beautiful blues

Last year, whilst working at the job from hell, I was plonking down that hard-earned cash for regular shipments of fabric from the FatQuarterShop – and rarely had the time to put any of it to good use.

As I’ve noticed when I look around my sewing room, I’m rather fond of blue, so when the new Sturbridge Blues came out last year, I purchased a huge bundle of them and proceeded to create a simplistic, uninspiring, wonky blob.

the before blob

Needless to say, after producing the above, it was shoved to the back of the cupboard and forgot about it until last night when I was poking around the Marcus Fabrics website and found a free pattern using the Sturbridge Reds.  “Aaaahh,”  I remembered, “I’ve got all that blue somewhere.”

So amidst much dust-induced sneezing, I rummaged through the boxes and cupboards until I found my “The Family China” – so named by me because almost every women in my family has blue and white china – specifically, the Willow Pattern!  When I originally saw the blues I thought of all our china and decided to create a tribute to it!

It took me one episode of SeaChange and three episodes of West Wing to unpick just 10 of the blocks (there’s still four to go).  But I’m glad I perservered because I have had serious fun this morning resurrecting these gorgeous fabrics.

Now, I’m not claiming to have invented anything new – but after a bit of trial and error, I came up with a super-easy, no fancy rulers needed, quick way to piece an 8 wedge plate with a centrepiece.  It has worked so well – 8 blocks in 2 hours – that I thought I’d provide a little tutorial for all those out there who cut 60 wonky circles with a dinner plate and now need something to do with them – or just those who like to try something different!

Using the 8 different fabrics, I placed them in 4 pairs, fronts together.  I then found the diameter (ironed the circle in half) and sewed 1/4 inch down each side of my diameter line – just like you would a half square triangle.  Then I sliced down the middle and ironed them open.  Now I had 8 2-tone circles that looked a bit oval-ish.

the first quarter

Then I paired these up, face together, carefully butted the seam all the way along and pinned it, found the diameter and sewed 1/4 inch away of each side of the diameter line, taking care to watch where my foot was going, not where it had been – I find this helps stay straight!  Slice it down the middle and open it out.  Iron it flat.  At the four wedge stage – you have even circles with the points meeting nicely in the middle and it looks good.

cut down the middle

Again, pair up your circles, taking care to add them to a different colour combination,  mark your diameter through the middle of one of the quarters, carefully butt the seams and pin  …

find the diameter

… and sew 1/4 inch away from each side of the diameter line.

now you are creating 6 wedges
Slice it open down the middle/diameter line.  Iron flat.  Now when you open out your six wedge plate – it looks a bit like a wonky football – but that’s fine because you haven’t finished!

the wonky football

And see this wedge that has a flat end instead of a point, that’s the wedge you will be sewing through the middle of next.

don’t mind the flat bit

Okay, the final sew and cut  – pair up your wonky footballs, taking especial care to ensure you have all 8 different fabrics represented in your finished plate.

check for 8 different fabrics

Find your diameter – through the wedge with the flattened point/no point and sew down 1/4 inch away from each side of this line.

the final sew

Going through the middle is a little tricky – flatten the knob of seams firmly with the iron first, so as to sew over it with greater ease.  I had to sometimes go across the middle a second time, to get it straight – I tend to get narrow over lumpy bits.

Cut down the middle (taking care with the rotary cutter as you bump over the lump!) and voila!  you have an 8 wedge plate with a big lump in the middle.

Now, I started with 9 1/2 inch diameter plates, badly cut, and so expected to trim.  I made templates on the computer – just using Word – using the format shape option to precisely set my measurements – 7 inch for finished plate, 2 inch for finished centre, and 1 1/2 inch for donut hole (you’ll see).

