I was so happy with the way the first of Nettie's blocks turned out that I photographed the process of making the second block so that I could write a little tutorial.
This process may be a bit fussy for some, but I think it's a great way to make a random looking block that is actually planned in a way that a) ensures that different fabrics/colors are distributed evenly throughout the block and b) allows for easy fussy cutting. It's also a great way to use scraps!
In addition to your regular quilting supplies, you'll need a square ruler (any size is fine, but I used a 9.5" square), scissors for cutting paper, freezer paper and colored pencils.
Freezer paper is available in most larger supermarkets -- Look near wax paper and foil or with canning supplies. It's useful for this project because it has a backing that makes it possible to temporarily iron it onto fabric.
You'll also need fabric scraps divided into about five groups. I divided mine by color, but you could also divide by types of prints. Assign a different colored pencil to each pile of scraps and set aside.
Start by tracing in pencil around your square ruler on the paper (not waxy) side of a piece of freezer paper. Use your regular quilting ruler to subdivide the resulting square into five columns.
Your columns should be at slight angles and of varying widths, but keep in mind that a little wonkiness goes a long way! In order to keep your finished block nice and flat, all of these lines should be perfectly straight (i.e. not curved).
Now, subdivide each column into smaller chunks of varying size. Notice how my lines are still straight, but at slight angles. Notice also how none of the lines match up with the lines in adjacent columns.
Starting in the upper-left corner, write a code in each space. I numbered my columns 1 through 5 and the squares using letters, starting with A at the top and working down. For example, the top-left space is 1A. The third space down in the third column is 3C.
This is where the whole "map of the states" part comes in. I remember in elementary school being asked to color in a map of the United States using as few colors as possible and making sure that no adjacent states were the same color. If I remember correctly, the idea was to see who in the class could accomplish the task using the fewest number of colors. (I've realized in retrospect that my elementary school was kind of odd.)
Anyway, this step is sort of like that. Use the five (or however many) colored pencils you've assigned to your piles of fabric scraps to color in the spaces on your block, making sure that no adjacent squares are the same color.
When you're finished coloring, carefully cut out each space/square.
Divide the cut pieces by color and place each with the corresponding pile of scraps.
Starting with one set of scraps and freezer paper pieces, iron each freezer paper piece to a fabric scrap, making sure to leave room to cut a quarter inch seam allowance around each piece. Because the freezer paper squares don't include any seam allowance, it's easy to place them in ways that will allow you to capture your favorite parts of a print -- sort of like fussy cutting.
Note: Waxy colored pencils like Prismacolors can mess up your iron! It's a good idea to protect it with a scrap piece of muslin or other pressing cloth during this step.
Use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim each piece, adding a quarter inch seam allowance on all sides.
Repeat with all sets of scraps and freezer paper pieces.
Using the codes you wrote on the freezer paper as a guide, lay out all pieces in the block arrangement.
Starting on one side and working across, sew the pieces in each column together, removing freezer paper as you go. The codes you wrote on the paper will help you know which side is "up." Press seams open.
Note: If you're making more than one block, the freezer paper shapes can be retained and used again. The stickiness will eventually wear off, but you should be able to iron on and remove them several times before that happens. If you're looking to make a whole quilt, I recommend making two or three different pattern sets of freezer paper squares -- just to add some variety.
Now, sew the five columns together. This is a little tricky, since there are so many seam allowances that don't match up with anything. Just take your time and concentrate on sewing a straight seam. Press seams open.
Because we added seam allowance to all the freezer paper pieces, you should also have about a quarter inch "extra" around the edge of your block. Center your square ruler on top of the block and trim all sides with your rotary cutter, making the block a perfect 9.5" (or whatever size your ruler is) square.
And here's the finished product. I wish I had time right now to make an entire quilt like this!