Rainbow wheel block – a tutorial

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Thanks everyone for your kind encouragement of my Doll Quilt 10 quilt!!
You all sure know how to make a girl feel good about her work!! 🙂 As per popular request I have decided to put together this tutorial… it’s my first quilting tutorial so let me know at the end if anything is unclear!! And also please excuse the name… I’m rubbish at coming up with names LOL…

I originally got the idea for this block from the Quiltmakers 100 blocks Winter 2010 Volume 2 magazine. Such a cool magazine! However I pieced it completely differently (aka the lazy fast way) to how they say to in the magazine – and also completely changed the colour arrangement. – Stuff mucking about with teeny tiny squares of fabric I say!!

Ok… here goes…

Rainbow wheel block – A tutorial

This tutorial is for a 12.5 inch finished square block
I made this block using charm squares, so I’m going to assume you are doing the same – I only used charm squares because I wanted to use the sunkissed range specifically and therefore that’s what I had available to me… but it could really easily be adapted to be made with fat quarters/yardage or whatever size fabric you have so I will try and put notes for adaption for other sized fabric throughout…

For this tutorial it is assumed that you already have knowledge of how to cut using a rotary cutter and have basic piecing skills… BUT I have aimed it at the beginner for the benefit of some of my friends, so if you know how to strip piece & make half square triangles just skip those parts because you won’t need the extra detail…

To make each block you will need:

 

White:

6 squares 3″ x 3″ (you can make these 2 7/8 if you are very accurate but I like to leave myself some extra room to trim)
12 squares 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″
1 of 1.5 inch strip x width of fabric (112cm wide) or equivalent

Coloured:

If like me you are going to be using a different prints & coordinating solids charm squares then you will need to choose 8 different coordinating charm squares – I used 4 patterned and 4 solid. I will show you how I cut these shortly

If you are using other colour arrangements then in total for all the coloured parts you need:

Inner pin wheels – 4 squares measuring 3″ square
Outer diamond squares – I used strip piecing so to follow my method you will need at least 36 inches of combined length 1.5 inch wide strips… The break down of that could vary as to how many colours you are doing those squares so you will have to do the maths…
Corner edge triangles – 4 squares measuring 3″ square if you are doing 4 different colours such as me. If you are doing these all the same colour then you will only need 2 3″ squares.

So if you are using charm squares this is how I cut them:

So once you have done these 3 cuts, put the 1.5 inch strip to the side for later, discard your scrap & spin your 3 inch stip around so that it is lined up straight with the lines on your cutting mat… then do the following cut:

Put the scrap aside for later. It’s a very usable chunk so I used these all pieced in a rainbow strip for the back of my quilt along with my spare half square triangles…

Repeat this step until you have done each or your 8 charm squares.

Your pile should look similar to this:

Ok so next we are going to make all the half square triangles for the central pin wheels & the corners of the block…

Take all of your 3″ coloured squares and lay them right side up in a row/grid on your table.
Take your all of your 3″ white squares and lay them right side down, 1 on top of each coloured square.
Take a ruler and a pencil (close your eyes here if you are the quilting police…) I just use an ordinary pencil – just make sure you have it really sharp – and draw a diagonal line on each of the white squares from the top right corner to the bottom right corner:

Sorry this isn’t the best photo – hopefully it’s clear enough!
Next we need to pin them all.
** A side note for the pinners among us. – I’m not normally a “pinner”… you will notice a distinct lack of pinning throughout some of the steps in this tutorial due to my lazy techniques – so just be aware that further on you will have to close your eyes to my lack of pinning & have to insert your own pinning instructions…. LOL…
** For everyone else:  Even if like me you do not make a habit of using pins I would recommend that you pin when making half square triangles – because they are sewn on the bias and just love to move at the most inconvenient of times…
This is how I pin:

So now you are ready to start sewing them. You need to sew 1/4 of an inch either side of the pencil line as illustrated above.
I used the method of strip piecing to make it a little faster. If you are unfamiliar with strip piecing then it’s really very simple:
Just sew your first line on the first square – then when you get to the end of the fabric, instead of cutting off and starting the next one, just feed the next one on through so that you end up with a big chain of squares…

Once you have sewn down the first side of all of your squares and you are at the end of the last one, cut off your thread, turn the big chain around, and sew all down the other side…

Once you have finished all of the squares, you now just need to cut the threads in between the squares so that they are all separate to each other again. I use the thread cutter gizmo on the side of my machine to speed it up, so you can use that if you have one too – just be careful not to cut any of the fabric.

Next you need to cut down the pencil line in the middle to make them into your half square triangles:

Repeat for each square until you you a neat little pile of triangles looking like the ones above.

