Making the Sunrise Block

Posted by on June 1, 2014 in block lotto community | 7 comments

These are the first two sunrise blocks that I made.  I thought they would be a good place to start sharing suggestions for techniques and tips for making the blocks.  I am starting the conversation with my experience, but I hope that, if you decide to make the block, you’ll also share yours.  I’ll use this post to gather our collective experiences as encouragement and help for those that may be feeling a little intimidated.

For the block on the left:

  • The arc was paper foundation pieced.
  • The half-circle center was machine appliquéd
  • The outer background was added using the 6-minute circle technique.

For the block on the right:

The seams were drawn onto fabric and the block was hand-pieced.


Paper Foundation Piecing the Arc


For both hand-piecing and paper foundation piecing on the machine, the concept of “sewing on the line” creates accurately sewn rays of the sun.

When paper piecing something like this with the same shape repeated multiple times, I like to work with strips of fabric–for this block, I used a 4-inch wide strip of background and 4 1/2-inch strip for the rays. You can also precut the fabrics.  This tutorial shows you how to decide how big to cut the pieces and shows how to paper piece a similar shape:

New York Beauty Tutorial


Adding the Outer Background


The New York Beauty tutorial includes tips for pinning and sewing the outside curve–sewing a half-circle really is as easy as sewing a quarter circle twice … and for those of you who inset a whole circle when you made the February Bead-on-a-String blocks, this is just half of that process.

You can also appliqué the background onto the pieced arc or vice versa.  I personally find it easier to reverse appliqué the background (without seams) onto the pieced arc, but it works bother ways.

Since I tried Dale Fleming’s 6-Minute Circle in February, I have become a fan.  Then Marie posted a tutorial on her blog with a slight change that I think makes it EVEN EASIER.  Marie’s tutorial is here:

Marie’s Creative Space: Circle Tutorial

Marie doesn’t remove the freezer paper until after the seam is sewn and I think it’s brilliant. It makes it easy to see where you want to sew and you don’t stress the glued-together layers by removing it before it’s sewn.

BackgroundTemplateFor6MCTo prepare the freezer paper template you’ll  need to use the 6 minute circle technique, cut the background template, including the seam allowance on the outside, but cutting the curve ON the seam line.

(I printed my templates on card stock to make them stiff and easy to use.)

After you have put together two layers of freezer paper, cut it into a rectangle 7 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches. use the template to mark the curve on each side (or fold the doubled freezer paper in half so you can mark one side and cut both sides at once.)

If you fall in love with this technique as I have, you might want to check out the book–clicking the image will take you to Amazon.

I used the cut-out of the double-freezer paper to make a template to prepare the half-circle for appliqué … and since the glue stick was out, I used it to hold the turned back seam allowance along the curve in place … and to place the appliqué on the pieced arc. I used my machine’s blanket stitch and a matching thread color to stitch the appliqué in place.


Hand-Piecing the Block


I’m a pretty good machine piecer, but I would be hesitant to piece the arc in this block in a traditional way because there are 16 seams from edge to edge, BUT, I knew I could hand-piece it because by tracing the finished size shapes onto the back of my fabric and sewing on the line, I was confident the result would be accurate.

HandPiecingTemplatesTo start, I printed the templates on card stock and them carefully cut them out ON the line.

I used them to trace the finished shape onto the back of my chosen fabrics, then cut, adding roughly 1/4 inch seam allowance–this does not have to exact because you will be matching up the seam lines and sewing on the line.

This tutorial covers the basics of hand-piecing using the sewing on the line approach:

How to Hand Piece

If you try hand piecing and find it as relaxing as I do, you might want to keep an eye on my blog, Sophie Junction, and watch for my summer project.  If all goes well, it will be kicking off later this month.

For more information about quilt making by hand, Jinny Beyer’s book with the same is the bible of the technique. Helen was able to find the book in her local library.

You can also find many patterns for blocks well-suited to hand piecing on her site here:

Jinny Beyer Studio: Free Block Patterns


Your turn


If you have questions about making the blocks, or answers, suggestions, or alternative techniques to use, please add them to the comment.


  1. I think this month I want to try both ways (paper foundation piecing and hand sewing). I haven’t tried either technique yet and am very curious about both.

    So that I know that I printed the paper foundation out correctly what is the measurements of the arc supposed to be on the print out? It would stink to have printed it out wrong and not fit the other pieces.

    Thanks. Helen

    • I wanted to edit my comment but the website wouldn’t let me. I meant paper foundation piecing. I found the Jinny Beyer book at the library. VERY informative!

    • I edited your comment–I’m not sure why you couldn’t edit it (I’ll check it out). The diameter of the outside circle is 10 inches (finished size). Part of the reason the arc is the size it is was to make it printable on US Letter-size paper.

  2. This month’s block looks like fun! Hope my TUT helps! Thanks for including it 🙂

  3. Sophie, I read through quickly and did not see the answer to the following question. Is it permissible to applique – either by hand or with invisible thread – the arc to the background?

    • You can definitely use appliqué for either or both of the half-circle seams. I updated the article to include that note. Thanks for asking.

  4. Ok, here I am again, this months problem child. Ha! Which direction did you put the straight of grain on the background fabric? Do you remember or did you notice?
    I think the background on the first one I did will be ok, but it sure wants to be a problem stretch wise. I placed my fabric where the straight of grain would be across the width of the top. My thinking is the straight of grain on the biggest area.
    I promise after this I won’t have anymore questions!!


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