Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Sweet Trails: new pattern for spring

The weather outside my window has definitely bean leaning towards spring the last several weeks.  It's warmer than normal for this time of year, and a part of me worries it's just a cruel trick before cold rushes back in to destroy the buds the plants have gamely started showing.  The rest of me says I should just think positive and enjoy the sunshine and warmth.

Whatever happens to the buds outside, the cold won't damage these Sweet Trails blooms.

Sweet Trails by Canuck Quilter Designs
Fabric:  Heavy Metal, an Island Batik Signature Collection
designed by Kathy Engle for Swan Sheridan of Swan Amity Studios

You can see the block is based on a traditional snail's Trail block.

That gave me the nice swirling motion I was looking for, but it did present some challenges from a pattern-writing perspective.  Briefly, the snail's trail block has math that doesn't lend itself to making all the parts easy to cut with a rotary cutter.  For example,  2.267"  just isn't marked on the cutting ruler.  Neither is 3.328".  Rounding is an option, but then resulting units are also not quite a size that's easy to measure for trimming. And how tricky is it to trim evenly on all sides so the design doesn't end up lopsided?

What to do?  Make test blocks.  Lots of test blocks, with different permutations of rounding and trimming sizes and specialty tools versus no tools.

The Square on Square Trim tool from Creative Grids worked pretty well.  I'd use it again.  

That said I wanted folks without access to the tool to be able to make this design, so I kept trying versions without the tool.

What I came up with was a combination of rounding up to the nearest measurable size for initial cutting of parts, then trimming only on rounds where the desired size was a size that was easy to measure, like 4 1/2" square.  There are some points that get blunted just a smidge, but it really doesn't matter because the point isn't actually part of the design, it's just an accident of construction and blends right into the next piece in the same color, creating the swirl, even with a blunted tip.  The swirl is the important part!

It's all detailed in the pattern.  Just follow the instructions.  When I say "DO NOT TRIM rounds 1 and 3", don't trim round 1 and 3!  Rosie assures you it will all work out if you trust the directions.

I waffled about how to set these blocks and finally opted to make them float on the background, with a few starry leaf clusters to add a dash of contrasting color for pop.

I also chose to make the last border match the background to keep it visually light.  In combination, the thin inner border, the outside border and the binding act as a frame without being heavy.  I did list the border fabric amounts separately in the pattern so it would be easier to substitute another fabric if you wanted a more solid look.

Some of my test blocks made it onto the backing.

The rest of the test blocks, plus a few more I have pulled scraps for, will end up in a scrappy quilt.  I'm pondering alternate settings for that one, but I may circle back around to the original.  I won't get around to this for a while, so there's time for me to change the plan.

Have you ever made Snail's Trail blocks?  What method did you choose?  I probably should have asked this earlier! 

Now I'm off to work on Week 2 of the Mystery Quilt-Along.  The second clue will be emailed on Thursday, and I need to be a step ahead so I can share pics in my tips and tricks. 

Happy quilting,

Get your copy of the Sweet Trails pattern as a PDF download in my Etsy shop or ask for a print version at your favourite quilt shop.

Look for the  Heavy Metal batik collection from Island Batik in stores now.


  1. Ooh - those batiks are pretty. Neat pattern, too!

  2. That is SUCH a clever design, Joanne! It makes a really pretty flower block. I want to try it with yellow instead of white in the flower centers. But that is a beautiful spring quilt you created.

  3. Love your Sweet Trails pattern!!! And it looks great in Heavy Metal! :-)

  4. Wow! You really gave the Snail Trail block a "spin" turning it into beautiful flowers. I love it! I did the snail trail block back in 2015. I didn't have any special tool for it. The blocks were part of the Shakespeare in the Park quilt by Judy Martin. I remember sewing very slowly to keep the seams exactly at a quarter, but I can't remember any problem with the cutting. She must have used some simple sizes for the triangles.


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