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Lesson # 7 - The Pinwheel Block

The pinwheel block is a good beginner block.  It is composed of 4 triangles, that when put together,  give the effect of a pinwheel.  The above picture shows the effect when 4 pinwheel blocks are joined.

There are several new things to learn with this block.  One thing you will learn in this lesson is a shortcut method to make triangles.  There are also a couple tips you need to learn (that you will also apply to other blocks) to do a good job making this block.

The first thing you must know about this block is that in order to get the pinwheel effect, you must use a light fabric on one side of your triangle, and a dark fabric on the other side.

Let's make the triangles.  You could make them one at a time, as you learned in the triangle lesson  but with this shortcut method you will make 8 of them at one time.

You will need two 6-inch squares, one a dark fabric, and the other a light fabric.  Put them right sides together, making sure they are properly aligned on top of each other.  Use a few pins if necessary.

Draw a diagonal line on the side with the lighter fabric from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.  Do the same things from the top right corner to the bottom left corner. 

After you have your two diagonal lines drawn, take your block to the sewing machine and stitch 1/4 inch on both sides of each line. 

Then take your block to your cutting mat, set it down, and without moving it, cut between your lines of sewing  on the drawn diagonal line, as well as the solid lines depicted in the illustrations.

 Try not to disturb the fabric when you cut it  vertically and horizontally.

 If the fabric moves, you can just set it back in place.  You do not need to mark the vertical and horizontal lines which cut the blocks in half.  Use your ruler to find the middle of the squares.

Be very careful, as you should always cut away from yourself for safety reasons.  Setting your block on the corner of the cutting table so that you can walk around  helps.  Better yet is to buy a small cutting board that turns.

When you pull apart the block, you will now have 8 triangles that are slightly oversized for 2 1/2 inches.

Take them to the ironing board, and putting the dark side on top, press the seam open.  They will look like the picture on the left.

The next thing you will do is to cut off the tails, (those little pieces that stick out) , and then trim your squares or cut them down to 2 1/2 inches.

                                          When I need to trim up a square, I usually reach for either my small or large square ruler, which has a 45 degree line on it.

Notice how you place the 45 degree angle on the seam line, and then line up the horizontal and vertical lines at the 2 1/2 inch mark.

 After your have trimmed your half square triangles to 2 1/2 inches, you are ready to sew them together.

Sew the top two units together, and the bottom two units together. 

Below you see pictured the top two squares sewn together, as well as the bottom two squares sewn together.  What is vital is that you see that 1/4 inch between the edge of the fabric and the points of the triangles.

When you sew  the top unit to the bottom unit, you are going to have to be very precise.    You must line up the seam on the top with the seam on the bottom.  You also must be very careful not to cut off any of the points of your triangles.  This is where a lot of quilters get in trouble.  Your quilting will never look good if you cut off the points of your triangles.  

Here is how you avoid that, in addition to sewing a precise 1/4 inch seam.

  Always sew so that you can see your stitching lines.  Never cross them so as to cut off a point.  If you have been accurately sewing your quarter inch seam, you should be fine.  The picture below shows where your sewing line should be.

  Your final step will be to sew the top and bottom together.  This is an interesting seam, because at the middle, you have 8 pieces coming together.  There are a couple ways to handle this, but I have found it easiest to just press this seam open.  It will not work to press this seam in one direction.  It is too bulky, and the front will be lumpy and not look good.

  Look close and you can see the horizontal seam in the middle.  It is pressed open.  It may weaken the quilt a little, but you will not be happy with the front of the quilt if you do not do it.

Your pinwheel is done.


On to Lesson #8 -
The Flying Geese Block

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