Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Sewing Lesson Continued

While I was putting DS1's sewing machine through its' paces, I grabbed pieces out of my pre-cut bin of squares and made four-patches. There wasn't a plan, I was just test sewing. Once the machine was operating better, DS pieced four-patches and from there decided to put them together into a checkerboard setting, or sixteen patch.
Is there a *wrong* way to sew a four-patch? You wouldn't think so at first glance since it's not a left or right handed block and it can be rotated into position. But when DS went to sew my four-patches together with his four-patches, butting the seams at intersections as he'd been taught, he came up with a block that looked more like Puss in the Corner than a checkerboard.


He decided to go ahead and use this layout even though he'd been aiming for something else. We talked about creative accidents and letting the project talk to you. =)

But we also got into a lengthy, almost philosophical discussion about the right and wrong way to sew a block. He asked really good questions and I knew he was observing the steps at a level most beginning students don't bring to the process. I explained that when piecing a four-patch, the side you choose to sew doesn't really matter because you can just rotate the finished block into position. But later, when you piece more complex blocks, it will matter. If you've sewn very many four-patches, you know what I mean.

Seaming the pre-pieced two patch with the dark patch at the top or at the bottom will yield the same block if you rotate the one pieced with the dark patch at the top a quarter turn.

From there we discussed (at length) why my four-patches hadn't meshed with his. I'm left handed... had I inadvertantly done something in lefty mode and not realize it? I've taught patchwork and quilting, I usually remember that my audience is almost always righties and have adapted my teaching methods for my audience, so that wasn't it. We took a closer look at my four-patches and his and this is what they looked like from the back.

It was then that I had the "ah-ha" moment. From the front these four-patches look the same. But if you notice the one on the left has the long seam running top to bottom. The one on the right has the long seam running left to right. It wouldn't matter except that when he tried to sew two four-patches together he concentrated on making sure he had opposing seams at the intersection, without noticing where in the block the dark patches landed. DS decided now that he understood the process, he'd sew the four-patches by color placement and let the seams land where they may. Sometimes you have to do that. You can press to the dark most of the time, but once in awhile when you go to assemble the top, the seams just don't land where you want them.

He said the way he learns complex concepts is to thoroughly understand simple, preliminary ones. What a wonderful way to approach not just patchwork, but all learning. It was delightful to talk to such an enthusiastic student, one who wanted to understand the *why* of things.

He eventually completed the block and then we had another fun time talking about border options. He was so interested in bring his project to a stage of completion that once the borders were on he asked if we could layer and baste it. What had started out as a test sew for his machine turned into a start to finish lesson in patchwork and quilting! What a wonderful way to spend the day together!

1 comment:

Rosy said...

Hmmm. Now I never thought of that concept! I always learn something from you! The "why" and "wherefore's" do make a difference!