24 September 2011

Speedy Scrappy Block Tutorial

Hello there!
Wow! Its hard to believe I have been away a week! I have just come back from a hastily-planned trip to London with Hannah to look around universities. Its an amazing city with lots of incredible sights, sounds, tastes & smells. Our feet are sore from walking & we've put on a pound or two in weight & spent (more than) a pound or two in money... but it was fantastic!
I'm now back playing catch up & firstly want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have contacted me about the Kind Stitches Bee. I'm so grateful to each of you who have offered to make blocks which I will be making up into non-wadded quilts to take to a childrens shelter in Pattaya, Thailand. The children in the shelter have all been rescued out of sex trafficking & I will be part of a team who will be running medical clinics in the shelter & slum areas of Pattaya. 
The trafficking of children is a horrific problem, across the globe, but in South East Asia, it’s even more prolific.  These children may have been kidnapped by traffickers, or even harder to imagine, sold by their own parents.  Severe poverty in some areas of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam means that, with an extra mouth to feed, some parents feel the only way to pay their food or medical bills is to sell one of their children. Because these children are trafficked into other countries, they are especially vulnerable with not speaking the language and cannot ask for help.  And even if they are rescued by local authorities, they are then treated as an illegal immigrant, often placed in adult refugee camps, only to be abused again.
The shelter tries to provide immediate care and ultimately try to repatriate these children into their country of origin. If you are interested, here is link Share me to a video (please ignore the first mini advert slot) which will give you a better idea of where were are going, but the video footage is disturbing...
If you would like to help with making the quilts here is tutorial of sorts which shows you a speedy way to make perfectly squared blocks out of your scraps...

For the Kind Stitches Bee the finished blocks are 6 1/2" & are made from a 4 1/2" centre block & 11/2" sashing so in this tutorial we will be making blocks for this size, but you can adjust the block sizes according to your stash... so here goes... (remember to use a 1/4" seam throughout!) 
Step One: What You Will Need
Any coloured scraps from your stash which are exactly or more than 2 1/2" wide & any length more than 2 1/2"
A long white strip which is exactly or more than 2 1/2" wide
Long white strips which are exactly or more than 11/2" wide - you will probably need two of these
Step Two: Trim Those Scraps
If you need to, trim the WIDTH of the scraps to 2.5" for the coloured scraps & the white strip & 1.5" for the white sashing. (If you want to economise with your scraps also trim the LENGTH of the coloured scraps to JUST OVER or 5" (or 7.5"... ie any number that is a multiple of 2.5") so as you will get an even number out of the scrap)
Put the long 1.5" sashing strip to one side for now & lets start on the smaller coloured strips and the longer white strip all the same width... still with me?
Step Three: Sew Those Scraps The Super Quick Way
Ok here comes the super quick part... Place your white 2.5" strip right side up lengthwise& place on top one of your coloured scraps right side down lengthwise also. Change you stitch size to slightly smaller (this just makes your stitches less likely to unravel) &, using 1/4" seam, sew them together. When you come to the end of your coloured strip stop with your needle down & get your next coloured scrap & place it right side down on the white strip that is still in your machine.

Continue sewing through this scrap & then the next till you run out of scraps or white strips. So what you should have in a big long strip of white with coloured scraps attached
Step Four: Cut Those Pairs
We're now going to cut the strip into squares. Don't open out your coloured/white strip, but keep it flat just the way it came out of the machine, & cut it down to 2.5" squares. When I'm doing this I always use my stitch line to align with the 1/4" marker on my ruler up so as my seams for the next step will align nicely (in case I went off a bit!)
What you should have now are lots of lovely neat wee 2.5" pairs 
Step Five: Butt Those Seams 
Open out your pairs & finger press to the coloured side. (If you want to press with an iron go for it, but I find at this stage finger pressing works just as well & takes less time). Butt your seams together with another pair so that the seams lie in opposite directions. This keeps them neatly together & helps to distribute the bulk of the seam.
Using a similar chain piecing technique as before, stitch each butted pair together
Step Six: Clip & Admire
You should now have a wee chain of pieced units ready to be clipped & pressed. At this stage I press my seams open, which helps them to lie flat, but its really up to you... just make sure you press & not iron as this will distort your nice square
So now you should have some lovely, perfectly matching squares each measuring 4.5"
Step Seven: Sash Those Squares
For the  Kind Stitches Bee our finished blocks are 6.5", so we need to sash these lovelies with the long 1.5" white strip we set aside earlier on, starting with the sides & then the top & bottom.
Again, for speed, using the same chain piecing method outlined in step sew your long white sash right side up to one of the squares right side down. Stop when you come to the end of the square and, keeping your needle down, carefully place another square right side down & sew these together
If your piece is long enough, you should now have a long white strip with your squares attached. Trim your attached sashing to 4.5" long to match the length of the square and repeat the process for the other side of the square
One you have both sides done, press the seams open & then repeat this step for the top and the bottom of your square. Press again & double check your block size - you should now have lots of lovely, perfectly squared, scrappy blocks which you have made in super quick time!
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial & I'd love for you to give this technique a go. 
If you are interested in making some blocks for the  Kind Stitches Bee do let me know & I'll give you further details... go on... stitch some kindness to-day! 
Thank you!


  1. Glad you had a fun time away! I've some blocks ready to bring up with me next month. Jxo

  2. Great tutorial Karen! Thanks for the speedy tips.

  3. I would *love* to help! A few questions:
    - do you want the centers to be all that style, or are some variations ok? (as long as the centers/sashing are all the same size)
    - how many blocks will be needed to make a whole quilt?