checkered garden – a tutorial

Well, hello! I’m pleased to not only have finished the tutorial for this quilt block (computer problems are still keeping me from doing things as quickly as I’d like… ugh!), but to also finally have a name for this quilt. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions! In my head I’ve been calling it ‘checkered past’, but not in the traditional meaning – more just that it’s checkered and based on a vintage quilt (but who wants to explain that every time?!) so when MaryAnn Macdowell wrote in and suggested “checkerboard garden”, I decided that “Checkered garden” would suit it perfectly. Thanks, MaryAnn!

Anyway, the tutorial! I’m happy to share my method for constructing this block. Appearance-wise it’s a bit scrap vomit, a little scrappy trip around the world, a tilted granny block. I’ve simplified it a bit by limiting it to 5 colors in each block, and by keeping the corners one color.  I found it surprisingly satisfying to put together, and I hope you will too! (As a bonus, since there are a few components to the block, you can work on one component for several blocks and really speed up the process!)

I, for one, am not thrilled with the idea of sewing together 49 tiny squares, so I took every opportunity to strip piece sections where I could. Hopefully you’ll find it less tedious than sewing itty bitty squares together! This block is made up of a square in square block, several strip sets, and a 9 patch block. Once they’re all cut and sewn together, they create this colorful block. I’ve tried making this block starting from the inner 9 patch block and working my way out, and also from the outer corners working my way in. I prefer the latter, and will provide instructions for this method in this tutorial.

A few notes:

*14 1/2″ block
*1/4″ seams throughout
*each block uses 5 fabrics – I made mine in Kona solids, but prints would also be fun, just make sure there’s some contrast between neighboring fabrics!
*since the entire block uses 2 1/2″ strips, I precut all my fabrics into 2 1/2″ strips from yardage or fat quarters and then it was easy to simply select the colors I wanted for each block.
*I prefer to cut my strips a bit longer than necessary and then trim to size once sewn, so please note that the fabric requirements below show the exact measurement needed for the length, but I do recommend adding about 1/2″-1″ to the length (length measurement shown first for all the measurements shown below) of those measurements.

for each 14 1/2″ block:

color A: 2 – at least 5″ x 2 1/2″ pieces
2 – at least 9″ x 2 1/2″ pieces
color B: 5″square
2 – at least 10″ x 2 1/2″ strips
color C: 3 – at least 10″ x 2 1/2″ strips
color D: 1 – at least 10″ x 2 1/2″ strips
2 – at least 5″ x 2 1/2″ pieces
1 – at least 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ piece
color E: 1 – at least 5″ x 2 1/2″ strip
2 – at least 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ piece

Updated to add: I’m providing pressing instructions for nesting seams thanks to a kind reader (clothbowerinsta on IG, thank you!). I typically just press everything open, so I appreciate the help with the nesting seams.

Block A/B: press towards A
Block B/C/B: press to B
Block C/D/C: press to D
Block D/E/D: press to D
Block E/D/E: press to D

Ready? Let’s sew!

To start, take the 5″ square of color B (Kona cobblestone, in this example) and sew the two 5″ x 2 1/2″ pieces of color A (Kona Raisin) to opposite sides of the square.

Iron and trim sides if necessary. Sew the two 9″ x 2 1/2″ strips of color A to the remaining sides of the square.

Iron and trim to a 9″ square.

Cut this block in half and then in half again to make the 4 corners of the block (each piece is 4 1/2″ square)

Take the 2 – 10″ x 2 1/2″ strips of color B (Kona cobblestone) along with 1 – 10″ x 2 1/2″ strip of color C (Kona poppy) and alternate strips B, C, B. Sew together these strips in this order along the long side.

Iron and then trim into 4 – 2 1/2″ sections (each piece will measure 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″)

(it’s hard to tell here, but the middle color is a pale purple, not the tan used above – sorry for the confusion!)

Take the 2 – 10″ x 2 1/2″ strips of color C (Kona poppy) along with 1 – 10″ x 2 1/2″ strip of color D (Kona orchid) and alternate strips C, D, C. Sew together these strips in this order along the long side.

Iron and then trim into 4 – 2 1/2″ sections (again, each piece will be 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″)

Take the 2 – 5″ x 2 1/2″ pieces of color D (Kona orchid) and the 1 – 5″ x 2 1/2″ piece of color E (Kona emerald) and alternate pieces D, E, D. Sew together these pieces in this order along the long side. Iron and then trim into 2 – 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ sections (left side of photo above)

Lastly take the 2 – 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ pieces of color E and the 1 – 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ piece of color D and alternate pieces E, D, E. Sew together these pieces in this order (right side of photo above). Iron and then trim into 1 – 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ section.


Sew together the three sections of colors D & E to make a 9 patch block.

Sew together the strip sections you prepared earlier. Sew section with color B, C, B to section with color C, D, C, as shown above (you’ll end up with 4 blocks that measure 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″).

