Marsala Spice – Block Tutorial

Here’s how I made my Marsala Spice blocks, with the added bonus of measurements for a couple of smaller versions.  And then I promise I’ll shut up about this until I’ve got it quilted!  (Or at least started the quilting.)

tutorial_1904_21Here’s the basic block.  You can see that it doesn’t make the whole “interlocked rings” pattern – it just makes 1/4 of it.  I think of these as “sub-blocks” versus the full block that makes a complete ring.  Throughout the tutorial I show the largest version, but the construction for the smaller versions is identical except for the size of the pieces.

Fabric Requirements

I refer to the marsala-ish fabric as the background, the pink print as the star, and the two gold-ish prints as ring 1 and 2.  The quantities given will make one full block, so multiply up to make the size of quilt you want.

Size 1

Sub-block 12″ finished, full block 24″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (3.5″ x 4.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 3.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*

Size 2

Sub-block 6″ finished, full block 12″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2″ x 4″), 8 x (2.5″ x 2″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2″ x 2″), 16 x (1″ x 1″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*

Size 3 *** UNTESTED ***

Sub-block 9″ finished, full block 18″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 5.5″), 8 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*

*: All of these background pieces and 4 of each of the ring pieces form the centre of the sub-block, and if you’re making a lot of blocks all with the same fabric then they’re easiest to piece by cutting suitably wide WoF strips (one each of background, ring 1 and ring 2), attaching the two ring strips to either side of the background strip and then cutting the pieced strip into sections of the desired width.

All seams are 1/4″, and are pressed open.


Because I was using the same fabrics for my blocks, the first thing I did was to construct the centre three squares as described above:

Then I took the remaining 2.5″ squares of the ring fabrics and drew diagonal lines in pencil on the reverse:

tutorial_1904_1(The “extra” line is so I could sew along it to make quick HST units from the scraps; you don’t have to do that if you don’t want.)  Once this was done, I applied all these pieces right sides together to their respective background units as shown:

All pieces of the same size need to be put together in the orientation shown, or the block won’t work!

That one on the right is wrong, I had to unpick and re-do it.

Then the corners are trimmed:

For each sub-block, each size of background piece needs one ring 1 and one ring 2 corner unit.  I failed to adequately take photos, so here’s a clearer example; the bits outlined in red is what we’re making:background_units

The same process of adding corner units also needs to be done with the ring 1 & 2 pieces and the small star squares.  In this instance I didn’t bother to draw a line because the star corner units are so small that you’re across them a moment after you start sewing (this is even more true with the smaller block versions).  Again, all units need to be pieced as shown below, or the block doesn’t work.

Again, the seams are trimmed to 1/4″ and pressed open.  The sub-blocks can now be assembled!

First, join all short ring unit to the large star squares, like so:

Then join these new units to the longer of the background units, making sure to match the ring colours:

Set these pieces aside for now. We’ll need them again after the centre is complete.

The centre pieces and their arrangement.
The centre pieces and their arrangement.

To make the centre, take the strips of three squares (ring 1 – background – ring 2) and all the longer ring strips of the same colour (in my case I used all the light-coloured ring strips) and join them with a partial seam, as shown (up to the second seam works well):

The end of the long ring strip must be lined up with the square of the same colour, the star unit corner should end up pointing away from the middle three squares, and all units must be constructed identically.  Once the seams are sewn, the end of the seam can be pressed open.  Don’t press the whole seam yet, it makes life awkward later.  Up to the first perpendicular seam is fine.  (Note:  I’m assuming here that all seams are pressed as you go.)

Then, join the short background piece with the other ring corner unit to the end of the centre unit, as shown:


Then take the second long ring strip, and join it all the way across the centre unit:


The second short background piece can now be attached:


And finally the partial seam can be completed to finish the middle unit!

Lastly, attach the side units that we made earlier to create the interlinked look:

Try to make sure the ring pieces of the same colour line up to enhance the illusion.

Tah-dah, you’ve completed a sub-block (or, hopefully, four sub-blocks)!  These can now be joined, matching seams where necessary, to create the final full block.  This pattern is pretty chain-piecing friendly, so although the middle section is a bit fiddly, it comes together surprisingly quickly once you get into a rhythm.

Other Thoughts

The largest version of this block (and I suppose the medium version, too) could be done with a jelly roll if it contained duplicates (e.g., 40 strips of 20 fabrics, 44″ long).  One 12″ sub-block requires approximately half a jelly roll strip (20.5″ in total) per ring colour, so making one complete ring would need two identical jelly roll strips (blue in the example), plus half of four other jelly roll strips (red, orange, yellow, purple in the example).


I haven’t tested this myself as of yet, but am interested in seeing how it might work out!  Maybe I’ll try it once I’ve had a bit of a break from making these blocks (and when I have a suitable jelly roll to play with).  If you make something using this pattern, I would love to see it.  🙂

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