Friday, May 4, 2012

31 - Cactus Flower

 Cactus Flower - a 12 inch finished block.
  This week's block in the Skill Builder Sampler will allow us to practice inset or y-seams.  I had never tried inset seams before this block and I have to say that they aren't as bad as I thought.  With a bit of marking, pinning and careful sewing inset seams are not a problem.

Inset or y-seams are used when three pieces of fabric need to be sewn together and a simple straight seam won't do.  Faith from Fresh Lemons wrote an excellent tutorial about y-seams.  Her pictures and explanations are very clear and I would encourage you to read her post before starting this block.


Background Fabric (white):
3 - 2.25 inch squares
2 - 2.75 inch squares cut on the diagonal
1 - 5.25 inch square cut on the diagonal

Flower Fabric (reds):
4 - 1.75 inch diamonds

To cut a 1.75 inch diamond, cut a 1.75 inch wide strip of fabric.  Make sure that the side is cut at a right angle to the top and bottom

Line up the 45 degree angle mark with the side of the strip.  Cut along the ruler.

Move the ruler over so that the 1.75 inch line is even with the edge of the fabric and cut.  Repeat the process for all 4 diamond petals.

Leaf and Stem Fabric (green):
2 - 1.75 inch diamonds (use the process outlined above)
1 strip of fabric 1.25 x 6 inches cut on the bias

The straight of the fabric or grain runs parallel to the selvage.  Cutting on the bias mean cutting the fabric at a 45 degree angle to the straight of the fabric.  In this case, the exactness of the angle isn't too important.  Simply cut the corner off of the stem fabric at an angle, move the ruler over 1.25 inches and cut the stem strip. Cutting this strip on the bias allows the stem to be easily curved and shaped.

Inner border fabric (red):
4 - 2x7 inch strips

Border Corner Pieces (green):
2 - 4 inch squares cut on the diagonal


 Mark each of the 2.25 inch squares in one corner, the 2.75 inch triangles at the right angle and all of the diamonds.  I marked all 4 corners on my diamonds, but you really only need to mark the obtuse/large angles.

To mark the fabric pieces, line up the 1/4 inch line on the ruler with the edge of the piece.  Make a mark with a pen or pencil at the corners.  Move the ruler to the other edge of the piece.  Again line up the 1/4 inch  line with the edge of the fabric and make lines near the corners.  This line should make an X with the previous line.  If it does not, go back and lengthen the lines until they cross.

 Lay out the pieces as shown.

 Sew the 4 diamond "flower petals" together.  Pin two adjoining pieces together.  Sew from the quarter inch line on the obtuse angle to the edge of the fabric on the acute/pointy angle.

 To sew, place the needle down right where the marking lines cross.  Take two slow stitches forward.  Back stitch two stitches, then proceed forward to the end of the diamond.

 Take the pieces out of the machine and trim the threads.  You should be able to open up the top of the seam.  Repeat this process until all 4 flower petals are sewn together.  All of the top seams should start 1/4 inch in and all the petal diamonds should all be sewn together where they come together to a point.

 Trim off the excess fabric at the point.  Now we are ready to sew the background square and triangles to the petals.

 To sew the middle square in, open up the petals and wiggle the marked corner of the square down into the seam allowance, keeping the edge of the square lined up with the edge of one of the diamond petals.  The goal is to line up the middle of the X on the square and the middle of the X on one of the petal diamonds.  To make sure that the X's line up, poke a pin straight through the X on the square.  If the pin comes out in the middle of the X on the diamond, the pieces are lined up.  If it doesn't, keep adjusting until it does.  Sew from the X (remembering to back stitch) to the end of the fabric.

 Open up the seam.  Line up the other side of the square with the adjacent petal.

Move the excess fabric out of the way, and pin to the adjoining petal.  Sew from the X to the edge of the fabric.

Do as I say - not as I do.
Repeat this process and add the two triangles to the two remaining spaces between the petals.  Refer often to the layout so that you don't end up doing this!

