Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some Hints About Making QAYG Blocks

As you've probably heard there have been 43 towns in my state of Victoria, affected by flood waters as well as some areas of NSW and Sth Australia. All together 5 states of Australia have been affected but to date the worse affected areas have been in Queensland. I will be making and donating quilts through Oz Comfort Quilts and documenting the donations here. How many and how quickly I get them made will depend on how many blocks are donated. But this is a marathon and not a sprint so please don't feel pressured to make and send blocks quickly as it will be some time before the people are in a position to accept quilts as they have no where to store them at present. I will be delivering the quilts through local contacts so they don't become stockpiles in storage, but actually end up with the people who need them. I found that this was a vital part of the bush fire quilt appeal, that I gave them directly to locals who worked with their community and I knew that the quilts were given to those to whom they were intended.

I've been making these blocks again today so I can get enough to make another quilt. I've been working on some which are all in various shades of blue as well as another set of prints which would be suitable for a boy. The reason for focusing on these blocks is to match some which have been donated. I don't usually make a quilt in just one or two colours but I have some blue blocks and I want to match them.
I've made hundreds of blocks as well as hundreds of quilts from these blocks and these were a major part of my quilts donated for the Victorian bush fire quilt appeal in 2009.

Things I've learned: * I try to make the blocks either "pretty" in colours for girls or with "boys" fabrics. The people who received them didn't really care they just wanted something which was sturdy, bright and cheerful. They appreciated the fact that they were handmade especially to comfort them.
* I cut the background fabric to 11" square and then trim them down to 10.5" after sewing down all the strips of fabric over the batting- as it is quilting the fabric as we sew down the fabric it can sometimes makes the background fabric creep a bit and it may measure smaller than what you start with. It also means that you will completely cover the background and batting with the fabric strips and not have any seams not covered by the binding strips.
* It doesn't matter what batting you use- it doesn't have to be lightweight and it doesn't matter if it doesn't match the other blocks. The batting will be completely enclosed by the fabric and as it is stitched to the backing as a foundation, it will not move when the quilt is assembled.
* You can also use polar fleece or tracksuit fleece for the blocks as they will work in the same way that the batting does.
* If using thicker batting I trim a triangle off each corner of the block so there is less bulk at this area where I'm joining the blocks.
I usually work with strips of fabric from 1" wide up to 2.5" wide as if I'm using batting strips for the block it makes sure that they are securely anchored and I think they look better to have more variety of colours in each block.
* I often use triangles of fabric in the corners to lessen bulk.
*The only rule I have for fabric selection is that I don't use the same fabric more than once in each block.
*I often join smaller pieces of fabric and cut them into strings which adds interest to the blocks.
* I try to make them a variety of bright and dark so they don't have murky colours but the binding strips allows the eye to focus and makes all the different fabrics work together.
* If cutting binding strips I cut them to 2.5" wide and across the width of fabric.
* Plain or tone on tone fabric works best to tame down the rest of the scrappy colours but it's not vital to use plain colours.
* It takes 21 strips of width of fabric to join the QAYG blocks set 5x7 as well as to complete the binding of the quilt.
* Have fun with the process as I find it's like eating peanuts and it's hard to stop at just one.

I'm sure there is something else that I can add but I don't want to make too many rules. Whatever you donate will be used. Sometimes I've received blocks that are a different size or theme and I work with them and often make more to match before putting them together. I'm going to avoid having quilts that are too brown and which will remind them of floodwaters, as with the bushfire quilts I avoided using predominantly red and black for the quilts, but apart from that have fun and use up your scraps. The quilts will be warm and sturdy and will convey the thoughts and good wishes of you all to wrap them in a warm hug from all of us. I write " A hug from Oz Comfort Quilts" on the label.
Any questions please ask and bear with me if I'm a little late in replying as I'm spending more time at the sewing machine than the computer.
Thank you all for your interest and I'll keep you updated with the progress on both blogs- here as well as at Sew Many Quilts
Stay safe and dry,
Jan Mac


  1. hey i like that idea of joining short pieces to make longer variegated strings, i might do that with my leftovers. good post Jan, you've covered many Q&As.
    I've cut my binding fabric for you, 22 strips (one for luck) and stitched a pocket onto the Landcare bag and included a small handmade card. will mail it all tomorrow. toodles, kaite

  2. wow Jan, you are amazing, I have nothing but admiration for your desire to make a difference. I will be sending off some blocks shortly but in the meantime have put your information on my blog hoping to get more quilters to assist. Keep up the great work

  3. Jan, I have five large tough bags of fabric to send to you. Within the bags are 2 sets of blocks ready to sew into quilts, some scraps, and many larger pieces of fabrics including backing amounts as well as fat quarters and half-2 metre lengths. I am afraid I do not have time sew this fabric up myself, hence sending the fabric to you and your helpers. Is this OK (don't want it to arrive at your doorstep if it is unwanted, ie. a hassle to you to pass on)
    Lots of love and grateful thanks,

    Maryjane Morris

  4. Hi MJ,
    Can you email me at please? I think I'll be in Melbourne in the near future and wondered if you would like to see if we can meet up to save you the cost of postage. I can use any donations you care to make and it will all be finished and donated on your behalf.
    Hugs Jan Mac