How to Build a Stash

Stash happens….

This week I’m dealing with a topic that most quilters love to discuss —  fabric.  Initially, the plan was to continue estimating fabric for an on-point quilt.  We just finished up the process with a horizontally set quilt, and it was natural to just jump to the next step and deal with setting triangles.  However, as I read back over those two blogs, I discovered something: That was a lot of math.   And even though it was pretty simple stuff, there was a lot of numbers tossed around.  I realize while math doesn’t really bother me much, I’m could be in a minority.  So, while we will “math out” an on-point quilt next week, this week, we’re taking a break from number crunching and will talk about fabric – more specifically your stash.

I’ve quilted for nearly 34 years.  In that 34-year time span, I’ve been to a lot of quilt shows, shop hops, and quilt/fabric stores.  I’ve inherited stash from quilters who have passed away or had to stop quilting.  I have bought serious inventory from quilt/fabric stores going out of business.  Yet, by some quilters’ standards, my stash is modest (for those of you who aren’t acquainted with the word “stash,” it’s the extra fabric quilters hoard store to use later).  I know some quilters that have floor-to-ceiling-come-to-Jesus stashes.  I’m not one of them despite what my family says. The last quilting statistics I read about such stockpiles suggested the average fabric stash is worth about $6,000.00.  And I believe every cent and yard of it.  Fabric has become more expensive in the past ten years because world-wide cotton crops have not done well.  One of the reasons I love to go Lancaster, PA is the range of quilt shops there and the reasonable prices.  I can pay for the trip in what I save in  fabric.

I do try to carefully cultivate my fabric.  While on occasion, I will come across some fabric I just love and will purchase the entire bolt, that is the exception and not the rule.  Through the years I have developed a purchasing plan for my material.  This plan allows me to use what I purchase regularly and keeps me from busting my budget.  And nothing gives me a bigger thrill than looking through my stash and finding everything I need to make a quilt. 

The very first thing that must be considered when cultivating your stash is your storage space.  When I began quilting, my sewing machine was in my kitchen because that was the only space available. The house we lived in then was much smaller than our present one and had no extra rooms.  This was actually an ideal situation because my daughter was just a few months old and the location allowed me to keep an eye on her while she played in the family room (which was literally three feet away), and gave me access to our kitchen table (where I cut everything out).  But this set-up meant my storage space was limited to two file drawers and one cabinet.  My time was also limited, between having a small child and a job.  Fat quarters became my go-to fabric purchase because I only made small projects due to time and material limitations.  These took little storage space and I could procure a wide variety without breaking my budget (which in the mid-eighties was admittedly tight).  If your storage space is small, you may want to limit your purchases to fat quarters or other small pre-cuts or to only the amount of fabric a quilt pattern calls for.  You don’t want to over run your storage space.  This makes it difficult to keep it organized and hard to see what you have.  Nowadays, my storage space is much bigger – I have a large studio and a storage closet – so my stash is greater.  I store fat quarters and up to one-yard cuts on small bolts and my flat-folds are stacked on shelves.  Fabric destined for a particular project is kept together in boxes along with the pattern and is labeled.  This works for me – and it’s a process I came to after years of trial and error.  Survey your storage area and research a plan that will work for you.

After you’ve mapped out your storage area, the next issue to wrangle is what to buy.  The longer you quilt, the more opportunities you’ll have to go to fabric sales and shop hops and participate in fabric exchanges.  Quilt shows – especially large ones – are easily overwhelming.  If you don’t go in with a plan or a pattern, you may end up coming home with material you’re not sure what to do with, so it ends up in the back of a drawer or closet.  If you shop with a pattern, it’s easy to come away with what you need.  But if you’re in a situation when you don’t have a pattern in hand or you’re just not sure what to buy, it’s always great to have a purchasing strategy for two reasons.  One, you won’t overspend on fabric you won’t necessarily use, and two, if the sale is a really good one, you will invest minimal cash in resources that will be used to its fullest capacity.  It’s this second reason we’re focusing on with this blog – what I call investment fabric resourcing.  Listed below are the types of material I purchase regularly when presented with a fabric resourcing opportunity:


Admittedly, solid fabrics are not my favorite.  I like prints because they give movement to a quilt.  However, solid colored fabrics make up the backbone of quilting and quilt shops.  One of the first pieces of information I pass along to beginning quilting students is to obtain a color wheel – either a physical one or one on their phone. 

Use this tool to help you purchase solid fabric.  For instance, if you’re at quilt shop or purchasing from an on-line site, and they have all of their solid green fabrics on sale in March for St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s a sale you really can’t pass up, because it’s all $3.99 a yard.  But you’re not sure what color to purchase with the green fabric for a quilt.  If you take a color wheel and find the greens, you will see yellow and blue are next to it and reds are across from it.  All of those colors will work with the greens.  The colors on either side of the color you’re considering and the one directly across from it will harmonize together.   

Another good suggestion is purchase some of your favorite colors.  This sounds like a really simple idea – and in many ways it is – but it’s a good thought to keep in mind.  If you’re making quilts, you’re going to find a way to work in colors that appeal to you.  For instance, I can count on one hand the number of the quilts I’ve made that have a lot of brown in them – approximately three.  But purple?  I work it into every quilt I can.  Same thing with blues, pinky-reds, and yellows.  Buy the colors that make you happy and I can guarantee you’ll use the fabric up.

A deep red I’ve used as a “zinger” in a Christmas quilt

One of my favorite ways to use solid colored fabric is to utilize it as the “zinger” fabric.  In most quilts I make, there’s one fabric that’s used to give it a little extra “sparkle.”  Nine times out of ten, I use a deeply saturated solid fabric for this.  It’s used sparingly and evenly over the quilt top, usually in smaller patches where a print would lose its integrity because the space is too small to frame it. 

So, when I get a chance to shop for solid fabrics, I use a color wheel and look for my favorite colors in deeply saturated tones.  With this in mind, let me introduce you to my favorite solid colored fabric line:  Painter’s Palette by Pineapple Fabrics. 

I love this fabric more than Kona.  It pieces like a dream, but it’s so soft that it’s wonderful for hand applique or hand piecing.  If you’re interested, you can find it at  I recommend you order their color card – it’s exactly the color of the fabrics.  I’ve never been disappointed

Painters Palette Color Card

Backgrounds or Neutrals

Let me state this first and get it out of the way:  I realize that nowadays, what’s considered a background or neutral can be nearly any color.  I acknowledged that about seven years ago when the Best of Show at Paducah used bright yellow as the neutral.  However, for this blog, we’re using the term neutral and background in its purest forms – all varying colors, shades, and hues of beiges, ecrus, grays, blacks, and whites.  If you’re at a fabric sale and can’t find anything you need or like, you can’t go wrong with a few yards of a neutral.  Neutrals and backgrounds will always be used. 