 To make the stem, press the edges of the 1.25 x 6 inch strip under so that the strip is approx. 1/2 inch wide.

 Sew the edge of one of the leaf diamonds to the left long edge of a 2.75 inch background triangle.  Sew from edge to edge.  Press open.  Pin the stem to the opposite side side of the triangle, parallel to the leaf diamond.  (I left a space between the stem and the leaf diamond, but if I was to redo it I would butt the stem right up to the leaf diamond.  I think my stem looks rather silly.)

 Sew the other leaf diamond to the other long edge of the triangle, catching the stem in the seam.  Sew from edge to edge on this seam also.

 Next, sew the leaf unit to the bottom of the petal unit.  Sew from X to X as marked above.

 Sew the side squares between the petal and leaf unit using your inset seam skills.  These are the last inset seams of the block!

 Once the side squares are set in, sew the large background triangle to the bottom of the flower unit.  Be sure to move the stem out of the way so it isn't caught in the seam.

 Press the large background triangle away from the flower unit, and press the stem so that it forms a nice curve that ends just to the side of the bottom corner.  Pin the stem in place.

 Using a small zig zag, stitch along each edge of the stem to attach it to the background.  Make sure the thread blends decently well with the color of the stem.

 Trim off the excess stem.  Wow!  The hardest part is done!  The block should measure 6.5 inches at this point.  If it doesn't, don't worry, we will be adding borders and can make up for any size problems in the final border.

 Sew the 2x7 inch inner border strips to all 4 sides of the block.  Make sure that the excess fabric is even on each side of the block.  The border fabric will stick out by about 1/4 inch on each side.

 Next stitch the 4 inch half square triangles to the corners of the blocks.  The first time I sewed on a corner, I just laid the fabric a 1/4 inch above the corner of the main block with the corners overlapping the border and sewed it didn't work that well.  It is very easy to get a crooked triangle this way.

 I would suggest trimming off the excess corner fabric before sewing on the corner triangles.  To do this, line up the corner of the main block with the 1/4 inch vertical mark and a horizontal inch mark.  Lining up the corner 1/4 inch away from the edge of the ruler makes sure there is enough room for the 1/4 inch seam.

 Make sure the ruler is at the correct angle by lining up the inch line from this corner, through the middle of the block and to the opposite corner.  Cut off excess fabric.  Center the border triangle along the newly cut edge and sew.  Repeat for all four corners.  Press towards the border triangles.  This square should measure 9.5 inches square.

If your block measures 9.5 inches square, cut strips of  fabric 2.5 inches wide and sew them to all four sides of the block. If your block is smaller than 9.5 inches square, cut the strips of fabric 3 inches wide.

Trim the block to exactly 12.5 inches square and give yourself a pat on the back!

Ahh.... I love it!

Please let me know if there are any steps that aren't completely clear.  This is quite an involved block and tutorial.  It is very possible I might have overlooked some detail.  Enjoy!  I can't wait to see your blocks!


  1. Este é um assunto muito sério...Um dos blocos mais lindos que já vi nos últimos trinta anos e que explicação bem feita.Já fiquei imaginando uma colcha para minha neta que só tem 17 dias,então terei tempo para caprichar e fazer com calma,você não acha?Estou pensando em uma colcha para sua adolescência,talvez um presente de 15 anos...claro que nem tão demorado...Eu tenho um neto de 20 meses você poderia criar com tanto talento um bloco para menino?Desculpe o abuso,mas estou realmente encantada.DEUS TE ABENÇOE.Beijos.

  2. This block is very pretty and I am excited to give it a try! The tutorial sounds great, but I'll let you know if anything comes up while I am doing it!! Thanks Leila!

  3. Okay seriously. I really don't mind inset seams because I've done them quite a few times but this block was irksome to me. There isn't anything wrong with it and mine came out perfectly size-wise but the whole time I was making it I thought, is this really worth it? Now that I'm done I love it and I think, okay I could make another one of those. It's funny how quickly I forget when I see the final product. ;)