January – Paperpieced Envelopes

This month’s Block Lotto is all about letters and envelopes!

envelopes anna
(Anna’s blocks)

We’re making paper pieced blocks, and if you’ve never done paper piecing before, don’t worry! This is a great beginner pattern!

envelopes niki
(Niki’s blocks)

VMQG member Anna has drawn up the pattern for us, and you can download it here.

It’s drafted to fit an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper. When you print, make sure you select “actual size”, to make sure it prints the correct size. You definitely don’t want to select “fit” or “shrink”. Your computer might pop up with a message warning you that the edges of your image will be cut off when you print, and that’s fine, go along with it.
printer settings
(once you’ve printed one, measure the bottom part of the envelope. it should be aprox 3″ tall, and 6 3/8″ wide)

The fabric requirements for these blocks are:
– a text print for the centre of the envelope (Anna says charm squares work if you put them on the diagonal!)
– a brightly coloured print or solid for the envelope (small scale prints will work best)
– a low volume print for the background

envelope blocks smaller file
(amy’s blocks)

A few tips:
– A lot of text prints are fairly low volume themselves, so your envelope fabric should be a good contrast between your text print and your low volume background.
– Not sure what constitutes “low volume”? this blog post goes into a lot of detail about colour theory, but the second part explains low volume well. You can also check out this blog post or this blog post.
– VMQG member Sonja has beginner paper piecing video tutorials available on her blog here if you need a refresher, or you can check out this photo tutorial here.
– This pattern will work great with freezer paper paper piecing too!
– A dab of glue with an Elmers or a Uhu glue stick will hold your centre text print in position until you’ve sewn the pieces around it that will hold it in place. Press the fabric and paper with the iron quickly to dry the glue instantly!
– I (Amy) pre-fold all of the sewing lines on my paper piecing patterns, so that it’s easier to fold the fabric back and trim the seam allowances as you’re putting it together. It also makes it easier to rip the paper off later, but you do you!
– If you pre-cut your fabrics, this block goes together really easily. If you’d like to pre-cut the pieces, I calculated what size to cut them, giving you a little bit of extra leeway. You can cut them larger, of course, but i wouldn’t cut them much smaller!

For pre-cutting –
Out of the text print:
– I found it easiest to create a pattern for the actual shape of the envelope centre, adding about 1/2″ around the edges, so that i could fussy cut the text print to it’s best advantage. But if you’d like to cut a rectangle, cut one 7.25″ wide x 5.5″ tall. You can also use a 5″ x 5″ square tilted to the diagonal, depending on the print.

Out of the brightly coloured print or solid for the envelope:
– cut two strips 1.25″ wide, one 4.5″ long, the other 5.25″ long
– cut a square 3.5″ x 3.5″, then cut it in half diagonally (remember that this won’t work for directional prints)
– cut a rectangle 7.25″ x 3.75″

Out of the low volume print for the background:
– cut a square 4.5″ x 4.5″, then cut it in half diagonally (again, not with directional prints)
– two strips 1.5″ x 9.5″
– a rectangle 9.25″ x 3.75″

Though pieced envelopes have been found in traditional quilts for many years, the first modern paperpieced envelope block most people have seen online was in the quilt Ayumi Takahashi made as part of a quilt bee in 2011. A free pattern was made available at that time, and it was later published in Ayumi’s book Patchwork Please in 2013. Since then, numerous other quilters have drafted patterns based on this utilitarian item, and patterns can also be found on craftsy, etsy, designer’s own sites, and as a free download from a quilting magazine.

The pattern we’re using was drafted by one of our members who was inspired by all of the envelope blocks she’d seen online, and it was based on a traditional envelope. Given the number of patterns currently available and the commonality of envelopes in our lives, we thought it was acceptable to use Anna’s original pattern for our Block Lotto, but we would like to acknowledge Ayumi and the quilt that inspired so many people.

If you have any concerns about this decision, please contact amy@vancouvermodernquiltguild.ca