Personally, my favorite background or neutral always has either tone-on-tone or a fabric with some kind of background figures.  Solid ones almost look too stark (in my opinion), unless you’re making a modern quilt or an Amish one. 

Some of my low-volume fabrics

Another background or neutral you may want to add to your stash are the low-volume fabrics.  These are generally neutral colored fabrics that have another colored figure printed on them, but the spaces between the figures is fairly large and the print is so small that the material “reads” solid (looks solid from a distance). Low-volume neutrals are quickly becoming my favorite neutral.


Prints are my favorite quilting fabric.  They offer color and movement, in addition to nearly endless variety.  Prints fall into four categories:

One of my favorite small print fabrics. You can tell how small the print is in relation to the quarter. This is such a fun fabric! So many colors!

Small Prints – These prints are so small that they they can almost look like a solid from a distance. The above print is too colorful to appear as a solid.

Medium Print Fabric. Again, compare the quarter to the print.

Medium Prints – I tend to categorize these into fabrics with designs that are no larger than a quarter.

Large print fabric — the figures are humongous compared to the quarter, but it’s such a fun print!

Large Prints – Fabrics with prints that are larger than a quarter.  These are typically used in border work, but if you have large blocks with large units, they work great in those.  What’s even more fun is when you can fussy cut a large print to use in a block unit.

Fussy cut large print fabric in the center of the star block

Blender Print – I love blender fabric!  It’s just so versatile. Loosely defined, blender fabric is a tone-on-tone fabric (though typically not a traditional neutral), that can pull two or more of the quilt fabrics together.  It can look like a solid from a distance, or it may offer a bit of contrast, although the colors will be in the same family.  I like them because they tend to give movement to a quilt. 

Blender fabrics. This particular print is one of my favorite lines — I love the movement that the vines and leaves give the fabric.

Within these four categories, you will probably want to have some of the following: Polka dots, checks, plaids, geometric prints, stripes, and florals.  I have found that stripes and checks really make interesting binding, especially if they’re cut on the bias. 

A bit of my carefully cultivated stash. Notice the Alamance Plaids on the far right. I’m an Alamance County native and these hold a special place in my quilting heart.

Holiday Prints

I put holiday prints in a separate category from “regular” prints because not everyone purchases them.  I am one of those people.  While I do have a few Christmas, Halloween, and Easter prints, I tend to purchase colored fabric that reminds me of the season (greens, reds, blues, blacks, acid greens, oranges, purples and a bevy of jelly bean colored material). I’ve never been one to buy yards of fabric with Santa Claus, Jack O Lanterns, and the Easter Bunny on them.  In my mind, the seasonally colored fabric could be used even after the season, where as any material with a direct holiday print would be limited in use. 

However, if you’re one of those folks that love holiday prints, let me caution you to keep this collection balanced (small, medium, and large prints, as well as blender fabric).   I would also keep this group small in comparison with the rest of my stash, since it is really limited in its use.


Some of my precut collection — fat quarters, layer cakes, and charms.

To have or not have precuts in your stash is a personal choice.  Some quilters love them and others…not so much.  When they first began to appear on the shelves of my LQS, I was skeptical.  I finally (after much thought and internal debate) did purchase a jelly roll on sale and brought it home to try.

And was completely underwhelmed.  While the fabric selection was stellar, I found the cutting to be inaccurate.  Not all the strips were exactly 2 ½-inches, and some were off as much as a quarter inch.  But fast forward to 2020, and it’s a completely different ball game.  The cutting is accurate (for the most part), the selection is through the roof, and there’s a great deal of variety – charm squares, layer cakes, jelly rolls, cinnamon buns, mini-charms. 

If you find yourself increasingly cutting 5-inch squares or 2 ½-inch strips, you may want to consider adding these precuts to your stash.  If you like patterns that call for precuts, definitely add them to your stash as you find them on sale and in the colors you want. However, if you’re not sure where you stand on precuts, then I would hold off.  If  you find a pattern that calls for 2 ½-inch strips of a neutral, you may find it a better budget deal to purchase a jelly roll in neutrals rather than buying yardage of several different ecrus, grays, or whites.  I personally have found doing this is less expensive and a time saver – no cutting involved.

You gotta love a neutral jelly roll.

Personal hint here:  I’ve always found jelly rolls to be “linty” when they’re unwrapped.  To avoid hundreds of stray threads all over my floor and sewing machine, I’ve learned to open them outside and run a lint roller over the top and bottom of the roll before I begin to sort the strips.  While this won’t get rid of all the lint, it does go along way to dispose of most of it. 

With all of these in mind, how do I know how much to buy to build an effective stash?

This question has several issues to consider, and even then, there’s no really right answer.  Most of it has to do with you, your quilting space, and what kind of quilter you are.  When you’re purchasing fabric for a quilt, it’s really easy to round up the yardage and purchase “just a little bit extra” – round that half a yard up to a yard, etc.  So the first two concerns to be addressed concern money and space – can I afford the extra fabric and do I have space for it?  It makes no sense to bust your budget and it’s equally unwise to overflow your storage space. If you can’t afford it and/or don’t have a place to put the extra, the answer is “No” – don’t buy the additional fabric. 

But … if you have the money and the storage space, you should ask yourself, “How much do I love this fabric?”  I truthfully have used a fabric I’m not crazy about in a quilt simply because it worked well in the color scheme.  Given a choice, once that quilt was done, I would never use or look at that fabric again.  This would not be a wise choice for my stash.  If, in the process of purchasing fabric for a quilt, there is a blender, solid, focus fabric, or print that you love, a half-a-yard extra or so would be a good addition to your stockpile. 

If you’re not purchasing material for a quilt, but simply shopping a sale, it’s always a good idea to bulk up on traditional neutrals, solids, and blenders – especially in the colors you love.  It’s also a wonderful idea to inventory your stash before you go to a sale – not a hard review, but know what areas are lacking.  If you need blenders, shop for those.  If you need small prints, look for those.  My yardage suggestions are just that – the guidelines that work for me.  If I’m purchasing for my regular quilting stash, I will buy between one and three yards.  Since I applique, I’m constantly on the look out for fabric that will work well for flowers, leaves and vines.   For material with applique potential, I generally buy one-yard cuts. 

However…with focus fabrics or that once-in-a-great-while event when I fall head over heels in love with a print, I purchase five yards.  Why five?  Two reasons – no matter what size quilt I make, five yards will cover the yardage need and probably the binding, too.  The second reason is a manufacturer will rarely ever re-print a line of fabric once it’s sold out.  Buy it now or regret it forever.  And if I love it enough to buy five yards, I will quilt it all up, I promise. 

