Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Seesaw Block Tutorial

Remember playing on the seesaw with your best friend? This isn't quite as easy but should be just as much fun. I strongly recommend you read through the tutorial all the way first - there's a picture of the finished block toward the end. It will probably sound way more intimidating than it really is. The trickiest bit is making sure your diagonal lines are headed the right direction.

For this block you'll need a piece (or pieces) of made fabric from which you can cut four rectangles, 3.5" x 6.5" and four 3.5" squares. You will also need four rectangles of background fabric, also 3.5" x 6.5" and eight 3.5" squares.
We're going to begin by making four flying geese units using the four made rectangles and the eight background squares.

Lay one of your background squares on top of one end of a made rectangle, right sides together. If you like you can draw a diagonal line on the back of your square patches, connecting opposite corners as you see below.

I prefer to skip that step. Instead I lay my 6" ruler on top of the stacked patches with the 1/4" line of my ruler falling through those two corners.

When I have double-checked the position of my ruler I make the cut.

That leaves me with a raw edge exactly 1/4" away from where I want the seam to be.

Put it in your sewing machine as you normally would when piecing. I happen to have a quarter inch foot on my machine. You can see here that I'm sewing right on that line I'd drawn.

I chain piece the four rectangles and then run a pair of the off cut triangles through to free the rectangles from the machine. Once they've been pressed you should have this:

Now we need to do the other end of the rectangles to make our flying geese. Lay one of your background squares, right side down, on the other end of each of your made rectangles.

You'll use the same process as you did for the first half of these units. Draw your diagonal line or lay your ruler on the patch with the 1/4" line running through the corners. To get this line going the right direction - so I end up with a flying goose in stead of a parallelogram! - I turn the whole thing around. Essentially I'm working now with the top of the goose at the bottom of the picture.

So I will be cutting along the right edge of the ruler as you're looking at the picture above. Once I've made my cut, sewn the seam, pressed the background out, and have done the same for the other three units, I have four flying geese units:

Now we're going to use the same technique to put a made-fabric triangle on the end of the background rectangles.

I laid a made-fabric square on top of each background rectangle, pulling back the corner of the made fabric and turning the made fabric patch until I'm happy with what will be left after I cut off the extra. This is also a good time to make sure you're headed in the right direction with your line/ cut. In this case we will be making four identical units with the made fabric in the upper left corner of the finished rectangle.

Again, in order to accomplish that I have to turn the patches around so that I'm working from the top of the unit. This time you will be laying the ruler on the back of your made fabric. Cut off the corner, sew the seam, and press the rectangle out. (Or draw a line, sew the seam, trim off the excess, and then press.) Then do the same with the other three rectangles.

You should have four units that look like this:

Now you'll pair up your flying geese units with the rectangles. Sew them together along that long horizontal edge at the bottom of the goose.

You should have four of these when you're done.

Rearrange the four quarters so each goose is pointing in a different direction, right around the compass points:

Sew these together the way you would any other four patch block and you'll have your finished Seesaw block!

I sent my off cut triangles through the sewing machine whenever I needed to take a set of chain pieced units off for pressing.

You should have 12 of these little half-square triangle units to play with. They can be the beginning of a sawtooth border or used in other, smaller, blocks. Here I've arranged four into a Broken Dishes block and another four into a Pinwheel block.

I hope you'll give this a try. Cutting and sewing through all those seams in your made fabric can be a challenge but it's worth the effort. The one thing I've learned is it's more effective to keep the scraps in your made fabric relatively close in color or value and then pick a background fabric with really good contrast to your made fabric. The most important thing? Remember to breathe, and HAVE FUN!

Magpie Sue

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