Welcome to month one of the Midsummer Sampler, the Cakestand block.

 

My inspiration for this block was that most English of pastimes, the afternoon tea. It was invented by one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting, Anna, Duchess of Bedford, when the fashion for ever later dinners left her feeling rather peckish at 4 o’clock. It soon became terribly fashionable, not least with the Queen herself, who had a famously sweet tooth.

 

The royal children often prepared afternoon tea for their parents – by all accounts they were accomplished bakers – and it’s likely they would have included a nursery favourite, the sponge cake. The invention of baking powder by Alfred Bird in 1843 resulted in an even lighter texture and a change of name: the Victoria Sponge. This regal cake was served with a flourish on a footed cakestand – another Victorian creation - making it the centrepiece of the afternoon tea table.

 

The techniques used in this, our first block, are very straightforward. But take care when you sew the stand: those pieces are small. Make sure you’re sewing with an accurate ¼” seam, reduce your stitch length very slightly and take your time. In fact, when I’m stitching tiny pieces, I turn down the speed of my machine so that I really can pay attention to accuracy.

The Folk Flower pattern is included in this month's kit as we will also be making a couple of Folk Flower filler blocks each month. There will be an extra 10" square or two of fabric in each of your monthly parcels to mix with the scraps from the main block. You may prefer to chain piece all of your filler blocks at the end of the programme, next June, and if so be sure to keep those additional fabric squares together. Any scraps not used in the Folk Flower blocks will be used in the border, so don't throw anything away :-)

 

And when you’ve finished your blocks, do reward yourself with a nice slice of cake…

This month's techniques...

Snowballing the corner of a piece of fabric - by adding a 45º triangle of another fabric - gives the illusion of a rounded corner.
 

Start by marking a diagonal line on the back of a square of fabric.

 

 

Pin it, right sides together, to a corner of the base fabric.

 

 

 

 

 

Stitch on the line, flip the square ‘open’ and press, trimming away the back layers.

Midsummer Sampler: month 1

British designs by Nicola Dodd

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