I may have mentioned that I joined a quilting block bee in January.  We all take turns deciding what all of us are making.  We send the block to the leader and she makes a quilt with the blocks.  August is my month and I thought I’d publish a tutorial on how to make a modified postage stamp block.

Strictly speaking, a postage stamp quilt has no repeated fabrics.  That’s why you take your stash, cut a strip of each of your fabrics, cut those into squares and then make up packages with one square of each fabric per package.  Then you join a postage stamp swap.  You send people a package and they send you one.  You each then have a new-to-you group of unique squares.  When you have enough, you start sewing.

Well, a while back I was given 200 2″ squares.  It occurred to me that perhaps I could get this bee to help me out with this task.  The blocks for this bee are all 12.5″ square.  I figured it out and that works out to everyone having to cut 64  2″ squares, sew them into 8 rows of 8 and then sew those rows into a block.  I decided that that was too much work to ask of my bee-mates.  Also, perhaps 64 different fabrics would be more than some people’s scrap stash would contain.  Some people (not me), don’t keep scraps (unbelievable to me  :) ).  Sometimes, they use up all their scraps to assemble the back, so as not to have any fabric left over.

left: 8 lights...right: 8 darks

Here’s my compromise:  Although all the fabrics are supposed to be unique, in this method, you’ll only need 16 different fabrics: 8 lights and 8 darks.  These light/dark designations sometimes scare people.  There are some fabrics that are light AND dark.  Doesn’t matter.  Just put them in one or the other group.  If there are any in the wrong group, it’ll be obvious.

Cut a 2″ x 9″ strip from each fabric like the picture on the right.

arranged alternating light and dark

Next, pick 2 darks and 2 lights and arrange them to alternate: light/dark/light/dark.  Do that twice.  Now pick another 2 darks and 2 lights and arrange them dark/light/dark/light.  Do that with the last 4 strips.  It will look like the picture on the left.

Now we’re going to sew these strips together.  Choose a small stitch length (mine was 14 stitches to the inch).

The strips are sewn together in the picture on the  right.  Iron the seams of half of the strip blocks to the left and half to the right.  This way the seam allowances can nest later.

Now, lie the strip blocks on the cutting board with the seams horizontally in front of you.  You’re going to square off one side of each block.  Next cut these strip blocks into 4 2″ strips like shown on the left.

Take one strip from each group and arrange them.  Do this 4 times.  This is shown on the right.  I’ve arranged the strips so that lights and darks alternate again.

Once we’ve sewn this arrangement together, there should be 4 6.5″ blocks consisting of 16 2″ squares each.  That’s what the arithmetic would tell you.  In actuality, each time you make a seam, a tiny bit of length is taken up with the folding.  In a block like this where you’ve folded 4 times in both directions, it adds up.  Although I have an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance (as shown), my blocks are closer to 6.25″.  This may happen to you too.  That’s ok.

You’re done, if you’re doing this as part of this Bee (see button on the right).  If you’re doing this for yourself, well, you might still be done if you’re making 6″ blocks (finished size).

I will be getting 4 of everyone’s 6.5″ blocks.  In order to maximize the randomness of the fabrics, I’ll be mixing up the 6.5′s, sewing together 4 to make a 12.5″ block and then sashing them into a finished flimsy to calm the overall cacophany.

It took much longer to do this post than the choosing/sewing/cutting.  The block took me just under an hour.  I hope the instructions are clear.  Thank you so much Bee-mates for doing this for me!  As you can see, colours doesn’t matter.  The uniformity of all these blocks will (hopefully) come from the contrast of the lights and darks.  You can use large or small print fabrics, or plains.  It should all work out nicely.

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1 Comment on Bee Block tut for August

  1. Mrs.Pickles says:

    Great tutorial! This is going to make a wonderful quilt!!

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