A lot of quilters shy away from fabrics with directional prints. My advice is not to! As a scrap quilter I use a lot of different fabrics in a block and a quilt. There are times that I don’t care what print is on a piece of fabric and what direction it goes in because in a scrap quilt, the “chaos” of all those fabrics together is the point. But, if you are wanting a more uniform looking block and quilt, there are ways to use directional prints to make them look more uniform. So let’s talk about it!
Directional Prints and Straight Seams
Using these fabrics takes planning when you are cutting the pieces for your unit or block. The first example I will show you is a unit made up of a square and bordering strips. This the easiest to do because you are working with straight seams. Here’s the fabric I chose for this example:
I purposely chose one fabric with a nondirectional print (the pink) to go with the tan fabric with the directional print to make this example easier. As you can see, the lines on the tan fabric run in one direction. So here’s what happens when I cut 1 1/2″ strips from this fabric to border a square of the pink fabric:
As you can see, since I cut all the border pieces for the pink square from the same 1 1/2″ strips, the longer strips on the top and bottom have the print moving in the opposite direction as the side strips. To make them all go in the same direction, I need to cut the 1 1/2 x 2 1/2″ side strips from a 2 1/2″ strip instead of a 1 1/2″ strip.
Here’s the last photo a little bigger so you can see how the print is now going in the same direction in all the border strips:
So, it will take a little planning, and maybe a little more fabric if the pattern doesn’t have specific cutting instructions for prints, to make this work. Now here are the two blocks finished. The one with the prints going in two directions (left, below) is not bad looking, but the other one, to the right, looks more uniform if that’s what you are going for.
Directional Prints and Bias Seams
So now how do you handle directional prints when you are stitching bias seams as you do with half-square triangle (HST) squares and flying geese? Here’s my tips for that.
Below are the pieces to make 4 HSTs. Lay them out as shown and then lay the tan print face down on the color print. Stitch diagonally a scant 1/4″ on each side of the diagonal center from the same direction on both square sets (see where my finger is pointing).
Once you cut the units apart and press open, you will get 4 HSTs where, no matter how they are arranged, the directional tan print will not go in the same direction (the print on the blue fabric is also a directional but I’m choosing to focus only on the tan fabric for this example).
That doesn’t necessarily look bad, but here’s the steps on what to do to make the stripes in the tan fabric go in the same direction. First, repeat the above step but stitch one set of squares diagonally in the opposite direction of the other (where my finger is pointed in the last two photos):
Below are the photos of the stitched squares (left) and then the HSTs cut apart and arranged.
The stripes on the tan fabric are now going in the same direction. Now I put the two concepts together in the churn dash block below. It has both straight and bias seams. All the stripes are going in the same direction by using the steps I’ve covered.
Another block unit that requires a bias seam is a flying geese unit. The steps are a little different from the HSTs, but not much. You just need to pay attention while stitching your pieces together.
The secret to using directional fabrics for flying geese is that the directional print will go in the opposite direction from how it was placed for stitching. For example, if you position the directional print horizontally, the print will run vertical after stitching and pressing the corner open. The photos below show this:
To finish the flying geese unit, I need to lay the next square face down on the other side of the rectangle with the print going horizontal so when done, the print will then be vertical like the first side (finished geese on right, below).
The hitch comes if you are piecing these flying geese into a star block with the grey fabric in the center, print going in one direction. If you make all 4 flying geese with the print going vertical… this will happen:
Two of the flying geese in the sides will have the stripe going in the wrong direction. To remedy this, make two flying geese units with the stripes going vertical and two with the stripes going horizontal.
So in the photo below, you will notice that the stripes go in the same direction on both geese units as they do in the center square:
Here are all four geese units stitched into a star block:
Well, that’s all for this week! Leave a comment below or ask any questions you may have. I will enter you into a drawing for my quilt pattern, Star Wheels, that will give you lots of practice with directional prints if you choose!
The drawing will be on Monday, June 12th. Good luck!