I’m participating in the Simply Solids Bee hosted by Sew at Home Mummy. The block I chose was the Duck Creek Puzzle block. You can find my original post here. This bee is made up of quilters of all skill levels and I worried I may be making this too hard for some. I’ve been sewing for more than 30 years and even though I’ve only been quilting a couple years, I take for granted a lot of skills I’ve picked up over the years.
I’m offering an alternate block that I believe will mix in with the Duck Creek Puzzle block and create a fun quilt. This block is simple and is similar to the string block shown on Film in the Fridge blog which can be found here. I’m wondering how many people have linked to this tutorial. I have seen so many of these quilts. It is a huge favorite. There is a Flickr swap group that’s dedicated to this block.
First, I want to apologize. I’ve created this post in a rush and the sewn illustrations aren’t my best. I believe in ironing seams and I didn’t here. I was playing with dimensions, so my sample block isn’t really correct or squared, so you just have to use your imagination! LOL. Forgive me.
I have altered my block so that strips are attached to a base triangle. We will be making four 6.5″ blocks and attaching pinwheel style. The color scheme shown is just a suggestion. You can make the colors totally scrappy if you choose to.
The beginning of this post describes sewing strips in a semi-improvisational style. The second half of the post describes paper piecing.
As I describe the steps, I will refer to the photos in the following collage as “Pic #”.
To begin, cut your neutral fabric (whites, tans, grays, etc) into two 5 1/4″ x 7″ rectangles and cut into half square triangles (Pic 1).
Cut your colored fabric into 2 1/4″ strips. If you are cutting yardage, you will need two strips cut wof (width of the fabric). If you are using fat quarters, I believe you may need four 2 1/4″ strips cut on the 18″ width. If you are using scrap strips, then you can actually choose pieces as the fit. You will use less of the ‘brown’ strip.
The first two seams are sewn with edges together. The last two are slanted to create a fan. I’ve tried to rough out the layout for you in Pic 2. Your first colored strip will be sewn to the long edge of your triangle (Pic 3). Be careful to leave enough length on your strips so that they are long enough when ironed flat. I have a bad habit of misjudging the direction of the angle and invariably sew a strip that will angle up into the block. Then it’s back to the seam ripper! I now tend to leave extra on the ends just in case. Pic 3 shows me folding the brown strip back before sewing to be sure the strips are edge to edge.
At this point we should be adding our third strip. You can see (Pic 4) my third strip is red and I am pinning to the brown strip with the edges meeting at one end and angling away from the edge on the other. You will come in about an inch or so from that edge. You should end up with the finished strip width of approximately 3/4″ at that end. The good thing about these blocks is these don’t have to be exact. The goal is to have a finished block you can cut down to 6 1/5″.
Be aware of your layout. Notice that the strips angle in on the same side as the short edge of your main triangle. This will be important.
Pic 7 shows the base triangle with three strips attached. At this point I begin to square up because I know I only need a small piece for that last stip. I just need to know where to put it. At this stage, I square up with an extra 1/4″. This leaves a little room for error when really truing up the block.
Pic 8 shows my block needing that last strip and you can see what a small piece is needed here.
Now we’re ready to true up our block. We need 6.5″ blocks. If possible, place your ruler so that the seam line of the first two strips are at the corner of the block, and the seam of the neutral triangle and first strip are at the 1 3/4″ mark. Ideally, the opposite corner should hit the seam of the neutral triangle and the first strip. I’m afraid I cut it out of this photo. (Take a look at the pdf of the paper piece pattern for a better layout.)
Once you have four blocks, arrange them in a pinwheel as shown in photo at beginning of this post, and sew together. You should have a 12.5″ block at this point.
Voila! You’re done. Yay!
This block can definitely be paper pieced. I have created a pdf pattern that you are free to use. A couple opinions about paper piecing. You can get great definition when using paper piecing and it’s great for using odd sized scraps of fabric. The most frustrating part of paper piecing to me is removing the paper when your done! That’s what usually stops me from fooling with it. I have found that the newsprint paper you can find in art or craft stores have been the easiest to tear away. And once it’s cut down it will feed through your printer, so that’s a definite plus.
Other than that, if you haven’t paper pieced before it may seem a bit backwards. I will do my best to describe the steps, but I believe there are probably much better resources online. Feel free to let me know your favorite source. I’d love to share them.
Shorten your stitch length. I usually set mine about 2 or 2.25. Shortening your stitch improves your ability to tear the paper away when you’re done. Think of perforated paper in the notebooks these days.
To begin, the pdf I’m providing is a scant 6.5″ block, so be sure to allow extra on the edges. I almost always allow extra on the edges when I paper piece because it is much easier to cut down than to realize you’re short and have to start over.
You will be sewing on the printed side of the paper. Your fabric will be pinned to the backside. This will seem really strange. As seamstresses, we expect to use the fabric as our seam guide…can’t do that here.
So you will begin by placing your triangle base under your paper pattern. Your first strip is the easiest to place. You should still be able to match edges and pin so that your seam line falls at 1/4″ from edge of fabric (Pic 1). Stitch paper side up using lines as guides (Pic 3). Although I haven’t done so for this demonstration, I would highly recommend you iron strips back as you sew these. Your block will have a great finish and it will be much easier to square up at the end.
Pic 2 shows first strip sewn in place and folded back. You can see where it is pinned, the strip is a little short. This is what I warned you about earlier and why I usually allow extra length for my strips. It is hard to see here since my white triangle and paper base are both light, but as you sew the fabric to the backside of the block it will fold out to be the right side of the block. Your seams are getting caught between the fabric and the paper pattern. This is one of the reasons paper piecing seems backwards at first.
As you add strips, it gets a little tougher to gauge were your seem lines are and where you should place your fabric. At this point I pin the top and bottom of my seam lines with pins (Pic 4). I can now turn block over and use those pins as markers to place fabric strips. Remember the pins are marking seam lines, so the fabric is placed at least 1/4″ past pins.
As you start angling your strips to create the fan, your seam edges need to be trimmed (Pic 6). Just fold paper back and use your rotary cutter and ruler to clean these up. Remember, it’s best to do this as you go because these will be caught between the paper as you attach your next strip.
Continue in this way to finish the block. Because you have the paper base, you can always tell how long a strip you need for the next section. That is a nice point for paper piecing. Just be sure your strip is long enough on the ends when you iron the strip back. (Am I wearing that out yet? That is always my downfall!)
Once you’re done and given you block a final press, rotary cut your block to a 6.5″ square. Again, if you’re using my pdf, the grid is a scant 6.5″ and you will want to use your ruler, not the grid markings.
When squaring the final block, use the visual points mentioned above (seam line of neutral triangle and first strip should be at one corner and seam of first two strips should hit the opposite corner); but since you’ve paper pieced, these points should naturally fall in place. Then you have the fun of tearing away the paper. Ugh! Big Ugh! When using copy paper, I use steam in my iron when pressing in hopes it will help weaken the paper. Fold the paper at a seam line and try to tear as you would a perforated sheet of paper. For me it’s never that easy and I’m always pulling bits of paper out of my seams. For those of you that are pros at this, feel free to leave tips in the comments. I would really love to hear them.
Okay, wow! This post feels huge! I hope I’ve given you the information you need without overwhelming you.
Again, if you have any tips or suggestions, please share. One of the great things about bees is having the opportunity to learn new things. We all seem to have our specialties
But most important … Have FUN!