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Curves on a straight line

The Snails Trail block is based on the Square-on-square block with 5 layers, combined with a Four-Patch. The Four-Patch is inserted as the center block. By changing the colours the Snails-Trail is created.

A block that is sometimes confused with the Snails Trail is Monkey Wrench. Can you see the difference? Monkey Wrench is based on a four layered Square-on-Square.  The Four Patch in the center is now turned on-point.

And then there is the Pig Tail Block. It is based on a six layered Square-on-square block. It doesn’t have a Four Patch in the centre.

When you combine four Snails Trail blocks, the pattern is called Virginia Reel.

Snails Trail can also be combined with other blocks to create interesting secondary patterns. Combining Snails Trail, Monkey Wrench or Pigs-tail with Storm-at-Sea, the illusion of curves is further advanced.

It is almost impossible to believe these quilt patterns are made without curved piecing.

Monkey Wrench was first published in 1922 as part of the Lady’s Art Quilt pattern. Snails Trail was first published in 1928 in the same collection. The first references were made to the Virginia Reel in 1930.

Other patterns that use Snails Trail and or Monkey Wrench are:

  • Romantic Trail by Tammy Vanderschmitt
  • Let’s Dance – published by Beaquilter
  • Sea Scapes by Shirley Sickenger
  • And the scrappy friendly version Tornado, published by

My last design for the day is a design that might pass for a modern quilt using Pig-Tails and Storm-at-Sea.  Using 12” blocks with 4 ½” sashing these finishes at 95” x 95” for a big queen. 
I call it Dragon Star.

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Piece like a pro

All quilters started somewhere and I can remember looking at quilts in awe and asking myself how on earth a person can consistently align corner to corner and point after point to form the perfect pattern. In my quest to conquer this perfection, I have learned the following lessons:

Slow down

The first and probably most important lesson I had to learn was to slow down. I have finally realized that there is no way to keep control of your sewing at 100km / h. Slow down and enjoy the process. I can add to this point, to be careful not to over-commit when making a quilt. Working against an impossible deadline doesn’t help accurate piecing. 

Pre-wash or not?

There are many pros and con’s to the pre-washing of fabric. Personally, I pre-wash fabrics before using them. The best reasons are to make sure the colors don’t run and to get rid of the starch used in the weaving process. I tumble dry it to damp and then spread it out on a flat surface to dry completely. I don’t iron it at this stage, as the fabric will probably be ironed a couple of times before I finish the quilt. Drying it in this way relaxes the fibers and it is easier to find the straight grain to cut on.  Every quilter can relate to a story that includes colors that “ran”. If you are in doubt, wash your fabrics with color catchers to absorb the excess dye. 

Cut accurately

Cutting accurately is the first step of accurate piecing. Make sure, very sure of the measurements that you are to cut. Measure twice. Cut in a space with adequate lighting. Cut with a sharp rotary blade on a cutting mat. Use a ruler that you can easily see the edge of the fabric through. Hold the ruler securely in place with a flat hand on the surface.  Cut from near to far. Close the rotary blade when you are finished. 

Find your quarter

Quarter-inch seams are synonymous with quilting, but have you really found that quarter-inch yet?  The easiest way to test whether you have found the quarter is to cut 3 two and a half-inch strips. Sew them together and press lightly. Does the center strip measure a perfect two inches? Does it vary? 

At this stage, it might be interesting to look at the way you align your fabric on your sewing machine. You can use a quarter-inch pressure foot and line the fabric up on the side of the foot. I personally use a general pressure foot and move my needle position to the right. In this way, the feed dogs under the fabric line up with the pressure foot with full contact and gives the fabric more stability. It definitely produces more even seams. 

Another way to line up your fabric is by attaching a piece of insulation tape to mark the help your alignment. Some machines also have magnetic alignment tools that keep your fabric aligned. It is worthwhile to spend some time to find the sweet spot where you hit the perfect quarter every time. 

Scant Quarters

You may find patterns and instructions that talk of a scant quarter. A scant quarter is just a little (1 or 2 threads) less than a quarter inch. You will find that sewing on the bias for half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles, a scant quarter will work better than a quarter-inch seam. It also gives a little extra fabric to resize the unit. In a complex pattern, sewing with a scant quarter seam can help for the same reason. 

Finding the spot X

When you sew sharp points on a star or any other triangle, it is simple to find yourself in a position where there is not enough seam allowance on the outer side of the point, leading you to chop off the sharp point. In a pattern where you need to make a Y seam, there are many ways to create bubbles, knots, and chops if you aren’t careful. 

All these problems can be prevented if you know where the X Spot is Every corner that you sew, has a point where the two quarter-inch lines cross. This is not a quarter inch from the tip. If you mark this spot on each corner and sew from corner to corner, you will end up with a quarter-inch seam allowance. It is therefore worth the time and effort to measure and mark this spot when sewing tricky corners. 


