Planning the Layout of a Sampler Quilt

Yes, I’m still here, but I have been pretty quiet on the blogging front. I’ve been sewing and knitting, and trying to get things done in between periods of  general busyness and bouts of fatigue. I have a few things (mostly knits) that need photographing before I can post them here, but I have been working on a quilting project that I wanted to share with you.

This year I joined in making a block-of-the-month quilt with my quilting guild. It was for a sampler quilt, and each month we were given a pattern to make a traditional quilt block or blocks. At the end of nine months we had to come up with a layout for the blocks and put them together ourselves to create a quilt. There were six blocks at 12-inch finished size, and three sets of four blocks at 6-inch finished size (which could be put together to create three 12-inch blocks if desired).

I decided right from the start that I wanted this quilt to have a slightly more modern feel than the usual sampler quilt, so I chose some fabrics that I’d bought a few years ago to go together. They are a little different than my usual selection of floral or leafy prints. I also selected a couple of lighter fabrics and a light background fabric to go with them.

fabric selection

Fast forward nine months. The blocks were finished, and now I needed to figure out how to put them all together.

First I put a piece of the background fabric on my portable design wall to provide a semblance of sashing strips. After some pondering over layout options, I tried one out on the wall. This layout started with the idea of putting the 6-inch blocks in vertical or horizontal rows, and then putting the bigger blocks between them. I inserted some solid blocks of fabric as well, to fill some empty spaces. (For those paying attention, I did not make the final month’s block (I didn’t care for it) so I do only have five 12-inch blocks).

possible layout 1

I liked this layout. It was a bit unusual, and I liked the block of the main print fabric at the top, which balanced the visual weight of the Fair and Square block in the lower left corner.

I tried a similar layout next, with a strip of green inserted between the bottom two rows.

possible layout 2

I didn’t care for that very much – the green strip seemed overpowering, and broke up the layout too much.

At this point, the idea of moving blocks around on my design wall over and over again seemed daunting, so I took a photograph of the first layout, printed it up on plain paper, and cut the blocks out. Then I played around with them a bit on a white paper background. This is a fun and easy way to try out different layouts with minimal work involved.

finding possible layouts

The picture above shows the layout that I decided to try out on the wall next. And here it is, more or less.

possible layout 3

I was pretty happy with this, but I did do a bit more tweaking to balance out the distribution of colours and visual weight, and to have all of the angular movement going in one direction.

possible layouts 4

I liked this layout a lot, so I decided to go with it.

The next step was to calculate how much fabric I would need for the sashing strips between the blocks, and for the outer border. I did this by sketching the layout to scale on graph paper, showing the blocks at their finished size (the ones up on the wall all have a 1/4” seam allowance on them, which distorts the layout a little bit).

scale sketch of layout 4

Of course, I ended up needing more fabric for the sashing and border than I had left of the cream-coloured background fabric. So, back to the stash I went. After a bit of searching, I came up with a fabric that coordinated nicely with the fabrics in the blocks, and did a nice job of setting them off. And I had a lot of it!

possible layout 4 on sashing fabric

My next task is to sketch out a cutting layout, so that I can make the best possible use of my sashing and border fabric. I’ve been working on that. I’m trying to leave myself the option of making the outside border a bit wider than the 3” width I am planning for the sashing strips. I might end up making more slight alterations in the layout as I begin to sew the blocks and sashing together. I’ll see how things look as I go.

Planning the layout of this quilt has turned out to be a lot of fun. There are so many different ways to go, especially if I remain open to some new and different ideas to fill the space. Using solid blocks or strips of fabric, or leaving open spaces of background fabric to fill with quilting really opens up the options.

Block names:

Top row: Log Cabin, Fair and Square, Mother’s Baskets

Second row: Broken Dishes, Log Cabin

Third row: Baby Blocks, Peace and Plenty

Fourth row: 3-D Bow Tie, Steps to the Alter


6 thoughts on “Planning the Layout of a Sampler Quilt

  1. Thanks for sharing your process. Sampler quilts can be a bit daunting especially if the blocks are different sizes. I liked your idea of photographing the blocks and then playing with them on white paper. Genius!!

  2. Pingback: The Sampler Quilt – All Together Now | Completely Blocked

  3. Pingback: Quilting the Sampler Quilt Blocks – Part 1 | Completely Blocked

  4. Pingback: Quilting the Sampler Quilt Blocks – Part 2 | Completely Blocked

  5. Pingback: Quilting the Sampler Quilt Background | Completely Blocked

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