To sum it up, you’re the one that will have to determine the size of your stash and what it consists of.  The type of quilter will also play into this – do you only piece or do you applique, too?  Do you make primarily bed quilts or wall hangings or small quilts?  Those characteristics play into the size and monetary value of your stockpile.  I encourage every quilter who has fabric storage room, to balance that stash and shop wisely:  Have a list, shop local, use sales and coupons.  But I also will leave you with this – if you see a fabric you love, just buy it.  Pay full price and have no regrets.  Life, as it has shown us lately, is too short to wait on some things.   

Until next week, Level Up Your Quilting!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


You’re Worth My Time and Fabric

Is everyone out there okay?

Are you dealing with Stay at Home orders from your state government?

Are you washing your hands?

Are you wearing a mask out in public?

 Are you making masks?

Are your bored out of your gourd? 

Are you sick and tired of cooking?

If you have answered “Yes” to three out of seven of those questions, this blog is for you. 

I am okay at this moment.  I’m okay, my DH is okay, my kids and grandkids are good, my mom is fine (although bored to tears and back again).  The business that the DH and I own is considered an essential trade, so we’re still working, although I am working from home.

Let me tell you a little something about working from home:  I hate it.  While my office isn’t exactly an oasis in the middle of a demolition and environmental empire, it’s my office and not my dining room table converted into a makeshift work area.  On one hand it’s great – I can go to work in my pajamas! On the other hand, there is no separation between work and home and I’m keenly reminded exactly why, years ago, that the DH and I decided to run our business out of another location and not smack-dab in the middle of where we live.

Another thing I haven’t mastered is the restaurant issue.  There are only two people in our household, so most nights (pre-COVID) we ate out. There was really no reason to cook for just two people.  Now I am confused.  Not so much with the not- being -able -to- eat- in- at- a restaurant issue, but this whole ordering thing.   Before when take out was desired, we either ordered ahead on-line or called it in.  Now I have to find out if the restaurant is still open, when I can place the order, and how I pick it up (Is it curb-side?  Do I go in?).  Some of our favorite places to eat are only open on weekends.  Some aren’t open at all.  I just pray that they all make it through this mandatory Shelter at Home edict.

A lot of my friends are quilting like crazy.  Every now and then my phone pings and I get pictures of completed UFOs or new projects they’ve started.  And I’m glad for them.  I, however, am not among those folks. 

I am making masks.  And that’s who I really want to talk to this week – the mask makers.  I’m not jonesing to make any quilter who isn’t making masks feel badly.  But for those of us who are undertaking that project, this blog’s really for you.

There are dozens of mask patterns out there, and you hear the pros and cons for each.  I chose the pattern off of because I felt it gave a little more secure coverage.   By this time in mask production, I imagine you’ve found the pattern that works best for you, and you’ve got your mask-making down to an assembly line construction process.  I have. I prep my fabric over Friday and Saturday.  I cut out on Sundays and sew the outside fabric and interfacing halves together as well as the linings.  Then on Tuesdays through Fridays, I make masks.  On a good night I can make 20.  I’ve currently made a total of  several hundred.  Part of those will be shipped out to Baptist Hospital.  The others are earmarked for family and friends and others who have medical conditions that warrant a mask. 

It’s not hard work, but it is wearing.  I think about who I’m making those masks for and where they’ll be used.  But the burden that weighs me down is the why.  Why I’m making them.  The reason.  And the fact that we all may be wearing masks for a while.  Which means on some level, even after the hospitals and other medical facilities have all of them they need, we may still be churning masks out (although probably not to the degree we are now).  Are you feeling this burden, too?  If you are, I wanted you to know you’re not alone.

During World War I and II, women (and some men) knitted socks, made bedding, and rolled bandages.  Now during the COVID battle, we’re once again picking up fabric and thread, and fulfilling a need for our fellow humans.  This time the enemy can’t be seen, but he is there…lurking…not really caring if we’re democrat or republican, jobless or essential, or what our socio-economic background is.  He attacks without discretion.  And just like those before us that did all they could to combat the enemy, if making masks helps, I’m in. 

So, if you’re among the mask-makers, take heart.  Although you may be one solitary figure at your sewing machine, there are thousands and thousands that are sewing along side of you in spirit. Soon (hopefully) we can file away our mask patterns, stop shopping like mad women and men for ¼-inch elastic, and go back to our quilts.   I sincerely hope it’s sooner rather than later. 

But until that time, sew on, fellow mask-makers.  You’re not alone.  I’m right there with you.  Their lives are worth our time and fabric.

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Mathing the Yardage II

Last week we worked through the first three steps of estimating yardage for a quilt. This week we will go through the steps of calculating the amount of fabric needed for the rest of the quilt.

Step Four – Sashing Yardage and Quilt Setting

At this point, some design decisions will have to be made.  Will I use sashing?  If I do decide to use it, how wide will it be?  Will I use cornerstones?  If so, what kind of cornerstones will I use?  Will I set the quilt in horizontal rows or on-point?

Birds in the Air Quilt — no sashing or cornerstones

While the answers to some of these questions depends on how I want the quilt to look, some of them also depend on the quilt’s usage.  How big do I need the quilt to be?  If I have 20 Birds in the Air blocks that finish at 9 inches, and plan on setting the quilt in rows, I will have five rows with four blocks in each horizontal row. Without sashing, this means the quilt top will be 36-inches wide and 45-inches long – which makes it a great size for a crib quilt or play quilt, but not very practical for an adult.  It appears, if I stick with the horizontal setting, I need to plan on adding some sashing.

Using the Golden Ratio, we multiply 9-inches x 1.618 and get 14.562

Since there are four sides to a block, we divide 14.562 by 4 and get 3.6405 which comes to 3 5/8 in fraction form.  This mean the widest we can make the sashing is 3 5/8 inches.  Anything larger will look disproportionate. 

I would be the first to admit that 3 5/8-inch sashing is pretty wide sashing in my quilting world.  However, if I had a quilting pattern in mind for these units that would really show off the quilt, I would use the width to my advantage.  Likewise, I’d use that width if I planned on piecing my sashing.  And if I make my sashing that wide, this means my top will be 55 3/8-inches wide and 66 ¾-inches long.  Depending on the width of the borders and how many I decide to use, the top’s width and length could increase as much as 8-inches both ways (63 3/8 x 74 ¾).

Now let’s take it to the other extreme – how narrow could we make the sashing?  For this we take 9 and multiply it by .618.  When we do this, we get 5.562.  Again, we divide this number by 4 and come up with 1.3905 or 1 3/8-inches.  The narrowest we could make the sashing and it still be proportional is 1 3/8-inches.  If we use this measurement, the center would be 42 7/8-inches wide x 53 ¾ -inches long.  Add a possible 8-inches for borders and we would have a quilt 50 7/8-inches x 61 ¾ -inches. 

If neither of the smallest or  largest heights and widths work, remember you can always use any number between the largest and the narrowest widths.  So, if you want to use 2 ½-inch sashing, it will look fine.  Three-inch sashing is your thing?  Go for it.  Four and a half inch sashing?  Nope.  It’s larger than 3 5/8-inches.  Likewise, with my favorite 1-inch sashing.  It’s too narrow.

