Thursday, January 26, 2012

Desperate Housewife's Quiltalong: Round the Twist

I'm so excited that my first ever block tutorial is for the very fun Desperate Housewife's Quiltalong, hosted by the lovely Jane. If you haven't seen the amazing range of blocks on offer, one a week from Jane, and one a week by guest bloggers, then pop on over once you've had a look at my tutorial!

This little block of mine is called "Round the Twist", because I'm sure any desperate housewife worth her salt has been driven round the twist once or twice. I know I have.

I based this block on the flying geese unit, which I'm currently obsessed with. And we're going to make it using the magic method, which I'm currently obsessed with. If you love to chain piece then you're going to love this. And if you've been scared of making flying geese, be scared no longer! This really is magic. And you will save yourself some fabric, too! That's got to be a good thing, yes? My flying geese obsession has led me to this Ruby quilt. And of course the Swoon quilt.

(note: there are numerous tutorials around the web teaching this method. This one at Connecting Threads gives measurements for flying geese in whatever size you like - handy!)

So, choose some fabrics from your stash. You'll need two contrasting colours for the twist, and a light or neutral for the background. My print fabrics are from the Loulouthi collection by Anna Maria Horner, which I'm, well, maybe just a little bit obsessed with. The neutral is actually also a print - a text print from the Make Life collection by Sweetwater. I'm currently experimenting with using less solids and more prints in their place, and also text fabrics. I need some more. Anyway. Back to the block.

You'll need the following pieces for your block:
One square of print fabric a - 5 3/4 inch.
Two squares of print fabric b - 3 1/8 inch.
Two squares of neutral fabric - 3 1/8 inch.
Four rectangles of neutral fabric - 4.5 by 2.5 inch.

(And apologies for the big shadow in some of these photos. Sewing at night is a necessity in this household and doesn't make for good camera work!)

Layout your big square and then the two neutral squares in opposite corners. They will overlap slightly in the middle to form a little square. Make sure this overlapping part is really square, and not a rectangle. Now draw a line from corner to corner.

Now stitch a line 1/4 inch both sides of the drawn line. Here's where the chain piecing part comes in handy. If you are making a lot of flying geese blocks, you can simply prepare the above units, stack them up and whiz away. They'll be done in no time. At the very least I like to make two blocks at a time, because it's more time efficient and you're not cutting the thread at the end of each and every seam.

Another important tip when sewing is to use a *scant* 1/4 inch seam. This means just a thread or two shy of a full 1/4 inch. Trust me - if you haven't tried it, you must - it makes for much more accurate piecing. Get out your ruler and measure your seams and you will see what I mean. If your foot is travelling outside the line, your seam is actually a bit bigger than 1/4 inch, and over multiple blocks or several pieces to a block, that adds up to a lot. But I digress!

Once you've sewn down both sides of the line, cut the piece in half, right on the drawn line. Then flip the little triangles over and press (I find it easier to press towards the small triangles).

Now take your other small squares and place them in the remaining corners of the two (now separated) units, again, it should overlap the two flappy triangles with a tiny square in the middle. Feel free to wiggle it into place to make sure it's lined up properly. Then sew either side of the line as before and cut the unit into two pieces. Flip those triangles over and press, repeat with the other unit and ta-da! You have made FOUR flying geese in just a few simple steps.

But we are not quite finished! The goose unit needs a little trimming to whip it into perfect shape. We are aiming for a unit of 4.5 by 2.5 inch. Have a look at your unit and you will see it needs a little haircut. Start with a short side as in the photo below. Line up the opposite side on a line on your cutting mat, place your ruler 1/4 inch back from the nearest line and trim - you might find that you don't actually trim a full 1/4 inch off the block, but we are just paring back each side as needed to get to the 4.5 by 2.5 inches required. Rotate the block to cut the long side with the point of the goose and cut again - there should be a seam allowance of 1/4 inch from the point to the edge! Repeat for the two remaining sides and you'll have a lovely 4.5 by 2.5 inch flying goose.

Now lay out your geese with the neutral rectangles as shown, and sew each rectangle-goose pair together, and press (the direction is not so important here, so whatever feels right).

Now you're ready to sew the pieced units together. If you want your geese to have nice sharp points, then have a look at the units next to each other - see how the points are a nice 1/4 inch from the edge? We want our seam to go right through those points. If it doesn't, you'll end up with poor cut-off goose wings. Eek!

If for some reason you've ended up with a smaller seam allowance poking out above those points, don't worry, you just need to make sure your needle goes through the intersection point. If you do this, you'll still end up with pointy wings, albeit with slightly smaller seam allowances. But no-one's going to know!

Easiest way to do this is put a pin right through the intersections on both pieces.

Before you press the paired up units, check which way you want them to lie. I like my seam allowances to nest, so I press one unit with the seams going to the left, and the other going to the right, then they nest nicely. Again, before sewing together, check your goose points to make sure your seam goes straight through that intersection!

And there you have it, one Round the Twist block! I hope you've enjoyed this one and hopefully learnt some tips about making flying geese. If you give it a go I'd love to see a pic. And now do go and have a look at Jane's blog for some super-clever blocks.


  1. Your block looks great! Thanks for teaching me a new way to make a flying geese block.

  2. Thanks Danielle for joining in the fun and sharing the different method of making the Flying Geese blocks. P.S I love the fabrics too.

  3. Happy Aussie day and thanks for the great tut and block!

  4. Hi, Danielle. Cute block. I've enjoyed looking over your blog. Your Ruby quilt is lovely as is the tree wall-hanging. I especially like your hand appliqué WIP as I'm a fan of needle-turn.
    best from Tunisia,

  5. Hi Danielle, Just find your blog via some seconds ago. Wonderful stuff you make, so full of colour! One of these days have to start my own blog about the crafty life side of me. thank you for sharing! ;-) all the best from little cold Holland, Liset


Thanks so much for leaving a comment! I read every comment and appreciate you taking the time to read my little blog. I try to respond to all comments by email but sometimes life gets in the way. Thanks for understanding.