When It’s Good to Go “Whacky”

by Christine Barnes

To those of you who also follow my Color Connection newsletter, forgive me for repeating parts of my last newsletter. What a crazy month it has been, all good, and after my last teaching gig of the year, in Paradise, the new-idea folder in my brain needs to be refilled. So allow me to offer a short tutorial on one of my favorite blocks, a design that is as versatile as it is simple.

This is my go-to block for creating luminosity and transparency. You may have seen my Luminaria quilt and perhaps have the pattern. Or maybe you’ve taken my transparency class and have played with this design. Take a look at these two sample blocks.

whacked-block-single-2 whacked-block-single-1If they look difficult, with lots of piecing and different shapes, I assure you they are not. Here’s why, and how:

1.   For my blocks I cut the center squares 6½” and the borders 4″ wide and a bit more than 10″ long; that is, four strips cut across the WOF, after you have barely removed the selvages.

2.   Lay out the strips as shown below. Notice that they “spin” around the center square.Spinnin borders tutorial A

3.   With right sides together, pin the first strip to the center square, starting at the midpoint of the square and letting the end of the strip barely hang over. (The hangover is a smidge too big in the illustration.) Sew (do not backstitch), then trim the hangover, open out the unit, and press the partial seam allowances open. Seam allowances pressed open make it easy to join the units later.

spinning-borders-tutorial-bf4.   With the unit right side up, add the second strip to the left edge. Open it out and press the seam allowances open. Trim the hangover along the edge of the square. No need to trim the hangover at the outer edge.

spinning-borders-tutorial-cf5.   Add the third strip to the lower edge in the same manner.

Spinning borders tutorial D6. Add the fourth strip to the right edge, keeping the end of the first strip free. No need to trim the upper hangover; it’s difficult to do because of the partial seam.

spinning-borders-tutorial-ef

Here’s how the “real thing” looks  after the fourth strip has been added.

ca-strip-4-added-copy7.   Fold the first strip down and use a ruler to line up the free end so it’s square with the fourth strip. Finish the partial seam and press the seam allowances open.

da-square-up-last-orner-copy8.   Trim the hangovers at the ends of the strips to complete this basic block.

Spinning borders tutorial F9.   Now the magic begins. Slice the block as shown below, making the first cut 3¾” from the left seam (NOT the outer edge of the block). Without moving the pieces, turn your board from the upper right corner clockwise, to the right, to make the second cut, again 3¾” from the left seam. A rotating 17″ x 17″ rotary mat is ideal for this step.

whacking dims

Tip: I use two rulers, one placed 3¾” from the left seam and one 2¼” from the right seam. Then I play with the rulers to split any small errors in my piecing.

Here are four groups of four blocks each, after the basic blocks have been whacked. final-blcoks-cut-and-stacked-up-f
And some of those units mocked up. Not sure what I’ll do the next; the circle is just an idea.final-of-four-blocks-mocked-up

 

For my Transparent Squares quilt, I made eight basic blocks, whacked them, and recombined the units. It always amazes me how rich and complex these blocks look when sewn into a quilt. You know me by now—I love modular designs! (The gray borders are cut from Gelato #714, available in my Store.)

transp-squares-for-aa-nov

With that, I wish you a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and your friends. And gratitude for the gifts—so many gifts!—we’ve all been given.

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4 thoughts on “When It’s Good to Go “Whacky”

    • Thanks for your comment, Carol. Good question! I should have made it clear that the photos of the “real” blocks in the how-to sequence were from another project. I was running late on this, and it would have been better had I made a sample using the fabrics in the mock ups. Will do better next time! 🙂

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