This tutorial for a foundation pieced Union flag/Union Jack block is aimed at people who haven’t done foundation piecing before – and so you need to know that this is not a wholly traditional way of foundation piecing! It is lazy, a little slapdash, and wastes a bit of fabric, but it *is* quick and fun, and a nice introduction to the concept. If you are a proper quilter, or of a more methodical and tidier frame of mind, then please do just use the block template and ignore me! You can find lots of guides to accurate and proper foundation piecing elsewhere (with Lord Google’s assistance).
Before you start….
Print the foundation template. You can use bog-standard printer paper for this (the worse quality the better really – nice and thin is good!), or paper made specifically for foundation piecing, if you have some. The key is that you need to be able to see the foundation grid lines through on the back of the paper as well as the front. When you print it out, you will see that the sections of the template are numbered – this is the order in which you stitch the fabric pieces – this should all become clear in the instructions.
I have given measurements for the fabrics, but they are pretty generous, so that you don’t have to worry too much about accuracy of cutting or fabric placing. Consequently some of your seam allowances will end up being more than the traditional quilting standard of 0.25″. You can trim to 0.25″ as you go along if you want to, by folding the paper template out of the way and trimming the excess with scissors or a rotary cutter. To be honest, if you are planning on using the block to make a pincushion top like I have (which I don’t usually quilt), then it is not essential to trim because I reckon that all those extra layers gives it extra durability. If I was going to make lots of these blocks to sew up into a proper quilt, and I was intending to quilt the blocks, then I would definitely trim. It’s up to you, and what you are planning to make!
When foundation piecing it’s important that you adjust the stitch length on your sewing machine to about 1.5mm – this makes removing the paper later much easier – it’s just like tearing away perforations – so don’t forget to adjust!
If at any stage you can’t quite work out where the next seam line should be when placing and pinning the next piece of fabric (which can be tricky when you are doing rough and ready cutting like this), you can fold the template along the grid line you are planning to sew and use the fold to guide you. Or, you can unthread the needle on your machine and then stitch along the template grid line (adjust the stitch length to 2.8mm) – there will be a very useful line of holes on the fabric side that you can use as a guide.
The finished size of the block is around 4.5″
You need 3 different, well contrasting fabrics.
Forms the 2 main crosses (brown floral – a Liberty print called Elysian – on my example).
- 4 pieces measuring 1″x2.75″ for section 1
- 2 pieces measuring 1.25″x2.25″ for section 8
- 1 piece measuring 1.25″x4.75″ for step 11
Forms the highlighting edging to the main crosses (solid pink – a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton – on my example)
- 16 pieces measuring 2.5″x1″ for sections 2, 3, 6 and 7
Forms the little triangle sections (pale blue – a Liberty print called Capel – on my example).
- 8 pieces measuring 2.25″x1.25″ for sections 4 and 5
Cut out the 4 sections of the template – you don’t have to be terribly accurate. Take one of the larger template pieces and place a 1″x2.75″ piece of Fabric 1 right side up on the reverse side of the paper. Here is one of the reasons for using thinnish paper for your template – hold it up to the light if you can’t quite see the lines. You can use a tiny dab of washable glue to hold this bit of fabric in place, or you can stitch it in place inside the seam allowance, or pin it in place.
(Try and imagine that that line of stitching above isn’t there, and imagine a pin instead – sorry!). Take a piece of Fabric 2 and, right sides together, align the long edge with the piece of Fabric 1 and pin into position.
Flip the template over, and stitch along the seam line marked. As you can see in the photo, you need to extend the stitching right out to the dotted line at one end, and a couple of stitches beyond at the other end of the line – this means that all you stitching will be secured as you go.
Flip back to the right side, fold fabric 2 over and press.
Place another piece of Fabric 2 against the other long edge of Fabric 1, right sides together, and stitch the second grid line. Once again, extend the stitching all the way to the dotted line at one end, and by a couple of stitches at the other end of the line. Flip to the front and press as before.
Continue, as before, with Fabric 3, covering sections 4 and 5 on the template, extending your stitching lines, just as before.
Then use Fabric 2 again for sections 6 and 7. (Shocking evidence of lack of trimming there, cover your eyes!!).
Finally add section 8 using one of the 1.25″x2.25″ pieces of Fabric 1. Leave the paper in place, and cut along the dotted lines on the template to trim the block to size.
Stitch the 3 other blocks and then trim to size, as in steps 1 to 7. Your final blocks should look as pictured in Step 8.
Keeping the foundation paper intact, and using the grid lines to guide you, stitch together one larger block with one smaller block, then repeat for the other 2 pieces. You will end up with 2 sections as pictured in Step 9. Now you can remove the paper. Work slowly and it should come away easily. If you encounter any tricky bits then you can damp the paper along the seams to make it easier. Press the seams that you have just sewn in towards the centre of the block.
Take the piece of Fabric 1 that you should have left, and align the long side with one of the halves that you have completed, right sides together. Pin and stitch with a 1/4″ seam. Fold and press the seam you have just sewn in towards the centre of the block.
Repeat Step 10 with the other half of the block and you are all done!
To make your block into a pincushion, strengthened it by ironing on some woven interfacing, then back it with some cotton or linen (also interfaced). Then stitch a 1/4″ seam all round, leaving a turning gap of about 3″. Turn the pincushion through, stuff it, and then stitch the turning gap closed with a ladder stitch. The finished cushion is about 4″ square – just right for a pincushion I think.
Hope you like the tutorial – do get back in touch with feedback if you have a go.