The names "bear paw" and "bear's paw" seem to be in free variation, both when I search online or look in Rosanne's quilting books, and in my own writing! For the sake of this blog, I'll try to stick to "bear paw", but the other option is equally correct. It's a nice representational block: it looks like a stylized pawprint. Compare some actual pawprints with the block:
The quilt block bear is missing a toe, but otherwise it does look like a pawprint, and it is commonly used in rustic quilts for that backwoods feel. I like the block for my Dandelion Quilt because, if done in greens, it looks like the leaves of a plant whorling out from a central stem.
It's in the first step that I hear the quiet grumble of an unhappy bear. I think that I'm looking at a 7x7 grid, design-wise, so my first step is to figure out the size of my smallest square: working with finished dimensions, I have a 12" x 12" block, so I do 12 ÷ 7 = 2.214 (and a bunch of other digits). So, not an easy fraction, but it comes to about 2 1/5". Can I cut 2 1/5"? It's not marked on my ruler. I decide to cut 2 1/4", which is a tiny bit big, and adjust for it by using slightly larger seam allowances, or by trimming my finished block to size. (You can tell I'm a newbie, can't you?) Experienced quilters are already huffing in exasperation, because they know exactly what kind of problem I'm setting myself up for. Well, experience is a hard school, but fools will learn at no other, so prepare yourself for some foolishness! Maybe you can be wise and learn from me.
Here's where the measuring problem from step one manifests. While the block looks nice to the unschooled, to a quilter, there's an obvious problem: the pointy corners of the bear's claws are too close to the raw edge. When they are sewn with quarter inch seams allowances, the corners will get taken into the seam, dulling the points in the finished quilt! Below are a two pictures where I've laid a clear ruler atop the raw edge, with a quarter-inch overlap, so you can see the bear losing his pointy claws!
Rosanne walks by at this point, and we both lament the trimmed nails. Then I whine about how twelve divided by seven is a weird fraction... and she says "you might just have to make the sashing skinnier", which seems like a brilliant idea. More math is required.
My new dimensions are:
As for my precut pieces, I can trim my Center Square pieces to size, but I will have to cut new rectangles, both longer and skinnier than my first try. I'm glad I bought too much of the medium green, since I have enough to do so!
So I trim and re-cut the fabric. And, on my spreadsheet, I correct the cutting dimensions and instructions.
It's a happy bear, this time! Happy bumbling bear who just found a blueberry patch! The pieces go together like a dream, needing hardly any trimming between steps, and the finished block is nearly perfect! I trim off slivers to bring it to size, and it looks so nice! Here's a side by side comparison of my first try and my second:
Can you see it from the back of a galloping horse? No? Don't worry about it!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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