The Low Key Bee
Back in November (I think?) I joined in a sewing bee for 201 7. The concept was to get a group of ladies together of varying sewing abilities to participate in a low key, laid back sewing bee. Et voila! The Low Key Bee was born. So far we have made a Plus Banner Block for @crimsonconfection, Circle of Flying Geese for @froggymonkey, a Churn Dash variation for @hannabelleknits, and for April we created (or are still creating. EEK) a Ribbon Block for @meganmme.
It really has been such a great experience working with the lovely ladies, and I’m loving that I get to make some new friends in the process! I’m the Queen Bee for May, and for my block, I have chosen the Spider Web Block.
So, I was going to write a bit about the history of the block, but I honestly don’t know much about it. I think as my little worker bees are creating these blocks, it will be a great opportunity for me to dig up some more information on this fun block. If I find anything interesting, I’ll be sure to post it as I share progress on the project!
Instead of a history lesson, I’ll give you a bit more background on why I am choosing this block. Back in 2016, I had a grand plan to lighten up my scrap bin. I decided to make a Spider Web Block quilt in order to do so. I also had a bit of time where I was convinced I was going to make a scrappy Courthouse Steps quilt as well. I’m not categorizing these quilts as “long burn” projects. They are going to happen, but I just don’t have the time, energy, or patience to work on them as my main project.
The issue? I *really* like what I’ve done so far for both quilts.
The solution? Choose one and have my lovely little worker bees help me make some progress!
I decided to pick my Spider Web scrap buster for two reasons. First, it is a fun project. I used a piecing technique that is called string piecing. Not all quilters have experience with it, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for my bee-mates to branch out. Perhaps the bigger reason is precision. I would consider myself a pretty precise sewist. I think getting a pretty accurate 1/4″ seam is important, and I work pretty hard to get it so that my blocks turn out well and I have fewer issues down the quilt-making-road. When I worked on the Courthouse Steps Blocks, I was struggling to get a consistent unfinished block. I really don’t want to make this project frustrating for any of my bee-friends, so I quickly decided Spider Web it is! Back in 2016 I used this tutorial on Sew Mama Sew. I’m going to write the directions out in my own words down below with some tips that I’ve found useful, but you can head over to the original tutorial to find some more helpful tips and information on changing the block size.
Dear Worker Bees,
For this quilt, I would really like it to come across as scrappy. Don’t be afraid to dig into your scrap bin, but feel free to cut little bits off of yardage too if you feel like you have the *perfect* fabric for the project! Also, a note about finishing. Since the scrappy look is so important to me, I’m going to ask you a funny little favor. It may not make the most sense now, but it may a little bit later in this post.
Instead of piecing your triangles together into a block after you complete the string piecing, would you mind sending them to me loose? That way, I can mix and match the triangles from all of my friends throughout the entire quilt! It will look beeeeee-autiful, I’m sure!
This block is made up of two types of fabrics; the strings add the most color and interest to the block. The background/foundation fabric creates a secondary, more subtle design.
For these blocks, I’m a little bit flexible with the colors that go in to them in terms of matching the hues exactly. I really do want it to feel scrappy, so I’m flexible with how saturated, vibrant, etc. the colors are. I think it would actually be cool to have a block or two that are more subtle. That being said, I have a general range of colors that I would like you to try to stick to. As you can see in the example above, I’ve primarily used yellows (cream, gold, butter) and pinks (all the way from salmon to peach, “baby” pink, coral, hot pink, magenta, and raspberry).
There are also purples (plum, eggplant, and a plum-raspberry hybrid), but this is only scattered throughout. It is not one of the dominate colors in the blocks. I also did allow a tiny bit of orange in, but I would like to keep that to a minimum – I’m more of a peach/salmon/coral girl, if you catch my drift. Now that I’ve posted the image above, I’m seeing how *orange* that square to the left is. It looked much more pink when I created the board! HA! I trust you to use your discretion. When in doubt, just send me a picture on IG!
You can also see that some of my florals in my example block have green. It is almost a lime/spring green, but it isn’t the dominate color in the pattern. Rather, it is a secondary color that is more passive in the prints that I chose.
I would also like to include a POP of deep, rich, teal/turquoise. I don’t want this color in every single triangle, so if you do not have any in your stash, that is fine! I would like it sprinkled throughout the quilt though, so feel free to put a few strips in here and there if you have them.
Please do not include anything “meat” related. So funny to say but we’re all vegetarians so no hamburger prints! HA! We love animals in this house. Also, I’m really not crazy about red. If there is a little bit in a print that is ok, but I would prefer no completely red fabrics.
I would like the background/foundation blocks to be made of low-volume prints in a range of grays, or small scatterings of the pinks found in the strips (an example of a print like this is used in the tutorial below). Most of the foundation fabrics that I chose for my example have a balance of white and a low-volume gray. I would prefer no solids. I did throw in a white fabric with a black pin-dot, and this would probably be where I would draw the line (if you squint at it, it pops a tiny tiny bit compared to the low-volume, but it isn’t in-your-face).
