Have you ever ended up with a quilt block that is too small? Don’t you hate that? Today Leila Gardunia is sharing a simple tip for resizing a quilt block. This method is particularly useful for a block that is part of a larger sampler quilt.
Help! My quilt block is too small!
Hi! This is Leila Gardunia. I live in St. Louis, and I am addicted to audiobooks, a chocolate snob, and quilt designer. I specialize in scrappy foundation paper pieced patterns and Block of the Month quilts. You can find them all in my shop at LeilaGardunia.com.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my blocks don’t come out to the correct size. This is a super common problem, especially if you are trying out a new piecing method. If the blocks are slightly too large, I sometimes trim the blocks down to size. This cuts off some of the points in the seam allowance, but it allows the blocks to fit together nicely.
But more often, my blocks are too small. For the blocks to fit together without puckering, they need to be under-sized by no more than ¼”. It is possible to “ease in” that amount of fabric. However, if they are any smaller, they will need to be remade – and that makes my want to rip out my hair.
Out of desperation, I discovered another option. It won’t work with all quilts, but tends to work well in sampler style quilts. Before I show you how to do it, let me give you a bit of background.
In Japan, there is an art of mending broken pottery called kintsugi. Lacquer is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum and used to glue the pieces of pottery back together. The breakage and repair of the object becomes something to hide to highlight not hide – part of the object’s history. I loved this idea and decided to embrace it in one of my quilts a few years ago.
It all started when I got my new sewing machine. I was so excited that my new machine had a ¼” setting, and I knew it would help me keep an accurate ¼” seam allowance throughout my blocks. But when I finished making two blocks, I measured them and found they were over a ½” too small! I could not believe it! I went back and measured the seam allowances, and they were all just a hair over ¼”. All of the slightly large seams added together made my blocks ½” too small! It was so frustrating that my brand new machine had let me down. I called the shop, and they showed me how to change the settings so the ¼” seam would be a scant 1/4″ (just under a ¼” instead of just over), and thankfully, I haven’t had any problems since.
Instead of remaking the blocks, I decided to frame out two sides with bright contrasting fabric to bring them up to size. Like kintsugi, I decided to highlight the flaws and celebrate the history of those blocks. I will always remember how they were one of the first things I made with my new sewing machine.
How to Resize a Quilt Block that is Too Small
This technique works well with blocks that are ½” or more too small.
Simply cut two strips of contrasting fabric at least 1 ½” wide: one strip the same length as the block and the other 1” longer than the block width.
Sew the strips onto adjoining sides of the block and press away from the block.
Then trim the block to the correct unfinished size.
Here’s my State Fair Sampler quilt. Can you spot the modified quilt blocks? I think they actually add a bit of interest to the quilt.
If worse comes to worst and you have quilt blocks that are 1/2” or more too small, consider embracing the fact and adding fabric strips to bring them up to size. You might find you like the look!
Good luck, and may your seams always be a perfect 1/4”!
Such a simple solution to a oft-needed problem. Thanks, Leila! Be sure to check out Leila’s excellent variety of quilting tutorials on her blog.
One of Leila’s specialties is foundation paper piecing. Here are a few of her free foundation paper-piecing projects including these fun springtime scrappy carrots with handy tips for determining what size fabric you need for each piece
and this scrappy maple leaf mini quilt. So many fun possibilities with foundation piecing!