Skinny Robin 45° Compass Ruler by Robin Ruth Designs
Driven by Michelle Marvig
The Mariner’s Compass design is a very elegant, traditional block, with an extensive range of variations. It has long been a favourite of mine. I have previously constructed the block using freezer-paper templates, acrylic templates and foundation papers.
As I wandered around the stalls at Houston Quilt Festival 2015, Robin Ruth Designs was demonstrating an ingenious strip pieced method for making Mariner’s Compass. This was only possible because the owner of the business, Robin Long, had designed a fantastic ruler for strip piecing a Mariner’s Compass in 16 different sizes: 6in–36in!
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The basic Mariner’s Compass is a multiple-pointed star inside a circle. Robin has designed two rulers for making this design: the Fat Robin is a 60° compass ruler with shorter, wider or fatter points; and the Skinny compass ruler, which is based on 45° angles, is longer with skinnier points. Both have 16 points in the compass and the general technique is the same.
Each ruler has a companion booklet. The instructions begin with a table listing the size and number of strips you need to cut to make one block in your chosen size. The smaller, outer points are made first. The strip for the compass point made from the first colour is sewn to the background fabric, offsetting it at the end by 45° for the Skinny Robin.
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Pressing directions are provided throughout the instructions to help you to keep the block flat. The end of the pieced strips is then cut at a 45° angle, and cross cut made at the same width as your background strip. Half the background is then cut in a particular manner and set aside for re-use. The B side of the Skinny Robin ruler is used to cut the bottom right edge to shape, followed by the top right edge. The offcut background piece is then sewn to the right edge to make a completed section — eight per block.
Four of these pieced sections are sewn onto a strip cut from the second colour for the compass points and pressed. The A side of the Skinny Robin ruler is used to trim the bottom and right edges of this second contrast fabric. A remaining pieced section is sewn to its edge to complete a larger unit.
These units are then sewn onto a strip of fabric cut from a third colour for the compass points, pressed and trimmed using the B side of the Skinny Ruler again (as shown below). You now have quarter blocks, which are sewn together to complete the circle.
Robin offers choices for the finishing of the block. The centre can be reverse appliquéd or appliquéd on top in the traditional manner. The original book also features templates for the centre and background of the block. The background templates are quarter circles for placing on folded fabric squares, which results in block backgrounds without seams. Each centre circle has a size to trim the pieced circle down to, and a matching background, with seam allowance.
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In my samples, I pieced one compass block into the background, with no size issues. For the second sample, I added ricrac around the trimmed block and turned the edge, and appliquéd it to a background block. You do have a little bulk at the top of the outer points when the seam is turned, but it isn’t too bad. Instructions are also given for half or quarter compass blocks.
I realise that all of this seems very technical and confusing without having the book and ruler in your hand. There are 10 instructional videos available at www.robinruthdesigns.com where you can see the technique demonstrated for yourself. Both ruler types have a companion booklet for making Sunflower or Compass Sunflower blocks. And this year a new 32-point ruler and companion book are going to be released — I can’t wait for them!
The instructions are very well written and the rulers are excellent. I will be using mine many times, thanks to the numerous size options available: small blocks for a border, one large block for the centre of a medallion, quarter blocks to fill the edge of an on-point design. There are just so many possibilities!
At the time of writing this, these rulers were only available in Australia at www.punchwithjudy.com.au, but it seems likely there will be more stockists in time, so check with your local patchwork store.