I originally used this tutorial at Sew Mama Sew, but I’m going to create a step by step tutorial for you below using the colors that I’ve chosen. There are a couple of tutorials floating around the web, so if you get confused at any point, just do a quick search. The important part of this tutorial is the size of the beginning foundation square, and once you quarter it, the markings that you are going to create with your fabric pencil are also important.
- (1) 9.25″ background/foundation square. This square is low volume.
- a variety of strips ranging from 1/2″ to 2″ wide to use as the “strings.” These strings range in the colors outlined above.
- These strips do not need to be terribly long, the longest strip you’ll need will only be about 4.5″ inches or so long!
- fabric pencil
Prepare the Foundation Block
Step 1: Take your 9.25″ square and lay it on your cutting mat. Using an acrylic ruler and rotary cutter, make (2) cuts:
– Cut 1 will go from the bottom right corner to the top right corner
– Cut 2 will go from the bottom left corner to the top right corner.
TIP: Make sure that you do not disturb/move the fabric after Cut 1 so that you are able to make an accurate cut for Cut 2.
Step 2: Take (1) of the (4) triangles you just created, and fold it in half.
– With the wrong side of your fabric facing up, take your fabric pencil and make a dot 1/4″ above the long side right on the crease you just made. You now have a dot 1/4″ away from the long edge right in the center of the triangle (halfway between the two 45 degree corners).
– With your ruler, measure down 2″ away from the corner opposite the long edge. This is the 90 degree corner.
Step 3: Draw a line from the 2″ mark to the center dot you created in Step 2.
Repeat steps 2-3 on the other side of the 90 degree corner.
You now have markings that create two triangles on the left and right with a kite shape in the center. Cool
Step 1: Take your first triangle and lay it face down. You should see the markings you made! You are going to start by working with the left line.
– Slide your first strip of fabric under your triangle, right side facing up. You want the bulk of the strip on the “kite” side of the line, and your 1/4″ seam allowance on the left, “triangle” side of the line.
– Sew along the the pencil line, securing your first strip to the fabric.
Step 2: Bring your triangle to your ironing board, and press with steam to set the stitch (this reduced loft!).
– Gently open the fabric so that it is right side up, pressing towards the outside of the triangle.
– You want to be careful not to press your strip out of shape because you are going to be using the raw edge as a guide for your next strip.
– You want to make sure that you have pressed the fabric all the way to the seam so that it lays nice and flat. You do not want there to be a “fake” seam. This will create a little bubble of fabric as you progress.
– A good thing to remember is that you want it taught, but not stretched.
Step 3: You will now we working with your triangle right side up. Take your next strip and place it on your triangle, right side facing down (so right sides are together), lining the edge of the new strip up with the raw edge of the strip you just sewed down.
– Sew 1/4″ away, securing the second raw edge of the first strip and the first raw edge of the second strip to your foundation fabric. You can see in the image above that my peach strip got a little out of shape when I was pressing it (do as I say, not as I do!), so to remedy the issue, I used the “true” edge of the seam that I’d already sewn as a guide. I then sort of ignore the “out of shape” part of the peach fabric and sewed a 1/4″ away from the edge of the top strip.
– Press (repeat all of Step 3 – setting the seam and then pressing open).
TIP: You may end up with a strip that is long and really extends beyond the edge of the triangle. All you need to do is sew the strip as you have been, and then before you press it, just snip off the excess so it is easier for you to move your block around. Then continue on as you were!
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1-3 until you have covered the entire right side of the foundation fabric.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1-4 until you have covered the entire opposite side of the foundation fabric.
You now have the foundation fabric with a whole bunch of strips sewn on both the right and left sides. These strips are all too long and need to be trimmed.
Step 1: Lay your triangle on your cutting board with the wrong side facing up. You will see the shape of the triangle with all of the strips extending above and below the edges. You want to use your triangle as a template to trim.
– Lay your acrylic ruler along one of the edges of the triangle, use a rotary cutter to remove strip excess.
– Repeat on remaining sides.
You now have one gorgeous looking triangle! Go ahead and do this to the (3) remaining triangles that you cut from the 9.25″ square.
(4) Triangles are going to make (1) 8.5″ block.
This is the point that I am asking you to please not “finish” the block by sewing the (4) triangles together into an 8.5″ block. I’d love to mix them up throughout the quilt and spread the love around! If I have the triangles loose, I will be able to mix and match from all of you to get a nice scrappy quilt.
I realize that for this Bee we are shooting to make 12″ blocks. I would have tweaked the tutorial to make the block 12″ instead, but I already had started on the 8.5″ blocks for the quilt. I am perfectly ok with you just making (4) triangles to create (1) 8.5″ square so please, no pressure to make more. I’ll be chugging along on these for awhile!