Juggling: my Splendid Sampler block!

Hi there! It’s been a while, I had the best intentions to do a lot more blogging in 2016. Oops. If you have a poke around you’ll see I’m not very good at the writing and documenting part of my creative life. Thanks for visiting me over here in the middle of a warm and sunny Sydney summer. Hope you are having a splendid day!

I assume some of you are here for tips on making Block 90 on The Splendid Sampler adventure. What a wonderful project Pat and Jane have put together, and can you believe we’re just 10 blocks shy of completing? I’ve been making some of the blocks along the way and now that I have a plan for sashing I’m more excited than ever to get cracking with it. I’ve made lots of sampler quilts, I really love them because there’s always something new and those little blocks are fun to make.

I'm setting my Splendid Sampler blocks with a jaunty & spiky sashing.

I’m setting my Splendid Sampler blocks with a jaunty & spiky sashing.

So, back to my little block… I’ve used some of my favourite techniques – applique circles, bias tape applique and wonky crosses. I love layering different techniques in a little block. But it can be a little daunting if you’ve never done something like this before. Working at a small scale also means I need to pay extra attention to extra bulk and staying inside the seam allowance.

As you read the pattern instructions you’ll see there are a few stages. I recommend you chunk it down to manageable parts if its the first time you try one of the techniques. Actually, even if you’re confident, take time to enjoy the process with a couple of cups of tea or a walk around the block…

choose fabric

Firstly, choose all your fabrics and gather your supplies. My suggested fabric quantities are generous so you can trim back your block. You’ll also see I use a metal 1/8″ bias tape maker. It came in a set which I bought online from California, I so wish I could get these easily locally. You may be lucky enough to have them at your local quilt store. But if not, you can carefully cut a strip of Mylar plastic. The metal bias bars get very hot and help form a nice crease, please be careful if you are using one.

I prefer using a metal bias bar and having a closed loop rather than an open bias tape because it is sturdier and I can manipulate it without worrying it will fray and lose the creases. It also stores nicely around a spool or wooden dowelling even in the most humid Sydney weather.

So grab your supplies and lets get started!

Prepare your 3 bias tape loops first. Cut your strips from an 8″ square of fabric. 3/4″ wide strips cut on the diagonal from the square.

cut bias strips

Press strips in half. Wrong sides together, be gentle not to stretch them.

press bias in half

Place bias bar inside the fold and mark where your seam should go. Don’t make it too snug or you won’t be able to slide the bar in and out. I use a generous 1/8″ seam.

stitch with correct seam allowance

Once you have stitched the strip and you are sure you can move the bias bar in and out, trim back the seam allowance to reduce bulk.

trim back seam

We’re nearly there… twist seam to the back and press it down. Remove the bias bar. Repeat for the two other bias tape strips.

press back seam

Wind them around your finger or a pencil to get them to curl a little. This will help you get nice tight loops to applique.

twist around your finger

Make sure you’ve got all your fabric pieces ready to proceed. Background, squares for circles and strips to insert.

bias tape ready

Trace the pattern lightly on to your background square. Trace the outside of the circles and one side of each loop. You will use this as a guide to place your applique. Make sure you leave plenty of room around the outside to centre your block. I also mark the corner points to help with trimming the block later.

trace pattern on background

Using little dots of applique glue, place your loops down on your background fabric. You can also use tiny applique pins or baste them down with thread.

applique glue

Using a colour that camouflages with your applique loop, stitch it down firmly. See the tails of the loops? They will be hidden behind the appliquéd circles. Trim them on the diagonal to make them less bulky.

applique loops

Now it’s time to prepare your juggling balls. This is a two step process. First we make the wonky crosses, then we trim them back to a circle to applique down.

Start with one of the square pieces of fabric and cut it randomly in half. Select which fabric strip you will be inserting.

cut square in half

Sew the strip to one half. Then stitch the other half of the square to it. Always using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

piece in strip

Cut this randomly across the strip you just set in. Choose your next fabric strip.
cut in half again

Stitch one side on first. Sewing the second side is a little trickier. You need to try to align the two sides, which is difficult with that pesky angled seam allowance in the way. I visually line it up as much as possible then fold over the seam allowance to check it. Sliding it up and down till its as good as I can get it.

fold over seam allowance to help align

Because I’m extra cautious I still don’t stitch the whole seam, I just sew the crucial middle of the seam bit first, flip it over and check it before stitching the whole lot. This may seam tedious but it’s not as tedious as having to unpick the whole thing!

stitch centre to check

Flipping over to the back of your wonky cross, trim or grade that top seam allowance. Usually we can press seams open to reduce bulky seams but the open seams stretch too much for these small circles.

grade seams

Grab your circle template and trace around it with a pencil. Check out those graded seams…

trace circle

Trim back your circle to a generous 1/4″ – 1/2″ seam allowance and stitch a running stitch around. Pull on the end of the threads to gather the circle around your template. Don’t cut your threads yet!

gather circle

To get a nice smooth circle ready to applique down I run some starch around the outside edge of the circle with a brush. Or you can put a little pressing liquid in a dish and roll the edge around quickly. Press the circle with a warm iron, be careful not to melt your plastic template!

