Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Make a Sampler Quilt Top Easy and Interesting

six-panel fan appliqued on blue background square
Grandmother's Fan Applique Block
If you like to quilt, you've probably tried several different methods and may have made different styles of quilts. Most piecework involves piecing the same block in different colors of fabrics, but sometimes that gets boring.
Have you tried to make a sampler quilt with the same fabrics and different patterns for the blocks? You can make each block different and keep your interest level high. You can even choose to applique some blocks and piece others. So long as all of the blocks are the same size, your quilt will fit together. Repeating some or most of the fabrics will make it look like it's made to go together.
Block by Block by Beth Donaldson is a 1995 publication with 12-inch square blocks that could be used together to make a single quilt. That's the key to making a sampler quilt easily. This book doesn't have all the blocks I used, but it has enough to keep you busy and give you ideas for more. I also used Best Loved Quilt Patterns from Oxmoor House (1987) for more designs. Choose 10 1/2 inch, 12 1/2 inch, 14 1/2 inch or 16 1/2 inch squares so your blocks will line up without having to add individual sashing or additional pieces. We add the half inch for 1/4 inch seam allowance all around to have a full size square with an even number of inches when the quilt is completed.
Here's how to get started on this quilting project:
Choose your patterns. Patterns used in this quilt are 14-inch squares and include a six-section fan block, a log cabin block, a nine-patch with applique leaves, a butterfly applique, card trick pieced block, grandmother's fan applique on backing, rail fence, churn dash and a couple of others.
Blue and pink log cabin block with light and dark fabrics
Log Cabin Block
Choose the fabrics. You don't need many different ones. I chose blue and pink with beige for my sampler. You may want to select fabric for sashing strips between the blocks, too. Wash and press the fabric.
Cut any full-size squares you need for backing the applique designs. Remember to add the 1/2 inch for seam allowance. Sometimes I cut these an inch larger than I need and trim after the applique is done. For a 14-inch block, I make the backing square 15 1/2 inches, then trim to 14 1/2 after the applique is completed. That allows for any shrinkage from complex applique stitching. 
Butterfly applique with needle-turned edge on blue print fabric
Applique Butterfly Block
Use a rotary cutter for cutting squares, rectangles and triangles for quilt blocks, but use sharp scissors for applique pieces. If you're hand appliqueing the design, add 1/4 inch to all outer edges to fold under. Where the fabrics overlap, don't add to the applique piece that will be on the bottom since it doesn't have to be folded under. The wings of the butterfly where the body is appliqued over them is an example of overlap that doesn't need the 1/4 inch addition.
If you're machine appliqueing the design, don't add to the template. You can use a fiber bonding fabric like HeatnBond or Wunder-Under on the applique pieces, but they won't have the softness of a cotton quilt.
Blue on Beige with Combination Pieced Block and Applique
Nine-Patch with Applique
If you use freezer paper for hand applique, cut the freezer paper to the size of the template. Apply the freezer paper shiny side up (wrong sides together) to the back of the cut applique piece and turn the 1/4 inch fabric edge with an iron, or you can use your needle to turn the fabric under as you work around the edge. 
Card Trick block looks like applique but it is patchwork
Card Trick Block
Trim all the blocks to the same size, allowing 1/2 inch for seams. Your blocks should be 14 1/2 inches square at this point if you're working with 14-inch blocks.

Strip of four fabrics cut into blocks and turned different ways to make rail fence
Rail Fence Patchwork Block
Once you've made individual blocks of different kinds but with similar or the same fabrics, you're ready to design your quilt. Sashing between the quilt blocks will make a larger quilt and require fewer blocks. You can also add a row or two of sashing around the outer edges to make the quilt larger. Sashing works  with square blocks but not for blocks set on point (like diamonds). 
Triangles in solid color give appearance of background
X-Patch Block
Before you finalize your sashing choice, lay the fabric out on a flat surface and place your quilt blocks on it to see the effect. I used a small beige and brown background print for this one.
Quilt blocks laid on fabric to see how  they look.
Lay Your Blocks on Sashing Fabric Before Cutting
If it's not what you want, look through your fabric stash and try some other fabrics until you get one you want to work with. Wash it if you haven't already, and cut the sashing in 3 1/2 inch, 4 1/2 inch or 5 1/2 inch width, as you'll need the 1/2 inch for 1/4 inch seams.
I cut sashing parallel to the selvage -- it stretches less. If you start at the selvage edge, trim off the bound selvage edge, then cut your first strip at the cut edge and work across the doubled fabric. That way, if you have fabric left over, it will be near the fold. The remaining piece will be folded, giving you a larger surface for your next project. You may even have enough for backing blocks for more appliques.

P.S. Before I complete this quilt, I'll take the lace off the Grandmother's Fan block. I may add a feather stitch or an embroidery stitch I use for crazy quilting, or even eyelet lace would work. The thin lace will wear out before the other fabrics and is impractical for a usable quilt. Quilting is always a learning experience!

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