28 March 2012

Diamond Stack Block - Tutorial

This quarter, for the 4x5 Modern Quilt Bee, I decided to experiment with a new shape: the diamond, without templates or paper-piecing.  I wrote a little bit more about how the bee works here.  This time, I asked for scrappy, saturated, multi-color blocks. 

This was my test block!  I think it's much easier to make than it looks, but you do have to be consistent with your cutting and piecing.

Materials to make one 12.5-inch square block: 

9 1.75" x 3.5" pieces (these will become the little diamonds) in colors of your choice
6 1.5" x 3.25" pieces white (or other background fabric)
2 1.5" x 9" pieces white (or other background fabric)
4 1" x 8" pieces for the lattice between little diamonds, in coordinating colors
2  roughly 7-8"x 11-12" rectangles white (or other background fabric)*

*these could theoretically be much smaller, or maybe you can think of a better way to fill out the background, but this is what I used to make sure I had enough area covered.

Get going!

To start, cut up the nine 1.75" x 3.5" pieces into diamonds. 
Line up the 60-degree line of your ruler along the top of the fabric, so that the line your ruler intersects with the bottom right corner of the fabric. Cut!

Keeping your ruler's angle and the fabric as-is, with the 60-degree mark along the top, slide the ruler over 2 inches from the (new) top right corner of the fabric.  It helps to use the 30-degree angle line (pictured above, but it doesn't show the 30-degree label... it's the one that makes a right angle with the 60-degree line) on your ruler lined up with the vertical cutting mat lines.  

Cut!  You can stack your rectangles and do a few at once, or go one at a time, if you like. Here, I did three at a time.  You can also continue cutting diamonds at 2-inch intervals from one long strip of 1.75" fabric.

Arrange your diamonds in a 3x3 grid!

Pair up six of the diamonds with one 1.5" x 3.25" strip as pictured.

Position the white strips so that there is about a 1/4-inch overlap of white extending beyond the diamond's edge.

Sew, (using a 1/4-inch seam), press, and trim top and bottom, using the edge of the diamond piece as a guide.  For the entire block, I pressed my seams away from the diamonds, but you can do whatever you like best. 

You'll end up with 6 of these suckers!

Match them up with a lonely diamond, and sew together each line of three units so that you have three pieced diamond strips.  

As you piece together the diamonds, make sure you leave little tails (measuring a scant 1/4-inch) on both sides.  This will help the edges of the diamonds line up.  

Do the same thing if you're just adding on a diamond to a white piece, don't forget the tails!

You'll end up with three strips. Don't worry too much if they're not lining up perfectly, but they should look pretty decent.  

Trim off the little tails!

Attach the the two 1.5" x 9" white strips to the first two lines of pieced diamonds.  Make sure to leave an inch or so of white overhang on either side, so that there will be fabric in the right spot when you trim along the sides of the diamonds. 

Be gentle when you sew, since you're sewing along the bias-edge of the diamonds. Press open and trim, following the angles of the diamonds again.  

Connect the two strips that have a strip of white (pins really help at this point!) and press open.

And attach the final line of pieced diamonds.  Press open.  (See those little triangle tails sticking out?)

Trim 'em.

Now you have this. It would be pretty on it's own, or you can go ahead and insert lattice strips!

I think this is my favorite part!  Using your ruler, line up the 1/2 inch mark along the edge of one of the white strips, and cut, dividing it along the middle. This will create the effect of having stitched on tiny 1/4-inch white borders around each diamond, without having to work with a bunch of tiny pieces.  

Do it again on the parallel white strip, to create three pieced diamond strips again.

Now you can connect them with colorful lattice strips, just like you did with the white strips earlier.

Take two of your 1" x 8" lattice strips and sew them to the side that has white of two of the pieced diamond strips. I definitely use pins at this point, especially, because the lattice strips are so narrow. 

Sew both, press, and trim.

Attach the two pieced strips that have lattice strips sewn on.

And attach the final diamond strip.  

Slice again, in the other direction!

Sew the final two lattice strips on, press, and trim.  (err, not trimmed yet in the picture...)

Attach them all together, and you have your diamond!

