For all of the 2017 Summer Trip Around the World Sew-Along posts, please visit the Sew-Along Page HERE
Making the Block
Now that we have an idea of the Sew-Along rules, as well as a sewing timeline and the fabric requirements for a range of quilt sizes, its time to get down to business and learn how to make these blocks! If you haven’t done so already, check out the previous posts in the Sew-Along to start gathering your fabric in preparation to sew!
Each 12.5″ unfinished block (12″ x 12″ finished) needs the following fabric:
- (6) strips cut to 2.5″ x 16″ long
A Note on Fabric
If you are using Fat Quarters, don’t bother trimming your strips to 16″ from 18″ since you will be trimming after you strip piece.
Pre-cutes like Jelly Rolls would work really well for this project. Just remember, the longer the strip, the more difficult it is to stay accurate and square with your sewing. Consider cutting them down to 16″ long sections to piece your strips.
The following tools are required to make the blocks:
- An acrylic ruler
- Your favorite ruler is fine, but my go-to ruler for this project is the Omnigrip 2.5″ x 18″ ruler by Dritz
- A rotary cutter with a new blade
- Again, your cutter of choice can be used here, but I love the Fiskars 45mm Stick Rotary Cutter (and its cute floral design!)
- A self-healing mat
- A sewing machine with a straight stitch and the ability to backstitch
- A new needle for your machine
- A size 11 Universal Needle like these Schmetz needles would work GREAT for this project.
- 50 wt thread for sewing, 40 wt thread for quilting.
- An Iron that gets nice and hot, and an iron board
- I haven’t had luck with Rowenta’s in the past, but while they last I love them. The price is lower than many of the “professional” irons out there, which also break, so I figure why not stick to something that gets hot hot hot and produces a ton of steam when needed? I tried a different version of the iron this year, and so far it is working GREAT. It also does not shut off! YES!
The following tools are helpful, but not required for this project:
- The Creative Grids Stripology Ruler – cut those strips FAST my friends!
Assembly Part 1
Assembling is a lot of fun, and it is so cool how the process produces such a cool block. Remember, you can find the original tutorial HERE. I like to think that these blocks are assembled in two parts. The first part is sewing your strips into a block and then creating a tube. The second part is sub-cutting the tube and assembling the sub-cut strips into your final block.
LayoutBy now you should have already printed out your coloring page and checked out some inspiring Trip Around the World Quilts on Pinterest. If you are doing a true scrappy quilt with lots of colors, you don’t have to put too much thought into the order of your strips. If you are using a specific color scheme or working with a collection/bundle, you may want to spend some time thinking about color. I recommend reading this page to familiarize yourself with “hue” and “value” as both of these color qualities could greatly impact your quilt.
For example, I know that in my quilt I want some contrast in my blocks, and I want that contrast to be seen across the entire quilt to create a secondary design. I know that I also don’t want it to look *too* planned out, so I am using a range of low volumes and a range of colors with a medium value to create a more spontaneous feel across the quilt.
Please note, the *order* of your strips doesn’t really matter because of the technique we are using to create the blocks. What matters more is which colors are touching which colors. Does that make sense? So I know that I want a strip of a dark value color running as the center diagonal on every single block, and I generally want it to be purple. In order for the darker value to pop on that center diagonal, I want a color with a middle value on one side and a low volume print on the other side. As I started assembling block, I realized that I had come up with a pattern of value that created a sense of unity across all of my blocks. My pattern goes “dark, light, dark dark, light, dark” but the pattern is the same if I make it “dark, dark, light, dark, dark light” or even “light, dark, dark, light, dark, dark” – the pattern is the same, which values are touching which values, but the order that the values are in doesn’t matter because I can fix that later.
Once I have some strips out and separated by value, I decide which fabrics and colors I want touching. As you lay out your fabrics you need to remember that your top fabric and your bottom fabric will end up next to one another in your final block, so make sure that they work well together!!
Once you have a layout that you are happy with, it is time to begin….
Before you get started, consider checking out my post on Strip Piecing Success. The tips that you will find there will help you in strip piecing these blocks, and ensure you end up with a square 12.5″ x 12.5″ unfinished block!
Begin piecing your strips together, making sure to remember the order that you want your strips.
PRO TIP: Whenever I lay out a block or quilt, I take a picture of it on my phone. Too many times I’ve come up with a layout that I LOVE and then started sewing and completely lost it. Or had a PERFECT layout on my design wall to come down in the morning to find that Finn had jumped into the wall (he does these things, the nut) and made some of my (all of my) blocks flutter down. Snap a pic and use it for reference. You won’t regret it.
Time Saving Tips
- If possible, cut all of your strips ahead of time. This will make the process way more enjoyable if you have a large amount of blocks to make.
