Saturday, 1 March 2014

Modern Irish (Scrappy) Bee: March Blocks

I can't believe it's March already! The months seem to be flying by and it's fabulous to be properly into Spring now.

It's Sarah here, queen bee for March and I have a great, fun block for us to make this month which I hope that you will enjoy making. It's hard to follow Cindy's great spool blocks but I'll try!

For the longest time, I've been looking at Spiderweb quilts in total envy....I love how they look. Here's my inspiration mosaic:

Spiderweb inspiration

There are quite a few varying spiderweb block tutorials out there but I like this one by Heather best and that's the one we are going to use. Instead of paper, it uses fabric squares as the base which I think makes it much easier to work with.

The look I am going for is bright, vibrant scrappy string webs against a low volume background. You will need 2 x 12.5" fabric squares for background and a variety of strips of fabrics in widths from 1.25" - 2.5" for the spiderweb parts.

For the fabric background squares, I would like you to use a grey based low volume print if you have them. If you're not too familiar with low volume, its basically quiet, muted tones, like in the picture above rather than bold, saturated colours and prints. Hopefully you will have something similar in your scrap baskets, enough for the 2 x 12.5" square. Texty prints with small black writing are fine too like the bottom print above, but nothing where the lettering stands out very dark against the background please. If you don't have any grey low volume, please use Kona Ash which will tone in nicely. These will form the central stars in the blocks.

For the spiderweb strips, I chopped up a heap of scraps in advance, and then as I went along I added a few extra bits depending on my colour combos. For the strips, please use bright fabrics in strong, saturated colours, with a variety of tones and values of colours featuring if you can manage it. No batiks please! A few pale/pastel shades are fine mixed in but please don't have too many. Likewise, a few dark prints mixed in will give great depth, but not too much brown or dark grey or navy etc or it will overwhelm it. Please use a variety of widths in each star point, and the thickest should be 2.5" cut (2" finished).

Once you've prepped your fabric, you'll be ready to start. The first step is to cut your blocks into 4 triangular quarters and mark them for sewing. Heather's instructions are great and really easy to follow so I hope you won't have any problem. But a word of caution - you really need to look at the pictures carefully before marking your fabrics because the markings do NOT join the dots as you might assume (i.e. as I did. Doh). So make sure to pay attention! I used a water soluble marker to mark mine, a pencil would work just as well on the grey fabric. This is what your four quarters should look like when you are done marking:

Once you have the marking done, you're ready for the fun bit - picking and sewing your scraps. I would really like if for each of the blocks, you keep the first strip on each side to be in bright, strong print of the same or similar colour families (but not the same print for each one) for each of the triangles in that block. In my sample block I used red/pink fabrics for each of my first strips, as you can see below.

This will have the effect of picking out the secondary pattern of star shapes on the quilt when it's done. You could use a single colour, or a combo like pink/purple, aqua/blue, yellow/orange - whatever takes your fancy really, pick a different colour/combo for each block.  These should be prints that pop against the low volume background :-)

When you start to piece it looks all messy - mine did anyway! Be sure to flip back the low volume bit underneath, as per the tutorial, and chop it off when you are done. This will leave you with some scraps from your low volume squares.

For the first press, be sure to use a dry iron so as not to distort your nice seams. Once I set the seams, I then pressed (not ironed) with lots of steam to make it look all nice and crisp and ready to trim.

Your finished triangles should look like this:

Once you have your 4 triangles done, play around with the layout till you are happy, then sew together.

When you are sewing up your block, please make sure to match and pin the seams where the strips start on each block so the star shape matches up nicely.

I found it easiest to press my strip seams to one side - mostly in the direction of the star point - and then to press my joining seams open, the block laid flatter that way, but I'm not terribly bothered so do what works for you :-)

I pinned the last seam heavily to keep all the points matched up and hey presto, it was done! The tutorial says to trim to 12" square, but mine came out slightly short of that measurement for some reason, so please don't bother trimming, I will do that myself. I really love this block and I hope you have fun making it.

Any questions, let me know!

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