I will admit to have had two goes at this month’s block.  The first attempt worked fine as a pattern, but it really wasn’t doing it for me as a design, so back to the drawing board I went and decided to recreate a pattern I did for Piece Bee With You last year, using Adobe Illustrator (the original block was actually hand drawn on graph paper)  It will help us start to look at the world of curves and how they can be recreated in paper pieced form:

Those of you who are sewing along, the link to the block is here.  Please note that in the templates there are 4 small pieces where the labels wouldn’t fit inside the shape – A2, A6, C2 and C5, so their labels are next to them in the nearest big shape.  

Don’t forget to check out the Foundation Paper Piecing For The Terrified series  from last year to understand how to assemble a paper pieced block if this is new to you :o)

For those of you designing along, again, this can be created in any medium of your choosing, including pencil and paper, but for this month I’m reviewing how to create the block in Adobe Illustrator.

Curves, by their very nature, can’t be sewn directly onto paper, due to the way that fabric has to flex in order to be able to create a good curved seam – if you look at FPP New York Beauty blocks, for example, you will see that the curves are all broken down into separate sections which are joined together without paper.  A lot of the time though, you don’t actually require perfect curves  unless you need a true circle, in which case you will need to investigate other assembly methods!  In FPP, the way to create the illusion of curves is to actually build up a series of wedges, often triangles, with sections nearest the narrowest points forming the ‘curved’ line.  We will create the block above as follows:

1. Start by determining the size of your block.  My original block was actually rectangular, rather than square, although it really makes little difference, it’s just where I happened to start drawing on the graph paper.  This time though, I’m going to create a square block, so, having opened Illustrator, I go to File -> New and enter my dimensions.

I tend to create blocks at 8” along their longest side if I can get away with it, as that means I can print them all out on one piece of A4 paper, however if you have access to larger paper sizes, or are happy to break your blocks down over several sheets of paper, feel free to do so.  Because the original I’m recreating is on metric graph paper, I’m actually going to make mine 18 cm square (the grid on the paper is 18cm across) so I set up my new art board as follows:

2. I always keep my ‘Show Grid’ view turned on when I’m using illustrator, as I use it exclusively for pattern designing where measurements are important.  In case yours is not on when you first go in, go to the View menu and select Show Grid.  While you’re in there, you might as well also go to Rulers -> Show Rulers so you can see how big things are.

3. Now we need to divide the block into the 2 main sections – the one with the bowl and the one with the spoon.  As the bowl is far larger than the spoon, I give it the lion’s share of the drawing space – please note that at this stage we will not be dividing up the background behind the bowl, which you can see is split in the example block, we’re just worried about the line that the bowl will sit on.  For this I use the line tool, and as you hover your mouse over the edge of the block you can see where if you click to start your line it will meet the edge of the block, as the word ‘page’ will appear in green:

4. To start with, I want a small base for my bowl, and I can choose to either use the rectangle tool to create it, and then mark the background split, or I can just use the line tool.  Both work, but laziness means I usually use the line tool unless I am trying to shade areas to distinguish between different fabrics, in which case the rectangle tool must be used, since you can only shade contained shapes, unless you start trying to create contained paths (we can leave that for another block!)  As you start to add more lines, you will see various words appearing green when you are level with another piece, or connecting with another piece along with a green line denoting what will intersect::

5. Next we will start to build up the sides of the bowl.  At this stage I leave the wedges out of it, and just use the line tool to mark the edges I want to create.  Note that there are actually 4 ‘curved’ edges to this bowl, the 2 sides as well as the rim and the contents.

Starting with the sides, I add short lines at increasing angles away from the base of the bowl, keeping both sides a mirror image of each other.  I would suggest that you stick to connecting corners of squares in the grid that you can see in the background, as it makes it easier to make both sides match.  You will also see that if you get them to the same height on both sides, intersect lines should show that they are level.  For this first pair of ‘curves’ I’ve kept it to 2 lines only:

6. Now we need to add in the curve for the rim of the bowl, this time using short lines at decreasing angles from the edge to the centre:

7. Finally, we need to mark out the contents of the bowl, which can actually mirror the rim of the bowl if you like, or can have a sharper gradient initially to give the illusion of the contents sticking up above the rim:

8. With all the outer lines for the curves in place, it’s time to look at the best way to lay out the wedges creating the curves to give the biggest fabric pieces possible.  Note that because of the symmetry of the image, there will, by necessity, be some large and some small wedges making up the curves, and that these wedges will not be a mirror image across the image.  Starting with the sides of the bowl though, there is symmetry, and extending the lines out to the edge of the block, I get:

9. Now I can work on the contents of the bowl, which I want to be as large a piece of solid fabric as possible, while leaving the fabrics making up the background much smaller pieces.  I start on one side of this, with the line nearest the centre, and extend it out to the edge, which I then repeat until I have mapped them all out.  Having done one side of the contents, I then move to the other side, and again starting at the centre, work outwards:

10. The last part of our bowl will be extending the rim lines to the edge of the bowl, again starting nearest the centre on one side and working outwards.  After that, complete the other side, working from the centre outwards:

11. Having tackled the bowl, it’s time to move onto the spoon, which has rather angular edges (let’s pretend it’s a grapefruit spoon ;o) ).  The handle is just a long rectangle, centred vertically in the lower section of the block:

12. For the bowl of the spoon, as for the bowl, we’re going to mark the outline using the line tool to start with:

13. Now, as per the curves of the bowl, we’re going to extend the lines out to the edges:

14. Finally, you need to section off the bit to the right of the spoon handle, so that the handle is contained.

15. The last stage, as ever, is to label your sections.  Don’t forget when you’re doing this, that for each section you need to start with the piece that everything else joins to without another junction.  In the bowl section, the contents is the piece that everything else builds off, with only the base as a separate section.  In the spoon section, there are 2 distinct sections because the handle section can’t just add on to the bowl section in one piece of fabric.

Now go and investigate curves further, and don’t forget to link up to the Flickr group!

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