Random Sampler QAL – Spools

June 27, 2013 § 7 Comments

I’ve been thinking about spool blocks for awhile.  So when I went to my BlockBase program and searched for spools, I was surprised to see this one by Nancy Cabot from 1936. Actually, it was named Spool & Bobbin.  I’ve also seen it called Flying Shuttles on the Internet.


Nancy Cabot was a quilt designer who published a quilting column in the Chicago Tribune newspaper in the 1930’s. She was quite pivotal in reviving the art of quilt making in the early 20th Century.

And BTW, BlockBase is the computer version of Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  It’s a stand alone product from Electric Quilt. EQ7 is NOT needed to use BlockBase, but it can be linked to EQ7 so that all the blocks can be used in designing quilts. It’s quite a handy little piece of software!


When you hear “spool block” you may think of this one… the traditional 4-patch version.


Or you may think of this one…  a single spool.  Here’s an easy tutorial for a spool block over at Bee In My Bonnet.


But did you know that this one that has been recently called the “x and+” block is also called a spool block from the 1970’s that has been attributed to Nancy Cabot from 1938.  Here’s a tutorial for the “x and +” block over at Badskirt Amy that many people have been using.

So… let’s get started.  The original block measures 12 1/2″ including seam allowances.


1.  Choose 3 fabrics, a light a medium and a dark value.


2. From the light value fabric cut:

  • 4 – 3 7/8″ squares, cut in half diagonally once to yield 8 half-square triangles.

From the medium value fabric cut:

  • 8 – 2 3/8″ squares, cut in half diagonally once to yield 16 half-square triangles.
  • 4 – 3 7/8″ squares, cut in half diagonally once to yield 8 half-square triangles.

From the dark value fabric cut:

  • 8 – 2″ squares.
  • 4 – 3 7/8″ squares, cut in half diagonally once to yield 8 half-square triangles.


3. Sew a 2 3/8″ medium value triangle to one side of a 2″ square.  Press towards the triangle.  Sew a second 2 3/8″ medium value triangle to the adjacent side of a 2″ square and press towards the triangle. Repeat and make 8 for the entire spool block.


4. Sew a 3 7/8″ dark value triangle to the half-square triangle units in Step 3 above. Repeat to make 8 half-square triangles for the entire spool block.


5. Sew a 3 7/8″ light value triangle to a 3 7/8″ medium value triangle and press the seams towards the light fabric. Repeat and make 8 half-square triangles for the entire block.


6.  Lay out 2 light/medium half-square triangles and 2 medium/dark half-square triangles as shown above, alternating their placement in each row.  Sew the 2 half-square triangles together in each row and then sew the rows together to complete 1 section of the entire block.  Repeat to make 4 sections to complete the entire block.


If you are consistently pressing the seams in opposite directions, your seams should be nesting nicely and not be too bulky.


This is the back side of one section.


And… this is the front side of one section.  At this point it should measure 6 1/2″ including seam allowances.

7.  From here you can decide if you want to leave the 4 sections as separate blocks and NOT sew them together.  Or… you can sew all 4 sections together and make a 12 1/2″ block. It’s up to you.  I’m leaning towards leaving them as 4 separate blocks. But then I’m wondering if it really is a spool block or not?  Maybe it is… and it is like that first image of a traditional spools block in that there are 4 of them in 1 block.  Either way…  I hope you enjoy this one.

And…  I’m thinking of making some of those other spool blocks I’ve mentioned above as well.  If you missed my last post… here’s a pic of my blocks so far.

§ 7 Responses to Random Sampler QAL – Spools

  • Letty says:

    Super cute! Your snowflake block is looking so good in the mix now! I’m excited to make the spools 🙂

  • Those are really pretty, Anita! I’m only familiar with the second version as a spool block. I thought too, that the first one from Nancy Cabot looked more like shuttles for the old machines. I’ve been making lots of the x and + blocks too, but I don’t think of spools when I see that one. Interesting how many different versions there are. I really need to try to catch up, still haven’t made made my heart blocks! Just no sewing time lately. Thanks for all the inspiration 🙂

  • Dena M says:

    I love learning the history of blocks and seeing the different variations of them. Thank you for the tutorial.

  • Marie says:

    This block is absolutely gorgeous and what a beautiful post. I love the fabric choice which makes the block dance. It is so gorgeous that you linked the block back to Nancy Cabot. It just makes it more special. I think these blocks with be beautiful with you sampler quilt. Have a great weekend. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mathea says:

    Your block is lovely, and I totally see the shuttles,so if a shuttle and a spool is the same thing I get it. I knew that the x and + block was a traditional one, but hadn’t looked up the name – so funny that it is a spool block as well. It’s really interesting to learn about the origins of blocks and their names. Thank you for sharing.

  • Blue.Ridge.Girl says:

    It is always so fun to read your posts…I enjoy the tidbits of information you share. I’m almost ready to get started with this block (I think it does remind me of shuttles). I’ll start mulling over fabrics while I finish up the May do. Good Stitches quilt.

  • Sarah Marie says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, I love the spool block and was not familiar with it. Now I have one more block to add to my to-do list!

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