Sunday, January 31, 2021

Hive 5 February Tutorial- Strip Blocks

Hello Hive 5! – Time for some rays of Sunshine!

I know this tutorial seems really long, it would have been so much easier to have a video, but I couldn’t find one.  So, read through it and then remember, it’s just cut, sew, press to yellow, repeat!

This month we are going to make some strip blocks inspired by the Pantone 2021 colors of the year.  It’s winter and these colors scream sunshine and friendship!  They are Ultimate Grey and Illuminating! Here is the link to the Introduction, “A marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.” 


Strip blocks are typically created using a paper or fabric foundation.  But that takes time and is tedious, but helps with structure of the block and managing bias edges.  So in this technique, we will use alternate ways for those two things that make doing them without a foundation quick and fun!


Before we get into the technique, let’s talk color and since I’m not sure what level of color experts you all are, I’ll give some information here on how to select the yellows based on some color theory.  The Illuminating color is a “bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.” On a color wheel, that would be Yellow with Yellow. If you add white to Yellow, you get the “Tint” of that color which is more pastel.  If you add black with yellow, you get the “Shade” which is deeper and can often be referred to as “dirtier or muddier” yellows.  For this block, we want to stay on the Yellow, Yellow-Orange or the Tints of those color ranges.  Think bright sunshine rays, lemons, yellow roses and all variations of those mixed with white to give a range of yellows from brightest/richest/darkest to the lightest, palest yellows.  

I had another block in mind for this swap but upon discussion with Alanna, we determined that it really didn’t adhere to the guidelines and I had to come up with another idea in less than a week! Nothing like pressure to drive inspiration.  With all the challenges of the pandemic, I thought this block would be a great way for me to commemorate the time in an uplifting way. 

I saw this technique in a blog post or YouTube tutorial but for the life of me.. can’t find it!  So, I’ll give you all the steps.  I think you’ll find it very easy and fun.  No matching seams, no points to consider, just lots of straight line stitching!

 The block you make will be 15” square unfinished.

The center strip is Grey and then yellow strips from darkest to lightest with a white on white at the corner. 


Grey Center Strip – 2 1/2” medium grey, 24” long – This strip needs to be 2 1/2” to drive consistency among all the blocks.  The other strips can be whatever you like based on the instructions in the technique below.

Yellows – Various strips ranging from 1 1/4” to 2 1/4” wide and length cut based on technique

White on White – 3” or more wide and length cut based on technique

Prefer tone on tone, tone with white and an occasional solid is fine and will blend right in. Please work with these guidelines but they are only GUIDELINES!  Whatever you have will work, please do not go buy fabric(unless of course you just want to and that's fun for you) 😁.  If you have any questions and want to run it by me, please reach out on IG or via email.

Grey – Center Strip – 2 1/2” wide

·        Grey should lean more on the “bluish” side rather than brown.

·        Solid, tone on tone or print with minimal other colors like greys and whites.

·        Nothing too dark that will read more charcoal or black

·        Will need a good 24” strip on the straight grain, so a fat quarter is not big enough


White – Corner strips – 3” wide

·        This can be solid white or white on white

·        Please no creams

Yellow - Various strips ranging from 1.25” to 2.25” wide

·        Please choose 5-8 different yellow fabrics.

·        They can be solids or tone on tone prints, tone with white prints. 

·        Yellow and Yellow-Orange family rather than lean towards Yellow-Green.  

·        Try to have a variation of darkest/brightest yellow next to the grey and then step down the range to the lightest palest yellow before the white corner piece.

·        Fabrics can be repeated on either side of the grey but if you can vary the order of the strips or vary the width of the strips, it will blend as more scrappy rather than both sides of the grey exactly the same.


Here are a couple pics of various yellows. These were also in different lighting so the pics look different but you can see that some of the fabrics are the same.   


·        Seams do not have to be scant ¼’ but do need to be straight and consistent.

·       The strips should be sewn in opposite directions on either side of the grey strip which happens naturally as you build the block.

·        Use a walking or even feed foot if at all possible

·       Cut your strips on the straight grain of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge – if you are unsure if a scrap is on the straight grain, it would be better to use another fabric. Using fabrics cut on the straight grain is one of the ways we control bias edges and stretching.

·       Gentle hold as you let the foot and the feed dogs feed the fabric through.

Step 1: Determine which method you want to use to establish your 15” “frame”

Since we are not using a foundation, we need a “frame” to follow so we know how long to cut our strips of fabric.  There are two ways I recommend doing this.  I’ve used both methods very successfully.

