There will inevitably come a point in your quilting career when you spy a quilt block either in real life or out there in the intrawebs, and think ‘I really want to make that!’ but there’s no indication as to what pattern has been used, or even the name of the block for you to search for.  Now you could spend a few days trawling through all the block encyclopaedias out there, or you could pull up your big girl (or boy) panties and draw it up yourself.

Where to start though?

1. Decide whether or not this is a block you can piece with foundation.  For example this block that I spotted in the wild the other day when cruising for a starting point for the next round of Brit Bee grabbed me, but I knew that it could only be done with paper piecing:

How did I know that?  Well, although it is technically a 4 patch block, it is made up of wedges where the pieces grow out from the centre.  I could probably piece this without paper if I really, really tried, but for real accuracy with odd shapes, paper piecing is the way to go.

On the other hand these ones, which you may recognise from the previous posts, can be pieced in a conventional manner:

 

 

 

 

2. We’ll deal with paper piecing patterns at a later point, but for a conventional pattern, now is the time to play ‘spot that layout’.  What have you got on your hands exactly?  A 4 patch?  A 9 patch?  More?  Think back to those previous Quilt Making Basics posts on block layouts, then grab some gridded paper, or print yourself off some from here, and try drawing out the shapes.  Don’t worry about all the stitching lines to start with, those can come in later when you’ve worked out the basic shapes.

Since the ones we often want to draw are frequently more complex than a simple 4 patch, I thought I’d break down a more complex block.  Here’s what I’ve called the Double Framed Star (there’s probably another, official name for it, but I have no idea what that might be)

3. Now we have the sketch, it’s time to break things down into basic shapes that we know how to make.  The Double Framed Star can be made up of squares, rectangles, HSTs and, optionally, flying geese. Let’s look at this from the centre and work outwards.

The middle is, obviously, a 4 patch, made up of 4 squares.  Next there’s the star points, which we can see are the same height and width as one of the centre 4 patch squares, which means we can make them up in 2 different ways:

With HSTs:

Or with geese:

Now to tackle the frames.  First there’s the bit that goes past the star points on the angle – because the line touches both points of the star, and the centre must be a square overall, we can then work out that an HST in each corner will cover this:

The next part is the frame that’s sitting square on round the star.  This is where things become a little more complicated because of the crossover of the angled frame, so lets start with rectangles where the square frame doesn’t touch anything  Looking closely, it seems that the frame is the same width as one of the squares in the centre star, so we start building from there:

The above will leave you with a partial seam to complete, so you can decide to go with the rectangles, or break them down further:

Now we need to tackle the angled frame.  Where it crosses the straight frame it’s doing it at the same angle as it went past the star points, so HSTs should be used to create the angles:

Almost there!  The last part of the angled frame is a triangle that we can see, from looking at where it joins the frame below, can either be made up of HSTs:

Or geese:

Again you can consider whether or not you want partial seams making all the quadrants come out with the same pattern, or if you want to break down the white part outside the square frame further.

4. Now you have your pattern, you need to consider what size you want your blocks to be.  Not all blocks need to be 12″ square, they can be bigger or smaller, but the main thing to keep in mind if you want to save yourself a headache in the maths department, is that you want the block size to be divisible by the number of patches.  For example, you don’t want to try and make an 8″ 9 patch block, because each section would finish at 2 2/3″, and who wants to try and calculate that!  Once you’ve worked that out, you can look up the tables for the HSTs, QSTs and Flying Geese from the earlier QMB tutorials to work out your cutting sizes, and you’re good to go.

Now if you can tackle something like this, you can tackle anything!

Any questions, leave me a comment :o)

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