Monday, February 23, 2015

Odd Fellow's tutorial

Hi all! Several months ago, a reader asked if I would post directions/ a tutorial for the Odd Fellow's block, and I promised that I would after I finished the quilt. To keep that promise, here are detailed directions for making the Odd Fellow's block in a 12 inch size, complete with pictures.  If you're not interested in this block, just skip over today's post and come back tomorrow for something a little more to your liking (baby elephants!). I really do encourage you to try this block, though. It looks complicated but it's not very difficult and it's very satisfying once you finish.

According to quilt historian Barbara Brackman, the Odd Fellow's Chain block originated before 1895 (it's #2170 in her Encyclopedia, if you're curious). It's frequently seen in antique quilts, and is usually set with all the seams matching so that secondary patterns are formed. Sometimes it is all one color, as mine are, and sometimes the larger star formed in the block is in a contrasting color. This pattern can change a great deal by using different colors in different places, so play around with it and have fun!

General tips:

These blocks have a lot of seams, which can lead to some bulky intersections. I have never pressed seams open, though I know a lot of people do, and that might help for a block like this. I have tried to include some more traditional pressing instructions in the directions. Do whatever makes you most comfortable and makes your block lie flat.

One thing that I found very helpful in making this block was to measure at each step. This saves a lot of grief later on. I've included measurements in each step below.

Let's get to it!


For each block, you will need less than 1/4 yard of a background fabric, usually white or black or another neutral like tan or gray.  You will also need about 6 inches (by width of fabric) of a contrasting color. In my quilt, the backgrounds are white and the contrasts are various colors, except for the one block where the values are reversed.

Contrast is really key here. You want a strong contrast between the backgrounds and the colors so that the pattern of the block can shine.


From the background fabric, cut:  3 4-1/4 inch squares, 1 3-1/2 inch square, 8 2-3/8 inch squares,  and 12 2-inch squares.

From the contrasting color, cut:  4 3-7/8 inch squares and 12 2-3/8 inch squares.


This block is composed of several different units and is most easily assembled in sections. These sections go together at the end to make a great finished block.

First, make the center:

Use 2 of the 4-1/4 inch background squares and 8 of the 2-3/8 inch contrast squares to make 8 flying geese units. There are several methods for making geese units, including cutting apart the squares and attaching pieces individually. A tutorial for a faster method is HERE.  Measure and make sure that your flying geese measure 2 inches tall by 3-1/2 inches wide. Trim if necessary.

Use 4 of the flying geese (the other 4 will be used in the side pieces), 4 2-inch background squares, and the 3-1/2 inch background square to make a center block:

Pressing your seams toward the center block makes the points of the geese lie flatter. Finished, it should look like a slightly unbalanced sawtooth star and should measure 6-1/2 inches square.

Next, make the corner pieces:

Use 4 of the 2-3/8 inch contrast squares and 4 of the 2-3/8 background squares and your favorite method to make 8 half-square triangles that measure 2 inches each. Combine these with the remaining 2-inch background squares as shown in the photo to make corner pieces:

I pressed the seams toward the contrast color and twirled the seams in the resulting 4-patch unit. Once assembled, the corner pieces should measure 3-1/2 inches. Make 4 corners.

Then, make the side pieces:

First, cut the remaining 4-1/4 inch background square diagonally twice, making 4 triangles:

For the next step, a ruler or corner trimmer is very handy to cut off the dog ears before stitching so that the pieces align better. If you don't have one, don't worry, but if you do, this is a good time to trim all 4 triangles.

Then, cut the remaining 2-3/8 inch background squares and all 4 of the 3-7/8 inch contrast squares once diagonally, like so:

Lay out the cut pieces as shown, using the remaining geese from step one:

To assemble these pieces, begin by adding the triangles to the sides of the geese. Watch your orientation--the geese should be pointing up. Press toward the backgrounds.

Trim the dog ears, then add the background triangle to the top of the piece you just made. If you didn't trim the triangles beforehand, it is very helpful to finger-press the center of the triangle and align it with the point of the goose to make sure the placement is correct.  Press toward the background triangle.

Finally, add the contrast triangles to the sides of the piece, pressing toward the contrast fabric after adding the first one.

The side pieces should be 3-1/2 inches tall and 6-1/2 inches long at this point. Adjust or trim if necessary.

Finally, assemble the block:

Lay out the block as shown:

Attach two of the side pieces to the center, making sure that the geese point toward the center. Press toward the center.

When stitching the corner pieces to the remaining side pieces, pay attention to the orientation of the triangles in the corner pieces. It's easy to get them turned the wrong way. Attach the sides of the block and press toward the center.

Et voila!

You're finished with a great-looking block! This should measure 12-1/2 inches to finish at 12 inches in a quilt.

Hope that helps you create a great quilt!Any questions, feel free to email me.

Linking up to the new Tips and Tutorials Tuesday at Late Night Quilter. A lot of very good things to learn over there. See you in class!


Judy@Quilt Paradigm said...

Thank you for this!! I'm giving very serious consideration to doing this quilt. I think I need to make one block and see if I think I have what it takes to make 30 of them.... 0_0

Hollie @ Just a Mom who Sews said...

I love this!! It's now on my list to make. Thanks! :)

Jo said...

Well done. I might give this a go

Kelsey Boes said...

Wow, this makes it look simple...thanks for the step by step directions!

Alessandra Vianna said...

Thank you for step by step in this block. I realized my dream and I managed to do . I loved it!

Unknown said...

Finished mine now to come up with a design to quilt in it