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!


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31 Responses to checkered garden – a tutorial

  1. 1
    Sharon T says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this tutorial! I plan on making this beautiful quilt.

  2. 2
    Jane says:

    Your tutorial is so clear! Thanks for sharing!

  3. 3
    A. Bouwman says:

    Lovely tutorial and a great idea to use some solids.

  4. 4
    Leana says:

    Thank you for sharing to us. What is the size of the finished blocks? Thanks.

  5. 5
    Jean says:

    Oh my goodness, Ashley! I love your tutorials! Thank you for taking the time to do this! You have made it so clear and precise! I am making this quilt! Of course, everytime I see one of your quilts, I feel the same! <3-Jean

  6. 6
    Serena@Sewgiving says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! It’s on the “to-make” list!

  7. 7
    Natasha says:

    Thank you so much for writing this tutorial! I love this quilt. The one you made is fabulous. It looked so complicated and now I see that it doesn’t have to be. YEAH! Have a great day!

  8. 8
    Cindy Beal says:

    Love your method of sewing these together so efficiently! As I too will not be sewing 49 squares together!!!!
    Just brilliant! Thank you for sharing & a great tutorial!

  9. 9

    Thank you for the tutorial. My cloth grocery bag full of solids may get depleted. I may have to scale it down to 1.5″ strips.

  10. 10

    Thanks for the very well written and picture full tutorial. The quilt is gorgeous.

  11. 11

    Ashley, thanks so much! Love the way you broken down this block!

  12. 12
    Karen D Martin says:

    I never imagined the block was constructed this way–very clever and fun!!

  13. 13
    Megan says:

    Thank you thank you!!! I’ve been working with Kona solids quite a bit recently and realized I have bits EVERYWHERE and this quilt is perfect to clean that up!!! LOVE the quilt and the tutorial!!!

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  15. 14
    Colleen says:

    thank you so much for a terrific tutorial and great tips !

  16. 15
    Ellen Thompson says:

    You are a genius!

  17. 16
    Lorrie says:

    Nice job on your tutorial. The colored key was an excellent start to your post. The outside in explanation was intriguing…maybe other blocks would be easier done this way, too….hmmm. Thank you for sharing!

  18. 17
    Arzina Alani says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very grateful from r your generosity

  19. 18
    Preeti says:

    Love the pattern and love the tutorial. Reminds me of the Granny Square Block, but improved and simplified.
    Thank you so much!

  20. 19
    Claudia W says:

    You made that so much easier than what I was thinking in my head! Thanks!!!

  21. 20
    Mary D says:

    I love this quilt!! Thanks so much for doing the tutorial.

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  23. 21
    Claire Scott says:

    absolutely fabulous tutorial. Thank you for all your time putting it together.

  24. 22
    Beth says:

    Very cleverly assembled! Thanks for sharing!

  25. 23

    You are my strip-piecing hero. Thank you for this tutorial!

  26. 24
    Lizzie says:

    The construction of this is genius. Thanks for sharing this fab pattern/tute!!

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  28. 25
    Kathleen Stept says:

    Thank you ever so much for sharing this beautiful quilt! I admire your fearlessness!

  29. 26
    Barbara says:

    Wow, this is beautiful. I’m inspired.

  30. 27
    DEINYA MAUTZ says:

    The tutorial is well done with clear written instructions and colorful graphics. Do I dare get started on even a smaller version before finishing up those already in progress ?? Perhaps just a few blocks to start. This might also make an interesting exchange project.

  31. 28
    Darlene says:

    Looks like Trip Around The World but simple way. Very Nice

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