Make an Easy Quilt Block.... Step by Step
Many years ago when I was teaching my daughters to sew, we all decided to learn the basic rules of quilting and make an easy quilt block. I had all the basic tools for sewing and crafting, but knew I would probably need to invest in a few tools specific for quilting. Here are a few that I found to be essential. I think the best tools to start with are a 45mm rotary cutter, a self healing cutting mat, and two or three ruler/templates in different sizes and styles. The one I used for making the blocks (pictured below) is a June Taylor 12 1/2" Get Squared. I love the markings and the versatility. As for the rotary cutter, I am a Lefty and appreciate one that has the option of left or right hand cutting. Because a cutter and mat need to work together, I found that a self-healing cutting mat of good quality is well worth the price. Do a bit of research and look at reviews to help narrow down the field before buying. Purchasing kits might be convenient, but not always a good value. Just keep in mind, these are tools and are meant to make your preparation more time efficient and assembly more accurate...you are worth it!
What appealed to me about this particular block is its simplicity. Straight lines, simple stitching, and character. This is a great block for novelty prints, like the coffee theme I used. The 6 1/2" center is perfect for a larger print that can be cut randomly or fussy cut to show just what you want. You can try it out and make a sample block by using a 6 1/2" square and a couple of jelly roll strips (trim them down to 2" wide). I made a sample to practice on and turned it into a big hot pad (perfect for the oversize pots and pans).
To make one 12 1/2" Block you will need to cut: Note: To make about 18 blocks
one 6 1/2" center square you will need no less than:
four 2"x 9 1/2" strip (cut from one 2" x WOF) 2/3 yd for center squares
four 2"x 9 1/2" strip (cut from one 2" x WOF) 1 yd yd for EACH set of strips
If you want to add borders, 2 1/2" WOF (width of fabric) strips works very well (shown in the dark brown in the photo below).
The two strips and the border should be a light, medium, and a dark. Lay them out in different orders and decide what you like best. Once you decide, start stitching your strips together. I chose to cut all my strips to the 9 1/2" length and chain stitch them. The other option is to sew the 2" x WOF (width of fabric) strips together and to sub cut them down to the needed 9 1/2" size. Both ways work, it's up to you!
Once you stitch them, you will want to press them with the seam edges to the dark side. Notice that you don't see the fabric showing through the light strip.
I use my Gypsy Quilter Cutting Gizmo to cut the thread chain and separate the sets of sewn pieces. It's another useful tool that a friend had introduced me to at a sewing get together, and I got one for my sewing studio. Once I learned how quick and efficient it was to chain stitch, it became a favorite way to piece!
Now it's time to join the FIRST strip set to the center square. It may not feel right at first, but it is essential that you only sew just a little past half way and STOP! I removed it and pressed the half a seam to the dark side (we call it the "Star Wars Press"). The block will turn clockwise as you sew on the strips around the square.
The second strip has the full length of the side (the square and the attached strip set) to be sewn to...stitch the entire 2nd side together, and press. Repeat for sides 3 and 4. Now you can go back to side 1 and complete the seam all the way connecting it to side 4.
This is side 1 that was only sewn half way to the center square.
After sewing strip sets completely on each side of the center square, it is time to complete sewing the remainder of strip set 1 to the center square and strip set 4.
I do like to press along the way. I find that keeping my fabric smooth and having my seams going in the right direction keeps the project square and prevents the seams from getting flipped during stitching.
The final step is to square up your block(s). It will make sewing them together easier as well as having a nice final outcome. As much as you may not notice one block that is just off a smidgen, if each one is off- you will notice! So, do take the time to square up.
After I made all my blocks, I added borders/sashings. It is totally up to you if you want them or not, so auditioning a bock early on will help you to visualize the look you prefer. I am really happy with the way the quilt top came together. I cut my large print fabric into random center blocks; I felt it had enough variation and each block included a "coffee" word or phase (that was my goal-and without the need to fussy cut).
Having the light strip (with the coordinating blue and brown circles) border the bold and busy center was the best choice to have the center POP. The blue second border ties in the color from all the fabrics as well as the coffee theme. Finally, the rich brown with the coordinating swirls worked in perfectly to make the entire block stand out.
This really is a great block with a lot of possibilities! The center square can be used to showcase a focus fabric, appliqued blocks, signature blocks for a memory quilt, and so much more! It is so user friendly as there are no bias edges, no points to match, and almost no limits (you can make one for a hot pad or 30 for a twin quilt). I hope you will give this block a try. If you do, I would love to see what you make!
Sandra of Inspired Remnants LLC