- Are you going to be stretching your creativity on this quilt and attempting to make a variation of the scrappy quilt? Are you trying to stick to a theme? If possible/necessary, sort your strips in bags, shoe boxes, or tupperware containers. You can sort by value, color family, solids vs. prints…. whatever makes it easier for you to grab a strip and start laying out your strips.
- When you are piecing, don’t worry about pressing your seams. You will head to your ironing board once all six of your strips are together!
- If you are planning on following the timeline that I provided, then consider completing “one action” at a time. What is “one action?” It is doing one step across many blocks before moving on to the next sThis is a very efficient way of working, especially if you are going to be working on a larger quilt. For example, say you have to do 3 blocks a week but only have 30 or so minutes at a time to work. On your first day, layout the strips for all 3 blocks and decide which fabrics you want touching for all three blocks. Take a picture (am I right. You only have 30 minutes, you can’t reasonably get to sewing now, and you don’t want something to happen in the meantime! Who wants to lay them all out again and waste another 30 minutes tomorrow?!). During your next session, take all of your strips to your sewing machine, and begin sewing. Start with strips 1 + 2, 3 + 4, and 5 + 6 for block one, followed by these strips for block 2 and 3. At that point, you can then sew 1+2 to 3+4 for all three blocks, and then 1+2+3+4 to 5+6 for all three blocks. You now have all of your strips pieced for three blocks and you are ready to iron. This will be perfect for your next 30 minute session.
As recommended in the original tutorial, we are going to be pressing our seams in alternate directions. This will allow our seams to nest in future steps.
- Begin by setting your seams for each seam. This allows the thread to settle into the fabric and will hep reduce loft when we press our seams to the side.
- Lay out your strips so that they are horizontal on the ironing board. Begin with the bottom most seam. We will refer to this as Seam 1, and count off on the seams running up the remainder of the block in order. So the next seem up from Seam 1 is Seam 2. Then Seam 3, Seam 4, etc.
- Press Seam 1 up.
- Press Seam 2 and 4 down.
- Press Seam 3 and 5 up.
Make your Tube
Once your seams are pressed, you need to sew one more seam before you can move on to Assembly Part 2.
In order to sew this seam, you need to lay your strips right side up. Take the long edge of the strip that is on the bottom, and fold it up so that it is lined up with the long edge of the strip on top. Your bottom strip and top strip are now right sides together (RST) and ready to sew!
PRO TIP: You know how I’m kind of crazy about squaring up my fabric and making sure to cut on the grain? Well I am. I am an absolute nut about it. I was doing it before I even knew that it was a technique, and a proper technique at that. You want to do this for this step. So what exactly does that mean?
It means that it is more important to pay attention to how that fold at the bottom wants to lay, and less important to watch the short ends of the strips up at the top. We’re going to be trimming off that funky edge on the right and left sides of our tube, so we really don’t have to concern ourselves over whether there is overlap on those short edges. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that any of my strips have lined up perfectly in this step. I am making sure that my fold is where it wants to be though, which will help make sure that my final block isn’t wiggly-wobbly-weird.
So, if you haven’t already, go ahead and SEW! You will end up with a nice tube created with the (6) strips that you originally started with.
You are now ready for….
Assembly Part 2
Strip piecing is great and all, but Part 2 is where the magic happens. For real, you guys. This is still amazing to me, and I’m pretty confident I’ll still be amazed by block 50! I’ll check in with you then and let you know.
Slice and Dice – Sub-cut your Strips
Take your tube to your cutting mat and lay it flat. Wrong sides should be facing up, with the right sides of the fabric on the inside of the tube. Since we have 6 strips, you should be able to lay your tube flat, the top and bottom folds being right on a seam line. At this point, you will only see 3 strips on top because the other 3 are underneath.
We are going to sub-cut the tube into (6) 2.5″ mini tubes. Begin by trimming off the edge on one side, and continue cutting 2.5″ strips square across the length of the tube. When you get to your last cut, trim off the funky side so you have two clean edges on that final 2.5″ mini tube. Discard both of the waste ends that you made in your first and last cuts.
If you are using the Stripology Ruler, this part will go really fast. Lay your tube onto your cutting mat, and place the no-slip ruler on top, lining the (0) line up with one end. Trim the end off. Place your rotary cutter firmly in the 2.5″ groove, and cut! The 2.5″ groove is identified by the square. Simply continue down the length of your tube putting your rotary cutter into the groove at each square symbol located at the bottom edge of the ruler.
Rip It, Baby
Now that you’ve made your (6) 2.5″ mini tubes, you get to start ripping. The first thing you need to do is make sure that your seam ripper is nice and sharp. They go dull, did you know that? THEY DO! And if you are looking for an AMAZING seam ripper, I highly recommend the Seam Fix ripper. I have the mini, which is perfect for taking on the go.
The next step is to identify which fabric you would like to run down the horizontal center line. Arrange your mini tubes so that the fabric you have chosen is to the left like in the image below. Take one tube and rip out the seam that is aaaaaaaalll the way to the left. In the image below, this seam is the one on the left end directly next to the seam ripper.
