Yesterday, I teased you with this image, telling you that it was used in my recent seminar at the University of Kentucky. Probably some folks have already figured this out – either by looking at my Events Calendar, or because you recognized the elements of a Kaleidoscope block from your own work.
For those who don’t know what a Kaleidoscope block is – here’s a very simple explanation: It is a block that works just like the toys we’ve probably all played with at one point or another. One view of a piece of fabric is ‘mirrored’ 8 times to create an octagon of that pattern. And the repeated image gives you a completely different view of the fabric than you had when you looked at the full piece of fabric uncut.
Now, if that sounds frightening to you – don’t worry. As always I have some hints and tips that will make creating such a block MUCH easier for you. And those of you who have made such blocks in the past may want to consider trying these tricks, they will probably save you some serious frustration! And we all want quilting to be more about fun than frustration.
My first suggestion – use a quilt template that is designed for making Kaleidoscope blocks. Yes, there are many triangle templates on the market, and you can probably get away with using one of those – but there is a certain simplicity to the work when the tool you are using is designed for the job you want to do.
I use the Marti Michelle Quilt Sense ruler – called the Triangle Kaleidoscope ruler.
As you can see, it has markings on it for various size blocks and the 90º angle is perfectly designed for the corners of a traditional kaleidoscope.
It’s a bit hard to see in this image, but the lines tell you what size the BLOCK will be, not how tall each triangle will be, so you don’t have to stop and use your calculator (mental or physical) to determine what size triangle you need to cut to create the finished block size you want. This makes preparation so much easier. The blue lines on the bottom of the triangle (as it is facing in this picture) are designed for measuring the width of the strips you will be cutting before you start your triangle cuts that will be sewn on the corners of your block (burgandy fabric).
All in all – a great tool, and a wonderful time saver. As I said earlier, the right tool can make a big difference in your project.
Now, on to the basics of the cuts.
Step one, carefully cut eight strips of your fabric so you can line the design up on each piece of fabric so it lays directly over the one below it. (This way, when you cut your triangles, you will have eight triangles that have the exact same fabric repeat showing.) Lining the repeats up is probably the most time-consuming part of cutting the fabric, but the end results make it well worth the effort.
Step two, now that your fabric is aligned, pin the fabrics together using a flat quilting pin (such as the flat flower pins from Dritz that I mentioned in an earlier post). This will allow your ruler to lay right on top of the pin without rocking because of the pin head (thus making your cuts straight).
Step three, line the template ruler up so you get the proper repeat showing through the ruler, and trim away the excess. After this is done, with the template still in place, cut your triangles. You will now have eight triangles of the same image – just as in the teaser picture I showed you (see top of this post).
Step four, cut your corner blocks – there will be four of these for each kaleidoscope. After you have cut these, you can sew them to your triangles. On the end of for of the repeat triangles, add your corners.
Step five, begin to sew your block together, start by making one half of the block, sewing each triangle into place separately.
Once you have half of the block sewn together, sew another half block together, and then sew the two halves together to create a full block.
And here you see the completed block (not nearly so much yellow in the picture this time), and the paisley block that will be it’s companion in the quilt. I’m very pleased with the way these turned out!
See? It’s really not that difficult when you have a few hints to guide you. If any of you are thinking about purchasing the Kaleidoscope ruler by Marti Michell, I recommend that you take a look at this book as well, it was made as a companion to the ruler – and has some wonderful patterns and eye-candy of the quilt variety!
Sheila Reinke, Heart of Sewing