Use a 15” Square Ruler – set the ruler on the surface next to your sewing machine or nearby so you can use it to measure out your strips.

Mark out a 15” square with painters’ tape, Washi Tape, or can even scotch tape a piece of paper.  Inside of the frame is 15” square and the width of the frame is 1 ½” – 2” wide. 

Step 2: Prepare your fabric

Since we are not using a foundation, we need the fabric to be well ironed before cutting.  I do recommend using starch or Best Press if you have it.  I don’t recommend using Steam.  Having the fabric firm and straight will help ensure you cut it straight and it will help prevent bowing and stretching as you stitch the strips together. 

Step 3: Cut your first 2 Strips – Cut on the STRAIGHT GRAIN of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge.  You should have a good idea of your strip order from Grey, darkest yellow, medium yellow, light yellow, then your white corner before you begin cutting.  Your darkest next to the grey need to be the longest and your palest yellows will be your shortest.  The wider your strips, the fewer you need to fill the space but they need to vary and should not be larger than 2 ¼”. (See pics of completed blocks back at the beginning).  I found the fastest and easiest way to do the cutting was as I constructed the block.  So, here we go…

Grey - Cut one strip 2 ½” by about 24” and lay WRONG side down, corner to corner on your 15” frame.

Yellow - Cut your darkest Yellow strip to cover the blue tape or extend past the ruler by at least a couple inches on both ends. A couple inches is needed to give yourself enough room for any adjustments up or down when squaring up when the block is finished.

·        Pick up this strip set, sew a ¼” seam and press the seam to the Yellow strip.


Return this strip set to the placement on your “frame” and feel with your finger that the tip of the ruler is in the middle of the grey strip.  Once you start covering the ruler, you will need to check your placement by feeling for the edge and corners of the ruler.


Step 4: Cut, place, sew and press your next Yellow Strips – Cut on the STRAIGHT GRAIN of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge. 

Cut your next Yellow strip in color order, to cover the blue tape or extend past the ruler by at least a couple inches on both ends.

Pick up this strip set, sew a ¼” seam and press the seam to the Yellow strip.

Return this strip set to the placement on your “frame” and feel with your finger that the tip of the ruler is in the middle of the grey strip or that the Grey covers the middle of the corner of the taped frame.

Continue in the same method for your Yellow strips until you have about a 2 ½” to 3” space left to fill the frame.


Step 4: Cut, place, sew and press the white block to completely fill in the frame. 

Cut the White on White or solid white piece of fabric to completely fill in the corner and have about 2 inches extended on the sides and at the corner.

Step 5: Press your strip set well from back and front making sure you don’t have any little creases between the strips.

Step 6: Repeat the process for the other side of the block and press well.

Example when strips are cut almost too short

But I slid the ruler up and to the right a bit and as long as there is ¼” or more beyond the ruler, it’s ok. 

Step 7: Trim your block – You can choose to rough trim at 15 ½” or bigger and I’ll square to 15” with my square ruler or you can trim to 15” square.  Here are some tips if you want to trim yourself.

Trim and square with the 15” Ruler

Place the 15” square ruler on top of the block

Ensure the placement allows for at least ¼’ of fabric beyond the ruler on all sides

Securely hold the ruler and trim all sides without moving the ruler. (yes, I cut the left side with my left hand.)


Trim and square using a long ruler against the taped Frame

Set your block on the taped frame ensuring all edges and points are covered by more than ¼” of fabric.

Take a long ruler and line up on the line on the mat that is the inside edge of the tape or go a little bigger and I’ll trim down. Do that same cut around the entire frame.


You can see in the last pic that with the ruler on top of the block, the block is actually 16 inches and then I can finish the trim.

Step 8: OPTIONAL – One of the techniques we can use to help manage the blocks since they do not have a foundation, is to “stay stitch” the block.  Stay stitching is a line of stitching at 1/8th in from the edge all the way around the block.  It really helps to keep the edges from stretching now that they are cut on an angle where there is bias and stretch.

TIP: to keep the corners from getting sucked into the feed dogs, use a starter piece of scrap fabric and chain piece very close to the block. 

WOW – I know it seems really long, but it’s actually just cut strips, sew strips, press to yellow and trim!

Message me on IG or by email if you have any questions about fabric choices or about the cutting/sewing instructions. 

Remember to post your block on IG and tag with #stashbeehive5!  Thank you for helping me see a few rays of sunshine and friendship in this crazy pandemic!


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