Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Jack's Chain - the Tutorial
1001 Patchwork Designs. There are three blocks listed that combine squares, hexagons, and equilateral triangles in this unique way (the others are Merry-Go-Round III and Wedding Tile).
Quilter's Cache (which is a fabulous resource for all sorts of quilt patterns, by the way!) Although Quilter's Cache does give step-by-step directions and templates, I don't really like using templates and so I bought a Clearview Triangle ruler at a local quilt store. This makes it possible to cut both the equilateral triangles and the hexagons without templates. From that point, I did not really follow the Quilter's Cache piecing directions.
Judy L.'s UFO project. I had divided the piecing of the top to be done over two months, and I groaned a little when the number for half of the piecing came up in April. But surprisingly, I found it was easy to make progress once I cleared some time to work steadily. I had already pieced a lot of the 9-patches and made enough blocks for a partial row of the finished top (which is 67x94"). I just needed to review and actually write down how I had cut and measured the blocks I had already done before!
I wanted to use '30's reproductions for the 9-patches, white for the hexagons, and various pastel and bright solids for the triangles. (Many of these solid fabrics are vintage... my grandfather was a partner in a business college in Ohio, and my grandmother had in her stash the 1/2 yard lengths of rainbow colored cotton that were used in the Nancy Taylor course, which was, I guess you would call it, a charm course for secretaries. So whenever I dig into my vintage solids, I imagine fashionable young women of the Mad Men era figuring out what colors were most flattering with their skin tones. I've read the books, and they are a hoot). The only significant yardage I required for this quilt was the white, and I think I used a little less than 3 yards of that. I have seen some examples of the Jack's Chain pattern online that use the same white background fabric for the hexagons, triangles, and the 4-patches of the 9-patch. If you want to do this, be sure to plan ahead and buy more of the white fabric!
Here's the math that I should have done first, but didn't. I just plunged in.
The very first step is to make lots, and I mean lots, of 9-patches that finish to 3". You will probably choose to do this with 1.5" strips, and your best bet is to pace yourself. If you make a twin-sized quilt like mine, you will need 335 9-patches that finish to 3" (but with raw edge included, they are 3.5"). That's a lot of 9-patches. I wanted a scrappy variety of vintage-looking prints, so I tried to use different combinations of the fabrics I had. I would keep thinking that, surely, I had enough 9-patches. But then I'd calculate and realize that, no, I actually did not.
At some point, you will want to take a break from making 9-patches and cut some triangles (you will need 238) and hexagons (you will need 110, although some will be trimmed to half-hexagons later). That's only if you're making a quilt as big as mine; but you're on your own for calculating numbers if you change the size! For both these shapes, it's important to remember that the Clearview Triangle markings help you figure out the height of the triangle or hexagon, but you are going for a 3" finished measurement along the sides, not the height. For triangles, I cut strips that were 3 3/8" wide, and then I used the Clearview to subcut the triangle shapes. I used a mix of pastels, and a few brights (red, turquoise, green). The sides of the triangles are 3 7/8" in length. But because of the angle, they will finish up to 3" So, 238 equilateral triangles, cut from 3 3/8" strips.
Cutting the white hexagons was more of a challenge. I think I made a paper template for the first one and measured it. What you do is to cut strips 5 5/8" wide. Then, you press them in half lengthwise. Then you place the 5 5/8" line of the Clearview Triangle on the folded edge, and the 2 3/4" line on the raw edge, and cut along the side angles. Discard the little white equilateral triangles or save them in your crumb bin: they are too small to work as the triangles you need for this pattern. You should be able to get 7 hexagons out of one strip; you need 110 total for a twin-size quilt. When you measure the raw edge of the hexagon, it will be just a smidge over 3 1/4", but again, because of the angles, all the edges will finish to 3".
Now we're ready to join 9-patches and triangles into some of the elemental units that will later be formed into blocks. If you're like me, you'll want to do a few blocks just to see where the pattern's going. I call the two units above "arcs" and "canoes" because that's what they look like to me. An arc is 2 9-patches connected by a triangle. A canoe is 2 triangles connected by a 9-patch. My quilt uses 112 arcs and 63 canoes.
Now we are ready to begin constructing the blocks themselves. There are three basic types of blocks; above is what I call a "wheel." I made it by sewing two arc units onto opposite sides of a hexagon, and then adding two canoes on either side. If you have a stack of arcs and canoes ready to go, you can make a wheel block with 10 seams, each of them 3" long. My quilt needed 28 wheel blocks.
For my quilt, I joined 4 wheels, 3 apple cores, and 1 end block to make a row that was 8 hexagons long. That's the width of the quilt. In addition, you will eventually need to piece the connector or "chain" rows. In the above photo there are two regular rows and one connector row in between them.
My final quilt had 7 regular rows and 6 chain connector rows, and is 67"x94" or twin size. I didn't calculate everything out in advance, and I have enough extra blocks to make a baby quilt, which I'm working on now. I did find that one very thorough pressing with steam at the end of all the set-in seaming was good: pressing before all the seams were joined meant I was more likely to have trouble with a seam allowance getting caught in the stitching.