Thursday, February 17, 2011

Because the world needed another Spiderweb tutorial.

For my inaugural post (on this blog, anyway), I present you with a tutorial for the adorable and increasingly popular Spiderweb block! There are several other Spiderweb tutorials available online that employ the two primary methods of creating this block: templates and foundation piecing. Mine differs from them all slightly in that 1) it produces a larger finished block than usual (18.5"), which I prefer, and 2) the foundation pieced area is a bit more stable in my version (or at least I think it is).

A tutorial using the template method can be found here, and a popular one using a different foundation-piecing method can be found here.

Head to your scrap bin for A LOT OF coordinating scraps that are at least 6" long and various widths (the longer, the'll just cut them down as you go). As with any string block, you can make your "strings" all the same width or all different widths, depending on the look you want to achieve. Mine vary from 1.5" to 2.25"...not a huge variance, but enough to provide some interest and dimension. There is also a roughly even quantity of light and dark fabrics in my block.

Step 1: Gather your materials and prepare your triangles

You need a ruler, a cutting mat and board, a pencil, a rotary cutter, and your background and string fabrics. White is used as a background fabric most often, but it is not necessary to use a neutral! I think this pattern looks great with a brightly colored solid as the background. I am using Kona cotton in Cerise, one of my favorite colors.

Cut two 13.75" squares. Cut them down the middle to produce two big triangles.

Take one of the triangles, your ruler, and a pencil. Fold your triangle in half and crease it with your nail. You want a sharp crease.

Open it out. Do you see a thin, sharp crease going STRAIGHT down the middle? Okay, good.

Step 2: Mark your triangles

Take your ruler and measure 4" from the top point of the triangle. Mark that point with a pencil or pen. There is no need to use an impermanent or disappearing marking tool here. You are going to sew a full 1/4" away from this mark when you begin assembling the block.

Repeat on the other side.

Now you will mark the bottom of the triangle, which is where you will see the importance of having a straight crease right down the middle. Place your ruler along the bottom of the triangle. Mark 1/4" on either side of the creased line.

The final stage of the marking process is connecting the dots on either side of the crease to one another to form a fabric placement line. Connect the top and bottom lines on the right side of the crease.
Repeat on the left side.

Now you can move onto the good part! Your triangle should look like this:

Step 3: Sew!

Place your first strip of fabric right-side-down along the drawn line on the right side of the crease, making sure the fabric edge aligns with the inked line. This is very important because it will determine whether or not the points of your web match up when they are all put together! The fabric should be closer to the middle of the triangle than to the far right point because you are going to iron it out to the right side when you move onto the second strip.

Sew that strip down and iron it out.

Place a second strip of fabric on top of the first strip, right sides together, and sew it down. Sew through the base fabric. You will not cut the background fabric away at this stage (this is where my method differs from others). Not cutting away will obviously waste a lot of fabric, but it will also prevent the base triangle from distorting while you are working with it, which is a potential hazard in the other foundation-pieced methods. Sewing the strips directly to the base fabric will keep it stable as you work with it. I am willing to sacrifice fabric for accuracy; if you're not, you can keep going, just push the background triangle of fabric out of the way as you continue!

Open it out and iron. I iron after I sew down every strip, and I advise doing so as well, just so you don't get any lumps or wavy fabric in the finished product.

Continue until you reach the end of the block. You will notice that I trim the fabrics as I go instead of letting them hang loose over the ends. This is much easier than waiting until you trim up the triangles and then trying to pull apart pieces of fabric that are attached by a few stitches.

When you reach the end of the block, I think it is better to sew on the last strip by laying a piece of fabric horizontally instead of vertically. Just make sure it covers enough of the background fabric:

One side complete!

Repeat on the other side and you have this:

Lay it upside down on your cutting mat and trim it up, using the background fabric as a guide:

Now you have one lovely triangle!

Sew three more in exactly the same way. Experiment with different layouts. I move them all around and look at every possible arrangement. I try to avoid letting any of the same fabrics touch each other. It's inevitable that it will occur once in a while unless you really obsess over it when you're sewing, which I admit to doing sometimes. The most important thing in a quilt like this is to prevent the same fabrics from lining up together if they are both a very dark color. That will create "stripes" in the finished product that will draw the eye in. Eek!

Divide them into two sets of two and sew the pairs together. I line up and pin the web points first, and then pin out on either side from there. Press these seams open. There is too much fabric in there to get lazy about this.

At this point, lay the big triangles out to ensure that you don't have any skew--ie, the long side of the triangle isn't perfectly straight and is skewed along the straight edge. Skewing will make it very difficult to square up your block after you sew the pairs together. Skewing will look like this:

See how the bottom part of the triangle slants to the right? You want to trim that off. Here's another shot of the skewed triangle:


Now that you've ensured that your two triangles have straight edges, sew them together into one large square. Again, I line up the web points first, then I pin the area between them and ensure that the star is centered, and then I line up and pin the rest. Sew. Press seams open again. It is fiddly because of the strings, but it's worth the effort!

Square off at 18.5". Et voila! A beautiful Spiderweb block.

The one frustrating thing about this block is that you have to make four of them to start to see the webs appear...but making them doesn't take as long as you might expect. Each one of the blocks has only taken me about 75 minutes total.

Send me the link to your Spiderweb if you make one!


  1. this method seems so much better to me! I rather have that background fabric holding everything together, than ending up with a floppy triangle. :)

  2. Wow, the cerise really makes this pop! Is this by any chance your bee block???

  3. I love cerise, especially with mustard.

  4. This is a great method - I'll be bookmarking for future use!