To Sash or Not To Sash…

We’re taking a look at sashing this week.  What exactly is sashing?  Sashing is strips of vertical and horizontal fabric that sets the blocks apart from each other.  These are strips of fabric usually on the right-hand of each block to form vertical rows and long horizontal rows at the bottom of each row of blocks.   So where does sashing come into play in a quilt top?

Let’s go back to your quilt construction.  You’ve completed all your blocks and you are ready to put together that quilt center.  Now what?  Well, there are three possibilities at this point.  The first possibility is to simply sew all the blocks together in rows and then sew the rows together to make the quilt center.  The second possibility is to use sashing between the blocks; and the third possibility is to set the blocks on point and use setting triangles.

Let’s look at the first option:  Sewing all your blocks together in rows with no sashing or setting triangles.  Several quilt patterns adhere to this possibility.  The first that comes to mind is the Irish Chain.

Irish Chain

There are no interruptions between blocks, as the squares lead the eyes on several diagonal lines across the top of the quilt.  If there were sashing or if the blocks were set on point, there would be an obvious interruption in the “chain” and the quilt wouldn’t look right.  Then there are the quilt patterns that have “hidden” secondary blocks.  Look at quilts made from the pattern Jacob’s Ladder.

Jacob's Ladder

In some of Jacob Ladder quilts, there appears almost circular designs, but there isn’t one curved piece in any of the blocks.  It’s all an optical illusion, but if there were sashing or if the blocks were set on point, this “mirage” would not be apparent at all.  So sometimes the omission of sashing is necessary in order for the quilt to have the appearance that is needed.

Probably my favorite quilt pattern without sashing is Winding Ways.  I really want to make this quilt soon.  I love the way that color plays with the visual process in this quilt.

Winding Ways

However, there are times that sashing is needed for the quilt to have a cohesive look.  If the quilt is really scrappy, the sashing can work to pull everything together and make the top harmonize.  If the quilt is a sampler (lots of different blocks), sashing or setting triangles are necessary to make the eye to travel across the quit at a leisurely pace and the top not look confusing.  Remember this sampler quilt?

1718 Coverlet

While it is truly a thing of beauty and a joy forever, there is nowhere for the eye to rest.  Sashing or setting triangles could have really worked wonders with this quilt (in my opinion, anyway).

To be honest, setting triangles are my favorite way of working with different quilt blocks or scrappy quilts.  I love the way an on-point quilt looks, and we will look at this option in another blog.  If you have a situation where there are either multiple types of quilt blocks (both with size and construction) or the quilt is scrappy, and the blocks cannot be turned on point (because they wouldn’t look right – such as the block is either directional or horizontal-designated applique), vertical and horizontal sashing may be your only option to use when you construct the quilt center.  So, let’s look at a few ways to make this sashing as effective as it can be for your purpose.

One of the most useful purposes the vertical sashing can be used for is to help you make sure your block is square.  Let’s say for instance you make this block.

Random Quilt Block 2

It’s a nice block.  Now let’s say you need twelve 8 ½-inch unfinished blocks for your quilt and these blocks will be sashed on the right-hand side as well as at the bottom of each row.  When I’m constructing a quilt such as this, I use my sashing as part of the squaring-up process.  As I’m cutting out the quilt top, I go ahead and cut the appropriate number of 8 ½-inch strips to sew to the right-hand side of the block.  As I construct each block and square it up, I then sew the sashing to the right-hand side of the block.  If the 8 ½-inch strips line up nicely with my 8 ½-inch block, then I know I’ve done a decent job in squaring up and my blocks should go together just fine.  That’s how the vertical part works.


Now let’s look at the horizontal row.  Let’s say this quilt is a wall hanging and we’re looking at four rows with three blocks in each row.  For this purpose, let’s say the finished size of the sashing is 1 ½-inches.  The first block will have a strip of sashing sewn on the right side and so will the second.  The third normally does not because the border will be next to the right side of the last block and the left side of the first block.  Let’s do the math at this point, and remember you do quilt-math with the finished  size of the blocks, sashing, and borders.

We have three 8-inch blocks.  3 x 8  = 24 inches

We have two 1 ½ vertical strips of sashing sewn onto the right side of block one and block two.  2 x 1 ½ = 3

Then add the remaining seam allowances.  There needs to be ¼-inch on the left-hand side of the row and ¼-inch on the right-hand side to attach the border.  ¼ + ¼ = ½ .


Add all three totals:  24 + 3 + ½ = 27 ½ inches.  The horizontal row of sashing should be cut exactly 27 ½ inches.  Now if you sew that horizontal sashing onto the bottom of the row and it all comes out even, you know your row is square.

Quilt with Sashing

While all of this sounds kind of picky, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is.  If the quilt center is square, and the borders go on square, those go a long way in your quilt’s appearance.  A quilt that is squared-up will lie nicely on a bed, hang straight, and be so much easier to quilt.  And if you take the time to square up the blocks on your cutting mat, and then with vertical sashing, and then finally with horizontal sashing, that center is squared up fifty ways from Sunday and you’ll be so pleased with its appearance.

Next week we’re going to look at some ways to make your sashing just a bit “fancier,” as well as the effect that skinny vs. wide sashing makes on your quilt.  And if you’re making this quilt top up as you go, how do you know if the sashing is “balanced?”  So much sashing and so many, many options!  Just remember the basic rule:  Always square it up and you’ll be happy with the results.

For those of you who are still wondering about my daughter, Meagan, and her life post-radical hysterectomy, I’d like to catch you up.  She had a post-operative exam earlier this summer and they found a “bump.”  It was biopsied and found to be scar tissue.  Her blood work was fine, and she was healing nicely.  Fast forward a few more weeks and she came down with a UTI.  Because she’s allergic to sulpha drugs and the fact that she was hit hard with antibiotics when she developed the post-surgical abscess, the choices of what to treat the UTI with was very limited.  A week worth of Cipro later, she’s good.  She also had her first of many follow-up Pap smears and that came back blessedly normal.

I know that sounds like a lot, but after what we faced from February until May, it’s not.  Her blood work was good, even while fighting the UTI.  Her body responded to the antibiotics.  She is experiencing lingering pain in the area either from scar tissue or nerve damage.  Meg will undergo a scan for the doctors to find out.  If it’s scar tissue, a laparoscopic procedure to remove it will be performed later in the year.  If it’s nerve damage from the surgery she will see a neurologist for pain management and hopefully see about nerve regeneration.

She hasn’t missed a day of work since she went back.

We are so very grateful for the continuing prayers and thoughts from everyone.  This is a five-year marathon, not a sprint.  God has blessed us, and we do not take that for granted.


Love and Stitches

Sherri and Sam



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: