Patchwork Friendship Braid

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!

The friendship braid quilt features on the cover of Pam and Nicky Lintott's book.
The friendship braid quilt features on the cover of Pam and Nicky Lintott’s book.

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.

The left and right trapezoids separated into handy lunch boxes (no children were harmed in the making of this quilt top!)
The left and right trapezoids separated into handy lunch boxes (no children were harmed in the making of this quilt top!)
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A right hand start braid next to pieces laid out for a left hand start braid.

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.

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The rhythm established – next the red print followed by the cream and so on…
The pieces need gentle handling as the exposed edges of the braid are stretchy bias.  A quick finger press is enough at theis stage to get seams lieing in a consistent direction.
The pieces need gentle handling as the exposed edges of the braid are stretchy bias. A quick finger press is enough at this stage to get seams lying in a consistent direction.

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!

Here's the bag made using the friendship braid block.  I carried the braid theme into the handles - plaiting three tubes of fabric and running a line of stitching through them.  In hindsight I should have put a layer of thin wadding in each 'tube' just to give the handles a little more 'substance'.
Here’s the bag I made using the friendship braid block. I carried the braid theme into the handles – plaiting three tubes of fabric and running a line of stitching through them. In hindsight I should have put a layer of thin wadding in each ‘tube’ just to give the handles a little more ‘substance’.

Allison

3 thoughts on “Patchwork Friendship Braid

  1. After reading your lovely description of the friendship braid quilt block it popped into my head that you would have a fabulous career in marketing ! Your quilt is off to a great start and I will look forward to your ‘finish’ post 🙂

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