On the next mini tube, rip out the next seam down. On the mini tube after that, rip out the next seam down (two down now from the first seam you ripped). Continue on in this manner until all of your mini tubes are opened into 2.5″ x 12.5″ strips, each seam ripped out being between two different blocks.
I try to use visual clues to know which seam I should be on next. Everything is fine with ripping out the seams until I’m about 3 seams in, and then I lose it! HA! So I have come up with a system that works for me and helps my brain stay on track:
- Rip out your first seam. When I do this, I keep the same fabric facing me. When I open up my strip, I lay it right side facing down with the fabric that was facing me to the left.
- Look at the fabric you just laid down, and identify which two blocks are touching on the left most side of the strip.
- On your next mini tube, rip out the seam that joins the two blocks you just identified in the last step. Again, keep the same fabric facing you and when you open up the strip, lay it right side facing down with that fabric to the left.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you are done opening all of your seams.
Press and Layout. AGAIN.
Now you get to put the block back together! Before you start sewing, you need to make sure that your seams are nice and flat. You will find that when you go to assemble your 2.5″ x 12.5″ strips that your seams will nest because you pressed in alternate directions earlier. By pressing again now, you will help with your nesting, making sure that the fabrics really lock into one another. If one of your seams is overlapping too much on another fabric, they may not fit together correctly, and that will lead to sloppy points. No one wants you to have sloppy points. No one.
To re-assemble, lay out your block on your cutting table, and make sure that it is in the order that you want your fabrics. Even though you selected a specific strip for the center before you started ripping, you still have some freedom to play around with your block at this point.
Earlier when we were laying out our strips, the order didn’t really matter, and now you see why! If you change the order of the strips, you will change the order of where the colors fall in the block! You may not really mind what colors are where when you are arranging your first few blocks, but as your quilt top progresses, you may find a lot of enjoyment in being able to re-arrange the order and control which colors fall where in the block!
and OH MY GOSH, TAKE A PICTURE when you come up with an order that you are happy with. Guys, I don’t know what the heck happens between the cutting mat and the sewing machine, but I’m telling you, I forget everything in the span of minutes. It may be because I’m making upwards of 6+ blocks at a time.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the final stretch! We are now sewing our block back together, being very diligent about nesting our seams. I personally do not use pins at this point because I prefer to stop and start my machine, working the seams together as I approach them. I like to do the following:
- Line up the top corner of your strips, right sides together. Check to make sure that the first seams are butted right up against one another.
- Begin sewing, making sure that those seams don’t budge. Once you sew over the intersection, stop sewing with your needle in the down position.
- At this point, you can make sure that your next set of seams are nested together without having to worry about the previous seams moving or fabric shifting.
- Continue sewing, making sure the second set of seams don’t budge. Right when you sew over the intersection, stop sewing with your needle in the down position.
- Continue on in this manner, adjusting your nested seams, sewing over the intersection, stopping with the needle down, and adjusting the next set of seams until you have made it to the end of the strip.
Sew all of the strips together in this manner. At this point, I do stop and press my seams in between each set of strips that I sew as I find it is more difficult to press all at once because of the previous seams that we sewed in Part 1.
The Final Pressing
Now this part, I leave up to you. This is the part where you decide if you want to press your seams to the side or open. I will give you some Pros and Cons and let you decide for yourself.
Honestly, I’m on the fence and I’m not sure which way I want to go. Pressing these last seams to the side is MUCH faster, but I still think that pressing open will help the quilt lay flatter.
That being said, seams that are pressed open are going to want to close again due to all of the previous seams in the block, and I may find myself pressing these blocks over and over if I press open, even if I lightly starch.
If I decide that I want to press to the side, I have no way of knowing which blocks are going to end up where in the final quilt. I may press all of these seams to the side, and then end up having to re-press them in a different direction depending on what blocks they end up next to in the final layout to make sure that they are nesting correctly.
Whichever way you choose, I recommend that after you press your seams on the back/wrong side of the block, that you flip over and give another good press on the front with steam. Once you are done pressing, allow the block to cool on the ironing board. This will help the seams stay put and cut down on the chance of them closing up or raising up.
Again, if you find that your blocks are coming out wonky or the wrong size, consider taking a look at this post to help with your strip piecing!
Once you have sewn up all of your blocks, you will be able to move on to your final layout. Although we are not discussing block layouts in today’s post, as you accumulate blocks, you may want to start playing with your layout so that you can control where your colors fall in the blocks you are continuing to assemble.
I hope that you find the process of creating these blocks as fun and enjoyable as I do. I would love to hear about how you decide to press your blocks in Part 2, so let us know here in the comments! You can also hunt me down on IG, Facebook, and on the Tea & Brie Community Page!