top of page

How to balance that Topsy Turvy block!

I have the honor of having a foundation-pieced block published in the latest Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, Volume 13. I just love this magazine and so thrilled to have this block accepted.

In the magazine the block is called Topsy Turvy (page 18) which is a very cute name for it and I wish I had thought of that myself. The block, however, saw light of day as "Balancing Act." That name perhaps refers more appropriately to my everyday attempts to get it all done in time which it turns out does make things Topsy Turvy.

There are three things I want to share in this post:

!. How to choose the fabrics

2. How to make Paper-piecing less painful and more enjoyable. I want to show you how I go about preparing my template pieces and organizing them beforehand so that the sewing is pleasurable. Not a maelstrom of flying seam rippers and pulled out hair (ahem, threads.)

I'm not teaching you here how to paper-piece. Just how to prepare for it and end up a happy camper. There are many wonderful tutorials available online. By watching many, I finally taught myself. The tip I'm sharing here was not one I learned online but developed with experience as how to best go about it.

3. A placemat design in which to use the Topsy Turvy block.

1. Assigning Fabrics and Balancing Colors

In quilting one of the major challenges is deciding what fabrics to use.

I knew from the very beginning that I wanted the block to be an interplay of black, grey, yellow and white.

For this block you need 7 fabrics with a full range of luminescence from very dark and deep (used for the center triangles) through the full range to very bright/light. Take a moment to see what role the color placements play in creating balance and integrating the block's mirrored symmetrical structure effectively.

Initially I considered using a different fabric for the grey position (fifth dot) but the texture of the pattern itself was too busy and would not "play" well with the others. The fabric I'm referring to is crossed out with a red X in the photo below.

I ended up with a variety of textures but none that would overwhelm any other. I also chose fabrics that could be perceived mainly as one color. I used just enough texture to add interest. Note that the lightest grey fabric (first dot) is white with a grey pattern. The eye will mix them and register as a light grey.

Below is a chart that perhaps will give ideas of how to use other colors.

I might try the pink-purple version myself.

2. Preparing to Paper-Piece Your Block

I love the accuracy that paper-piecing gives me. And also the added possibilities.

I learned to sew rather late. My fabric designing came before my sewing and quilt designing. When I paper-piece I get the comfort of knowing my design will be accurate and look how I want it to look. As a designer I'm a bit of control freak. If you are a control freak, paper-piecing is the technique for you.

I will NOT sit down to sew until I have prepared all my pattern pieces and laid them out ready to use.

I often hear complaints from people that they hate paper-piecing. That they end up ripping out seams because their pieces are too small or have other unexpected issues such as angling the wrong way. When I was teaching myself to paper-piece I did my fair share of seam ripping and I found a simple solution that made the process so much more enjoyable.

Step 1

After I've decided what fabrics I'm going to use I print out a template and cut all the pieces apart. Then I place double-faced tape on the back of all of them.

Step 2

I place the cut-out template piece on the WRONG side of the fabric. Then I cut out my piece 1/2" bigger all around. Placing it on the WRONG side of the fabric is very important. Why? Think about it for a bit and when you have the answer it will be yours for life.

So here are two pictures taken during the process of designing the block (therefore the template with all the scribbled notes-to-self on it). In both picture you can see my pieces all cut out nicely. I tend to cut out all the pieces for at least one block at a time before I start to sew. That guarantees a satisfying sewing session will follow.

I'll admit to getting a lot of pleasure also by cutting out my pieces and laying them out in neat little stacks.

If for some reason I cannot complete my block in one sewing session, everything is organized in a way that makes it easy to dive right back in.

That's it! That's all I'm going to say about paper-piecing for now. I'll be sharing more paper-piecing tips as time goes on. So sign up for my newsletter if you want to find out when I post.

3. One more thing before I and you go. You don't have to commit to and entire quilt made with this block. Making placemats with it can be pretty satisfying.

Here's how you can make a 12 x 18 Topsy Turvy placemat. There are two versions but what you need is the same for both. You need four rectangles 3.5" x 6.5", two of each color. Sew up two border strips and sew one to each side of the block.

Then, if you should so choose you can trim the corners as shown in the second for a fancier outline.

After these images are basic instructions if you want to make your placemats without a binding.

“Pillowcase” Style Placemat Finishing Instructions:

The “pillowcase” style of finishing a quilted piece is a quick and beginner-friendly finish. In this method, the quilting will be done after the placemats are sandwiched and sewn together.

Baste batting to wrong side placemat top, a scant (slightly less than) ¼” around all 4 edges.

Pin placemat backing to top, right sides together, leaving 4” opening on one side of placemat. Stitch ¼” seam allowance, locking stitches at each end of opening.

Trim batting out of seam allowance, up to basting stitches, around all 4 sides.

Put your hand in between top and backing fabric and grab either of the far corners to turn mat right side out. Pull the corner through the opening and continue gently turning the entire placemat right side out. Work corners out evenly with blunt tipped instrument.

Lightly press mat edges evenly and squarely. Form smooth seam allowance at opening and press. Pin in place and hand sew closed.

Thank you so much for visiting with me on this Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks tour!

Happy sewing to you.


Search By Tags
bottom of page