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.

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.

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