Next iron your triangles open to make the squares. Iron from the white side so that the seam is pushed to the colour side and will not be seen:

The next part is the one I find the most tedious necessary…
Trimming your squares…

One you have all of your squares nicely ironed you need to trim them up to 2 1/2 inches. It is SO important that you take your time doing this accurately because it makes all the difference to your piecing later on!

Find the 45 degree angle line on your cutting mat
Line the angle of the diagonal sew line up with the angle on the cutting mat.
I do this is 2 stages of cutting. Step 1: Cut down the right side & the top.

Step 2: spin the fabric around and do the same to the other side:

You are now finished with these until later so set them aside… if you have used charm squares like me then you will notice that you have 4 extra half square triangles – I used these to piece the back of my quilt, so they don’t need to go to waste.

Time to make the mini squares:

Make a pile of your coloured strips. If you’re just doing the same colour this part will be easy as you may only have 1 width of fabric long strip… Take your white 1.5 width strip x width of fabric hold it right side up.
(We are going to strip piece again by adding the coloured strips onto the white)
Start with the first coloured strip – place it ride side down on top of the white and sew 1/4 of an inch from the edge the whole way down (making sure that you are very accurate with your seam allowance).

Go a few extra stitches then add and sew the next coloured strip. Repeat until you have sewn them all onto the white strip and it looks something like this:

Now we need to iron them: Iron them from the white side so that them seams are over to the coloured side and won’t be seen later:

Time for cutting again.
Line up your (hopefully straight) top edges with the lines on your mat and square off the end. Cut the strips up into 1.5inch wide strips:

Once you have cut them all up you are ready to sew…

Take 2 corresponding pieces of your mini squares, lay them right sides together (making sure that your middle seams nest and meet together), and sew them together using a 1/4 inch seam.
-Whoops no photo for this – but once they are sewn and ironed they should look like this:

 

Except for I’m sure yours will not look wonky like my photo does 🙂

Repeat until you have them all sewn together in their pairs…

We’re on the home stretch – YAY!!

Time to lay out your blocks in final arrangement. I worked on 1/4 of the block at a time:

Once they are laid out, sew together the top & middle pairs as pictured above. Then sew on the bottom row.
Once you have your 3 strips sewn together, iron the seams. I ironed them so that the seams on the left & the right strips’ seams were ironed ‘out’ (towards the top and the bottom) and the middle strips seams were ironed ‘in’ (towards the middle) so that when I sewed them together in the next step, the seams all nested nicely…

So now you are ready to sew your 3 strips together. Re-enter pins…
I pin at every point where you have a seam to match:

Sorry this photo is awful – one of the downsides of sewing at night…

Repeat for the rest of the 3 quarters of the block.
Once you have all 4 quarters completed, join them together in the same fashion as above… sew them together in pairs first, making sure you pin every place that a seam joins. Then sew the pairs together and wallah – your finished block…

Let me know how you get on!! If you try it I’d love to see pics.
I’m dying to make this again as a rainbow quilt but this time just using really vibrant solids. I’m also thinking of making some with just either a plain centre instead of the pinwheel or a fussy cut diamond…

Watch out people in my bees – I think this might appear as one of my future bee blocks 😉

Happy sewing everyone

11 COMMENTS

  1. I really like this pinwheel block but there seems to be pictures missing of the layout. I don’t see how it is supposed to go together as there are pictures missing.

  2. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I just discovered your blog but I have been looking for a quilt idea for a friends baby. I wanted something that was simple but not so simple that it didn’t look like I put any effort into it. With that criteria in mind I started my search. I probably could have made the baby an extremely difficult, highly time consuming quilt, with the time and effort I have put into finding a pattern. Where’s the logic in that. Anyway… back to your wonderful tutorial. I think I may have found the pattern I have been scouring the internet and quilt shops for. Thank you!

  3. Finishing up my first block for this darling pinwheel pattern, WHAT a clever pattern! It’s going to be so stinkin’ cute, can’t wait to see the blocks put together in the top.

    My quilting goal this year was to use up all the precuts. I buy them, because I can’t resist them, then stack them up. I have made 4 queen sized quilts with the precuts since January. So what happens? I win a pile of charm packs in a blog give-away, lol! Using my prize charm packs (plus a couple more I purchased, natch) to make a crib quilt. When I have the top put together, I’ll send you a photo.

  4. Just an FYI: I had this pinned on pinterest & today, when I went to look at the tutorial – Pinterest told me that the site was blocked and may lead to porn etc. Just thought you might want to look into it. Your blog is obviously NOT porn!

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