Monday, October 14, 2013

Piecing Smaller Blocks- Tutorial 3" Star Block

Its no secret that I love piecing, especially sampler blocks and a few of my upcoming designs are going to be featuring some lovely blocks. The most recent that I have been working on has pretty little 3" stars.  There is a beauty in smaller blocks and it is a labour of love to get it just right, so I thought I would put together a little tutorial, so they dont look so scary.
I am by no means an expert on anything, Im self taught and have learned the hard way (lots of unpicking, hair pulling etc) about the importance of proper preparation and patience. Of course, regardless of whether your working on a 24" block or a 3" block, the same principles apply.  If you have any other tips to share with fellow quilters, please leave them in the comments section to add to this tutorial.
Firstly, make sure you are well prepared, press all your fabrics, pop a new needle into the machine, threaded with a good quality thread and ensure your rotary blade is nice and sharp for accurate cutting.
Just a few other important things to remember along the way...... read all the instructions carefully before proceeding, ensure accurate 1/4" piecing throughout the block, press seams in alternate directions for easier seam matching, measure all the units along the way and trim were necessary, being careful not to cut into seam allowances and take your time, enjoy the experience :)
I like to cut all my pieces and lay them out as units, according to the order in which I will sew:
What you will need to complete this 3" star block:
4 x 1 1/4" white squares for the corner blocks
1 x 2 3/4" white square cut diagonally twice to yield 4 triangles
2 x 1 5/8" blue squares cut diagonally once to yield 4 triangles
2 x 1 1/4" blue squares 
2 x 1 5/8" green squares cut diagonally once to yield 4 triangles
2 x 1 1/4" green squares
Take extra care cutting squares on the diagonal, ensure that you are cutting from corner to corner.

Starting with the centre 4 square block:
It is very important that you sew an accurate 1/4" seam throughout the block. If you are worried about consistency you can draw your seam line using a seam guide, like the one pictured above which I use for hand piecing, marking your line with a sharp pencil.
I prefer not to use pins while piecing unless Im matching seams but if you do wish to pin your units, it may help to chose something smaller or lighter so you dont distort the unit and remember to remove your pins as you sew. Sew a blue and green square together to create a unit, repeat for the remaining 2 squares.
Ensure you press your seams in alternate directions, for ease of matching:
Press each seam towards the blue fabric. At this stage each unit should measure 1 1/4" x 2" (trim if necessary using your seam as a guide to the centre of the unit). Join both units together, carefully matching the centre seams, to form the 4 square block:
At this stage your 4 square block should measure 2" square (trim if necessary).

Sew a green triangle to the white background triangle as above, pressing your seam towards the green fabric.  Repeat for the other side, using a blue triangle.
This side unit should measure 1 1/4" x 2", trim if necessary but be extremely careful not to cut off the triangle tip at the base of the unit as you will lose your seam allowance.
Sew this unit to the right side of the 4 square block, pressing seam towards the 4 square block. Repeat for the opposite side unit.
At this point, your centre unit should now measure 3 1/2" wide by 2 " high.
The top and bottom units are pieced in the same manner with the addition of a white corner square on either end and seams are pressed towards the white square
Top and bottom units should measure 3 1/2" wide by 1 1/4" high.  Sew both of these units to the centre block unit, carefully matching seams to complete your block. Press seams away from the centre unit.
And there you have it, a perfectly pieced 3 1/2" block (unfinished), all seam allowances still in tact.  Hope this little tutorial inspires you to attempt the smaller blocks or serves as a guide for your next piecing project.
I am still working on my "Fairground" quilt and I will work on a tutorial for the template piecing for this quilt at a later date :)

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