Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Karen's Giant x and + Block - a 2013 FAL Tutorial

she can quilt

Today, Karen from CapitolaQuilter, is sharing her tutorial about how to make giant x and + blocks. I am sure you have all seen these blocks and the wonderful resulting quilts around the internet. Karen's tutorial walks us through the details of making these popular blocks in super size and she includes directions for making a bunch of bonus HSTs too. I can't wait to give these a try, I bet you will want to too. Read on.

Giant x and + Block

 This Tutorial variation was inspired by:
 Amy/badskirt 8" 
which she credits inspiration to Setsuko Inagawa's quilt and original block attributed to Nancy Cabot. 

Me & My Mixed Scale xPlus Top

12.5" blocks Mixed with 24" blocks

A few weeks ago my picture caught a lot of attention on flickr and comments on a recent blog post so when Leanne at  She Can Quilt invited me to be part of the FAL Q3 Guest Tutorials, it was perfect timing.  I've only written a tutorial twice before;  Polaroids and Tassels and have never been a guest blogger - so if all of this seems a bit rough around the edges you'll know why!
Thanks for having me, Karen

24" Block Cut List:

Plus Center  = Two 4.5"x 4.5"and One 4.5"x12.5"
Plus End Tabs = Two 6.5"x 4.5" and Two 4.5"x6.5" (or Four 4.5"x 6.5 if non-directional)
Background = Eight 6.5"x6.5"
X = Four different fabrics, each 10.5"x10.5" (fussy and non-fussy instructions given below), all seams 1/4, all seams ironed open.

the FABRIC Grouping

Audition and Decide on Fabric Placement

The look of the block varies greatly based on your choices, so have fun deciding what goes where!

Another Fabric Grouping Sample

Take a picture for reference later, especially if you are chain sewing several blocks at the same time. 

the PLUS

Plus Center

Cut Two 4.5"x 4.5" and One 12.5"x4.5" for the Plus from the same fabric.
Above you can see a fussy and a non-fussy version.

Plus Ends

Cut Two 4.5"x6.5" and Two 6.5"x4.5" for the Plus End Tabs of the same fabric if your fabric is directional like the sample below. Later, you'll also need to pay attention to orientation during assembly OR you can cut Four 4.5"x6.5 of non-directional fabric stacked like the picture above.

 the FUSSY X

Using a 12.5" square ruler, cut a visual guide out of tracing paper 5.5" wide. Draw a line down the center.  Place it on the mat using the 45 degree line & vertical reference (see arrows). Cut one tip.

Cut the First Guide Tip

Reposition the ruler on the tracing paper at the 10.5" line shown below with red arrows and at the center line on the guide shown below with a green circle. Cut the second tip.  
Remember that this is not a cutting template, but rather a visual guide for the X portion of the block. 

Cut the Second Guide Tip

Mark the center of the guide and tape it to your ruler. Play around with the fabric pattern repeats until you find what you like. Because the block is Jumbo, you can highlight special larger scale prints.

Cut the two sides where your tracing paper is at the ruler edge, shown at the top of the photo above.

Reposition the ruler and cut the other two sides to get a  fussy 10.5"x 10.5" square.

the NON-Fussy X option

Cut a stack of 10.5" squares. I prefer the look of mixing fussy and non fussy x segments together.


Cut Eight 6.5"x6.5" Background.  For a high contrast, pick something that is similar to your Plus Center fabric and different from your X and Plus Ends fabric since they will touch.

Draw a line down the center of the wrong side of the background squares tip to tip and another 1/2" from it on the outer side only.   These will be your STITCH lines. 

Align the background squares with the edge of the x square and put one pin where they overlap and one pin near each outer point to help keep things in place. 

Chain piece all of the center lines on one side, then the center lines on the other side. 
Do the same for the outer lines. Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

The bonus half square triangle are well worth the second pass because they're so large. 

Cut 1/4" from the center line right between the two stitch lines.

Here are the X parts once the background bonus half square triangles have been trimmed off. 
Press seams open being careful not to stretch or distort the square because they are now on the bias.

Close Up on one fussy cut X segment:


Sew a 6.5"x4.5" Plus End to the left and right of the Plus Center 4.5"x12.5".  
Sew a 4.5"x6.5" Plus End to the Plus Center 4.5"4.5" and repeat to make two.

Refer to the numbers and picture above, pressing open seams between each step: Sew an x segment to each side of the vertical Plus,  repeat to make two. Sew the horizontal seams #3 & #4 and you're done!

During the final assembly steps I pin the ends and along the joints but I don't stress about perfect joints.


Measuring just shy of 6", these are totally usable parts for another project and you get eight from each block with little extra effort.  I will probably clean up them to 5.5" before sewing them together. 


Sample of a lower contrast background.

Sample of using all very similar X and Plus Ends

Four 12.5" blocks sewn together join nicely to the 24" blocks. 

Another shot of my Mixed Scale xPlus Top

And thank you Karen

Don't forget to link up your Q3 finishes - the Q3 post-quarter link is open here and it will close at midnight MST, October 7, 2013. And if you still have some UFOs I hope you will join us for Q4 of the FAL, Q4 FAL lists can be posted starting on October 8.


Annabella said...

Oh wow - they're huge! I love the mixed scale quilt, and thanks for a fab tute :)

Anita said...

Great tutorial, thanks!

Lynz said...

How awesome is this?!?!? I love the x/plus block but could never face doing all those 8in squares. Genius!!

SueB said...

I'm a great lover of this block and now itching to make some big blocks, 24" and 12" is a good mix and a big improvement on the smaller blocks where accuracy is vital.

Mine-rSewFun said...

Thank you all!! Totally awesome...

Susan R said...

Thank you so much! What a beautiful block and the quilt is wonderful. Best of all is the easy to understand tutorial! I am keeping this tut in my "must do" folder.

Deb@asimplelifequilts said...

Love this... thanks so much for the great tutorial!

Katy Cameron said...

Loving the mixture of sizes in the finished top!

Unknown said...

The mixed sizes are fantastic! Thanks for the tutorial :)

Debbie said...

oh Karen went above and beyond - this is an awesome post & I appreciate all the details! I still hope to post my dimensions for an x and + pieced backing, and it'll be great to link back to this tutorial! And what a delightful quilt - I love it!

Vivian said...

Have not looked at this block before, but I love the colors and the block size variations. Really nice.