Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Some letters start with a negative space (a piece of background; think of the A, C, D, O, P...), some letters start with a center piece (like the H, M, N, T...), and some start with a strip of the letter fabric sewn to a strip of the background fabric (B, E, F, R, S..).

The V is in the third group, but not the way you think.

You'll have to cut and sew your strips like I've shown below (remember the squares on the cutting board are 1".
You DO need all this extra length in your selected letter fabric, and yes, you need all that background too.

How these two join is only slightly tricky. After making several V's and joining them by eye, I noticed something interesting. The V's I liked best were those with an interior angle of 45 degrees. Since most quiltmakers have a 45-45-90 triangle, this is easily accomplished. 

Trim the wide piece to a 45 degree angle, as shown here.  Sew the narrow strip to it. 

ONE NOTE: If you want the bottom of your V to end in a sharp point, make sure you position the thin strip correctly. (Then again, if you sew it wrong, as soon as you open it up, you'll see what I mean.)

Add a wide piece of your background fabric to the other side, press gently. Do NOT be stingy on this background fabric.  The background of the "V" takes up a lot of space.

this is the finished V.

Did you notice the wide strip is on the left? That's because it's the way we are used to seeing it, so it's the way most V's are designed.  Our modern typefaces are based on Chancery Cursive (think calligraphy)  This was done by a right handed person holding a broad-nibbed pen at a 45 degree angle.  Moving from the upper left to the lower right gave a wide line.  Moving from the upper right to the lower left gave a very thin line.  If you've ever worked with this type of pen, you know it won't work "the other way around." 

You can make your V's any way you want (like with the wide strip on the right) but don't be surprised if it looks funny. Letter shapes are very interesting, and our eye tolerates a wide variation about what "reads" as a letter.  Sometimes a tiny variation can suddenly make a letter "look funny" and diminish the letter's "readability."

How a free-pieced letter "looks" is entirely up to you. It can be a totally graphic element, in which case its "readability" isn't important.  However, if you want your letters to form words and be "readable" by your audience, you may have to sacrifice "artistic license" for readability.  If you make the letters "correctly", but you think they look a bit weird and can't figure out why, it could be because you "pushed the envelope" a bit too much.

you can click the photos to enlarge


Lynda said...

This tutorial explains where I've been going wrong all this time! Thanks for that!

Quilter Kathy said...

This is sooo interesting to me...that our eyes are used to seeing letters written in a certain way. Must get back to my letters!