The friendship braid quilt block just by it’s name evokes warm, loving emotions. And of course quilts themselves are associated not only with physical warmth but also with the security of love and committed relationships. The fabric prints I’m using for my present friendship braid project bring to my mind that sense of long-term warmth. I bought the 2½” strips of Moda’s Luna Notte fabrics from a trader at the 2011 Quilts UK show held in the shadow of the dramatic Malvern Hills in Gloucestershire. And those strips of beautiful silky cotton have been put away, brought out, stroked and hidden away again many times over the past four years!
I can’t really explain why but last week the fabric strips came out of the cupboard again and instead of putting them away I matched them to a pattern in ‘Jelly Roll Quilts’ by Pam and Nicky Lintott and began cutting trapezoids (get me and my maths language!) with the recommended Omnigrid 96L ruler. To make a friendship braid block there needs to be equal numbers of trapezoids cut in two directions – traditionally one direction in light fabrics the reverse trapezoid in dark fabrics. Luna Notte has predominately muted shades so to my eye there are far more light/medium fabrics than definite lights and darks. No matter, the block can work without strong colour value contrasts – in this case emphasising the gentle soft shades and giving a sort of ‘aged’ country cottage effect.
Getting started with a friendship braid was a bit taxing for me (a bear of little brain!) but thankfully it’s the sort of patchwork that is repetitive and develops a simple, pleasant rhythm that quickly becomes intuitive. (I also started with the advantage that I’ve done it before – making a simple bag out of scraps.) It’s all about the light and dark or, for this project, the left and right. I’ll be making eight braid strips, four will start with a right hand trapezoid piece, four with a left. This is helpful in the piecing process as I’ve begun by chain piecing the four ‘right start’ braids – chain piecing helps with developing a rhythm, saves thread and increases the rate of production! Once these four are complete I will chain piece the second set of four braids beginning with left hand pieces.
Another plus to add to the friendship braid block is that it lends itself to short bursts of activity at the sewing machine – just ideal to pick up and put down for the odd twenty minutes snatched here and there through a busy day.
The next challenge will be sewing the braids together – all the exposed edges are bias cut so I’ll have to be careful!