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The Spool Block

The Spool Block is good beginner block.  It is an old pattern, and looks particularly good with small scale prints with a vintage feel.

It is not usually used as a building block, but used by itself, and turned in different directions. 

There are a couple things to practice and learn with this block. 

The above block was made in sections that finish at 2 1/2 inches.  It is made from squares and half square triangles.  It is a 9-patch block.  4 half square triangles, and 5 squares are put together to make this block.

The first thing to practice is cutting 2 1/2 inch squares.  If you are using 4-inch squares, practice cutting them down to 2 1/2 inches.

Next, you need to make some half square triangles. 

In this exercise, we are not going to use the quick piecing method for triangles.

In the Triangle Lesson you learned the importance of 7/8 of an inch when cutting squares to make half triangles.

If you want you triangles to finish at 2 1/2 inches, you need to cut a square 2 1/2 inches plus 7/8 of an inch, or 3 3/8 inches.  In order to practice cutting down, (which is another way to be more accurate) cut your squares at 3 1/2 inches and then trim them down, as shown in the picture above.

(Remember that first you cut your squares, then you cut them on the diagonal, and then you sew them together, usually using a dark and a light).

You will find that when you lay out the pieces, you may get a little confused which way to turn the half square triangles.

It is very easy to turn one of them the wrong way.  Stand back and squint to make sure they form a spool.

What I want you to practice next is sewing the first 2 blocks in each row together, without cutting the threads.

In the picture, if you look carefully, you can see that there are threads connecting the first row with the second row; and the second row with the third row.

When I sewed this block, I flipped the middle column top piece over on the left column upper piece (right sides together). 

After I sewed those two blocks together, I did the same with the second row, and the third row. I did not cut the threads between sewing the blocks together.

This is called "chain piecing".  If you have a lot of seams to sew together, you can just keep feeding them under the presser foot, one after the other, and they will all be connected by your sewing thread.

This is a speed sewing technique, but also comes in very handy when you don't want to lose the placement of your pieces.

Now all that is left to do is to sew the rows together.  There is no way to get confused now.  However, I do find that after I put a few pins at the ends of the row, I need to clip the threads so I can align the seams properly.  Others are able to flip the rows together, and just feel the seams nesting below and get it right.

One last note:  If you decide to cut off the little "ears" from the triangles before you cut them down, use your large scissors.  You may think that cutting off such a small amount of fabric only requires your small scissors, but it will be much easier with your large scissors. You also have the option to nip them off with your rotary cutter.

Here is a typical arrangement of the Spool Blocks.  This quilt is best as a "scrappy quilt", which means that you use lots and lots of different prints, in this case for the spools.

                   
                   
                                            


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