An archive of sewing tutorials and inspiration


Block Lesson #1 // Skill Builder BOM

This post is part of a series of posts for the Skill Builder BOM (Block of the Month). To learn more about the block of the month or to see a list of all posts click here.

Lets begin today's first block lesson with an introduction video!

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Summary of Video Introduction

Welcome to the Skill Builder BOM. This introduction will be a brief summary of the introduction video.

Thank you guys so much for joining me for this full year of quilting along. We have had quite a few people sign up and I am really excited to get to know you. It’s going to be really cool to see the blocks in so many different styles. Today is our first block lesson, and before we begin making the blocks I’d like to do a little housekeeping and discuss some prerequisites. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you quilt along.

Seam Allowances

Proper seam allowances will be very helpful throughout the course of this BOM. We want to try and achieve an accurate scant ¼” seam. I encourage you to sit down and get to know your machine. Whether you have a ¼” foot or not, test your ¼” seams to be sure they are truly a perfect scant ¼”.  I personally have three different quarter inch feet and all three give me a different quarter inch seam. Here is a really great article on how to test your ¼” seam.

Pressing Your Seams

Throughout the course of the BOM, we will be pressing our seams many different ways. I don’t press my seams the same direction every single time. I’ll recommend a direction to press seams to make piecing easy and accurate. Because of this, please play close attention to the pressing directions. I will be sure to note all pressing directions in the instructions for each block. If you like to press your seams the same way, you are welcome to do so, but you may find more success trying the recommended method.

Scrap Bucket

As we work each month we will be making scraps and using scraps. You will need to have a dedicated bucket just for BOM scraps. Do not mix these scraps with any other projects. Keeping your BOM scraps separate will make it much easier to pick from scraps for the blocks.

Starching Your Fabric

I am adamant about starching your fabric. Starch will help stabilize your fabric, which is really helpful when trying to achieve accurate piecing. This may seem like a silly step or you may hate the way starch makes your fabric feel, but starch washes out, and accurate piecing is important in this BOM.

It is best to starch and press your fabric before you cut, but sometimes you have scraps you’re using that are extremely wrinkly so you may need to starch them after they have been cut. If you have to do this, just be very gentle with your iron so you don’t stretch or distort your fabric. To starch your fabric properly, lay it on a hard pressing surface. (An ironing board that is super puffy will not work as effectively.) Spray starch on the fabric, flip the piece of fabric so that the starched side is touching your pressing board, and press the fabric with a hot DRY iron (no steam, and no movements, just press). Now spray starch on the other side, and flip so the starch is touching your pressing board and press again.

Pre-cutting Borders, Batting, and Backing

After you have completed a block and have squared it up to 12.5” square, you will be adding 2.5” wide borders to the block to prepare for quilting as you go. Instructions for piecing and adding these borders are included in all PDF handout.

Once, you have added your borders, you will baste your blocks with your preferred method. I usually spray baste smaller items, and pin baste larger quilts. If you are new to quilting or just interested in trying a new method, here is a great article with a list of different types of basting methods and how to do them.

If you would like to save a little time throughout the BOM, you can precut all your block borders, batting, and backing for quick assembly. You will need:

  • (40) 13” x 2.5” strips in background fabric
  • (40) 17” x 2.5” strips in background fabric
  • (20) 17” x 17” pieces of batting
  • (20) 18” x 18” backing pieces

Note for Brand New Quilters

Are you a brand new quilter? If so, you may find yourself needing a little extra guidance throughout the lessons. Do not feel discouraged if you find yourself reading a block lesson’s instructions over and over. It may take a bit of time and experience.  Here is some extra-curricular homework for you. Read these articles for some help…

And if you have any questions at all, please contact me.

Improv Piecing

January Skill Builder BOM Technique

Magnum Quilt Block

The Sound Wave Quilt Block

This month, we will be making our blocks using some improvisational piecing techniques. Usually when quilting you are working with exact directions and exact measurements, following exact steps one by one. But when you are improv piecing you are given full flexibility with sizes and colors, and usually the blocks just come together as you sew!

This type of free spirit sewing can be intimidating for some quilters who are more comfortable with very exact instructions, or for quilters who like to know exactly what something will look like when they are finished.

In this month’s two blocks, we will be taking a “get your feet wet” approach to improv piecing. I will still be giving you some structure, yet you’ll have a little bit of freedom to play and dabble with your own ideas and creativity.

Before we begin, here are the tools you will need.

Tool List for Improv Piecing

  • 12.5” x 12.5” Ruler
  • 6.5” X 24” Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Rotary Cutter and Rotary Mat
  • Chalk Pencil or Water Soluble Pen
  • Heavy Starch and Iron
  • Lint Roller
  • Calculator, Pencil and Paper
  • Basting Pins or Basting Spray or Basting Thread

    The PDF Lesson

    I can’t wait to see your Magnum and Sound Wave Blocks, please post them in the BOM Flickr Group here. Come back in two weeks for our first FMQ Lesson.

    Share your Blocks

    Alyssa Williams

    Alyssa Williams

    Creator of Pile O' Fabric

    Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.