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.

Pieced Back for the Sampler Quilt

I never seem to get much quilting done in the summer. Between working in the garden and not wanting to add more heat to the house by turning the iron on, quilting just ends up on the back burner.

I did finish piecing together the backing for my sampler quilt. I used up a bunch of the leftover fabrics from the blocks and cut them into strips of varying widths. I cut them to 13.5 inches long, and stitched them together in a somewhat random order. On either side I added a 3.5 inch (3 inches plus seam allowances) strip of the background/sashing fabric. And on either side of that I stitched on the backing fabric. I had 2 metres of this fabric, and I cut it in half lengthwise.

piecing the back 21

The width of the centre section was calculated based on the finished width of backing that I needed for the quilt. Because the quilt top is 65 inches by 50 inches in size, I wanted the backing to be 71 inches by 56 inches. The backing fabric was about 40 inches wide before the selvedge edges were removed. Cutting that in half lengthwise and removing the selvedges gave me two pieces of fabric that were 18 3/4 inches wide. Allowing for 1/4 inch seam allowances, that meant that the pieced centre panel needed to be cut to about 13 1/2 inches wide. Here’s a close-up of the centre part of the backing.

piecing the back 24

I’ve also cut 2 inch wide strips of the background/sashing fabric to use for binding and stitched them together so that they are all ready to use when needed.

This project is now ready to be layered and quilted, but that will wait for a while. I am currently working on getting the second of the two rail fence quilts ready for quilting.

The Sampler Quilt – All Together Now

I’ve finished sewing together the blocks of the sampler quilt that I wrote about in my last post. As I suspected I would, I made a couple of changes to my original plan. I think they make it a better over-all composition.

finished sampler quilt top

My original plan was to have a strip of the green fabric along the right side, but I decided to use the main patterned fabric there. I think that balances with the strip above the bow tie blocks better than the green fabric would have, and I think the green would have been too strong. I also left out the small block of orange fabric that I had planned to insert below the 6 inch square of circle print fabric. This lets the fabric square with a 6 inch square of sashing fabric echo the log cabin blocks that precede it on the diagonal. I like having this sort of repetition in the design.

The blocks are all either 12 inches square or 6 inches square, so I used a 3 inch wide sashing in between. I used a 4 inch wide border all around to give the top a bit more of a frame than it would have had using 3 inch wide strips. The finished quilt top measures 51 inches by 66 inches.

A couple of friends asked me how I figured out how to piece the sashing to the blocks, and how to know what sizes to cut, so I thought I would share with you the sketch that I used for my calculations. I drew the blocks in my layout to scale on a sheet of graph paper, with 3 inches of space in between. I roughly sketched in the blocks and coloured in the green and orange bits with pencil crayons (the colouring was actually a part of my earlier design process, to see how evenly the two strong colours were distributed over the whole top).

calculating sashing

Next, I drew dashed lines to indicate where the seam lines for the sashing strips would be. I tried to stick with the basic principles of quilt top construction that I’ve used so many times in the past – thinking in terms of building larger and larger units as I sewed them together.

Once I’d done that, I marked the finished dimensions of each sashing strip on the drawing. Then I made a list on a separate sheet of paper of each size of strip (adding 1/2 inch extra for seam allowance to length and width) and counted out the number of each I would need to cut. For example, I needed 5 strips at 3 1/2 inches by 12 1/2 inches. Working on another sheet of graph paper, I sketched out how to cut the strips from my fabric in the most efficient way I could manage. Then I cut all of the strips and squares except for the outer borders.

Once the strips were cut, I started to sew everything together in sections. First I took the 6 inch squares of sashing fabric and used them together with the log cabin blocks to create 4-patch blocks. Next I stitched each 4-patch block to the adjoining sashing strip and then to the 12-inch block next to it.  I continued in this way until the top was all together, except for the outside border strips.

I didn’t cut the outside borders until the end. This allowed me to measure the completed top and cut the border strips based on the actual dimensions, instead of the intended dimensions in my drawing. I know my piecing isn’t perfect, and that all of my minor deviations in sewing would add up. If I had cut the borders earlier, they would have been too short.

I am now working on piecing a backing for the quilt. It will be my first pieced quilt back, so I’m having fun playing round with the possibilities. I hope to use up most of the scraps of fabric leftover from making the sampler blocks. I’ll report on that soon.