Pressing is another part of piecing that is often overlooked. Press on the stitched line to set the seam, before opening the patches. Press the seam to the dark side. Quilters are normally split 50/50 on whether to use steam or not. Smaller seams can be finger-pressed or pressed with a small wooden tool or Hera marker. When you have pressed, the fabric should lie down and not bounce back. Take care not to distort the fabric in the pressing process. 

Size after every step

The last step to accurate piecing is to cut the patches to the correct size before the next step. Make sure that you know what the size must be, including the seam allowances. This lays the groundwork for the next layer to the block and quilt. A patch unit will not grow in size between processes, however hard you try. It is easier to accept the inevitable earlier in the process. 

Finally, it is important to remember to embrace the process, enjoy the time that you spend with your fabrics and that every quilter will piece to the level of their own satisfaction. It is, after all, the journey that matters. Be kind to yourself.  Happy quilting! 

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Where to learn Basic Quilting Skills?

Weddingring - Lenad Quilting

15 years ago, I didn’t think it possible but in 2006, I started my quilting journey. And what a journey! I jumped right into it! I didn’t know where to learn basic quilting skills.

In retrospect, I know that my quilting journey might have been a lot easier if I did a course in basic patchwork and quilt making to use as foundation for my artwork at that stage. This brings me a full circle since qualifying as an accredited quilt teacher of the South African Quilters Guild.

This quilt finishes in a quaint pictorial sampler called : “Through the Eyes of Cy”. When I developed the pattern, I used my 4 year old grandson, Cylus, to imagine how he looks at the world around him. Since he loves to draw in bright colors, these are the colors I design with.

True to my background, I designed my sampler in pictorial style, row by row with each row specializing in another technique.

Is this quilting course also for advanced quilters, you may ask. I bet that you will be challenged at some or other stage during the construction. You might also find some of the techniques you avoided previously, surprisingly stimulating. I mostly find people attracted to the mesmerizing addiction of hand piecing and needle turn applique.

Elize van Biljon finishing her Cy Quilt
Elize van Biljon finishing her Cy Quilt

“Through the eyes of Cy” is a happy, content rich quilt that will look lovely hanging in your home or cuddled by a little boy. There are also patterns available in larger sizes to cover a single bed (for a lucky boy). You also learn the basic quilting skills as you go!

Techniques included in this course include:

– Machine piecing
– Hand Piecing
– Machine Applique
– Hand Applique
– Paper Foundation Piecing
– English Paper Piecing
– Seminole braids
– Y insert seams
– Easy applications for Flying Geese
– Star Blocks
– Borders Bindings and Sleeves
– Finishing off with a pretty label
and many more…

Through the eyes of Cy - Made by Judy Barnard
Through the eyes of Cy – Made by Judy Barnard

Contact me for the starting date of the next course. I teach in the East of Pretoria.

Other courses by Danél Muller

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A pictorial quilt-techniques quilt-along sampler.

Join me in making the “Through the eyes of Cy” pictorial quilt-techniques quilt-along sampler.

Fishes in the deep blue sea - the first block in the quilt along by Danel Muller - Lenad Quilting
Fishes in the deep blue sea – The first block in the
pictorial quilt-techniques quilt-along sampler by Danel Muller – Lenad Quilting

Every teacher needs a sampler quilt. Not strictly being a traditional quilter, I therefore vied away from the traditional sampler quilt and came up with this interesting pictorial version. This quilt finishes at 30″ x 42″ (67 cm x 102 cm) without borders.

The first block in “Through the eyes of Cy“  is Fishes in the deep blue sea. As you can see,  I used the naive therefore bright drawings depicted in the artworks of my 4 year old grandson, Cylus, as design inspiration for this pattern.

This sampler is taught over 12 weeks.

Teacher: Danel-Marié Muller
Venue: 40 on Ilkey B&B, Lynnwood Glen Pretoria
Tel: 082-416-7690
Cost: R150 per lesson
Start date: Contact me for the next date

Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month
Time: 9:00 – 13:00
Every first and third Saturday of the month
Time: 12:00 – 16:00

Beginners welcome
Tea and coffee is included in the class fee

In conclusion, you will need to bring the following to class:

  • A working sewing machine.
  • A rotary cutter, as well as a 12″ square ruler and cutting board
  • Scissors, pins and number 10 sewing needles
  • However, don’t bring fabric, thread as it will be discussed in the class to prevent excess and wrong purchases.

Register here or contact me if you want me to teach in your area. I am willing to travel within Gauteng (minimum 5 students).

This pictorial quilt techniques quilt-along sampler is brought to you by Lenad Quilting.

Other courses by Danél @ Lenad Quilting

Hope to see you here!


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Lots of Cats

Lots of Cats is a happy quilt to share with a fellow cat lover—that is if you can bear to part with it! From a quilting point of view, it is a stash buster of note.  With up to 50 cats on this pattern it makes a pretty cuddle on your bed or couch to snuggle into.  The pattern is available here: