Success at last!
the first block of this quilt is finally finished. When all was said and done, I decided to use machine applique for the elements of this quilt. It's not nearly as pretty as needleturn applique, (maybe someday i'll be able to do small curves in needleturn), but i think it will hold up to the wear and tear of a bed quilt.
I don't think the other blocks will be as tough as this one was, since most of the other blocks have larger and fewer pieces. I'll work my way gradually thru the year on this quilt, piece by piece and block by block, until it's finished.