Friday, November 28, 2014

Here are my first four vintage spin blocks from Kathy Doughty's book Adding Layers. I am using this as an opportunity to visit some of my larger hunks of fabric--fabric that I adored when I bought it--but then discovered it didn't necessarily play well with others. And not playing well with others turns out to be a great fabric choice for this block!

I would also like to mention that on the first block, I hand appliqued the circle. Not a good choice for this block. The rest of the block comes together so quickly, consider it the fast food of patchwork. So for a quick machine sewn circle, I turned to Dale Fleming's method. (She demonstrates this technique on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, or in the HGTV archives of Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson). Below I give the step by step process I am using for this quilt....

Here is the vintage spin block trimmed to a square. For the center circle, I cut a 4.5 inch square.

The first step is cut out two pieces of freezer paper and iron the slick sides together to make your template material. Draw and then cut out a circle from the freezer paper making it whatever size you want your finished applique circle to be.  Line this up over the hole on the back side of your spin block.

Now, using a very light touch, use a washable glue stick to tack the circle open around the freezer paper. Typically you would want to clip the circle in order to ease the curve around the freezer paper template. But for this block you only need to open up the vintage spin seams a couple of stitches. Did I mention to use a very light touch with the glue stick? Don't let the glue go past the fabric so you can iron the whole thing super flat. You will use the crease for your sewing line, so really make this neat, nice and flat.

Now take your glue stick and glue the part of the fabric that hangs over the freezer paper template. Dale Fleming demonstrates a very liberal use of the glue stick for this part, but I didn't find that necessary. But you will need more glue for the fabric to fabric connection than what you used for gluing the fabric to the freezer paper template.

Next, lay your 4.5 inch square of fabric right side down onto the glued circle. (See the photo above second row, left side.) Iron. Now turn it over and admire the beauty of your vintage spin block. We aren't done yet, but I did want to make sure you had turned the block over so that the right side is facing up.

From the right side of the block, gently pull the freezer paper template away. It should come up easily if you used a light touch with the glue stick. As you can see, I cut a slit in my paper template to make it easier to remove. But be gentle because you can use this template over and over.

You will now sew the spin block and your square of fabric together carefully following the crease lines. On the first block, I just used my regular sewing foot...but then I remembered that Dale Fleming recommends using a zipper foot. And yes, this does make it easier. HOWEVER, you will have to move your needle over AND change the plate to accommodate moving the needle. (A loud thud will indicate that you did not do this correctly. Don't ask me how I know.)

In any case, sewing along the crease is relatively easy. If you wander off the crease going too wide, you can just leave those stitches in tact, but hit the crease on a second try.

After the seam is sewn, trim away the excess fabric so you have a typical quarter inch seam. At this stage the seam will be facing out away from the inner circle. Feel free to iron the seam back in towards the inner circle. Or not.

Ta da! Admittedly, the first go at this method will seem fiddly. But you will be able to use the freezer paper template over and over again. (To reuse the freezer paper template, I just close the slit with scotch tape on the back side that doesn't get ironed. I slit the tape with a seam ripper when I remove the template again).  I think Dale Fleming calls this the 6 minute circle method, but I think that included time for making a cup of coffee, drinking it and unloading the dishwasher.


  1. I'm really going to have to make some of these. I really love the halo effect on that block.

  2. Great method - thanks for bringing it to our attention - good tutorial!!! The fabrics you're using for these blocks is so different and gives a really vintage spin!

  3. Ok. I have seen this elsewhere but couldn't believe it. Six minutes??? or less??? Seriously??? I may have to force myself to give it a try on your advice...when I find my freezer paper. I think DH actually absconded with it to actually wrap meat in it.

    It still involves a sewing machine and circles and when that happens I have lopsided circles because I don't see very well to sew around with the machine. I cut a cardboard template and a paper template that is 1/4 bigger. I cut fabric using paper template, baste around outer edge, insert cardboard template and pull basting thread up around it. Then I iron it with a little spray starch, let it rest and pull out cardboard and pin and applique to block. That's my version of the six hour circle.