Jane over at Want it, Need it, Quilt it is hosting a quilt-along and she asked for volunteers to write up instructions for a block. So here I am, unable to resist the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject: hand-piecing.
The block I chose is called Sugar Loaf. I’m not the originator; it is a very old traditional pattern. However it is one of those patterns that really isn’t in favor at the moment and instructions for making it in a specific size can be difficult to find. This version of the Sugar Loaf will finish 8 inches by 8 inches (8.5 x 8.5) and it is a terrific opportunity to showcase some snappy modern fabric. It has tons of variations. You can see just a few here at the Quilt Index.
What you’ll need:
At least 2 different fabrics for the diamonds. You could make stripes like I did and use four fabrics or make it totally scrappy with ten different fabrics
A larger piece of fabric for the background; a 9 x 9 piece should do just fine
Neutral thread for piecing
A needle for piecing (I like a size 11 sharp – but whatever you are comfy with)
Clear or frosted template plastic
A printed copy of the template
Ruler, scissors, pencil, Sharpie, sand paper (optional but very helpful)
Step 1) Print out the templates. Cut them out of the paper (don’t use your good fabric scissors, though!) Tape your templates to one side of the template plastic. Use your ruler and Sharpie to carefully trace the templates on the other side of the plastic. You should be able to see the template through the plastic to guide your ruler placement. Transfer the single line from the template onto the plastic as well. It marks the direction of the grain in the fabric when you cut your fabric. Cut the plastic templates out – again, don’t use your good scissors.
Step 2) Sharpen your pencil up nice and pointy. Place your fabric right side down on the sand paper. Place your template on the fabric. Observe the direction of the fabric grain – you will want the single line drawn on your template to be parallel to the grain in the fabric. Adjust it until you have it parallel. If you want to fussy cut it now is also the time to think about your template placement. Once you’ve got it placed, carefully hold the template down and trace all the way around it with your pencil. This is the seam line.
Step 3) Now we’ll add the seam allowance. If you aren’t picky about the edges of your fabric pieces lining up you can just eyeball a quarter inch around the drawn line and cut it out. If you want precision use your ruler to add a quarter inch to each side. Just line up the quarter inch mark over the drawn lines and draw a new second line (on the outside!) of the piece a quarter inch away then cut on the outside line. Repeat this for the remaining nine diamonds and for the two background pieces.
Step 4) We’re going to start at the top of the triangle and work down one leg. Take the topmost triangle fabric and orient it like so, right side up:
Now place a second row diamond below it, right side up:
You are going to carefully flip the bottom piece over as if the edge where they are touching is a hinge. You’ll get something like this:
Notice that the blue piece is now wrong side up. In other words, the two diamonds are right-sides together. The seam lines are not quite matched up yet, though. We are going to match up the seam lines using pins. Push a pin through the marked (the inner line, not the line where you cut) corner seam line of the blue piece. Flip the pieces over so that you are looking at the back of the red piece and pierce the corner seam line of the red piece. Secure your pin and do the same with the other corner. You’ll notice that you now have a slight “dog ear” at the corners and that is normal. If it helps you can add more pins along the seam line, pushing a pin through the line of the top piece, then flipping it over to get the pin to emerge through the seam line on the other piece, then secure.
Step 5) Thread your needle and tie a little knot at one end of the thread. Starting in one pinned corner (remove the pin) sew on the seam line from corner to corner with a small running stitch. Take a back stitch now and then to help secure your stitches. At the corner take an extra back stitch and when the thread is almost pulled tight, run your needle and thread through the loop to make a little ending knot. Pull it tight and snip the thread leaving a quarter inch tail.
Step 6) Repeat this process for the rest of the leg. You should have 4 diamonds sewn in a diagonal line when you are done. Make another one for the next diagonal of the triangle, this one with three diamonds. Then a third with two diamonds. Now sew the four diagonals together. You should match where four corners come together with pins as you did with two pieces. When you get to a corner do not sew the seam allowances. Only sew on the marked lines – the seam allowances should be free-flappin’.
Step 7) Matching the corners and seam lines, pin one background piece to the unit from step 6. Sew in place and repeat on the other side.
Step 8) Press your block. In the picture below you can see that I alternated the directions that I pressed. I also “fanned” the seams in the spots where four corners came together. It looks a bit like a pinwheel. This is one of the benefits of not sewing down the seam allowance – you can experiment a little with pressing to get the flattest possible piece.
Step 9) Use your ruler and a rotary cutter to cut off the tails of the diamonds hanging below the edge of the block.
If your block does not quite measure 8.5 x 8.5, don’t despair. The bias edges can cause a bit of distortion. To fix it, spritz your block with water then pin it out on a carpet or your ironing board, gently stretched to the size you want.
That’s it! You should now have an awesome hand-pieced block. Congratulations