QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT By Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How I Use BlockBase: Exploded Blocks

BlockBase #1850
Monkey Wrench
If you have ever taught anyone to piece you know you have to teach them to organize the block along the seam lines.

BlockBase# 1817b
Bachelor's Puzzle

Sometimes it's easy to see the seam lines and figure out what patchwork units you have to make. You want to avoid all the set-in or Y seams you can.
And you want to avoid things like this...

BlockBase #1879
Bear's Foot

So you begin with easy blocks and most people figure it out pretty quickly.

BlockBase #2796
Wild Goose

But some blocks are trickier than others. This one is not really a Nine-Patch; it's what I called a Nine-X.
I've had students (ages 8 to whatever) who randomly piece things together, winding up with something like the above. So I often make a block diagram with an exploded block. 

Here's a similar block with a simple diagram. I do these exploded blocks with BlockBase. I manipulate the BlockBase picture in my photo program.

First I make a file under My Pictures. You always start picture projects by creating a file so you know where you've saved everything.

I created a file under the name AuntElizasStar. I find the picture in BlockBase using the Wildcard search (I look for Eliza) and save it as a BMP file.

Here's the button in the new edition---a little ninepatch means save as a BMP file.
I've selected the block and then I click on the BMP (bitmap) button.

In the older edition there's a camera icon up there on the top that means the same thing.

I save the block to my AuntElizasStar file.
Then I use my photo program. I use Photoshop but most photo programs can do this. I open my block picture in the photo program.

I make a new empty picture file that's larger than my star block. Here the empty file is 8x10 inches. The block is 5-1/2" inches. The hardest part is learning to select just parts of the block with a mouse. In Photoshop there is a selection tool called the Polygonal Lasso Tool that allows me to select a part of the block and then drop it into the new file. Above I've selected a part of the star block---the patchwork unit.
Here's how I'd piece the block.

I made the background darker so you could see the block parts.
I flattened the images by removing all the layers and saved it in the AuntElizasStar file as a new JPG named How-To.

And then I added a type layer.
"Make 4 of these"
You could add lots of type layers, like "Connect piece A to piece B. Repeat 4 times."
But patchwork is so visual. I think this explains it better than a lot of words.

BlockBase #2777
Grecian Square
Here's a block that could probably use a diagram. Another Nine-X seam line.

BlockBase #4130
Ribbon Border

This is under Miscellaneous. It's really supposed to be a border block.
It definitely would need an exploded block for the novice piecer.


Amy said...

Interesting article.

WoolenSails said...

My program has a feature for printing out blocks but haven't had time to really learn how to do things.


Nancy said...

I have an older block base, but I had no clue about "exploding" blocks. I don't have photoshop, and will have to see what will work that I do have. I don't think PAINT will work.

Susan Briscoe said...

I draw my 'exploded' block diagrams in Word, using the snap to grid feature and drawing each piece individually (or copying/pasting, mirroring, rotating etc. as necessary). It is then very easy to drag the sections apart and make an exploded diagram :-)