Since I want my quilt to be large enough for an adult, I will use 3-inch sashing.  Why didn’t I go with the largest number?  Convenience, really.  While mathematically I don’t mind working with difficult fractions or decimals, when I’m cutting out fabric, fractions like 7/8 and 5/8 are harder to cut accurately because my 58-year-old eyes have a hard time seeing those tiny lines on my cutting mat.  Go large or go home.  The 3-inch sashing falls between the largest and the narrowest widths, so it will look fine.   

Let’s look at my layout at this point.

Since I’ve decided on 3-inch sashing, I know that those units will need to be cut at 3 ½-inches to allow for seam allowances.  I will need a total of forty-nine 9-inch units that are 3 ½-inches wide, unfinished. Again, let’s work with forty inches of usable WOF.  When we were working with the triangles, we were adding 7/8-inches to the finished size to allow for seam allowances.  This time we will need to add a ½-inch to allow for ¼-inch seam allowances. We divide 40 by 9 ½ and get 4.2 – we can get four 9 ½-inch units per 3 ½-inch wide strips.  Now, we divide 49 by 4, to determine how many 3 ½-inch strips we need – which comes to 12.25.  We will need to round that up to 13.  Multiply 13 by 3 ½ and we have 45.5 inches or 1 ¼-yard.  If the plan is to use any of the fabrics used in the triangles, add the 1 ¼- yard to that material on the chart.

If cornerstones are in my plan, now I have to figure those now.  They’ll be 3 ½-inches square, and I’ll need 30.  Working with 40-inch WOF again, divide 40 by 3 ½-inches to get 11.42857, which means we need three 3 ½-inch strips of fabric to get all 30 cornerstones.  Multiply 3 x 3 ½ and that’s 10 ½-inches, or 1/3-yard.  If those are coming out of any of the fabric I’ve got on my chart, I need to add it to that yardage. 

My fabric requirements up to this point.

An on-point layout would require a different number of blocks and borders.  Although the math is easy, there is quite a bit of it.  I will cover on-point layout fabric requirements in a follow up.

Step Five – Border Yardages

Borders are wonderful things.  They can pull the quilt top together by color and they can adjust the size of the quilt top.  Quilts with only one border is one of my pet peeves.   I’m not sure why, but it bothers me – even if the border is beautifully pieced and appliqued. 

  1.  Determine how many borders you want to use and the size of the borders.  Let’s go back to my Birds in the Air quilt top.  Per my usual preference, I will add two borders to this quilt top – a narrow first border, and then a wider final border.  And for the sake of illustration, I’m working with primarily plain borders, but I will add cornerstones to the outer border for interest.   
  2. The next thing that should be determined is how I want to cut the borders – do I want to cut them on the straight-of-grain (length of fabric), or do I want to cut the across the width of fabric? Again, for the sake of illustration with this blog (and since it’s the way most quilters make borders), we’re working with WOF. 
  3. At this point, my quilt top is 51-inches wide x 66-inches long.  I need to think of the border like just large quilt blocks.  I want the first narrow border to measure 3-inches wide, so I will cut them out at 3 ½-inches.  Working with 40-inches of usable WOF, I will need to make two cuts per vertical border, for a total of four 3 ½-inch strips.  I can work the top and bottom borders a bit differently.  I can get by with only three 3 ½-inch strips for these.  The math works out like this:  With two cuts, I get a total of 80-inches.  The width of the quilt top is 51-inches.  I subtract 51 from 80 and get a remaining 29 inches.  I can add the left-over fabric 29-inch fabric from the first horizontal border to the remaining third strip and have plenty of material, even with diagonal seam allowances.  So, let’s figure the yardage – this brings the total of 3 ½-inch strips to 7.  When that’s multiplied out, we get 24 ½- inches, or 2/3 of a yard (24.5/36).  I need to add this to my chart. 
This is where the yardage requirements are at now. I will use the green from the large triangles in the block to make my larger outer border and the dark purple from the small triangles for the 3-inch inner border

4. At this point, my quilt now measures 57-inches wide by 69-inches long.  My next set of borders will finish at 5-inches, so I’ll cut those out at 5 ½-inches.  Let’s begin with the left and right borders (I always put my vertical borders on first, and then proceed to the horizontal borders – it was the way I was taught).  Since each side border will measure at 69-inches, and we’re still working with 40-inches of usable WOF, I will need to cut four 5 ½-inch strips.  The top and bottom borders work a little differently, because we’re adding cornerstones.  Normally, I would add the width of the two side borders to the center width of the quilt and get my length of fabric (57 + 5 ½ + 5 ½ = 68)  However, the additional two 5 ½-inch spaces will be filled by 5 ½-inch blocks of different fabrics.  I only need to make the horizontal borders 57 ½-inches long (the ½-inch is the seam allowance), and the sew the cornerstones onto this length to make the top and bottom borders the correct size.  I will need to cut three  5 ½-inch strips to make the horizontal borders.  Just like with the 3 ½-inch borders, I can take the leftover fabric from the first horizontal border I make and add that to the third strip and have enough material.  Let’s do the math:  That’s seven 5 ½-inch strips, which equals out to 38 ½-inches, or 1 yard and 1 ½-inches – or 1 1/8 yards of border fabric.  Add this to the fabric chart.

5. Okay, last border measurement – the cornerstones.  Each cornerstone will need to match the border width, so they will be cut at 5 ½-inches square and we need four of them.  When we multiply 4 x 5 ½, we get 22-inches.  With 40-inches of usable fabric, we know we can get all four cornerstones with one cut.  Divide 5.5/36 and we get 0.152778 or 1/8-yard.  Add that to the fabric chart.

Completed Birds in the Air Quilt

Just a couple of reminders about sewing borders.  Always sew the border strips together on a diagonal, just like you’re making binding.  There is some solid reasoning behind this.  First, a diagonal seam is less noticeable than a straight seam.  Second, it also holds up better to regular wear and tear.  I’ve also been giving you what I call “flat” numbers for this quilt.  We all know there are variances in construction – your needle or fabric will bobble.  Your ¼-inch seams may not stay consistent.  These “flat” numbers are figures done on paper (the paper is flat, therefore, they are flat numbers).  In other words, while fairly accurate, they’re not completely realistic.  Always measure your quilt top in three places both horizontally and vertically.  Take each set of these numbers and get the average.  That number is actually how long you’ll need to make the borders.  If you’re squaring up after every step, the three numbers shouldn’t be off by much.  The “flat” numbers are simply letting you know how much fabric you should plan to use.  And if you’re feeling really fancy and want to miter your borders, you’ll need extra fabric.

The last two steps in estimating the fabric for the quilt top concern the binding and the backing.  After putting on the last set of borders, the quilt should measure approximately 67-inches wide by 79-inches long. 