Lay out all the components of the block as so.

Sew sections together in rows and iron.

Sew these three sections together to complete your Checkered Garden block. Admire your pretty block and then have fun making a bunch more!

_ _ _

After making a bunch of these, I found that I liked making them in batches of 5-7 at a time, starting by making all the square-in-square blocks first and cutting them into quarters. I liked to keep my quarters stacked together and then I auditioned additional colors as I went.

Once I selected the 5″ square (color B), pink in the photo above, I automatically pulled and cut 2 strips that were at least 10″ long, knowing those would be used in the next round. I liked to fold mine as shown above and place it next to the quartered square to help select color C (green in the photo above). Once I selected color C, I cut 3 strips at least 10″ long and set 2 aside for the following round. [I liked to set my strips aside in advance so I didn’t inadvertently use up all of that color when sewing batches of blocks. Ask me how I know!]

Once I completed strip B, C, B, I kept those stacked and auditioned color D the same way (and so on!). I’m sure you’ll come up with your own techniques that work for you if you make lots of these blocks, and especially if you decide to sew them in batches!

As always, please do let me know if anything’s unclear or if you spot an error. Hope to see lots of checkered garden quilt blocks! Be sure to use #checkeredgarden on IG so I can find them!


Posted in Fabric, Posts about Quilts, Quilt Blocks, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

Maze + Vale stripe maze

Photos recovered! This was my second finish of 2017 – another one from January when I was feeling motivated to finish up old quilts (that feeling has since passed, unfortunately!).  This one hasn’t actually been waiting too long to be finished – I made it back in June, according to the previous post about this quilt.

It’s another quilt using my very favorite Maze + Vale prints. They’re hand printed by Leslie Keating in Australia and I keep a very special stash of them. Periodically I like to pull them out and make up a quilt out of them (previous Maze + Vale quilts here, here, and here). This time I pulled the cooler colors – lots of grays, blues, blacks and a few pops of red, and paired them with coordinating solids and a few solid-looking prints.

I made up a bunch of striped blocks of all different sizes and then pieced them together like a puzzle at the end. It’s a little tricky to get them to all come together nicely, but I also find it to be a fun challenge.

I started quilting straight lines diagonally, and was going to do the same in both directions, but ended up doing all the lines in one direction and just a few in the other direction and liking the way it looked.

For the backing I finally used up this long-hoarded piece of lawn, and I love that I finally get to see it in use. I always thought I’d made a top out of it, but never got around to it. I’m glad I stumbled across it while looking for a backing!

I bound it in a few of the blue/black colors of the Add It Up print by Cotton + Steel. I love this print as a binding, and was happy that several of the colors paired so well with the colors in this quilt.

_ _ _

Also, thanks so much for all the name suggestions for my Kona solids quilt! I appreciate the help, and I’m so glad to hear you’re interested in a quick tutorial. I’m working on putting one together now for you. Stay tuned!

_ _ _

Posted in Fabric, Finished Quilts, Posts about Quilts, Quilt Blocks, Quilts | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

go big!

I’ve been thinking about this quilt for a long time now, ever since seeing a vintage version at an antique shop a while back. Then I realized that there’s also another similar version in one of my favorite books, Roderick Kiracofe’s Unconventional & Unexpected (here’s a link to an image of the quilt, which is called Mosaic Rose). Despite loving both versions made up with patterned fabrics, I really wanted to see mine in all solids. I finally decided to stop obsessing about it in my mind and just start working on one of my own!

The kind people at Robert Kaufman sent me the 30 (I tried to narrow it down, but just couldn’t!) 1/4 yard cuts of Kona solids that I requested and I immediately set to work.

I’m not sure if there’s a tutorial out there for this particular block – I cut and sewed mine how I thought it made the most sense (and in a way so I didn’t have to individually piece all those little squares!) and the blocks were surprisingly fun to put together. So much so that I very quickly decided that I should go big and make it king sized.

Once I decided to go big, I felt no need to limit my number of solids and very quickly added at least another 30 colors for variety (there are so many Kona solids that it’s hard to limit oneself) . It’s sort of surprising how much fabric you need for a king sized quilt! I had to reorder twice to have enough for my 64 blocks.

I am absolutely in love with the finished quilt top. I definitely will not be quilting this one on my own – it’s big! – but I did attempt to take these photos on my own after a big snowstorm. It involved shoveling paths and standing on ladders and freezing fingers and a wet quilt and in the end you not only can’t see the entire quilt, but you also can’t even really tell that’s snow. Oh well. Better photos to come once it’s finished, hopefully!

Anyone interested in a tutorial? As I said, there very well may be many tutorials out there for this exact block, so let me know if you’ve found one, but if not, I’m happy to show you how I constructed my blocks.

p.s. it also needs a name, so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear!

Posted in Fabric, Posts about Quilts, Quilt Blocks | Tagged , , , , , , | 64 Comments