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.


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

What I Did On My Fall Vacation

I suppose I should say “vacations” since there were actually two of them. The first one was my annual trip to Rhinebeck, NY, to meet with friends and to attend the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival. The second one was a trip to Houston, TX, with friends, to attend the International Quilt Festival for the fourth time.

I’m afraid I didn’t take any pictures on the first trip. I can’t explain that omission, other than to say that I was having too much fun. I took the train from Toronto on the Wednesday before the festival weekend, and enjoyed the following two days catching up with everyone, and making a few visits to area shops and restaurants. Saturday and Sunday were spent at the Festival. Monday was the long train ride home. We rented a house in the Rhinebeck area for the second time and it worked out very well once again. It allowed for a lot more comfortable visiting than staying in a hotel does, plus group meals and assorted other food preparation. It was a wonderful trip, made all the better by being able to meet with friends that I otherwise only see on Ravelry.

I didn’t buy much at the fairgrounds, just a few skeins of sock yarn intended for making shawls and fingerless mittens.


The yarns are (from left to right): Holiday Yarns Flocksock sock yarn in Pinot; Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga! sock yarn in Other Mother, and Golden Tortoise Beetle; and undyed Hudson Valley Sheep & Wool Co. sock yarn.

My second fall trip began only eight days after getting home from the first one. After a big rush of catching up with laundry and errands, not to mention sleep, and some tense hours worrying about Tropical Storm Sandy, I was on a plane to Houston.

We arrived on Tuesday (Oct. 30) and got settled into the hotel. I took 3 classes on this visit to the Quilt Festival, and attended 3 lectures. In between I shopped and looked at quilts – such amazing quilts!

Here are some of the results of the classes I took:


From left: “Applipiecing” Curves, taught by Caryl Bryer Fallert; “Under the Sea” fabric manipulation and embroidery (not yet finished), taught by Judith Baker Montano; and “Heavy Metal Play Day” (embossing metal for art quilts), taught by Judy Coates Perez.

I also attended a lecture on “The Elements of Art Quilting” by Lyric Kinard, and one on Modern Quilting by Heather Grant. Both were great – interesting and enlightening. The Modern Quilting lecture was eye-opening for me – I realized that this is a style of quilt that interests me a lot, and that I’d like to explore in the future. (Check out the Modern Quilt Guild blog to see what I’m talking about.)

I think I overdid it with classes and lectures this year – by the time I got to the last one I was a bit brain-fogged and saturated, and was glad the class wasn’t too demanding. In the future, I think I should allow for more free time, and fewer early mornings!

I didn’t buy a lot at on this trip, either, but here is a picture of what I did buy:


On the left are some pieces of Thai silk, in the middle are some half-yards of fabric from Marcia Derse, and on the right are some fat quarters of Cherrywood fabric in a yummy array of colours. In front are a couple of strands of beads, and a skein of embroidery floss from ArtFabrik, which are dyed by Laura Wasilowski. I seem to be in an orange and purple phase of stash enhancement. I wonder if that means anything?

I also want to mention that I sewed a new bag for myself to use at Quilt Festival. I wanted something small that would hold essentials. I’d seen a leather bag at Roots that I liked, so I decided to copy it in fabric. I’ll probably write a blog post about the making of this bag, but I thought I’d show it off here.


It has a long strap to sling the bag across my body, and both outside and inside pockets to hold everything. It worked out perfectly.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and reflect on all that I’ve seen and done in the past few weeks. And to sleep late, rest up, and recover from this jet-set lifestyle. And maybe rake some leaves or something.