Step Six – The Binding Yardage. 

I’m working with a couple of assumptions here.  First, we’re using classic French Fold Binding, and second, we’re not cutting the binding on the bias.  Binding measurements work with the perimeter of the quilt — the sum of all four sides.  Simply add 67 + 67 + 79 + 79 to get the perimeter, and this measurement adds up to be 292-inches.  Our binding will need to cover 292-inches worth of quilt.  Binding strips are sewn on the diagonal, and this takes a bit more fabric.  We also will need to leave a “tail” of 10 to 12-inches to allow for joining the binding ends (I always use 12-inches – it’s far easier to cut extra binding off than stop and sew on additional binding). 

Let’s add 15-inches to the 292-inches of binding we know we need.  The extra 15-inches will take care of the additional bit of fabric needed for diagonal seams as well as the “tail” required for joining the binding ends.  This brings the total inches needed to 307-inches.  Divide this by 40-inches of usable fabric and we get 7.675.  Round that up to eight – we need to cut 8 strips of binding.  I always cut my binding 2 ½-inches.  Binding width is a personal preference.  Some quilters cut their binding 2 ¼-inch wide. I’m using 2 ½ with this blog.  I multiply 2 ½ x 8 strips, which equals 20-inches.  Divide 20/36, and I know I need ½-yard of binding fabric.  Usually binding is made from some other fabric that’s been used in the quilt.  Decide which fabric you want to construct the binding from and add the ½-yard to that.  I will make mine out of the fabric I used for the last border. 

Step Seven – The Backing Yardage

Backing is a personal preference issue.  For those quilters who quilt with their checkbook (pay a long or mid-armer for their services), it may not be so personal, but simply boils down to what the long or mid-armer prefers.  However, for those of us who quilt our own quilts, it gets a little more complicated.

With this quilt finishing at 67-inches x 79-inches, it’s well within the range to use the 108-inch quilt backing material.  And I’ll be honest right here – that’s my personal preference.  LeAnne the Long Arm just works better when she doesn’t have to go over a seam.  Big Red doesn’t care.  Neither does my Juki Mid-Arm.  If I need to purchase a quilt backing fabric, I must remember that the width runs along the vertical edge when it’s rolled off the bolt.  The 79-inch edge will be flush with that side of the fabric.  The shorter, 67-inch side will match up with the length of the backing material.  To math-out the yardage, divide 67 by 36.  This comes out to 1 7/8 yard.  The 1 7/8 yard will exactly cover the back.  However, I have to keep in mind since quilts generally draw up a bit in quilting, I need to have some additional margin in both the backing and the batting.  There’s quite a bit of debate among quilters about exactly how much the margin should be.  My personal preference is 6-inches per side.  I add this much because it leaves plenty of margin for my long arm clamps to grip (I baste the top of my quilt, but not the sides – I use the clamps).  So, I will need to add 12-inches to both the length and width of my quilt.  Now my backing needs to measure 79-inches wide by 91-inches long.  I’m still good with the 108-inch wide backing, but I need to divide 91 by 36 to revise my yardage.  That comes out to exactly 2 ½-yards.  If I’m purchasing 108-inch backing fabric, I need 2 ½-yards.  Add that amount to the fabric chart.

But what if (like me) you’re trying to be responsible about your stash and use what you have on hand?  And what if the fabric in your stash is the standard 45-inch wide, cotton quilting fabric?  Well…it’s completely doable, but there’s a little more math involved and some additional pre-planning before you start piecing the quilt back. 

The first step is measure your quilt top.  We know the top we’ve constructed in this blog is 67-inches by 79-inches, and our pieced backing needs to be 79-inches by 91-inches to allow for the quilting margin. 

The second step is picking the fabric.  This is where you can get all kinds of creative.  You can add leftover blocks (one of my favorite ways to piece a back).  You can use any fabric that’s left over from the quilt top.  You can purchase extra fabric.  Just remember the following:

  1.  Solid colored fabric will show up every quilting stitch.  If you’re a proficient quilter or your long arm artist is wonderful, a solid colored backing is great.  However, a “busy” backing can cover a multitude of quilting sins.
  2. There are other fabrics that can be used besides the 100 percent cotton quilting fabric.  Minky and flannel are also great choices and quilt beautifully.  Just be aware that they both are stretchy fabric and minky is so soft and slick it slides all over the place.  After backing my first quilt with flannel, I discovered washing my quilt top before quilting it is a great idea — especially if I didn’t pre-wash my fabrics from the get-go.  The reason behind this is while flannel won’t shrink, a 100% cotton top will.  If I washed the completed quilt, the top would shrink and the flannel back wouldn’t, and that can cause some issues. 
  3. It’s really tempting to use sheets.  They are certainly big enough and less expensive than quilt backing fabric.  I’ve tried using sheets as backing, but haven’t been happy with the results (this was years before I had a long arm – it may work out differently now).  The higher the sheets’ thread count, the more difficult it is to sew.  I have quilting friends that used 100 percent cotton flannel sheets as a quilt backing and loved the results – just be sure to wash and dry the sheets first. 

The third step is consider the seam allowance.  Pieced quilt backs have a larger seam allowance.  The standard ¼-inch seam allowance doesn’t work here.  Seam allowances for pieced quilt backs should be ½-inch.  These seam allowances need to be a bit bigger because the back of the quilt undergoes more stress than the top.  It’s always against something – the bed, couch,  or a wall.  Those extra-large seam allowances help the back deal with that stress.  Most of the time the added margin of 6-inches per each side of the quilt takes in the ½-inch seam allowance, but if you’re cutting it really close measurement-wise with your fabric, take those widths into consideration.  The last thing you want is to come up short on your backing. 

The fourth step is sewing it all together.  I touched on this in a blog in 2018.  Since that’s been a while, I will explain the process again.  The seams used to piece your back can run either horizontal or vertical.  What you don’t want to do is sew a width of fabric cut to a length of fabric cut.  Sew a crosswise grain to a crosswise grain and a lengthwise grain to a lengthwise grain.  If you don’t, the back will come out all kinds of lopsided.  And if what you’re making is a quilted wall hanging, the backing will “droop” noticeably. 

Typically, to make the most of your fabric, you will want the seams to run horizontally for quilts that are 40-inches to 60-inches. 

Quilts that are larger than 60-inches should have vertical seams.   

The quilt we’ve constructed in this blog is 67-inches x 79-inches.  Since it’s larger than 60-inches, we want the seams to run vertically.  We know when we add the 12-inch margin to the 67-inch width, it brings the measurement up to 79-inches.  Still working with 40-inches of usable fabric, we know we’ll need two pieces of 40-inch fabric for the backing.  The top is 79-inches long, and when we tag the 12-inch margin to that, we get 91-inches.  Divide 91 by 36 and we get 2 ½-yards.  Since we will need two pieces, we multiply 2 ½ x 2 and get five.  We need to purchase 5 yards of backing fabric.

