut it apart on the seam lines between my foundation segments.  Then I basted my pieced block segments onto the cardstock directly through every seam intersection that I had already pieced (see hot pink thread going across the middle of the segments in the photo above) to make sure that everything was perfectly aligned.  And then I wrapped the seam allowances around the edges of the cardstock templates, trying to eyeball as I went to keep a quarter inch seam allowance around the outside edges of the block.  Ugh.  If I had done the whole block EPP, or had known I was going to finish it with EPP, I would have oversized those outer seam allowances so I could trim the block down to a perfect 6 1/2" when I was finished, but too late now.

Front View, Ready to EPP
It looked good from the front, right?  I was optimistic at this point -- and really loving my fabric combinations.  I should 'fess up right now and tell you that I've never actually done ANY EPP before, only read about it in books and blog tutorials.  So I have a theoretical knowledge of how it's done, but no practical experience.

I did it wrong.  I used a couple of those Wonder Clips to hold two sections together along the inside seam allowance with wrong sides together, and whip-stitched the abutted edges with the same cream colored cotton thread I've been using to piece the blocks by machine.  I tried to take tiny stitches and place them close together, especially since that red patch had such a skimpy seam allowance.  Then I opened up what I had done and saw GIANT IVORY STITCHES all over the place on the right side of my block.  YUCKY!

Ugly Stitches!
I went online and googled "invisible EPP stitches," and found a tutorial recommending that you stitch the EPP together with the pieces laid flat and stitch them from the back side, and when I tried doing it that way I DID get invisible stitches: 

When I Stitched From the Back This Way, Stitches were Invisible on the Right Side of the Block
Flat-Stitched Area from Right Side Invisible, But Wonky Corner :-(
I don't know whether I can remove those first ugly stitches safely, and there were a LOT of them.  I also am not thrilled with the way a couple of those corners got ever-so-slightly rounded when I pulled the fabric taut around the card stock corner -- see that one really bad one in the photo above.  Do I really want to put in the time to stitch the rest of this together by hand when I know it isn't going to be a perfect block in the end anyway?

I really love the crisp, sharp corners and perfectly matched seam intersections that I've been getting with foundation paper piecing on all of my other blocks.  So I think this block needs to be a total Do-Over.  Fortunately, the amazing Charise of Charise Creates came up with a much better way to foundation piece this block to avoid that final wicked zigzag seam:

Charise's Brilliant and "Prudent" Solution, via Charise Creates here
See how she separated the triangles that form the center octagon and attached them to the side triangular sections first, so she ends up with a much more friendly seam to sew when she attaches the segments at the end?  See her complete tutorial on her blog here.  I wish I had seen this BEFORE I started my Prudence block!

This is why I love the Internet.  First of all, it was nice to go online and find that those who are far more skilled and experienced piecers than I am consider Prudence to be one of the most difficult blocks in the entire book.  That made me feel better about having trouble with it.  Second, of course, I love that I found Charise's alternate construction method for this block.  That encourages me to give it another go.  I just hope I have enough of these fabrics left!

I'm linking up with Moving It Forward at Em's Scrap Bag, even though this was kind of a two steps forward, one step back kind of post, and with Esther's WIPs On Wednesday.

I'm taking Son the Younger to the dentist now for his Bi-Annual Dental Hygiene Shaming.  But this afternoon, I'm going back in that sewing room to try, try again.  Happy Monday, everyone!


Chris said...

You have definitely convinced me to NEVER attempt this quilt! At this stage of my quilting career, I just want to have fun! (Cue Cyndi Lauper with a few words changes!)

P.S. I think the front looks great. The back will never be seen and you deserve a medal for even attempting such an impossible block!)

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

Good Lord that is one evil looking block to piece!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

That quilt is just evil. You have the patience of a saint and a tenacious nature. This convinces me both why I don't paper piece and why paper piecing produces the most amazing blocks. You will be blessed by this learning curve-you are learning so much!

Wendy said...

Oh my. I have the FW book. Now I want to get going on it. LOL.

Rebecca Grace said...

Wendy, just so you know, this Prudence block is from the second Farmer's Wife book, the one with the white and pastel brights cover and letters from the 1930s. I'm also making blocks from the first Farmer's Wife book, the one with the darker browns and beiges and letters from the 1920s. So far, from my limited experience, the blocks in the first book are easier, but I downloaded the FPP patterns from a Yahoo group for the blocks from that book because only templates are included on that CD. For the 1930s sequel, the author included FPP patterns as well as templates on the CD. Good luck, and have fun!

Charise said...

I love your EPP version. I think you get a much more accurate block!
: )

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Chris1 Well, I’m not necessarily making the quilt, just making some of the blocks. I’ll mix them up with other 6” blocks and do my own sampler thing with them. But I’m going to give Prudence one more try to see if I can do it better the second go ‘round. Wish me luck!

Thanks for stopping by,

Pam said...

Actually that is not a bad first effort-you certainly learned a lot from handy hints on easier piecing to how to sew so your stitches don't show. I found the video on flat stitching and saved it as this info will come in handy when I start Sweet Surrender which has very simple epp but still one needs all the help one can get. That's what I too like about the internet-lots of good info out there.
I hope you have enough fabric to re make the second go'round just like the first as your colors and fabrics are perfect for this block.