Thursday, December 1, 2011

Herringbone Block Tutorial

 Herringbone Block Tutorial

This month it's my turn to lead the quilt design for the Love circle of do. Good Stitches.  Mmm... I love it when my turn comes around!  I get to pondering all the many, many, MANY ideas I have for quilts and then to pinpoint one (darn, just one?) to bring to fruition with the 9 other members of our quilting bee circle.  This month I'm drawing inspiration from Holly of Bijou Lovely's beautiful Herringbone quilt, made with the Inspire circle of do. Good Stitches earlier this year:

I had thought to send my circle to Holly's great tutorial for her 12.5" square chevron blocks and that would be that.  But, well, I couldn't resist changing a few things.  And that's totally the fault of my scraps!

Really! Ok, partly.

Holly's tutorial calls for 2.5" wide strips, but the bulk of my scrap strips are 2" or narrower.  Obviously, the scraps insist.  And, then, while I was doing my own thing I figured I may as well make the block narrow and long.  I seem to have this thing against square quilt blocks.  Who can fathom why?

Herringbone Block Tutorial

*Finished size 11" x 22" (11.5" x 22.5" unfinished)
*Supplies: 2" wide strips and 6" x 24" rigid quilting ruler 

Step 1:  Cutting

Sort through your scraps to find strips that are at least 2" wide and 11" long. (You can squeak by with 4 that are only 8.5" long  to work in at the ends, but the rest will have to be 11" or longer!)  For this block you'll need a total of 28 strips.  Trim them down to 2" x 11", being especially careful to cut the 2" width accurately.

1 - strips 

Step 2Layout

The Herringbone block is worked in two separate halves. For your first block half choose 14 strips.  Arrange them in a pleasing (or random!) order.  If you're using some shorter strips (at least 8.5" long) place those at either end of your row of strips.  Now, stagger them on your work surface in pairs, spacing each pair about 1.5" to the right of it's neighbor, like so:

2 - layout

I admit that there's something funky going on at the very bottom of my stagger, but you'll see I fixed it in the next step.

Step 3:  Piece Pairs

At the sewing machine piece your pairs together, matching the 11" side of each strip with right sides together.  Use the standard 1/4" seam allowance now and throughout the tutorial.  Chain-piecing saves time here and is really easy.  After you sew one pair together, don't cut your threads.  Sew for a bit past the pair with nothing under your presser foot, then feed in the new pair.  Here's I've pulled aside the first pair so that you can see the thread connection.

3 - chain piece

You can bust through all 7 pairs really quick this way.  Once sewn, cut the connecting threads and press seams open.

Step 4:  Piece Stagger

Lay out your strips again on your work surface.

4 - layout again

It's time to sew them all together, maintaining the staggered spacing.  To start, place a mark at 1.5" from one edge of each pair, to designate where the next pair should be sewn in.

5 - mark

Then, with right sides together, connect all the pairs according to your marks.

6 - piece at mark

After pressing seams open, you'll have one long, funny-looking piece!

Step 5:  Trim

Place your work on a cutting mat.  Now you'll trim this staggered piece into one rectangle measuring 6" x 22.5".  This is easy with a 6" x 24" quilting ruler!  If you don't have one, use another ruler to cut one long side of the rectangle first and do whatever shifting is necessary to cut the piece 6" wide and 22.5" tall.

7 - angle

Place one corner of your 6" x 24" quilting ruler at the seam of the fabric strip second to the bottom, right where that seam meets the raw edge of your work.  Next, rotate the ruler until its other corner touches the bottom raw edge of the first strip at the very bottom.  See?

Angle closeup

Essentially, we are establishing the angle of your cut.  Do this carefully, as you'll want all of your Herringbone blocks to have the same angle.  When it's just right, your ruler should be entirely over fabric.  Holding the ruler in place, cut at the bottom of the ruler and along both long sides.

8 - trim

Lastly, align the long edges of your newly trimmed piece with the lines of your cutting mat. When everything is square, trim the top edge straight across at 22.5" long.

9 - cut top

HELP!  What if you go to trim, establish the angle and find that all of your ruler is NOT over fabric?  Ah, my friend, do not despair.  These things do happen what with variances in personal seam allowances and slightly off strip-widths that are exasperated with such a long block.  If this happens to you, study your piece with the clear ruler in place to see which seam you should unpick to shift the strips in the right direction.  Most likely, you can unpick just one strip, resew it as needed and trim away!


