Friday, May 31, 2019

How to Do Radially Symmetric Pattern Blocks aka Stack and Whack or One Block Wonder

I have been asked to do a presentation to a local quilt guild on my "stack and whack" quilts.  What I have discovered about myself is that I love radial symmetry which is why I was so attracted to this kind of block originally.  Also playing into this was that I don't ever (except in ONE case) do two blocks the same and of course with this type of quilting, you use only one fabric but every block is different.  I have heard differentiation of "stack and whack" and "one block wonders" but they are essentially the same thing but the second having a well defined set.  Even in my dyeing, I am most intrigued by making radially symmetric blocks with ice dyeing.  Below are my steps to making this type of quilt.  This quilt uses six repeats of the fabric and makes hexagons.
Picking the Fabric

The key to making interesting radially symmetric patterns is picking the appropriate fabric which has a reasonably lengthy repeat. You can measure the repeat by looking at the selvedge and look at the cut end of the fabric and search for a definable object and move your eyes up along the selvedge until you see that same object. You can then measure that length and that will give you the repeat length. This can range from 2 inches to 36 inches depending upon the fabric.

The best fabrics are ones with multiple colors and not a lot of background space. The images should be reasonably large but not overwhelmingly so. There are of course exceptions to this. A good tool for this is a folding mirror that you can swing along the edge of the fabric to see whether there is enough variety to make it interesting.

Determining How Much You Need

Any pattern which has some sort of repeating element around a middle point will work for a stack and whack. Good examples are hexagons, octagons (kaleidoscope block), almost any star design and even the lowly four patch. Once you decide which you will do, you need to multiply the number of occurrences of the repeating pattern by the repeat length you determined above. So if your repeat is 12 inches and you are doing a hexagon based design (6 sides), you would multiply the 12 x 6 and decide you need 72 inches or 2 yards. Now you may want to make a much bigger quilt so you might multiply that by 2 or 3. I generally buy just a ¼ yard extra just in case!  The repeat on the above quilt was about 12 inches.

Cutting the Fabric

The first step is to divide the fabric into two lengthwise so that each piece is 22 inches (or so) by the length of the fabric. Then I determine where the repeat is and made a small slit on the selvedge side and after I get them all marked, I tear the fabric (I don't use a rotary cutter as I have found that you get a more even start with tearing). You would do this with each half of the fabric if you want lots of blocks.

Arranging the Stack

This step is the very important one and the reason you divide the fabric to make it manageable. Stack up the fabrics in the pile each fabric going in the same direction. Now start pinning the four (or six or eight) layers carefully together. I do this by starting at one corner and pushing the pin through the exact same spot on each of the fabrics below it. I leave the pin just pushing down and move about 1 ½ to 2 inches down and do the same. I do this down the whole length of the fabric. Then I make sure every thing is parallel and start pinning by taking a separate pin and replacing the first pin. I do this down the length. I repeat this on all four sides. You would be surprised at how wonky the fabric is even after you have pinned three sides. It gets easier each side. It is a perfect thing to do while watching tv. I usually trim away a little bit on either side where it was torn at this point and also get rid of the selvedge.

Cutting the Strips

Well, by now you have decided which pattern you are using. You can either use a predetermined width of fabric or decide now how wide you want to make your strips. I don't like to waste fabric so I tend to go with the second alternative and do some division of the repeat. So if I have a 24 inch repeat, I might do 5 ¾ inch strips (instead of the 6 inch strip as I like to make sure all is even) or a even a 7 ¾ inch strip (this would make an awfully big square or hexi so don't usually go that big). I also look at the pattern of the fabric itself to see how large the elements are and use that as a guideline. I have found if I have a 12 inch repeat that the pattern itself has much smaller elements so tend to go with 2 ¾ inch strips or 3 ¾ (or 7/8) inch strips.

Cutting the Triangles, Diamonds or Squares

I use 45 degree and 60 degree triangles to cut the triangles for an octagonal or hexagonal block. I have also used just a ruler and used the 60 degree and 45 degree angles, made diamonds (and either leave that way) or cut the diamonds in half to make the appropriate triangles.

These hexagons were cut from a very large Hawaiian print that wasn't particularly attractive but certainly made nice blocks!

This was another not very attractive print of vegetables.  I cut two different size triangles for this one and set the whole thing on point.  It uses the familiar kaleidoscope block which is eight sides..

The fabric for the centers of these stars is in the border.  This was an unusual star pattern which we had a class on in QBTS .

This is a One Block Wonder quilt which was unfinished at the time of this pic.  I  have no idea where this quilt is now!!  I must have given it away!

 This was a purchased pattern which used four patches for the repeating pattern, so only needed four repeats of the fabric but again, it was two different sizes of squares.

This was again a pattern from a book called Serendipity Quilts by Sara Nephews.  It uses six pointed stars in the middle of the more complex blocks with simple hexagons surrounding them.  I had to use the size strips that were called for in the book.  I made several of  this type of quilt a number of years ago.  It is not quite done in the pic!  It is about three shades lighter now from all the washings as the cats love to sleep on it!  You'll note that I cannot help myself a so used variations of the block so I didn't have to do the same block 10 times!!

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