As a fabric consumer, here’s where I really do some comparative shopping –especially if I have to purchase additional fabric for the back.  If I purchase 108-inch backing fabric, I only need 2 ½ yards, as compared to 5 yards of the standard cotton quilting fabric.  Sometimes (especially if you have a coupon or it’s on sale), the wide backing fabric is more economical than the 5-yards of standard fabric.  Either way, add what you need for backing to your chart.

Step Eight – Add it all up.

Now it’s time to add up the yardage you need to make this quilt.  This process takes some time, but in the end, you know exactly how much you need.  It’s much better than just trying to eyeball the quilt and assume the amount of material you need.  When I just guess at how much fabric I need, I either end up purchasing way too much or too little.  And if it falls in the “too little” category, it seems I can never find the exact fabric I need again. 

And always…shop your stash first.  Then shop at your LQS (if you still have one in your area). 

Until next week, Level Up Your Quilting!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Mathing the Yardage I

How many times has this happened to you?

You see a quilt you want to make.  Maybe it’s from across a crowded quilt show…it beckons you over.  It seductively calls to you and mesmerized…yes, even hypnotized by its beauty…you stroll over.  You try to be cool about the whole situation.  I mean it’s probably a great looking quilt, but you’ve seen great looking quilts before….this is nothing new.

And then you examine it closely…every stitch is perfect.  The colors are divinely inspirational.  The quilting stitches ooze class.  It’s then you realize, somewhere deep down in your quilty consciousness, “I’ve got to make this quilt.”  Oh, you still try to be casual about it.  You snap a few pictures on your camera phone (making sure to get the name of the pattern on at least one of the pictures) and remark to the person next to you that this quilt is really beautiful and you either can’t understand why it didn’t win any ribbons or why it didn’t win more ribbons.

You’ve been bitten by the quilt bug and just like that rabid high school crush you had years ago, your quilting hormones are raging, and you know what you’re going to do when you get home. The minute you get through the door (or maybe on the way home if someone else is driving), you Google that quilt.  You search for it on Pinterest. 

All to find out that your search is in vain.  You can’t find it.  So, you begin to text your quilting friends – have they heard of this pattern?  Do they have it? (Seriously…I have been on group text with 30 people when one of us is searching for a pattern).  None of them know the pattern nor do they have it.  Last resort, you put it out there on Facebook, Ebay, and maybe even Twitter. 

And come up empty. 

Let me commiserate with you at this point.  I’ve had the same thing happen to me.  Usually this pans out in one of two ways.  Either I discover the pattern is out of print, or the pattern is the original property of the quilt maker.  If I find the pattern is out of print, Ebay has saved my quilting sanity more times than once.  However, if the pattern is an original design of the quilt maker…it’s more difficult.

But maybe this isn’t the scenario.   Perhaps you’ve come up with your own design.  You were inspired by a pattern in some tile or wallpaper.  No matter how it happened, suddenly you have this idea for your own quilt and your quilter’s soul won’t give you a minute’s peace until you’ve decided to make this quilt for yourself. 

Thus, the process begins.  Some quilters draw their quilts out on paper (usually graph paper) and some use a software program like EQ8 (I fall into that category most of the time).  This is the easy part.  You can get the quilt all drawn out but then you have to determine how much fabric you need.  With EQ, this is easy – it’s point, click, and print.  The program will tell you how much of each fabric you need.  I’m putting this right here though – EQ usually tells you exactly how much you need nearly down to the inch.  If you use EQ for this, add a little more fabric for margin not that any of us make mistakes.

I also realize not everyone uses EQ, and I also know sometimes inspiration strikes when you can’t access it the software.  You can sketch the quilt out, but how do you determine how much fabric is needed to make that quilt?  This is what I want to address today – because when inspiration strikes, it’s always good to have a plan.


Step One:  Choose your design and your size.

Keeping the standard mattress sizes in mind, decide if you’re making a twin, double, king, queen, or crib.  If it’s a throw or cuddle quilt, figure out how big you want it (my standard size for cuddle quilts or throws for me is 76”x76” – exactly a foot bigger than I am tall). 

After you’ve decided on the size, then determine how much of the quilt area will be blocks and how much will be borders and sashing.  This can be determined by sketching your quilt out some paper.  Graph paper is a particularly wonderful tool to have at this step.  You can assign a size per block – for instance, five blocks are equivalent to 10 inches.  I’ve always found that ten is an easier number to work with than twelve because I seldom make quilts with blocks that are larger than 10-inches square.  If you want your blocks larger, you may want to assign your graph paper differently. 

Step Two:    Consider the overall appearance of the top.

The first item to consider is the block size in comparison to the size quilt you want.  For instance, if I were planning a standard queen-sized quilt, I’m looking at 84-inches x 104-inches (that’s the bigger end of a queen-sized quilt).  This is a fairly large area and I know  if I tap into my inner Dear Jane and make 4 ½-inch blocks, there will be lots of piecing in my future.  There’s nothing wrong with that, I just know heading into this project, lots of cutting and piecing will take place.  If I decide on 12-inch blocks, I won’t have as many blocks to piece or as much fabric to cut out. 

The second detail to consider is the borders.  Will I have them?  If I want them, do I want to cut them on the crosswise grain or the straight of grain?  How many do I want?  Do I want to miter them?

The last element to be considered is the actual setting.  Will the quilt be on-point or in rows?  If the quilt is straight set (rows and columns), the math is pretty easy.   If I decide to use an on-point setting, I simply multiply the finished size of my block by 1.41 to determine the width of the on-point block. 

If I do decide on an on-point setting, there is one last design decision I have to make – will the setting triangles be pieced or plain?  And I have to remember that the four-corner setting triangles are smaller than the setting triangles used along the sides.  In addition, not only are those triangles different sizes, they are also cut differently.  Either way, there’s lots and lots of math involved and it can be kind of daunting…

Unless you have one of these:

Quilting Calculator … oh, how I love this thing!

Either as a phone app or a physical calculator like I have, this is a wonderful tool to have in your possession.  Decimal numbers will figure into this process a lot.  This can be a bit intimidating, since as a whole society, we’re not fluent in how to convert decimals into yards.  A quilting calculator converts a decimal into a fraction with a touch of a button.  If you don’t have one of these little jewels, there are literally hundreds of conversion charts available  on the internet.  Download one and keep it handy. 

Step Three:  Analyze the quilt blocks for yardage needs.

This is where some graph paper or EQ8 comes in handy.  Generally, most blocks are considered to be four, nine, or sixteen patch blocks – they have the same number of block units both horizontally and vertically.  The proportion of these blocks may change, and the appearance of these blocks may change, but the fact remains most blocks are either four, nine, or sixteen patch blocks – with a nine-patch block being the most frequently used.  Please take a close look at the illustrations below:

Despite all the differences in appearance, all of the above blocks are nine patches.

