Learn about how we design our BOBs (Block on Board) from one of our very own product engineers—David Mills.
Here at AccuQuilt we design a lot of dies to help our quilters cut time and quilt more. These dies range from simple geometric shapes to intricate appliqué designs. The product development process varies for each type of die, so today I’ll talk about how my favorite die gets his start. We’ll call him BOB — short for Block on Board.
BOB is a fun and helpful guy that allows you to cut out pieces for an entire block in one pass through your fabric cutter. AccuQuilt has over 30 BOBs with several more in the works (wink, wink). They are an incredibly useful addition to any quilter’s collection of dies.
The process of creating a BOB is one of the most fun and challenging that we have here in our Product Development department. It typically starts by looking at what quilt blocks are popular or have been popular in the past as well as listening to our customers and what they are asking for. Blocks like the Double Wedding Ring or the Churn Dash are perfect examples of this. When designing a new BOB, we also consider what new block designs we could create that would be fun and useful for quilters. The newly released Studio Crazy Quilt is a personal favorite of mine.
Next, we research what has been done, historically, with the block. This includes looking at what the typical finished size of the block is, what color schemes are used in the block and what variations of the block might exist that we’d want to consider. The most important things to determine are what size the block should be, what primary color scheme should be used and how the block is sewn together. These three things lend themselves to the final design of the BOB.
After our research is complete, we layout the block in a computer-aided design (CAD) program. Our CAD tools help us to quickly bring the new block to life. It’s a great way to break the block down into individual pieces. Now we can start designing our perfectly cut shapes always remembering to include ¼" seam allowances. After that, we look at how the individual pieces are sewn together. This is where the pieces get their ears, or their dog ears, rather!
Our goal when creating dog ears is twofold. First, we want to see that the edges of two pieces line up perfectly so that they can easily be sewn together. Second, we make sure that there aren’t any dog ears peeking out after pressing so that you can avoid trimming. After the dog ears have been added, we might include other elements like notches to help you line up hard to sew shapes such as curves. The Drunkard’s Path BOBs are great examples of this.
Once our perfectly cut shapes have been designed, we take into considerations a lot of other things like number of shapes, fabric or color groupings that they belong in, and lengthwise grain. This is a very important step as it saves you both fabric and time. After the grouping and layout has been completed, we choose the proper die board for the design and have prototype dies made.
A quick side note — I recently got to help my mom pick out fabric for her very own KING-SIZED Hunter Star quilt that she is making with the GO! Hunter Star BOB. She chose purple and white backing fabric since the quilt is going to be so large and will require more than twenty yards of fabric! It was a lot of fun. She loves that I work at AccuQuilt and in the quilting industry. We talk about quilting all the time, which she still says is a bit surreal for her.
After the prototype BOBs are made, they are rigorously tested for both cutting (1 to 6 layers for GO! dies and 1 to 10 layers for Studio dies) and sewing. The goal of our cutting tests is to make sure the die cuts cleanly and the pieces are the correct size. Next, we sew these pieces together to create our block and ensure that it is perfect. And once we’ve completed the process… BOB’s your uncle!