Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Octo-Swirl" Quilt Block Tutorial

You asked for it!  Here it is, my "octo-swirl quilt block" tutorial on how I made my quilt block that I donated to a charity quilt for breast cancer.  I couldn't resist the pop-culture reference ;-).  Here's the first block I made. 
The first thing I'll tell you is when you make up a block from total scratch, take notes on how you did it, in case you want to make it again!!  I didn't, and it was pretty darn hard to re-create it, but I did!

When I made my first block, I had a specific fabric that I wanted to use (the pink "Fandango" hearts), but only a small scrap of it, and the block needed to be 12.5 inches square.  I looked all through my "5500 Quilt Block" book, and didn't see what I wanted, so I looked at what I had.  I had some 2.5 inch jelly strips that I had collected on a local shop hop, and thought it'd be fun to wrap them around the block like a log cabin block, but I wanted something a little more challenging.  I decided to chop off the corners of my square block to make it an octagon.  I did a lot of experimenting, and even more while I made the blocks for this tutorial, and came up with these instruction.

They do include a partial seam, but don't let that scare you away, it's easy to do!

The blocks with pink in them use larger squares, 6.5 inches, and the block on the upper right uses a 5 inch square, the standard charm square size.  You could easily make up a bunch of these blocks with a pack of charm squares and a "jelly roll" of 2.5 inch strips.

Either way, you need 1 square (5 inch by 5 inch or 6.5 inch by 6.5 inch), and 2 jelly roll strips (2.5 by 42 inches,or width of fabric) that are cut from 2 different colors.  You could also make this block with all sorts of combinations of different sized squares and strips...
To cut the octagon, I use the 45 degree line on my cutting mat and line it up on the line, then chop off the corners so that the length and width are the same.  So if it's a 5 inch square, I put the ruler 2.5 inches to the left of the top and bottom point and cut, then do the same to the right side.  I hope these pictures will make it clearer.
I cut at 3 and 1/4 inch on both sides of the 6.5 inch square.

Then I flip it and do the same to the top and bottom.
From here on out, I'll just show the larger square, but the steps are the same for the smaller one.

The 2 most important steps come right at the beginning:

1: Make sure you leave a 5 inch "tail" that extends on both sides of the first seam.  This is critical, as you will see later.
2. Start the first seam in the middle of the side, or seam, making a "partial seam".  You only have to do this on the first one.

Sew right sides together. DO NOT trim the strip yet!!
Press the seam open, always toward the outer edge, or the pink or white in my case.
Next, flip the fabric over (right side down), and line up your ruler along the next seam.  In will be on the side where the seam is complete.  You will keep rotating around the octagon in the same direction.

Cut the first strip on this line.
Grab you second jelly roll strip (alternate color), and line it up, right sides together starting with the top of the first strip, and sew.
 Flip and cut as before (you can use the lines on your cutting mat if you want).

Take the first color strip, and sew your next seam, starting again at the top of the previous jelly roll strip.
 Continue as above, alternating colors, and going in the same direction, being VERY careful not to cut that first strip off.  You'll have to tuck it out of the way as you get all the way around.
After you trim off that 8th strip, simply fold the block, right sides together, lining up that last seam, and sew!
Press (you're almost done).

Here's what the block with the 5 inch center square looks like:

Next, you need to trim up the sides.  Be really careful which sides you trim.  Remember that there are 8!!!  I learned this the hard way with the 5 inch square.  Put the colors you want to be "straight" on the right, with the corner you want as the triangle on the upper right.  Here's your 2 choices.  See the difference?
With my block, I trimmed the larger square 1 1/4 inch from the inside seam on all 4 sides, making an 8.5 inch square block!!
With the 5 inch square center block, I trimmed it 2 inches from the inside seam, also making a 8.5 inch complete block.  You could use wider strips on a bigger block to expand the block too.

I wanted the purple as the triangle though, but didn't realize my mistake until it was too late.  I may play around some more with this one (and take better notes this time).

You can add white borders around the 8.5 inch square, as I did with my block for the breast cancer quilt, to make it a larger block.  Remember that with quilting, you can always take away, you can't add, meaning cut the wider borders a bit wider than you think you may need.  You can always trim it down smaller.

I sure hope I made sense.  Please ask if you have any question (or let me know if I made any mistakes)!!  Feel free to share, but please give me credit, as I now have a much better understanding of just how much time goes into these free tutorials!!  I've benefited from them a lot though, thanks to other bloggers, so I wanted to give a little back myself!!  Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

I love the block - I am going to have to try making one someday! Thanks for sharing.

A.J. Dub. said...

Thanks Becky! This is such a cool block!

Martha said...

Thank you Becky for all your hard work. I am the one who e-mailed you and asked for the pattern. I am going to give this one a try this Sunday during my sewing time. It is so pretty and your instructions seem clear. I will take a picture and let you know how it comes out. Have a great day.

beebee said...

great block... Very interesting to look will make a beautiful quilt...I am going to save your tutorial and try this one soon.

The Thompsons said...

Very lovely! I may have to try one.