Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty good paper piecer. However, I've never tried free piecing before, so I wanted to give it a shot for this block. I was definitely intimidated and I probably should have done some research on Google before hand, but instead I decided to jump right in. So here are my tips for those of you who a. Don't want to paper piece and/or b. Are a little intimidated by free piecing:
1. Read Karen's instructions. Create this block in two pieces.
2. As you sew each piece together to make a palm leaf, cut the 45 degree angle. Then follow that throughout the rest of the block design. Every time I added a piece of fabric, I cut the 45 degree angle. It really helped to have something to follow.
3. I found this very similar to improv piecing, so think of it like that. But instead of just throwing the fabric on top of another piece and sewing 1/4", put a little more thought into the placement so it will end up looking like a leaf. I was constantly looking at the block example that Karen provided. It's like painting a still life picture. You look at your inspiration and then try to mimic it.
4. Don't trim anything until after you have put the two block pieces together along the 45 degree angle. That way you can shift the two sides around to kind of match up the the leaves of the palm.
5. I totally had no idea how to trim this to the 8 1/2" square. But guess what?! In her packet, Karen provides an extra sheet of paper with the block printed on it and it is 8 1/2" square because paper just happens to be 8 1/2" by 11" making that possible. I folded the paper and measured to make sure it was 8 1/2" square, laid it on top of my block so that the diagonal 45 degree line on the paper matched up with my diagonal 45 degree line on my block, and then I trimmed the sides with a ruler along the edge of the paper. This was also really nice because then I could see what I was going to cut off and adjust to what I liked. Obviously this isn't the most professional way to do it or probably the best, but it totally worked.
6. When you are trimming, don't worry if some of your palm leaves don't come to a point. How do I know/hope Karen won't mind if they don't? Because I looked very very closely at the example in her packet and there were definitely some pointless palm leaves. :)
And that's how my block turned out. I hope this helps. Good luck!
P.S. Karen, thank you for helping me step out of my comfort zone and try something new!