This article is the seventh in a series of beginner's guides to patchwork and quilting written by Kerry Green http://verykerryberry.blogspot.co.uk/. If you have always wanted to make a quilt and don’t know where to start, this series of ten posts will include instructions to make basic quilt blocks, introduce simple techniques and combine the blocks to make a small sampler quilt.
If you’ve been following the 10-part Making a Quilt series and sewing along, you will now have a stack of twelve quilt blocks ready to put together into a quilt. Here are some design options for your blocks:
- Arrange them into a 3 x 4 layout and sew them together.
- Add sashing strips between the blocks to frame the designs. Sashing strips are rectangles of fabrics placed between your blocks, sometimes with the addition of squares or cornerstones where the different strips meet. Sashing can unify or frame your blocks or add a new design element to the quilt.
- Add a border. This could be around each block before sashing; or around the edge of a quilt after sashing; or around the edge of a quilt when the blocks are sewn together without sashing.
I have opted for a simple layout with sashing and cornerstones between my blocks. I am using scraps left over from my block fabrics so the sashing will blend into the blocks rather than have the ‘floating’ effect that can be achieved by single solid colour sashing. I am fussy cutting my corner stone squares so they all feature the same part of the same print. I am not adding a border but I have included a border option diagram in case you wish to do so.
First you need to decide your block layout. For this you will need some space - either on a floor or wall. It helps to put down something plain underneath your blocks.
I clear a space on my living room floor and put a large foldable cutting board on the floor. A sheet, quilt batting or blanket would also work. Another alternative is to hang a flannel sheet or quilt batting on the wall. In my sewing room I have a Fons & Porter design wall, which is a large gridded flannel curtain with grommets along the top. I hook these onto clear Command hooks stuck on to a picture rail. Quilt blocks will ‘stick’ to the flannel so you can arrange your design vertically.
I move my blocks around and take photos with my phone so I can look at a range of layout options. This also keeps a record of my final arrangement should I suddenly need to tidy away. It helps to sketch out your layout complete with sashing and border options so you can clearly see how many different fabric pieces are needed. Some quilters do this digitally using computer programmes or on a tablet using an app like Touchdraw for this but a quick sketch by hand is just as helpful.
You will need to work out how many sashing strips and corner stones you need. I am using 1 1/2” wide sashing (1” finished) between the blocks and I am not adding a border. Sashing strips can be cut cross-grain (selvedge to selvedge) or you can cut vertical strips on the lengthways grain, following the selvedge.
The TIP section from the Log Cabin blocks post explains the effect of cutting strips cross grain or lengthways. As I am using scraps, I have cut my strips in both directions according to the different sizes of fabric I was working with. The cutting directions below are for the sashing and cornerstones design in the first diagram above.
Sashing fabric - 1/2 metre (or use assorted scraps) - Cut seventeen 1 1/2” x 12 1/2” rectangles
Corner stones fabric - Fat eighth (or more for fussy cutting) - Cut six 1 1/2” squares. For fussy cutting, see this post on the economy square block
If you wish to add a border, wait until the sashing has been added and your quilt top is pieced together so you can measure it accurately. As with sashing, borders can be cut on the cross grain or lengthways grain. Firstly measure across the top of your quilt for the length of your top and bottom borders - the width is up to you! Then measure the side edge of your quilt and add on the width of your top and bottom borders subtracting 1” that will be taken up in seam allowances when these are added (calculation based on ¼” seams).
I work in rows. First I sew the vertical sashing strips to the blocks in the top row. Press the sashing away from the blocks. I then sew the horizontal sashing/cornerstones row that will fit between the first rows of blocks, pressing the sashing seam allowance away from the corner stones. Join below the top row, pressing seam away from the sashed blocks.
Repeat so all rows of the quilt are sewn with sashing and corner stones. You can then sew your block rows and your sashing/cornerstone rows together. Because of the way the seams are pressed, the seam allowances will nest together. See the nine-patch tutorial for a full explanation of seam nesting. Press open the seams that join the rows.
If borders are being added, sew the top and bottom borders on first, pressing seams towards the border. Then sew the side borders, pressing seams towards the border.
Your quilt top is complete. The next stage will be basting the quilt top to the wadding and backing fabric and then quilting through the layers.
Here are some inspiring examples of sashing:
Ashley of Film in the Fridge is an innovative quilter. In this quilt she cuts her feature squares on the bias so the sashing becomes a lattice framework around the different prints. The same idea could be done with quilt blocks.
Rita of Red Pepper quilts uses sashing to create an optical illusion so it looks like the red stripes are cutting through her blocks but in fact the quilt blocks are quarter log cabin blocks. The boldness of the red and white stripes harmonises with the gingham squares in the blocks and creates a stunning quilt.
Maureen Cracknell of Maureen Cracknell Handmade gives a twist to sashing with cornerstones by adding narrow solid colour borders to her quilt and then patchworking low volume squares to make the sashing strips.
Follow Kerry's quilt in progress with our 10-part series.