This gives you a good idea about how much we can alter blocks by changing proportion and by dividing the grid blocks into HSTs, QST (quarter square triangles), or any other type of block we want to insert into the square on the grid. 

Instead of feeling creatively stifled by this proposition, this is really liberating.  If we know the grid of a block, not only can we alter it to fit what we want, we also can predict the amount of fabric we need.  Let me walk you through this process. 

Take this Birds in the Air block: 

Birds in the Air block

When we graph this block out, we determine that it is a 9-patch block – three horizontal squares across and three vertical squares.

Birds in the Air graphed out on EQ8.

Let’s say we want to make 20 of these blocks, each identical to the other.  The block finishes at 9 inches square. 

  1.  Divide the finished size of the block, 9-inches, by the number of rows across or down – which is three.  This figure tells us how big each square on the grid must be – and keep in mind as we are “mathing” a block, we always work with the finished sizes and add on the seam allowances at the very end.  It’s just easier this way.  
  2. Most of the nine grids in this block contains HSTs.  For sake of illustration here, we’re using the Sew and Slice method, since HSTs have a bias edge and I can wait until the last minute to expose the bias. At this point, I have to decide if I want to cut and sew the HSTs to the exact size or do I want to make them a bit bigger and cut them down.  If I make them true-to-size needed, I take the finished size of the HST unit (3-inches) and add 7/8-inches to it.  I will need to cut the fabric squares for the HSTs 3 7/8-inches.  Since I like to make my HSTs a bit bigger and then cut them down to the size needed, I’ll add one whole inch to the finished size – so I would cut my fabric squares at 4-inches.  Added caveat here – a whole number is easier to “math out” than a fraction such as 7/8.   
  3. Each block has three dark purple triangles that I plan on cutting out at 4-inches square each (since I plan on making them larger and then cutting them down for accuracy).  I want to make 20 blocks, so multiply that by three per block, making 60 triangles.  Since I’m using the Sew and Slice method, I can make two triangles per square, so I divide 60 by two and know I need to cut thirty 4-inch squares. 
  4. I know that most quilting fabric has about 40 inches of usable fabric (it just seems selvages keep getting larger and larger – I’ve seen some as large as 1-inch on each side).  Divide the 40-inches of usable fabric width by four and I know I can get ten 4-inch blocks per strip. 
  5. Now we take the 30 blocks we need and divide it by ten, which equals 3.  I will need to cut three 4-inch strips in order to get the 30 blocks.  So, 3 strips multiplied by 4-inches equals 12 inches.  To figure yardage I divide 12-inches by 36-inches (number of inches in a yard), and I get 1/3 (and for those of you really mathematically inclined, yes, you can simply reduce 12/36 = 1/3).  I will need 1/3 of a yard of dark purple fabric to make thirty 4-inch squares, which will in turn make 60 HSTs.  I will also need 1/3 of a yard of the light fabric to make the HSTs.  At this point, if you’re like me and are a pre-washer, you may want to bump the yardage up to a half a yard to allow for shrinkage – or if you want to give yourself a little margin for any errors, you may also want to consider ½-yard. 
  6. Let’s look at the large triangle now.  Each triangle is three grids high and three grids wide, making for a 9-inch finished square size.  The math in this one is not any harder than the HSTS, but we’re not going to round the fractions up to whole numbers and then cut the triangles down.  We will take the 9-inches (the measurement of the finished quilt block) and add 7/8-inches to it for the seam allowances – 9 + 7/8 = 9 7/8.  We will need to cut 9 7/8-inch squares from the fabric.  Now let’s figure how many blocks we need.
  7. We’re making 20 blocks and each block has one large triangle.  That’s 20 triangles.  However, we’re making these triangles by cutting squares apart on the diagonal, so we can get two triangles per square.  That means we only need ten 9 7/8-inch squares. 
  8. Now we have to determine how much fabric we need.  A 40-inch width of fabric divided by 9 7/8-inches (the size of the square needed), equals 4.05, or 4 squares per strip cut WOF.  The ten squares required divided by 4 per strip, comes out to be 2.5 strips.  We’ll round that up to 3 strips, each 9 7/8-inches wide. 
  9. To figure the yardage needed, multiply the 9 7/8 by the 3 strips and you get 29.6 inches.  Round that up to 30.  We need 30 inches of fabric, or 7/8-yard (30 divided by 36 equals 7/8).  At this point, you can either use 7/8-yard of your fabric stash or purchase 7/8 of a yard.  To me, it would be easier just to round it up to a yard wherever I get my fabric.

It’s important that I have some kind of chart or notes with this information on it because I may have to add to these amounts as I plan out the rest of the quilt, because this leads us to steps four and five, the sashing and borders — which we will discuss next week.


Personal note here: This is how my sewing table looks right now.

Quilting has been set aside for awhile. In its stead, a steady stream of face masks are under my needle. Now, before anyone hops on the issue that these are not medical grade masks, I’m well aware of that. Wake Forest Baptist Hospital asked if some of us could make these as additional protection for their medical personnel. I couldn’t refuse — not after everything they did for my daughter.

As I stitch these up, I’m reminded that sewers (primarily women), have answered the call for medical supplies in the past — socks and bandages and bedding. I know for a fact I have ancestors that contributed to the need during times of war and hardship. I can do no less.

One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, there will be no more need of these and I will pick my projects up where I left off. I’m looking forward to that time — when I can see my mom again, hug my friends, go out to eat at a local restaurant, and quilt with my girlfriends.

Until then — wash your hands, practice social distancing, and be kind to others and yourself.

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


The Eyes Have It

I’ve written prior blogs about balance in a quilt.  Colors should be balanced, and quilting should be equally distributed throughout.  This sounds intimidating, but fortunately, most quilters do this intuitively. And while the intuition may need some fine tuning, it’s not an instinct you have to start from scratch and build on.  Negative space is another aspect of a quilt top that must be balanced.  It’s no secret that quilts like this:

1718 Coverlet

Make me just a little bit crazy.  I know this is the 1718 Coverlet, and it was made literally hundreds of years ago, and styles were different back then.  However, I have two major issues with quilts like this:  First, there is nowhere for your eyes to take a breather, and second, I don’t know where to look first.  Truly this quilt is a thing of beauty and a joy forever (it was done in silk, and English Paper Pieced), but I can’t look at it very long because I have no idea where to look first.  It’s like my entire brain just shuts down.

I have no idea where to look first on this Crazy Quilt.

I have the same issue with most Crazy Quilts. 

I need a roadmap and rest stops when I look at a quilt.  I need to have some direction on where to look and some space where my eyes can rest while my brain processes what it’s just taken in.  And that’s really the topic of this week’s post – how you can design your quilt to help the viewer take in the entire quilt top and have a great time when they do this.  We’ve already hit on this topic in two ways:  The use of negative space in a quilt and connector blocks.  Both of those subconsciously help the viewer really take in the quilt and visionally digest it.  For those of us who love quilts that are set on point, the setting triangles and/or squares do the same thing.  And for some quilts, the blocks themselves, when set together without any sashing or setting squares/triangles, help our eyes move across the quilt top because the blocks give you visual cues where to let your eyes move.  Take for instance, this block:

Jacob’s Ladder Block

This block is Jacob’s Ladder and it’s one of my favorite “old” blocks.  When set either in rows:

Or on-point:

The triangles and four-patches seem to march across the top of the quilt and your eyes follow those paths.  Granted, there is little negative space, but these blocks are usually set with a limited color scheme and that makes up for the lack of open space. 

But what if you have a block like this? Most of the triangles are pointed inward.

If you set them together either on-point or in rows, this is what it looks like.

Horizontal Rows
On-Point — although I am digging the secondary design in this.

Not quite the same effect as Jacob’s Ladder, is it?  The outside triangles of the design block point inward towards the center of the block.  Your eyes aren’t quite sure where to look except for the center of the block.  This is where some well-designed sashing can come into play that will not only give direction to the quilt top, but will also supply a bit of negative space.

I’ve spent a great deal of time and blog space on triangles for a couple of reasons.  First, they are a basic unit in hundreds of quilt blocks and it’s important to know how to make them well.  It’s also important to be aware of what construction technique works best for you.  The second reason triangles are having a lot of play time in my blogs is they give direction to the quilt top.  Think about it.  Arrows are used to give direction.  At the tip of an arrow is a triangle.  We are used to triangles pointing in the direction we should go, and they serve the same purpose with a quilt block and sashing.  Just like this block

Prompts our eyes to look inward…

This block triggers our eyes to look outward.  When paired as part of the sashing with the design block, instead of your eyes being locked into the center of the block, they are prompted to look outward towards the rest of the quilt.  This takes a little planning and a little extra fabric, but it’s worth the effort. 

Why is forcing the viewer’s eyes outwards to the rest of the quilt important?  The first obvious reason is that it empowers the viewer to take in the rest of the quilt.  For as much dedication and detail you’ve put into those squares, you want the viewers to take in the entire quilt, not just the block(s).  Most quilters spend a lot of time on their blocks, whether those are appliqued or pieced.  But you’ve also spent a lot of time on the borders and quilting.  Those should have equal viewing time.  Any type of sashing that gives visual direction helps the viewer to look at the entire quilt.  There are other blocks that lend themselves to sashing cornerstone configurations that do the same thing.

Friendship stars:

Lattice Work:

And other pieced sashing:

Right now, some of you may be asking about on-point quilts.  With these, we’ve abandoned the structure of vertical and horizontal rows.  Everything is diamonds and triangles with these.  Do these quilts need visual cues?  Yup.

Let’s look at this quilt.

It’s a nice quilt.  And I’ve never hid the fact that an on-point setting is my favorite.   So, immediately, any on-point setting catches my attention.  However, when some sashing is included that adds some direction:

Or some connecting blocks that do the same thing:

You get an entirely different look, that in my opinion, is better. 

However, at this point, let’s delve into a different type of quilt.  Let’s talk about a Medallion Quilt.  I’ve mentioned these before, but to review a medallion quilt is a quilt whose layout has a central area that often dominates the overall design. Other design elements are sewn around the center, increasing the quilt’s size as new borders are added around the center.  A lot of work and thought can be put into the center block, as shown in my Halo Medallion.  The center block is a star, so the points naturally lead the eye outward to the rest of the quilt and all the detailed piecing. 

My Halo Medallion. Pattern by Sue Garman.

On this quilt, it’s a little different:

This is a quilt I’m making for my DH as part of his Christmas.  The center block is cut from a panel, so the borders I put around it would have to lead the eye outwards towards the rest of the quilt.  The block was also really colorful, and I decided I needed to use narrow, solid borders around it first for two reasons.  First, to calm it down and then to begin to introduce the fabric to be used in the rest of the quilt.  However, after that, I needed a border to push the eyes outward.  A sawtooth border did the trick.  A few more solid, fabric borders later (again to introduce my fabrics), and a star border made from HSTs was added.  More solid borders and then a square-in-a-square border will be added, again pushing the eyes outward towards the final border. 

In some ways, managing a medallion quilt is a bit more challenging than a row quilt or an on-point quilt because you’re balancing motion, careful introduction of materials, and space for the eye to rest.  To pull off an effective medallion quilt really shows your chops as a quilter and an artist. 

Between this talk of movement and visual cues with any of these quilts, what I am really emphasizing is interdependence.  Interdependence is defined as “the dependence of two or more people or things on each other.”  All quilts have interdependence – it’s a natural part of the design concept.  They have an order (rows, on-point, or medallion).  The interdependence comes into play when color, design elements, fabric, and borders are repeated.  As you plan your sashing to add movement, you repeat colors or fabrics you’ve used in the blocks.  If you’ve used triangles in your design blocks, you will want to use those in your connector blocks or sashing pattern.  If you went rogue and introduced circles as a design element, it would look…well, weird…

Unless you made a quilt like this, which uses circles in the design block and in the sashing.

Circle Jubilee

At this point, if you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How do I get myself to the point where I know I’m doing this right?  What do I need to do?”  Give yourself time, practice, and study quilts.   To some degree, a lot of this comes intuitively.  But the longer you quilt, the more it becomes second nature.  If you’re just beginning, I’d advise you to use good quilt patterns by designers that have a solid reputation as quilt teachers.  These folks have been around the quilt block (pun intended here) more than a time or two and by making their quilts you can gain a firm grounding on what elements make up a good quilt.  After a while, you can jump in with your own ideas and change up the quilt to make it more “yours” than “theirs.” 

Looking at historical quilts, award-winning quilts, and quilts made by stellar quilt artists (both in your local guild and those nationally/internationally known) will also give you some ideas of interdependence, movement, and good negative space.  It’s always surprises me a bit to acknowledge just how much my brain remembers from what I’ve read and looked at as I work on a quilt.  My brain just kind of files it away and pulls that information out when I need it.  I’m sure my brain isn’t the only one that works that way, so give yourself permission to Google or Pinterest in the name of quilting.  And a few great quilt books are a solid investment for any quilter’s library. 

To sum this up, it’s important to add some kind of design element to a top that helps the viewer move his or her eyes outwards to the edges of the quilt.  While the center of the quilt may be completely fabulous, you want people to look at the entire quilt you’ve spent time, blood, sweat, and tears designing.  You want to give them a chance to let their eyes take a rest (negative space), before moving on.  And you need the interdependence of repetition of colors, fabric, borders, and shape to keep the quilt in balance. 

Until next Week, Level Up That Quilting!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam