TYSS: Spiral

The Spiral block is essentially a log cabin variation, but because of the points, it’s best to foundation piece this. This block is pieced on a single foundation. Even though there are 20 pieces in it, they all build around a center point, so you don’t have to join separate foundation pieced sections. All of the foundation PDFs below have the piecing order numbered for you.

There are as many ways to foundation piece as there are quilters, I think! I prefer to use freezer paper, fold on the lines, and sew along the edge rather than sew through the paper. You can see my method in my Skill Builder Foundation Piecing post, here. Jeanne at Grey Cat Quilts prefers to sew through the foundation, and she’s working on a post that will be up by Sunday. I’ll post the link on the Skill Builder page as soon as it’s ready. By the way, she moved to WordPress since my last TYSS post in *gasp* February, but all of the links on the Skill Builder page are updated.

There’s just one little thing about this Spiral block… it finishes at 9″ in the illustration, which means the foundation cannot be printed on a standard sheet of paper that measures 8 1/2″ x 11″. You have a couple of options:

  • Print the full size PDF on ledger paper that measure 11″ x 17″
  • Print the full size PDF on two sheets of letter paper that measure 8 1/2″ x 11″ and tape them together to make the full size block
  • Print the full size PDF on letter paper that measures 8 1/2″ x 11″, then trace it onto larger paper (or freezer paper) to make the full size block
  • Print a smaller, 8″ finished block on letter paper that measure 8 1/2″ x 11″
  • Draft your own version of the block

All of those options are available – just download the appropriate PDF file below.

I mentioned this in the Skill Builder post, but it’s so important that I need to mention it here, too. When printing a PDF for foundation piecing, you MUST make sure it prints the full size. Make sure the print dialog box doesn’t have “Shrink to Size”, “Shrink to Fit”, “Fit to Page”, “Shrink Oversize Pages” or anything else checked. It should say “None” or “Actual” if anything. As a precaution, once the foundation pattern is printed, measure it to be sure it is exactly 9″ (9 1/2″ if you measure the outside dotted lines that indicate the seam allowance), or 8″ for the smaller block. Even after all of those precautions it still might not print right. For some reason when I print this on my Mom’s printer, it just doesn’t print out the right size. The 8″ block does NOT have the dotted lines to indicate seam allowance (they wouldn’t fit on a letter size page), so be sure to leave that extra 1/4″ all the way around when you’re piecing, and trim 1/4″ past the edge of the paper when you square up your block.

So, here are your download options. Click to download whichever PDF you want to use. If you choose the smaller, 8″ block, I’ll include special instructions when we assemble the quilt top to accommodate the smaller size.

Download the 9″ finished block for Ledger size paper (11″ x 17″)
Download the 9″ finished block for two pieces of Letter size paper (8 1/2″ x 11″)
Download the 8″ finished block for Letter size paper (8 1/2″ x 11″)

Draft on Paper

If you choose to draft your own block, it’s a bit more challenging. You’ll need a sheet of paper that is at least 9″ square. If you’re using the freezer paper method, just tear a large piece off of the roll and lightly iron it to another piece of paper to keep it flat – it doesn’t have to cover the entire sheet. If you’re sewing through the paper, try a piece of newspaper, but expect to get a little messy as the newsprint will rub off. You’ll also need a piece of paper at least 7 1/2″ square, and it’s best if this paper is a little heavier as you’ll be tracing around it.

Start by drawing a 9″ square. Draw a 1/4″ seam allowance on all four sides, and mark the center point (4 1/2″ from both sides of the inner square). (Ignore the smaller square drawn inside – I got ahead of myself before taking the picture. Also ignore the shadowy lines showing through the paper. I used the back of my test print outs.)

On the heavier paper, draw a 7 1/2″ square and mark the center point (3 3/4″). Inside that square, draw a 6 1/4″ square and mark the center point (3 1/8″).
Inside that square, draw a 5 1/4″ square and mark the center point (2 5/8″).
Inside that square, draw a 4 1/2″ square and mark the center point (2 1/4″).
Inside that square, draw a 4″ square and mark the center point (2″).

Cut out the 7 1/2″ square, put a pin through the center point, and stick the pin at the center point of the 9″ square. Rotate the 7 1/2″ square until the corners just barely touch the edges of the 9″ square. Trace around the edges. You may want to lightly tape it in place first.

Now cut the square down to the 6 1/4″ mark, put the pin through the new center point and stick it in the center of the 9″ square, rotate until the corners just touch the edges of the 7 1/2″ square you just drew, and trace.

Repeat for the 5 1/4″, 4 1/2″ and 4″ squares.

And there’s your foundation! When you piece it, start in the center and add to all four sides, then the next color all four sides, and so on in a spiral.

Please let me know if you have any questions.