Thursday, September 3, 2015

"Upping" the Furling Game

A couple weeks ago, I started a series of posts on the 'furling' technique. If you missed it, you can get up to speed here.

This week, the second installment of the series, we're moving into slightly new territory with the same concept. . . 9-patch blocks.

You see, furling (or whatever label you want to give this technique) isn't just for 4-patch blocks and variations of the 4-patchs block (like pinwheels).

However, there is a key to success for blocks with more elements: the seams between elements need to be pressed alternately in each row. Away (from each other)/toward (each other)/away (from each other). Or, as I like to say "outie"/"innie"/"outie"--seams pressed out from the center, then in toward the center of the block, then out again.

When you have alternating seams, each seam intersection behaves just like a 4-patch that just happens to be attached to five other elements. 

See, here's a close up of one intersection. Just like for the 4-patch in the last blog entry, remove the last two or three stitches to release the short end of the seam, then twist.

Repeat the process for all four seam intersections. If you pressed alternately within the rows, each intersection will furl like a champion.

Then press from the front. Notice in the photo above and below, you need to let go of the 'press toward the darker fabric.' When you furl, seams don't discriminate about the dark and light fabric stuff.

The bonus is perfectly flat blocks, with minimal bulk where the seams come together

Rotate one of the blocks 90˚and these blocks will nest beautifully with each other. And guess what, where the blocks come together you've created
another furling opportunity! (It never ends, right?)

See, here's a close-up. If I were to sew these two blocks to each other, the seams would nest and oppose, and I could furl once more!

By the way, don't limit yourself to the furled 9-patch, as long as seams within rows are pressed alternately in each row, the seams will furl like a charm in 16-patches (4x4 elements), 25-patches (5x5 elements), 36-patches (6x6 elements), etc. Rectangles, too. For this discussion, I've limited the conversation to 90˚angles, but other angles would work, too! 60˚ triangles, anyone?

Notice how the seam rotation alternates from one to the next.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a few things, actually. For starters, if you press the block rows all to one side, then all to the other side in alternating rows, they will nest and oppose just fine as you sew the rows into the block. But they won't furl. You'll start out thinking that things are just dandy and that Hummingbird Highway Nut (i.e. me!) doesn't know diddle. But then you get the seam that wants to be pressed in both directions in between two perfectly wonderful furled intersections. Bummer.

Also, furling doesn't like when your seam intersections aren't nicely nested. Even if there's a little gap where the seams nest or a little overlap, no-can-furl-do. . . just sayn!

And, it should be noted, that not EVERY block with seam intersections should be furled. Sometimes block elements have extra seam intersections. When furling creates MORE bulk in the seams than it eliminates, then maybe furling isn't the ticket!

We'll add another little twist next time. In the meantime, . . .

Happy Stitching!



  1. Great article! I had to watch Eleanor Burns a gazillion times in order to get all of the information you've packed into this piece! Thank you!

  2. Great article! I had to watch Eleanor Burns a gazillion times in order to get all of the information you've packed into this piece! Thank you!