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Sewing the Snowball Block

I’m all set to start sewing the snowball block today. This is block number one of three which I used in the designing of the What’s Good For The Gal is Good for the Guy challenge quilt. The snowball block is a common quilt block and there’s a very straightforward piecing method for it.

Yesterday, I familiarized myself with many of the basic sewing features on the Pfaff Creative 4.5, so I can get going sewing blocks today. As I continue creating the challenge quilt, I’m sure there will be many more features to share with you. I didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg yesterday with the few features I did highlight!

Standard sewing method

The usual way to sew this block is to place small squares at the corners of each larger square and sew corner-to-corner across the small squares along a marked line. Once done, the excess fabric is trimmed off leaving a ¼″ seam allowance and the corners are pressed to create a complete square.

I’ve decided to change how I make the block from the usual method because I’ve a limited fabric supply. I don’t want to waste any of the fabric as I’m pretty sure I’m going to need every bit of it.

I’ll be using a template to make the block, so there’s little-to-no fabric waste.

Standard method for making a snowball block with squares in the corners
Standard method for making a snowball block with squares in the corners

 

Picking the fabrics

There seem to be an equal number of light and darker-colored pieces of fabric in the 10-inch squares I have to use. I need 36 of the 5-inch blocks, so I decide to use half light and half darker fabrics to create some contrast within the snowball blocks.

For the background fabrics, I’ll use both fabrics for the corner triangles. This will allow the fabrics to mix and give a more textured background.

The Eclectic Elements fabric
The Eclectic Elements fabric

 

Making a template

There are three options for making a template.

Option 1 – box board template

I did create one block as described above and then I made a template by tracing an outline of the snowball block onto a piece of box board. Cutting out the box board along the lines leaves me with a template to use to cut out the 5-inch squares of fabric that I’ll cut from the 10-inch squares. Don’t use cardboard for this as it’s too soft and will slowly become smaller with usage as the sides get pushed in by the rotary cutter.

Standard method making snowball block with squares in the corners
Standard method making snowball block with squares in the corners

 

Option 2 – freezer paper template

If you don’t have box board on hand, then freezer paper will also work to make the template. The freezer paper has the advantage that it can be ironed onto the fabric to ensure no slippage when cutting.

Several freezer paper templates will be required as it can only be ironed so many times before it won’t stick to the fabric anymore. The shiny side of the freezer paper is put face down on top of the fabric and ironed in place. It peels off with no harm to the fabric.

 

Freezer paper template
Freezer paper template

 

Option 3 – plastic template

Lastly, a piece of template plastic can be cut into the correct shape just as the box board was. It will be an ever-lasting template. I didn’t have any template plastic and found this placemat in the back room that would have worked just as well.

Also x-ray film makes great templates as well but, unfortunately, not many of us have access to this product.

I didn’t cut up the placemat but, if I had a Sharpie, it would have been the best tool to use to draw the template onto the mat. Sharp scissors would probably have been the easiest method to cut it out.

I’ve never used a lot of templates in my years of quilting, but they do have their place. To ensure optimal use of the fabric I need to use one today.

A plastic placemat to replace template plastic
A plastic placemat to replace template plastic

 

Changing up the sewing method

Using the box board template, I cut all four corners off each of the 36 five-inch squares for the snowball block. Using the template saves background fabric because now, instead of a square on each corner, a triangle can be used. This background fabric square can be cut into two triangles with no wastage of fabric.

There’s a bit of waste on each of the feature fabric squares when the four corners are removed. I put these pieces into a plastic bag for future use.

Boxboard template in position and ready to use
Boxboard template in position and ready to use

 

One drawback to this method is the seams being sewn together have been cut on the bias.

Bias edges can stretch out of shape, but, if handled carefully, there usually isn’t a problem. With the IDT system engaged and the ¼-inch foot with the guide in place, sewing the bias edges together is no problem at all. Everything stays in place and is perfectly matched up.

What is the IDT system?

The IDT system stands for integrated dual feed that delivers even feed of fabric from the bottom and top. In other words, it moves smoothly and evenly over the feed dogs and under the presser foot no matter the type of fabric or number of layers being sewn together. This results in perfect seams on all fabric.

Another reason for using the IDT system is that pinning is not required with the even feed of the fabric. If you’re sewing long pieces together, then the odd pin may be needed just to keep the two pieces together and prevent them from flapping apart.

It’s easily engaged by pulling on the lever at the back of the machine and placing it in the slot at the back of the foot.

IDT system engaged
IDT system engaged

 

Not all of the feet made for the Pfaff machines are IDT compatible. If they are, they’re easily recognized by the slot in the back.

Today, I’m sewing with the Perfect ¼″ Foot that is IDT compatible and has a right-sided guide to ensure the fabric stays lined up under the foot for a perfect ¼″ seam allowance.

Perfect ¼″ foot with IDT compatibility
Perfect ¼″ foot with IDT compatibility

 

If you don’t have a dual feed system on your machine and are finding that the bias edges are stretching, some spray starch can be used to stiffen them up a tad. I don’t use starch lot but, when I do, I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press, which doesn’t leave a residue and the fabric isn’t stiff as a board afterwards.

Pieces ready for sewing
Pieces ready for sewing

 

Stitch info

The machine is threaded, the correct foot is in place, the IDT system is engaged, and the pieces are ready for sewing. Next step is to make sure that a straight stitch has been selected along with the appropriate stitch length.

The home page of the LCD screen shows which stitch is being used, the stitch length/width, what foot to use and so on. It’s indicating that I’m using stitch number one, which is a straight stitch with a default length of 2.5. Stitch number one is highlighted in the photo below with the pink box around it.

To change any of this, use the stylet and touch on the appropriate icon to make changes. Use the plus and minus icons above and below the stitch length icon to increase or decrease the stitch length. Below, the photo shows where these buttons are located.

Home page
Home page

 

I didn’t get very far with sewing the snowball block today because I just had to discuss some more of the awesome features on the the Pfaff Creative 4.5. Tomorrow, I promise, we’ll be sewing the snowball block together and getting the What’s Good for the Gal is Good for the Guy challenge quilt underway.

Happy Quilting

Jennifer runs Quilts by Jen, a fantastic educational resource for quilters with many great free tutorials ranging from how to choose fabrics, understanding the value of fabrics, pressing, building Bargello runs, pinning, binding, sandwiching, couching, quilting, and much more. Check them out!

7 Comments

  1. Diane Sinclair Meigs

    Enjoyed your tutorial and anxious to try.

    • Qs17admin

      So glad to hear it! Thank you!

  2. Chris

    I love snowball blocks, just wish I could make them faster. I don’t see where to leave a comment with the embroidery section. Like this one too.

  3. Kathy E.

    I am looking forward to trying this block out this weekend. It looks like a great tutorial with wonderful photos. I am such a visual person and appreciate it very much!

  4. Judy

    I would like to enter the giveaway. I think the embroideries look superb. hope this is the right place to put my comment.

  5. Hiya Jennifer!!! Loving this so far. Just an observation—are the “stitch length” and “stitch width” arrows pointing to the opposite icons on the “Home Page” pic, the last one on the post??? Just something i noticed and wondered about. Thanks so much. Blessed be, hugs!!! Pam
    pamspretties57 at gmail dot com

    • Thanks Pam. They are pointing to the opposite ones. I’ll have to fix that. Thanks for pointing that out. Jen

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