Tips for Using your Fabric Stash to Make Great Patchwork Quilts

I am a total sucker for simple patchwork quilts. I love the simplicity of the uniform squares and it’s the perfect way to play with and show off your favorite fabric.  It’s also the perfect beginning quilting project. If you’re looking for a tutorial for a simple Charm Pack (5″ Precuts) baby quilt you can find one here.

In my opinion the key to magical patchwork quilts is scrappier the better – which means, the more different fabric prints, the better.

One of the easiest ways to get a quick variety of prints is to use precut 5″ x 5″ squares. (Sometimes called Charm Packs or 5″ Stackers, depending on the manufacturer.) It’s also a great way to get a cohesive color palette without having to worry about picking colors.

A few months ago I bought this 5″ Stacker of the Neverland collection by Jill Howarth from Riley Blake Designs. I love the colors and the prints from this collection and I’m a total sucker for Jill’s delightful illustrations.

As much as I adore this collection, and really wanted the prints to be the focus of the quilt, there are only 18 prints in this collection. And, in my opinion, the best patchwork quilts are as full of as many prints as possible. This is where using your stash comes in to play!

I used the precut squares as a guide for my color choices and pulled prints from my stash that played well – and in my opinion – enhanced the scrappiness of the quilt. (Because I know someone will ask, most of the prints from my stash are years old, meaning they’re no longer available in shops.)

I purposely choose fabrics that read as ‘blenders’: a fabric that reads as a solid from a distance. It’s important that they coordinate with the focus fabrics (in this case the darling Neverland illustrations).

Blenders are one of the keys to great patchwork quilts because they do two things: they ‘blend’ or ‘tie’ the variety of colors of the quilt together. And give the eye a place to rest so that the divas can really show off. As you know, anything with too many divas, turns into a hot mess. Remember Beyonce’s backup dancers aren’t there to compete with the star.

To make great patchwork work, it’s also really important to use a variety of scales and textures. They also provide more contrast and interest in the patchwork. This post goes into a lot more detail about scale, value and texture when choosing fabric for quilts.

Use your Stash + Charm squares for beautiful patchwork quilts

Here’s the finished result. I cut additional 5″ x 5″ squares from the pieces from my stash for a total of 90 squares and laid them out 9 across by 10 rows down. The finished size of this quilt is 40.5″ x 45″.

You can easily resize it to any size you want just multiply finished 4.5″ x 4.5″ squares (the finished square size) to any width or length desired. (Graph paper can be your friend if you need a visual.)

Depending on your quilting method, if you’re careful with a 40.5″ wide quilt, you can get away without having to piece a back as long as the yardage is wider than the quilt top.

For the backing I used this cute pink print from the Neverland collection. The binding fabric is years old from my stash. You can find more of the Neverland prints available here.

Here are a few of my favorite patchwork squares quilts from over the years:

Clockwise from top right: Blue and Green quilt for my son (the one with horse photo bomber), Valentine’s Table Topper, Throw in a few stars for an added dimension to a simple design, Red and Black Plaid Flannel, and a Baby Quilt from years ago.

You can also see a bunch more ideas on my Simple Patchwork Pinboard.

5 Tips to Make your Patchwork betterSo here’s a quick summary for making your Patchwork Work:

  1. Use Precuts for variety and saving time

  2. The Scrappier the Better

  3. Boost your precuts with fabric from your stash 

  4. Use Blenders – they help show-off the divas

  5. Use fabrics with a variety of scales and textures

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  • Reply
    Linda Douglas
    September 7, 2018 at 10:30 am

    LOVE the ‘Neverland’ quilt! Really showed off their pretty pastel blends! Hugs!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Butler
    September 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Great tips for using feature fabrics and your stash. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Christine Sherman
    September 7, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    So beautiful! Simple squares are my favorite 🙂

  • Reply
    Anorina Morris
    September 7, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    I can appreciate complex quilts, but I too love making simple patchwork quilts.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 3:34 am

    Cute quilt! Those are probably my favorite color combinations! That red and black flannel is what hooked me on your blog. I love it still!

    • Reply
      September 9, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      It’s still one of my all-time favorites too!

  • Reply
    Little Quiltsong
    September 8, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Beautiful Patchwork Quilt! Sometimes simple squares make the coziest and loveliest quilts. Love these fabric colours and prints!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 7:58 am

    That’s a beautiful quilt. Simple squares are my favorites too. I pinned this for inspiration.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Such a sweet and gorgeous quilt! I do love a simple patchwork and your stash fabrics blended perfectly! I love the colors in this! Well done!!!

  • Reply
    Sandra Lowery
    September 8, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I’m with you ! Simple squares remind of days gone by, and they are my favorite quilts. You do such beautiful work, thanks so much for sharing with us.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    I’m a beginner quilter so please bear with me! When you used your Neverland prints, did you use the other plainer prints from the charm pack or just use fabrics from your stash? If you didn’t use the other Neverland prints, why not? Aren’t they usually blenders themselves?

    • Reply
      September 10, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Really great question, Rebecca! I didn’t make that very clear in my post. Yes, I used all of the prints in the charm pack. There were some blenders in this collection, but not as many as in other collections (just because this designer is an illustrator and focuses on feature prints). Some fabric collections have more prints per collection (like 30-40) so they have more blenders so they do have a good variety of blenders built into them already.

  • Reply
    September 9, 2018 at 6:17 am

    I love this as a baby quilt. Perfect size!

  • Reply
    Kathleen McCormick
    September 9, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Great quilt and explanation of one of the best ways to employ scraps. I often feel collections fall a little flat without something else added in. I am thinking of making most of my scraps into these usable sizes for quick, fun quilts.

  • Reply
    September 20, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for this I just got lots of precut and wasn’t sure how to put it together I have done quilting when I was very young now want to start to make quilts again this is the site that will re start me

  • Reply
    Barbara Kartoz
    December 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Great tutorial. I understand it better now. Love, love this quilt! (Btw, I made a fantastic quilt from your Gingham Girls line. Just purchased Gretel. Looking forward to finding just the right project for it.

    • Reply
      December 8, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      aww, thank you!

  • Reply
    December 27, 2021 at 10:17 am

    If using fabrics from stash… can it be cut in strips and then cut? What size would be used doing it that way?

    • Reply
      December 27, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      Yep – I cut strips from my stash all the time. Just cut the width the same measurement you want the blocks to be. For example, if you’re mixing with other 5″ x 5″ squares, cut a 5″ strip off the edge of your yardage and cut the strip into more 5″ x 5″ squares. 🙂

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