Homespun 16-Patch Quilt

I’m still hand-stitching the back of the binding on my Sampler Quilt, so I don’t have a photo yet of the completed quilt to share with you. Instead, I thought I’d show you my latest quilt project.

finished 16-patch top

I had 16 fat-quarters of homespun fabric in my stash that were waiting for the right idea for a quilt. It dawned on me that the obvious thing was to sew up 16-patch blocks, with one square of each fabric. I thought it would look nice alternating those blocks with solid squares of fabric. Because the homespun fabrics are fairly busy, I decided to make all of the 16-patch blocks the same. That also made it easier to piece them.

A little bit of math and sketching later, and I settled on blocks of 6” square, finished size. I was able to sew 40 of the 16-patch blocks, and had 48 solid blocks of fabric, which gave me a finished quilt top of 48” by 60” with a few solid blocks left over.

What follows is a quick step-by-step description of how I made this quilt top.

First, I cut the fat quarters into 4 strips 2” wide, and three squares 6 1/2” by 6 1/2”

cutting fat quarters

Next, I took one 6” square of each fabric and used them to try out different arrangements of the fabrics. I was trying for a layout that broke up lights and darks without looking too much like a checker-board. This is what I settled on:

Fabric layout

Using that layout as a guide, I started to sew the 16-patch blocks. First, I sewed the strips together into 4 strip sets, each one corresponding to a row in the 16-patch block.

sewing strips together

Then I cross-cut the strip sets into 2” wide strips

cutting strip sets

and sewed those together to make 16-patch blocks

sewing 16-patch rows

sewing 16-patch blocks

and here is a finished 16-patch block, front and back.

16-patch front

the back view shows how I pressed the seams.

16-patch back

For the layout of the quilt, I decided to put the solid fabric blocks in the same order as the fabrics in the 16-patch blocks. I think this gave it a more organized look than it would have had if I’d placed them randomly. The fabric is busy enough, so this layout tones down that busyness.

finished 16-patch top

I’ve bought some more homespun fabric to add a 3 inch wide border around the quilt top. I want the border to frame it and to make the quilt a bit bigger. And then it will be on to layering and quilting.

Around and Around It Goes

The Tour de Fleece is on again, so I’ve put down my sewing needle and picked up my spindles. The Tour de Fleece is a spinning event, now hosted on Ravelry, in which spinners spin while the Tour de France is taking place. I don’t do much spinning through the year, so this event is a welcome prompt to get back to it. I’ve learned so much over the years of participating.

Natural Oatmeal yarn

This year I started off with a partially spun sample of natural Blue-Faced Leicester top that I got from Acme Fibres a couple of years ago. I started spinning it last fall, after the TdF ended. I only had about 33 grams of this fibre, so I decided to aim for a lace weight two ply yarn to make the most of it.

sample of BFL

This was the first time I’ve spun BFL. It’s so soft, and spins so easily. This is the 3/4 point of the spinning. The first half is wrapped around a paper quill, and the second half is in progress. I wrapped a piece of paper around the shaft of the spindle so that when the spinning was finished I could simply slide it off. This is a trick I learned from a fellow spinner last year as a way to avoid having to wind the singles into balls before plying. Another tip I picked up was to wrap a sample of the spun single around a bit of card stock to use as a reference while spinning. You can see it in the bottom right corner of the photo. It’s a very good way to make consistent yarn.

three-quarters finished

Next step was plying. I used a larger, heavier spindle for that (a 54 gram Picasso from Bosworth). I ran out of one single before the other, as you can see here. That was likely because I didn’t weigh the fibre after dividing it in half, and even more likely because my spinning still isn’t very consistent in thickness. To finish off the rest of that single, I made an Andean plying bracelet around my hand with it, and then joined the ends of the two singles together and spun on.

plying the BFL

Here is the finished yarn, wrapped around my small niddy-noddy. It’s approximately 95 metres of yarn.

yarn on niddy noddy

I finished spinning this on July 15, gave it a bath, and hung it to dry with some weight hanging on it to pull it straight. With nearly two weeks left in the TdF, I dug into my smallish stash of fibre and pulled out this pretty purple and pink BFL that I bought from Holiday Yarns when I was in Rhinebeck in 2010. I’ve been spinning it with a 43 gram Dervish spindle from Hound Design (also purchased from Acme Fibres). It’s looking pretty so far, and I’ve been having trouble putting it down.

purple pink BFL

The Sampler Quilt I’ve been working on has a lot of background fabric between and around the various blocks. The fabric is quite dark and busy, so I knew that whatever design I used to quilt it would barely show up. It didn’t make sense to do anything too intricate or fancy. On the other hand, I wanted to fill the space up with some sort of dense free-motion quilting design so that the blocks would pop out of the background.

For inspiration I turned to the wonderful resource that Leah Day has provided on her blog of quilting designs “400 Hundred + Quilting Designs.” This is an amazing resource for quilters, and I’ve learned a lot just from browsing through her site.

The design I chose to use is what she calls Pipe Maze (number 249 in her database of designs). This design creates a jumble of squares and rectangles that work well with the slightly wonky woven print on my background fabric. It has the added bonus of being really easy to do. Here is my little sample/practice piece:


As you can see from the photo that follows, it’s very hard to see the actual stitching on the busy fabric in my quilt. What you can see are the little squares and rectangles that catch the light.


It’s a little more visible on the back, because most of the backing fabric is lighter. The backing fabric has a very similar wonky woven print, so it also works well with this quilting design.


I’ve just finished doing all of the background quilting. I’m very pleased with how it has turned out. This is the most free-motion quilting I’ve ever done, and I learned a lot in the process. I followed a couple of the suggestions that Leah Day has on her web site FAQ page, including leaving the feed dogs up with the stitch length set to 0.0, and slightly limiting the pressure from my free-motion foot by wrapping some elastic around the top of it (this is described in this post by Leah Day, although I didn’t bend back the bar at the top of the foot like she does because I want the foot to go up and down a little bit). That seemed to make it easier. I also cover the flat bed of the machine with a SewSlip teflon sheet so that the quilt moves easily.

All that’s left for me to do on this quilt is trim off the excess batting and backing fabric and sew on the binding. When that’s done, I will show you the whole quilt in all of it’s busy glory. Stay tuned!

Threads used for the free-motion background quilting are: Superior Threads Masterpiece in colour 168 on top, and Superior Threads Bottom Line in colour 617 in the bobbin. (This worked out okay, but if I was starting over I think I’d have used Masterpiece in the bobbin as well as the top thread, both for a more easily balanced stitch, and to have top and bottom threads made of the same material.)

Related posts:

Planning the Layout of a Sampler Quilt

The Sampler Quilt – All Together Now

Pieced Back for the Sampler Quilt

Quilting the Sampler Quilt Blocks – Part 1

Quilting the Sampler Quilt Blocks – Part 2


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