Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On the Trail of the Snail

All righty then.  I took a boatload of new photos today, as I made another Snail's Trail block, just to make sure I'd caught all the action.
Here we go, in a nice high-contrast red and white.  (My small quilt group is doing red and white quilts as the Nov/Dec challenge, so if I decide to participate in it (you know, in my spare time), this puts me one block ahead.  Yay!)

So, in my long ago and far away posts where I was first contemplating Snail's Trails, I decided that I didn't want to fart around with templates and weird measurements to make the blocks.  There had to be a way to make them easily with the size strips that I keep on hand.
So I gave it a think and came up with the following.  You'll need an Easy Angle ruler, or the equivalent, by the way.

Start with a 1.5" and a 2.5" strip of your background fabric, and the same of the main color.

Step 1:  I like to stack the fabrics to make the cutting go quicker, as you'll need the same size pieces of each.
Start with the 1.5" strips.  Cut a piece 3" long, then reach for your Easy Angle ruler and cut two triangles.

Step 2:  Amuse yourself by arranging the pieces to look like a happy face.

Step 3: Now grab the 2.5" strip.  First cut a 2.5" square and cut it diagonally corner to corner.

Then grab that Easy Angle again, and cut two triangles.

Step 4:  Sew together the 1.5"x3" strips along one long edge and press open.  I always press the seam allowance toward the dark fabric, but you can press it whichever way you like.  There are no quilt police.

Cut the unit in half - each piece will be 1.5" wide.

Make a 4patch by rotating one of the pieces, matching the seams, and stitching along one long edge.

Step 5:  Now it's time to trim the square.  The target size is 2" unfinished, so line up the 1" lines along the seam lines

and trim.  You can do two sides at once!  Yay, efficiency!

Then rotate the square, line up the ruler again, and trim the other two sides.

And the finished product, which measures 2" square.

Now the astute among you will realize at this point that we could have just started with pieces that measured 1.25" wide, and wouldn't have had to trim two of the edges.  And you're absolutely right.  I'm not normally a fan of oversize-and-trim, but in this case I'd rather have a little wiggle room.  Plus, when I tried it, I found that it bothered me that the measurements didn't look 'square' to me as I was sewing the 4patch together.  It was just weird enough that it threw off my eye, so I went back to 1.5".  Your mileage may vary.

Step 6:  It's time for the triangles we cut from the 1.5" strip.
Now this is important.  In order for all the trails of all the snails to wind in the same direction (which you want,  trust me), always always always make sure that the color you're applying matches the color in the upper left corner as this photo shows.

(Note:  If you want your snails to trail in the opposite direction that mine do, just make your rule the opposite of mine - always always always make sure that the color you're applying matches the color in the upper right corner.  It isn't important which way you choose to go, but it's very very important that once you pick a direction, you stick with it.  Forever.  Or at least until you finish this quilt.)

So, okay then.  Check to see if you've got the correct side, and position the triangle.  One handy thing is that the point of the triangle will line up with the center seam of the 4patch, which makes it easier to line up. Stitch the triangle on, open out, then sew the other dark triangle to the opposite side. 

Press that side open as well, then sew one of the background triangles on

and then the other.

Now I take the unit over to the ironing board and press it flat. 
Square it up to 2.5".  Notice that the 1.25" line on the ruler passes right through the centerpoint of the 4patch.

Woohoo!  Round one is done!


Step 7:  Grab the triangles that came from the 2.5" square we cut in half.  This one is a little trickier to line up by eye, so I fold it in half and pinch it at the center to mark it.  Don't sweat too much over it as the triangle is a wee bit bigger than it has to be, so it'll probably be fine.  (Probably.)

Sew a dark triangle to two opposite sides

and then repeat with the background triangles.

And tada!  Round 2 is done.  This time, square it up to a scant 3.5". 

Step 8:  Now grab that last set of triangles - the ones we cut with the Easy Angle.
You know the drill by now.

Anyone see what I'm doing wrong in that last picture?

Remember that warning I gave you back in step 6?


So, step 8a:  Employ the seam ripper, then do it right.

Sew on your background triangles and voila!  Go, snail, go!

And full disclosure - I actually was making two blocks throughout this tutorial.  I figured it doubled the odds that I'd remember to photograph each step.  And I think it worked!

Now, I usually stop here with my snails, but you can add another round if you like.  If you cut a 3.5" square in half,

you can run another lap. 

If you want to go any bigger than that, you're on your own.
Though now that I think about it, a quilt called 'The Attack of the Giant Snails' might be fun...

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