starch edges

You can wrap a piece of foil around it if you like, that helps protect the plastic and holds the heat for longer to get a crisp edge.

wrap with foil

Repeat that for the two remaining circles and applique them down into place. Choose fine thread that disappears when you place it over your applique shape.

applique circles

When you are finished with all the applique, give it a light press and trim your block down to 6.5″.

trim block

And that’s another block done and ready to join the others! I hope you’ve learnt something new. We all have our favourite techniques and I know fiddly work isn’t for every one. You may want to skip making the bias tape loops and just applique ribbon or use embroidery to create the loops. And instead of those wonky juggling balls you can fussy cut some fun fabric circles…

Whatever you do, thank you for joining me for The Splendid Sampler. I look forward to seeing all your lovely blocks. And I’m eagerly awaiting The Splendid Sampler book that Pat and Jane are publishing with all the patterns so I can continue making more of these great blocks. It’ll be a lovely record of this fun project.

Here’s a photo of my original block that will appear in the book. In fact, I think it’s even on the cover. I can’t wait to see my block together with all the other Designer blocks!


I’m more of an Instagram girl these days, feel free to tag me if you have any questions. You can find me over there as lorena_in_syd. I know, sew original!

Happy stitching!

Lorena x

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  1. Lauren Ihnow says

    I actually just started my Splendid Sampler quilt. I got a late start due to health issues last year. However I started with your block. I was very intiminated when i saw block and some of the pics of finished blocks. However You made this block easy for me and even informative and fun. So I thank you for all your time and effort in your contributions it is most appreciated

    Thank you

    Lauren Ihnow

  2. Brenda Barry says

    I enjoyed doing this block. It’s not something I normally do and was fun to make. I have the Mylar bias bars and will look for the metal ones too!! Thank you!

  3. Teresa says

    Thank you for the beautiful block. I haven’t started it yet but am looking forward to doing it.
    Thanks again!!

  4. Barbara Precht says

    Lorena, Your tutorial was very helpful. I love this block and hope that I can do it justice. The Splendid Experience has been very rewarding and educational for me. I have enjoyed this quilting experience immensely. Probably the best part has been reading all the stories behind all the blocks. The designers have been so kind to open their lives to the quilt world. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Machelle says

    Love love love this! ❤️ And a big thank you for this tutorial and reminder on making a small amount of bias binding or bias to use as stems, design elements etc.

  6. Audrey Johnson says

    Thank you so much for posting the tips for the Splendid Sampler you created. It is a very fun one. I hope I do it justice.

  7. Annie Perry says

    Thank you so much for your beautiful design, I was “juggling ” everything nicely until the end of October, I need to find my rythem and starting with your block may just be what I need! Thank you for sharing your creativity and being a part of splendid:)

  8. Aurea Gillis says

    I love appliqué. The pattern is wonderful with those added twist. Thought it would be difficult but not after reading your tut. Thank you.

  9. Skye B says

    Thankyou so much for the tutorial with using the bias tape maker, I had not seen how this style of bias tape maker was used and you’ve been very clear :)

  10. Lempereur Brigitte says

    J’adore vos modèles de blocs qui sorte de l’ordinaire parfois les blocs spéciales Je n’arrive pas a les télécharger encore merci pour touts les jolis bocstous différents. Brigitte Malmedy Belgique

  11. says

    Thank you for your tutorial. I probably would have skipped over this one as it looks so challenging, but your photos and directions have excited me about giving it a try! Thank you again!

  12. Judith says

    Haven’t done this one yet but it looks very interesting to do. . Looking forward to getting started. Thank you for sharing it and the tutorial. Without the tutorial, I think I would have a difficult time putting it together.
    Thanks again

  13. Sandra Gregoire says

    Thank you Lorena for your adorable and fun block. I enjoyed the challenge thanks to your great tutorial. You are an awesome designer and glad you were part of the journey.

  14. Donna F says

    Thank you for adding a new skill to our blocks! I have never made my own bias tape…can’t wait to give it a try and add a this new skill to my learning!! What a fun block,

  15. Rossie says

    I am a big fan of this kind of appliqué. Love the small bias strips and your way of doing circles. Great block! I love it and will be picking my colors soon. Thanks so much. Appreciate your design!

    • admin says

      Thank you, I use both Best Press (which contains starch) and Flatter (which is starch free). I like both because they don’t flake and don’t come in an aerosol can. I think you have more options the States?

  16. Janet Ward says

    Thank you Lorena Uriarte !! You have made such a fun block! Although I procrastinated in getting started at first with my Splendid Sampler, I eventually dove in… I’m not always in order, but am having fun. Because of the Designers like you that have made this possible, I find it is probably one of the most fun things for me right now. Blessings to you, and thanks for the great tutorial! Now there is a block, and a book that immoralizes you!! That’s awesome!! Hugs & love!❤️

  17. Heather says

    Thanks or the adorale lick and the ecellent instructions. I have yet to do this block, but am not so intimidated nw. Thank you!!

  18. Loretta Clinton says

    Thank you for this terrific tutorial Lorena. I guess I should have read it before making the block, but I’m very happy with how mine came out!

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