Step 6: Make Opposite Half

Alrighty then, you've made 1/2 of a Herringbone block!  I think you know what comes next.  Repeat Steps 2-4 working with the remaining 14 strips.  This time, stagger your strips in the opposite direction, like so.

10 - 2nd half

When it comes time to trim up your staggered piece (Step 5), use your ruler to establish the angle of your cut as before.  But this time, before cutting, check to see that your angle actually matches the cut on your first half.  Here I've placed my right half against the ruler.  I rotated the ruler a bit more until all of the strips matched with a nice, sharp "V".  At that point you'll see that not all of my ruler is over fabric (check out the upper left side.  See, that's why I knew you might need "help".)

11 - match halves

After unpicking a seam at the center, I was able to make my cut with perfectly matched lines!

12 - matched

13 - trim

14 - and top

Step 7:  Finish

Matching halves

Now that you've made both block halves, match them up with right sides together.  Place a pin at each seam to ensure matched points.  Sew them up, press open and admire your handsome Herringbone block!

15 - pin

Herringbone finished!

As always, if you make any Herringbone blocks, I'd love to see them Stitched in Color on Flickr.  Thanks to all the ladies in the Love circle who will be making blocks for this quilt.  I can't wait to see what we put together for Wrap Them in Love this time!


  1. This looks great and seems very doable! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh my gosh. I just love your version of making this. I think I can actually do this.

  3. OMG! The quilt is stunning! Thank you so much for the detailed tutorial, including the mistake that I most likely will make and it's solution!!

  4. Oh that is gorgeous .... love it. Very clever.

  5. That's a really easy way of doing it. Thanks for the post.

  6. Can I just say, I think you're amazing. This is such a beautiful, vibrant block. I'm adding it to my to do list. Love it!

  7. Ooh, love this block, great way to use up scraps :o)

  8. Thanks for this! It looks so funky :o) Can't wait to see the whole quilt!

  9. I love it! Thanks for the tute - will be trying this sometime soon :)

  10. I'm looking forward to making these this month! I hope to go scrap sorting this weekend in preparation for the blocks! Thanks for sharing, Rachel. It will be a lovely quilt.

  11. I love the combination of colors and fabrics you selected for this particular block! It's perfect!!

  12. Rachel, thanks for tutorial! Definitely I have to try it, It looks really nice :-)

  13. Awesome! I want to hurry up my scraps bag now so I can make one of these. Thanks for the tutorial.

  14. Great tutorial Rachel! Love love!

  15. I have a whole bin of strip scraps ready for something like this. Think I'll go wonky though.

  16. I just learned so much! Thank you.

  17. I've made 3 panels now, 1.5 blocks. I must be doing something wrong, the longest I can do the final trim at is 21 inches.?
    It's fun, but I can't figure this out? Thanks.

    1. I'm sorry for the trouble, Di. Maybe it would work to add another strip to bring it up to 22.5 inches. Of, you could just plan on your blocks being a bit shorter. As long as they're consistent, shorter would work just fine.

    2. Yes, this happened to me too! I can't figure out how mine is different from yours! oh, well. I just added a little strip to the end and I'm fine. I can't make the block shorter since it's for our do. good circle. But I LOVE how mine turned out!!!

  18. Great tutorial thank you for sharing !

  19. Thank you for sharing....I like it.

  20. I am having a problem getting the 2 blocks to match at the seams. I have made several of them. Do you have anymore pictures, I really have to get this to match up because I am doing this for the Nurture Do good stitches.

    1. I don't have anymore pictures and I admit it is a tricky tutorial. I think if I were doing it again and accuracy was super important, I would want to paper piece these blocks. If your seems are not all matching, but most of them are or they are just a bit off, I don't personally think that's a huge problem. The reality is that when the quilter assembles the quilt, the lines will not meet up between one block and the next. It's just not accurate enough via this method. Maybe let the quilter know where you're at and see what she suggests?

  21. I really like this. Thank you. Just recently found your site.

  22. Great tutorial! It's giving me lots of fun ideas to try out with strips of scraps.

  23. Just wondering.... Why don't you add the backing when you do the quilting?

  24. Wondering, if you place your 60 degree line on your ruler on a seam line, would that make the 2 strips match easier?

    1. That's a great idea, Marcia! At the time I wasn't using the angles on my ruler to advantage. This is a tutorial I'd like to redo sometime =)

  25. This is a fabulous tutorial. I love the fabric you used. Such a fresh look.


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