The last few weeks, I have covered useful piecing techniques like matching seams and points, stitch & flip and making multiple flying geese and HSTs. The fabric you use is not always a solid fabric or one with a random print. Sometimes, your fabric will have a print that goes in a single direction. You’ll hear these referred to as “directional prints”. Directional print fabrics can present a challenge and, many times, quilters will shy away from using them. But don’t be afraid of using these types of fabric. It can actually be fun to play with directional prints. Also… there is NO quilt police. If your directional prints go in different directions, who cares? I think it adds to the charm of a quilt, especially scrap quilts. I’ll talk about using these prints over the next two weeks. Let’s get started!
How Do You Identify a Directional Print?
A fabric has a directional print, sometimes referred to as a “one-way” print, when there is a clear up or down to the pattern on the fabric. Here are a couple of examples of that.
As you can see above, the pattern goes in one direction. It’s especially evident in the fabric on the left. Compare these fabrics to the ones below.
The design on the above fabrics are considered not directional because which ever way you turn the fabric, it looks the same. You can see it clearly in the fabric on the right. The “starburst” design is symmetrical and looks the same no matter which direction you turn it.
There can be one-way, two-way, three-way and even four-way directional print designs. If I use a directional fabric and want the design to all go in the same direction within the block, I try to stick with a directional fabric that isn’t too complicated.
Using Fabrics with Directional Prints
Units with Straight Seams
So, if you want to use these fabrics and have the directional prints go in the same direction within a unit or block, there is a way to do that and it’s not too difficult. It just takes a little more attention to detail than if you are working with random print fabrics.
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:
As you can see, the solid lines with stars runs in one directions. If I were just to cut all the pieces to frame the center square (see below), from the same 1 1/2″ strip, here’s how it would look:
Notice with the strips on the sides the print runs vertically and with the strips on the top and bottom the print runs horizontally. In a scrap quilt, with a lot of different units made from different fabrics, this unit would be just fine. In fact, scrap quilts are usually what I like to call a “chaos” of fabrics and prints and this would add to the fun.
However, if I am making a two color quilt and I want more uniformity, here’s what I do.
Cut the longer side rectangles from the 1 1/2″ strip – in this case, the rectangles need to be 1 1/2 x 4 1/2″. As you can see in the first photo, the print is vertical. Now, to get the top and bottom rectangles, which each measure 1 1/2 x 2 1/2″, to have the print vertical, cut a strip from your fabric for these pieces 2 1/2″ wide and then cut 1 1/2″ segments for 1 1/2 x 2 1/2″ rectangles. (see the last two photos below)
When you lay out the pieces to make this unit, you can tell right away that the print is all going in the same direction (photos below).
Units with Bias (45°) Seams
Using directional fabrics in making units or blocks with bias seams, like half-square triangle (HST) squares is a little more difficult than with straight seams.
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 beginning 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.
If you want the tan fabric directional print to go in the same direction in the unit, follow the above steps, BUT stitch each set of squares starting in the opposite corner (see where my finger is pointing in last two photos).
Once you stitch the seams (first photo), cut the units apart, press and arrange them in the pinwheel, the directional print is all moving in the same direction.
Putting it all Together
Now, use the straight seam and the bias seam lessons from above and combine that knowledge to make a block that uses both types of seams. Like the churn dash block below:
So, with this lesson, will you feel more comfortable using directional prints? Give it a try. It takes only a little more effort and attention to detail while you are cutting out your pieces, but if your goal is a unified look, then it’s worth it.
Next week, I’ll be covering using directional prints in flying geese units and showing how you can get them to go in the same direction if you want. I’ll also show you examples of the look you can achieve by just letting the prints go where they may.
Like I said earlier, there are no quilt police that will tell you what you are doing is wrong. The main goal in working on a quilt project is to have fun!
Leave a comment or ask a question below and be entered into a drawing for my pattern, Barn Dance.
You get some practice using directional prints with these blocks if you choose! Drawing will be on Monday, April 4th so you have 2 weeks to enter. **We have a winner. Congrats, Darlene!**