THIS TUTORIAL IS AVAILABLE AS A FREE PDF HERE.
This is an easy-peasy beginner quilt. I made only 16 blocks for a baby quilt. It would be super easy to just make more blocks and make it into a throw or bed-size quilt. I made this quilt with cute, big-print fabrics in mind. In the past 5 or so years really big, graphic prints have become so popular and readily available. Using those kind of prints, you can make a simple quilt and really let the fabric do all the design work.
So let’s start by talking about fabric selection. For this quilt I knew there would be 16 blocks so I chose 16 different fabrics (because I’m kind of a fabric obsessed person.) But you could use as few as 6 or 7 different fabrics and have the design just as scrappy. Most of the fabrics I used are from the collection Nest by Valori Wells for Free Spirit.
I chose 5 different colors for my quilt: Orange, pink, gray, green and white. Make sure you get a balanced number of fabrics per color. Notice that all my oranges aren’t the same shade, nor my greens. Having different shades of the same color will give your quilt a lot of depth. Fabrics colors that are too matchy-matchy (i.e. all the greens are the same shade) will make your quilt feel flat. [This isn’t necessarily bad – just depends on the look you are going for.]
Now let’s talk about pattern. I mentioned earlier about all the wonderful big, graphic prints that are available right now. They are so fun to work with and make a really interesting quilt. But (and here’s the big but) if every print you use is all the same scale (size), your quilt will look out of control. There will be no place for your eye to rest and the beautiful big prints will just get lost. What we need is contrast. Not only in color, but in scale. So again, I divide my fabrics into groups by scale: Large, medium, and small. Above are my large scale prints. Even though that scalloped stripe isn’t a large design motif on its own, the width between the stripes makes it a large scale print.
These are my ‘medium’ size prints. They are still busy and colorful like the large graphic prints, but the design repeats are closer together.
Here are my small prints. These prints almost read solid. They aren’t solid, but if you step back and squint your eyes they look like a solid color. These prints provide the contrast of the busier large and medium size prints to really show them off. They provide a place for your eye to rest. You can use actual solids – which I sometimes like – but again, the design becomes more flat. With a small print ‘solid’ you get more ‘texture’ or interest to the quilt.
Making the Quilt
Okay, now that we’ve discussed fabric, let’s make the quilt top!
- Sixteen 11+” x 13″ rectangles
- (you can get 2 of these pieces from one fat quarter or three from 1/3 of a yard)
- 1 ¼ yard for backing
- Four 2½” strips (x width of fabric) for binding
(I say 11+” – like 11 ¼” – because if you cut your fabric slightly wider than 11″ you will have more room to ‘square-up’ at the end. But if you can still get by with 11″ if you’re careful.) Now, cut each block in the same way. Starting at the left, cut off a 3″ strip, a 1½” strip, a 2 ¼ ” strip and then leave the fat strip at the end.
You can easily stack and cut at least four blocks at a time and you’ll be done cutting everything for this quilt in no time.
Now, lay out all of your blocks, mixing and matching the 1 ½” and 2 ¼” strips. Stack each group together and take them to your sewing machine.
Begin with your 3″ strip and put the 1½” strip on top, right-sides together. Sew the strips together using a consistent ¼” seam – usually the right side of the presser foot will work. Here is one of the keys to quilting: Always use a consistent seam allowance. Makes everything match-up nicely. You may have to go slow at first – and that’s okay. The more you do it, the faster and more naturally it will come.
Now sew the 2¼” strip and then the remaining large strip that is the same fabric as the first. Repeat for all 16 blocks.
Take all your blocks to the ironing board and press the seams all to one side. Then press from the top to make sure all seams are flat and clean. (This is the second tip for neat looking quilts – don’t skip the pressing!)
Now take your nicely pressed blocks back to the cutting mat and trim the edges to create 11″ square blocks.
When the rows are sewn together, you are going to press the new seams to one side, with the seams going in opposite directions for alternating rows. (This is going to make it easier to sew those rows together and those corners to match-up nicely.)
When you get ready to sew the rows together, pin the seams at the intersecting corners. Make sure the pressed-seams going in opposite directions but up against each other. This will help the corner to match perfectly and not be too bulky. Sew rows together (again using that consistent ¼” seam allowance). Press the finished quilt top from the top.
Voila! You have a simple quilt top finished that fast and easy. You are free to quilt however you choose. For some good machine quilting tutorials check Crazy Mom Quilts or A Quilt is Nice. I love how the quilting finishes a quilt – making it softer and giving it way more personality. AND I love how the quilting hides a lot of the flaws – of which I usually have many!
When you are ready to bind your quilt (the fabric folded over the end of the quilt to cover your raw edges), I can help you with this Quilt Binding Tutorial. Once again, it’s SO much easier than it looks. Your friends will be so impressed.
Here is another example of a quilt made with a very similar technique. This quilt was made mostly from Heather Bailey’s Nicey Jane collection. Notice the variation of print sizes: small, medium, and large as well as the color variation – i.e. not all the pinks are the same shade. This quilt comes from this Off-set Square Pattern tutorial. Here is a picture of a quilt this style for boys.
I hope that some of this helps and gives you the courage to try making a quilt if it’s something that’s been too scary before. And don’t be afraid to finish with something less than perfect. That’s what gives quilts personality. 🙂
TWIN SIZE VERSION – see a Twin-Size Version here
Since writing this tutorial I’ve had people ask me about fabric and size requirements to make a twin-size version. This pattern would make a really quick and simple twin size quilt. Here are the specs:
For your pieced blocks at least (16) 1/3 yards of fabric
you can get (3) 11.5″ x 13″ pieces out of 1/3 yard of fabric (which is roughly a 12″ x 42″)
5/8 yard binding fabric
5 yards backing fabric
Assemble 48 blocks.
Layout your blocks 6 across by 8 blocks down. These 48 blocks will give you a quilt top that is 63″ x 84″.
If you want to make it any bigger I would suggest a 5″ border all the way around – that would give you a 73″ x 94″ twin. (If you do this buy 1.5 yards of border fabric and increase your backing to 5.5 yards)