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The Snail's Tail

the snail's trail quilt block

The Snail's Tail is another well-known block that is great for beginners.  It is a great block to practice your math, as it has three rounds of Squares in Squares.

This block gets it's "personality" from the placement of the color.  It looks a lot more difficult than it is.  It is just squares and triangles.

Let's begin with the 4-patch in the center.  Cut the squares for this patch 2-inches. Sew the top row and the bottom row together.  Then sew the horizontal seam.

In the 4-patch lesson, we pressed the seam in one direction.  However, in a patch this small (it will finish at 3 1/2 inches), there is just too much bulk pressing the seams in one direction.

In the Pinwheel Lesson  you learned about pressing seams open when there is too much bulk.  However, there is another way to handle this.

construction of the snail's trail quilt block You can press half the seam one way, and half the other way.  In the picture you are looking at the back of the 4-Patch.  The horizontal seam on the right has been pressed down.  The seam on the left has been pressed up.

In order to do this, you have to rip out about three stitches.  (Sometimes you can gently pull on the fabric to remove them).  You are not removing any stitches from the horizontal seam.

The three stitches you remove are below the horizontal seam, and were part of the vertical seam that connected the bottom row.  These stitches were crossed with the horizontal seam, and are no longer necessary.  If you remove them, you can split the horizontal seam to press it.  

construction of the snail's trail quilt blockNow it is just a matter of adding Half Square Triangles  to the sides, trimming , and adding more.

There are three rounds. The dark and light colors will always be placed opposite each other on the square. 

Next you need to figure out how big to make the squares that you  are going to cut in half for the Half Square Triangles

To review the math- the first square finishes at 3 1/2 inches.  To find the length of the long side (the bias hypotenuse), you just divide 3 1/2 inches by 1.4142.  When you do that, you get 2.47. 

We are working with a raw block, so we just add another 3/8 inch for the seam ( or .375).  This measurement ends up at 2.85.  You can round off that number (higher), since you will be trimming  after each round.

So cut your squares for this round at 3 inches.  You will need one White Square and one Batik Square.  You will cut them in half diagonally for your triangles.

When you put your triangles on the 4-Patch, be sure that they align  so that the points meet, as depicted in the picture above.  Sew both sides, and then press them, pressing away from the center 4-patch. 

construction of the snail's trail quilt block

      Here is how your square will look after the first round. Your 4-patch squares should meet in the center, but notice the black line also.  There are two square points you must watch on every round to make sure you have the 1/4 inch space from the top of the square to the fabric edge.

 Trim your block after each round so that it is even, being careful to leave the 1/4 inch at the two square points.

Now it is time to add another around of Half Square Triangles. We need to do math again.  Measure the side of the square.  It should be approximately 4 1/2 inches.  (Yes, I did say approximately!)

You are going to be trimming, so you don't have to be exact. 

4 1/4 inches divided by 1.4142 is equal to 3.18. Add your 3/8 or an inch, and you have 3.56.  So a good size for your square is 3.75 or 3 3/4 inches.

Cut these squares diagonally, and go around the block again same as the last round.

For the final round, again measure your square and do the math.  (I'm going to let you figure it out this time).  Just be sure and add the triangles to the correct side.

You are done....and hopefully by now you are a "triangle expert" .

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