Trim off all the tails, perhaps taking a little fabric off with them to straighten up your edges.  Just a bit, because sashing can make up for any slight unevenness.  

At this point, you can sash the blocks however you like to reach your desired finished size.  I think they'd look great as rectangles, but for this bee, I had to get them to 12.5 inches square. 

That's what took the most trial and error for me.  I had to figure out how to "block out" the diamond to make a square 12.5-inch block.  It's possible my fabric size suggestions might be too high for you, but I like to have a little wiggle room.  Nothing's worse than sewing something up and realizing it's just a quarter inch too small. Yikes.

Basically, I cut two rectangles diagonally, using the 60-degree line on my ruler, echoing the angle of the diamond, and sewed the 4 resulting triangles to the edges of the diamond to make a square.  I did this various ways, depending what fabric I had on hand. There's likely a better way, but here are a couple of diagrams of how I did it.

They're not to scale, and don't line up perfectly in real life. There was a lot of trimming involved after the pieces were attached to the big diamond.  

In this case, I cut a long skinny rectangle into two pieces that would fit in the top right and bottom left corners. 

Then I cut another rectangle, below, into two big, long triangles that would fill the other corners, overlapping with the other corner pieces. 

(In this case, you have to trim off the excess from the first two pieces before pressing open) You could also do four long skinny triangles like these, with not much more fabric waste.  Y-seams?  Sure, but that seemed more complicated to me.  Because I don't know how to do them.

I do know that it's all about the tails, right to the end.  

And a 12.5-inch ruler saves the day when squaring up, every time.  

Here are all my finished blocks, in the colors requested by my hive-mates.  See that gray one (bottom middle)?  I didn't have pieces of ash that were big enough for the huge triangles treatment, so I just used smaller ones and strips to fill the space. Another option!  

You can see all my blocks up close here, where I write a bit more about my color choices and placement. 

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  1. Thank you for these visuals and tutorial - I think these are gorgeous diamonds :)

  2. Wow, this is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Thanks!

  3. This is awesome - thanks for posting this tutorial! I can't wait to try it :)

  4. Yay, awesome tutorial! The piecing looked so fussy, I assumed it was paper-pieced when I saw the block. :D

  5. these are amazingly cool! i just made one of your lone starburst blocks, and this one is going to be next!

  6. This is a fantastic tutorial - I will definitely be trying this out - I thought it must be foundation pieced too, but I love the method you've used. Jennie

  7. I didn't realize that you did the tutorial for this! I am one of the lucky bees to receive your fabulous blocks

  8. You did an awesome job on doing this tutorial!! I can't wait to try it. I have always been intimidated by this shape, but no more!! Thank you!!

  9. Beautiful block and a really helpful tutorial! I still have doubts that I could make one of these, but maybe someday... Thanks for sharing your hard work!

  10. thank you for your tutorial.
    Yoúr blocks are breathtaking, I love them all!
    I have to try some.
    Good job, I wish you more ideas for new tutorials like this one.

  11. I love this Block and posted my block on Flicker referencing this tutorial.
    Thank you, I can't wait to make more, love love love it!

  12. You have some great block tutorials! Thank you for sharing them. I've added your blocks to my favorites in the BLOCK LIBRARY at Gen X Quilters. Can't wait to try some!

  13. To get the right measurement to make the square, I made a mock-up in freezer paper. First I cut a square, the size I wanted to end up with, and then a diamond, the same size I had sewn. I then ironed the diamond onto the square, cut out the four sides which I then ironed onto the white fabric, adding 1/4" before I cut out those pieces. Easy, the right size from the start, and no fabric waste!

  14. So totally COOL! I love it, found your blog via a posting about the "lone star" paper piecing. Love this block a ton! I have tagged you blog as something to follow and read :) Keep up the great ideas :)

  15. I love your paper pieced blocks. But these are definitely my favorites. There is just something about diamonds that really appeal to me.

  16. Great blocks! I've been asked to make some of these for a bee and I'm far more comfortable with foundation paper piecing. Have you drawn up a template anywhere?


  17. Oooooo...the red, white and light blue (aqua maybe) is stunning! I love it. I wonder what this would look like in Kaffe Fassett with their gray &/or black in between. <3.


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