Are you participating in the Gypsy Wife Quilt-a-long? I hope so! It’s a gorgeous quilt and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun putting it together. I’m still hoping to hook in a few more people to join us on this Gypsy Wife Quilt-along; we’re still so early in the process that you could very easily jump in! We’re doing just a handful of blocks each month, so even a couple months from now it would still be pretty easy to join in without being too far behind. (Here is the schedule if you want to see what’s coming and just how easy it’ll be to sew along with us.) As someone with 30+ somewhere-in-progress projects sitting around, I know how hard it is to add another one, but… I also know how very fun it is. (I wouldn’t have 30+ unfinished projects if starting new things weren’t the funnest thing there is!) So why not join us? You can still pick up the pattern from Westwood Acres or Modern Quilter or Queen Bee Fabrics or Vintage Modern Fabrics or probably a dozen other places.
This month we’re sewing one Colour Wheel block and six 4-in Pinwheel Blocks. (Four of the six pinwheel blocks will become 6.5″ unfinished blocks by adding sashing.) Here are mine:
First up is Pattern Errata: There’s a tiny mistake on the Colour Wheel block — the bottom centre unit is missing it’s quarter square triangle. Not much of a mistake, just helpful to fill in the lines for when you’re laying out the block; my repair is shown here in blue.
In any case, I thought I’d offer up a few tips for sewing these as accurately as possible.
Colour Wheel block
There’s a lot of seams sewn on bias cuts in these blocks and that can mean stretched fabric and wonky sized blocks. Usually I try to minimize sewing on a bias cut by doing two units at a time (ie. leaving the squares intact and sewing a quarter inch on either side of the centre line, then cutting it in half and getting two units). You can’t really do anything about the about the units in the middle of each outer row/column, but if you’re willing to make your block with only two main colours, rather than four, you can eliminate the potential stretch on the four outer corners:
I’ve skipped over a lot, there, but you’d cut the background and centre fabrics as described in the pattern. The outer corners would be sewn as in my picture, but the rest you’d proceed as in the pattern.
I wanted mine as scrappy as possible, so I did something else entirely: I sewed mine with paper underneath. I didn’t think to take photos of this when I was working on my blocks, so I’m going to show you while sewing some pin wheel units. The principle is exactly the same, the pieces are just a little larger in the Colour Wheel.
I sewed mine onto paper meant for foundation piecing, but you could also use regular printer paper; I just happened to have this in my sewing room. All I’ve done is put my triangles right sides together, laid the unit on top of the paper at the left edge, and then sewed it 1/4-in from the edge. I also dropped my stitch size to 1.5 on my machine – not as small as I’d use for paper piecing, but smaller than I use for regular piecing. It’ll help keep your seam tight when you pull out the paper (though I do that very carefully anyway).
The reason I specified stitching it from the left is this — I like to do several in a row without pulling the units off each time. When I have a longer piece of paper, I’ll do more down the length of the paper first.
When you take off the paper, you want to fold it back against the seam to help break the perforation. Tear in from the edge of the paper to the first hole of the perforation, then holding one side down tightly, pull gently on the other side of the paper so that it’ll pull away. Once that strip is gone, grasp hold of the fabric unit and gently tug it away from the rest of the paper. Don’t pull it up or down from the paper, just tug it gently to the side – that’ll help keep your stitches in place. Press along the seam line with a nice hot iron after removing the paper and that’ll help tighten up the stitches again too.
Another option is just to pin the crap out of it. I know pinning is boring and feels like a waste of time, but any time you’re sewing on a bias cut is a great time to pin pin pin. It’ll help save your fabric from the feed dogs pulling and stretching the fabric out of whack.
Okay, and my final tip with this block, and with all the pin wheels: TRIM YOUR UNITS. After you press your units, trim them down to size. There’s not much excess, but any little bit that’s there can throw things off; a little extra here plus a little extra there always adds up to weird sized/shaped blocks. I know because for years I ignored the trimming thing, and then one day I didn’t and things started coming together the way they’re meant to. It’s like angels suddenly singing over your quilt blocks, the way things go together after a good trim.
Okay, so there are a lot of ways to make a pin wheel block and I’m going to go over a few of them here. It really depends how scrappy you want your blocks and your quilt to be – I’ve done a couple blocks with only two fabrics, but the rest are at least a little more scrappy than that.
If you want them to be completely scrappy (ie. 8 different fabrics per block), then I’d sew them like I did above – on paper. You can use the four remaining triangles from your Colour Wheel block (you’ll have to trim them down – just cut one new triangle at the proper size, lay it on top of those spare triangles, and trim the larger ones to match the smaller) or cut 8 new squares of fabric, cut them in half, and then start sewing them all back together. Save those other eight triangles for something else or mix them in with still more triangles so that the fabrics get spread around across multiple blocks.
Or you can cut a 4.5 inch square out of another fabric and sew four of the spare triangles onto the straight sides to create another pin wheel worth of units. Likewise, you can use a charm square – there’ll be a little waste in either case, but not too much. This method helps deal with the problem of bias cuts – if you keep your charm square on the bottom, you’ll be sewing on the straight of grain, so there’ll be less chance of stretched block units.
If you use something busy enough (like that orange and blue Amy Butler print) you might be able to make at least part of it look like it’s a different fabric entirely. (That blue and green triangle? Came from the exact charm square shown in the previous picture, same as all the orange/blue prints in the block.)
For a less scrappy block (two fabrics) you have two options. First, you can cut 2 squares in each of 2 fabrics, sew them together on either side of the centre diagonal, cut down the middle of each, and be left with 4 units to make one block.
Or you can sew together two 4 1/4″ squares. You want to throw a couple pins in the middle of this one and then stitch around the outside, 1/4-in away from the edge. If you draw on your diagonal lines, you can stop when you reach the line, pivot and continue around the square. (In fact, you should do this, otherwise you’ll have to do like I did and unpick those couple extra stitches in that last quarter inch.) Next, cut on the diagonal in both directions to create 4 units. They units will be about 1/8-in too large, so you’ll definitely have to trim them down to size.
And I think that’s all the ways I know to make pin wheels. (Except one that makes two blocks at a time, but I didn’t want two identical blocks in my quilt, so I didn’t use it!)
This is kind of a SUPER long post, but I hope there’s been something useful in here for making your own Colour Wheel and Pin wheel blocks! Pop back over in the last week of February and I’ll be hosting a link up and giveaway for everyone’s finished blocks. You can stick photos in the flickr group as you make them – I know we’d all love to see them!
If you haven’t joined up with us because you don’t have the pattern yet, I’m also offering a giveaway of the pattern book this week! Leave a comment below if you’d like to join in and I’ll enter you into the draw. I’ll draw the winner a week from today and get the pattern sent out to you as quickly as possible.
If you’re already participating, that should be reward enough ;D Just kidding… sort of. There’ll be a link up at the end of the month and everyone who links up their completed blocks will be entered to win that giveaway! Michelle has been hard at work lining us up some sponsors: Hawthorne Threads will be furnishing a prize in December and Fat Quarter Shop is providing us with a few prizes to spread out through the year! These are two of my favourite fabric shops, so it’s extra exciting to have them help us celebrate making this brilliant quilt.