A little technique review this week. This technique is called many things. I happen to call it 'furling,' a term I first heard and started using when I learned hand-piecing. So the technique isn't new, in fact it's tried and true. The technique is perhaps best known for four-patch blocks, especially pinwheel blocks.
Several seams coming together at a center point can make for bulky, lumpy seam intersections. With furling, pieced seams are pressed to one side, then pressed open and twirled at the block's seam intersection.
For this first part in a multi-part series, the focus is on furling a four-patch block.
One little given: I'm not a fan of pressing seams open in pieced blocks. There are lots of reasons for my position, which I'll save for another day (or you can find my reasoning in my books!). Now, I realize there are some exceptions, but in my mind, those exceptions are very rare. So, if you subscribe to pressing seams open, the whole furling process goes out the window.
The fabulous Four-Patch
A four-patch block typically starts with two two-patches. Each with a seam pressed (usually) to the darker of the two fabrics. The two-patches might be cross cut from strip-pieced units or could start with plain old squares. When the four-patch is made from four same-sized square, the two patch seams are short. The seam to connect the two two-patches is longer. Notice that the two-patch seams are opposing (red arrows) so the four-patch seam will nest and oppose (snap together) when sewn.
Once the four-patch seam is sewn and before the block is pressed, with a seam ripper, pull out the last few stitches of the two-patch seam in between the longer four-patch seam and the edge of the fabric. Do that on both sides of the block. And in reality, you don't HAVE to use a seam ripper to pull out the stitches, sometimes the stitches will just 'pop' when you go to furl.
Now place the block on the ironing board, right side down. Use the existing seams (dotted line arrows) to determine the rotation of the block seams. The remaining two seams (solid red arrows) should complete the rotation. Notice that the whole press-the-seam-to-the-dark-fabric goes bye-bye at this point. Half the seams will be pressed to the darker fabric (in this case, the green) and the other two seams will be pressed toward the lighter fabric (in this case, the cream print).
As you push the seams to complete the rotation, notice how the removed stitches in the center allow the center to open up or 'bloom' . . . .
At this point, with the tip of your iron, flatten the block seams. Then flip the block right side up and give the block one last sweep of the iron.
While the seams don't necessarily follow the press-to-the-darker fabric rule, if all the blocks are sewn the same way, the bonus is that the blocks will 'nest' as they are sewn next to each other. A perfect example of this process is found in the very popular Bloomin' Steps quilt.
You can see how the block seams will nest nicely from this back view. And guess what, when you sew the blocks together, the seam intersection between the blocks can be furled, too!
Another furling bonus: it works on four-patch blocks of any size! Rectangular blocks, too, as long as the seams come together in one place.
More on furling next time!