on the starting blocks

Progress on the olympian patchwork event is surprising even me. You’ll remember that this is one of my strategies for reducing the scraps pile: 8″ square blocks, English paper piecing. I thought I’d made about 15, and when I counted them the other day I found that there were 29.

Because this is English paper piecing, there is lots of tacking – in fact, each individual shape within each block has its own tacking thread round the edge. I find that tacking to be visually very distracting, as you might see from the following pictures:

before pressing and with tacking still in place

after pressing, with tacking stitches and papers removed

It always strikes me that there’s a huge difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ blocks.

There are many colours, even at this early stage, though I am trying to keep ‘similars’ together.





You can see what I spend my evenings doing 🙂

Many little memories stitched together like the hours and days of a life, each scrap in each block holding special meaning. My fabric collection is never a ‘stash’; it’s always a precious collection.

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39 Responses to on the starting blocks

  1. Jeannie says:

    Karen, this is beautiful. When I first started quilting (over 30 years ago), I did a lot of paper piecing. It is very time consuming, but the results are worth it. You quilt is beautiful. I love how the colors blend together. You are going to have a gorgeous quilt when all is done. Wishing you a happy weekend stitching.

    • Karen Turner says:

      It does take longer than regular hand or machine piecing, it’s true, but I grew up with paper piecing and it’s still my preferred method. Thanks, Jeannie. I don’t know yet how all the blocks will sit together, but I’m hoping for something special.

  2. Julie says:

    This is truly a labour of love Karen in all respects of the word, love of colour and form and of the memories held in the cloths. You are so right about the ffect of removing the support s to the stitching to reveal the finished block, it all suddenly comes to life. The flow of colour and light across the quilt is beautiful even while it is a work in progress.

  3. Amanda says:

    I’m always amazed at the breadth of colours you have.

  4. gemma buxton says:

    I’m very new to patchwork and quilting, I don’t understand why you’re using the paper if your blocks are made up of squares. Is it to do with neatness?
    The colours are really compelling, keeping like colours together makes them sing. Looking forward to seeing the finished piece.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Gemma. It’s just a different technique, and a question of personal preference. I could have just pieced without the papers, although it would be more difficult since the shapes within the blocks are different sizes. Paper piecing does help to keep everything neater, and is easier when laying shapes out in the block formation to find the best combination of colour/shade. Plus I find it more enjoyable. It will be a long, long time before this turns into a finished quilt though – I estimate about a year, if not longer.

  5. So so beAutiful. Amazing colour. A true joy to look at. Thank you.

  6. Chloe says:

    Voluptuous colours, really beautiful when each is grouped together so coherently. Great mix of designs going on too, love it. Reckon at the rate you’re going it’ll be less than a year til completion! Love coming here and being inspired, not only by your work but by that of your other visitors too: I’m not allowed to join the quilting ring as I’m (acknowledgedly) too unquilted at the moment so it’s great to be able to sneak peeks at what others are up to! Plenty of ideas being stored up for future application x

    • Karen Turner says:

      Always good to have lots of ideas! Maybe it will take a little less than a year; though I do have to keep reminding myself that at some point I will have to sew all these blocks together.

  7. Rachel says:

    Yes, full of memories. We’ve recently rediscovered one of my grandmother’s patchwork quilts, and I’ve been spotting all sorts of scraps from dresses I remember wearing as a little girl!

  8. serenapotter says:

    well goodness karen these are just beautiful!
    and man you are sewing along!

  9. connie rose says:

    I don’t “get” paper piecing, perhaps if I pieced per se I’d understand what it’s all about. Anyhow, your blocks are to die for! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Karen Turner says:

      You’re not alone, Connie – lots of people either have no time/patience for paper piecing or don’t understand why anyone would need to do it.

  10. serenapotter says:

    karen i think you need to do a no nonsense post on paper piecing and i’ll cross post it to my blog if you’ll let me. it would be nice to see the differences and i don’t know how.

    • serenapotter says:

      well you did one. i found it. i’m going to try tonight and if i have questions i’m going to be asking you.

      • Karen Turner says:

        Ask anything! People seem to either love or hate paper piecing. Look forward to seeing what you make of it : -)

        • serenapotter says:

          well i’m going to try a little bit of everything from time to time.
          i’ve used freezer paper to make templates but never attempted english paper piecing

  11. annie! says:

    Your blocks are looking very beautiful!

  12. deb says:

    Wow, you have been busy! These are wonderful! Nearly all the girls in my quilting group (including me) have a paper piecing project on the go. It’s become very popular again.

    • Karen Turner says:

      It’s surprising how much less time it takes than you might think. I can generally piece between one and two blocks per evening without rushing, depending on how long I get to sit down. Great to know that you and the girls are paper piecing as well!

  13. Those colours are wonderful together within the blocks, and so much of what you and other people have been saying echoes my recent monologue post. 😮

  14. Janice says:

    Oh, this is beautiful Karen. I love the ‘tonal’ patches. You’re right – pressing and removing tacking makes a huge difference.

  15. karen says:

    I really cannot put into words how much I loved looking at these images today…they are wonderful, The work is fantastic….

  16. Jude Whaites says:

    Karen, I love the colour blending and patterns, absolutely stunning. I like the various sized pieces in each block, it gives the finished block a lovely texture. Hand quilting can be a very soothing and rewarding past-time.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Thanks, Jude. I don’t know yet how I’m going to quilt these blocks, though of course I’ll be quilting by hand. I expect the quilting will probably take longer than the piecing!

  17. Lynette (NZ) says:

    These are really lovely…makes me want to dig into my fabric

  18. lyn lewis says:

    Karen what lovely blocks these have turned out to be.
    And congrats on your award !

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