Then I printed them on regular paper, traced the shapes onto cardboard and used the cardboard shapes as my templates. Actually, I ended up cutting my cardboard 7 inch circle into one half and two quarters.  You’ll see why.
I took my plate – still folded in half – and using the quarter circle template, drew my cutting line onto the wrong side of my plate (still folded in half)

draw cutting line with template

Notice, I placed the top and straight sides of the template along the seamlines – not along the raw edges – this is IMPORTANT – if you place it along the raw edges your finished plate will be smaller – so don’t forget – line it up with the seamlines.

Now flip it over …

flip it over

… and trace, then carefully keeping the two halves together and smooth, cut along your drawn line.

donut hole

My points were pretty accurate in the middle, but there was still that big lump!  Who wants a big lump!?  Not me – and despite the 8 points meeting neatly, it wasn’t that pretty.  So get your 1 1/2 inch donut hole template – which I also cut into quarters – and lining it up with the raw edge of the plate – still folded in half  – trace a small quarter circle from the raw edge to the middle seamline, flip over your template, and trace from the seamline back to the raw edge on the other side.

Notice, I didn’t worry about the seam line this time.  That’s because you’re not going to see this hole, and you’re only cutting it out to get rid of the lump.   When you’re cutting through the seams, with your scissors, take care not to let the scissors whack forward in a straight line – mine wanted to do this, so it was careful little snips.

Here’s your trimmed plate, already for applique.

trimmed plate

Affix it to the centre of your block using your preferred method – I use iron on paper that’s sticky both sides – iron it to the wrong side of the plate, peel off backing, iron it to the block.  Take care to centre it …

centre your plate

and add your centrepiece which you have cut out using your 2 inch template.

I’m going to machine applique the raw edges which is why I didn’t cut seam allowances, but obviously, if you want to fold your edge under, cut a scant 1/4 inch seam away from the 7 inch template outline  and then the same with your 2 inch template outline.

Isn’t that cool!  This is a really easy and enjoyable way to make the plates – sorry if you’ve seen it before, but I haven’t.  I’ve only used patterns that call for wedge rulers, wedge templates or paper piecing so I’m really excited with my morning’s work! :-)

Here’s two finished rows – haven’t decided how big to make the quilt – no bigger than 64 x 64 – otherwise I’ll never quilt it.

8 in two hours

Now, if you like this wee tutorial – we’ll call it “Lily’s 8-Wedge Plate” – and try it out – let me know how you go and how I can improve it!  Have fun and thanks!

p.s. call back later this evening for an update on Monkton’s adventures!

the family china – or what to do when you’ve got the Sturbridge Blues!

9 thoughts on “the family china – or what to do when you’ve got the Sturbridge Blues!

  • May 19, 2008 at 9:25 am

    You are a HELL patchworker Lily! You’re work is truly exquisite. And your colours – whilst not my own sewing style – look so beautiful. When are you going to start designing quilt patterns woman?? You would be great. Your writing style is so comforting and helpful! I can see them now… Or is that already the idea behind the Blockaday storefront with nothing yet to sell??!!

    I laughed at your comments about Rugby! I am sure you are quite right about Darcy’s future enjoyment of the game ;) Nice to hear from you and nice to catch up on your activities too…
    my best

  • May 19, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    FABULOUS!! Thanks for sharing your brilliance!

  • May 19, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    That’s a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing.

  • May 19, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I love all the blues together! It really does look like a china pattern.

  • May 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    wow, great tutorial, love those, thanks for taking the time, I know what a job it is, and the blues are darling, I love circles and love pie circles. I’ve been contemplating a quilt like this myself.

  • May 20, 2008 at 9:21 pm


    You are one smart cookie! I would definitely use your method if I ever get into a situation where I have to do a circular Dresden plate-liked pattern!

    Beautiful – love your blues!

  • May 21, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Once again you show your amazing creativity. I never would have thought to make plates this way! What a fantastic idea! I can hardly wait to try this.

  • June 5, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    This is wonderful! I fo und this through sew, mama, sew and I love it. Thank you so much for sharing!

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