Kaleidoscope Quilt Blocks

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

Sewer’s New Year’s Resolution

A Sewer’s New Year’s Resolution – or, Out with the Old and In with the New
At the beginning of every year, I always feel like I need to finish a project I had started or to make something out of a special fabric I had purchased some time ago. I always think that if I do that – I’m good for the rest of the year to buy new fabric, books, and tools. (And who doesn’t want some guilt-free shopping?)

Last year I had taken my fabrics and divided into plastic containers according to their color. I ended up making two additional trips to the store to get more containers. Where did all this fabric come from? After looking at my stash, this year I decided to cut down on green fabrics. I went through the 2 large containers of green fabrics and came up with a plan. Anything over 1 yard, I would fold nice and keep, anything ½ yd to 1 yd I would cut into fat quarter to use later (when I buy one of those new fat quarter patterns), and anything less than ½ yd I cut into 1 ½” strips to be used in a Log Cabin quilt.

RulerHancock Fabrics has a new group of rulers from Marti Michell. One of the rulers is called a Log Cabin Ruler, which was perfect for my project to use up my green fabrics. On her ruler you could choose to have the strips cut 2 ½” or 1 ½” wide, and the rulers work well for both right and left handed sewers. Since I was making a scrappy quilt I decided to use the smaller size. I really liked using the ruler because you could get very accurate strips and than turn the strip and cut to the exact length for each ‘log’ you would need.

There aren’t a lot of instructions posted yet for these rulers, because they are so new. So here’s what I was able to discover through trial and error.

  • With this ruler you are able to start cutting the longest logs first until you got the number you needed.
  • You keep working your way down in size on the logs until you get down to cutting the center pieces.
  • When you go to sew your logs together they should match up exactly or you aren’t sewing an accurate ¼” seam allowance. (If this happens, stop and adjust your seam allowance before you sew anymore together.)

BlocksIt really helped me to have the ¼” quilter’s foot for my sewing machine. This method worked so great!!! Well, on Jan. 1st, I started my mission. I kept sewing and sewing and before I knew it I had enough blocks for 6 queen size comforters – 720 blocks!
My finished block will end up to be 7” wide. Each quilt will be 10 blocks across and 12 blocks down.

It’s a lot of quilts, and that’s just from the overrun of green I had in my stash! How many quilt-tops do you think your stash might make?

Go to Marti’s website to see quilts featured in her new book Log Cabin ABC’s Quilts

Tips on sewing your logs together to make the block:

  • The log cabin block is a block that traditional is light on one half and dark on the other half (with the block being cut in half on the diagonal). I started with a dark and ended with a dark.
  • Decide on the size of your block. Mine was letter “g” (7 ½”) using Marti’s ruler.
  • You will cut only one of that letter. All the other letters you will cut 2 of – one of dark and one of light.
  • Example: Dark Center “a”. Light “a”. Light “b”. Dark “b”, Dark “c”. Light “c” Light “d” Dark “d”, Dark “e”, Light “e”, Light “f” Dark “f” Dark “g’
  • There are so many different ways you can put these blocks together to get different looks. This picture shows my favorite way. Lay your blocks out and see what design is your favorite. [find link to log cabin layouts?]
  • If you are having a hard time trying to figure out a block layout – Hancock Fabric’s has a CD you can buy called Quilt Wizard. It is a CD that has 200 traditional blocks (Log Cabin is one of them) and gives you the ability to choose 3,000 different fabrics to color in your blocks. It shows you lots of different Log Cabin block layouts, letting you see the whole quilt without taking up your living room floor to lay out the quilt.
  • Several quilting books recommend cutting fabric 2 ½” wide for your binding. The width of the Log Cabin Ruler is 2 ½” – perfect for cutting your binding!
  • The ruler shows other designs you can make with the ruler – such as Court House Steps.

I have taught the Log Cabin quilt so many times and one challenge I find that people have is they don’t add the logs (fabric strips) in the right places. This is what I have found helpful.

  • Sew the first two “a” pieces together. Dark “a” is the first log and the light “a” is the second log.
  • After sewing, lay them out flat, facing up. When you sew the block always keep the last ‘log‘ that you attached closet to you – than, you will always add the next log to the right of the block.
  • This will keep you turning your block clockwise each time you add a log.
  • Below are some graphics to show what I mean.

Log Cabin Blocks

Log Cabin Quilt
Mission accomplished.
I am out the door to see what new fabrics are out there just waiting for me!

What have you done to clean up some of your stash? Share your ideas!
Sheila Reinke, Heart of Sewing