These are my 20 blocks, before I sewed them together and added the borders.
I've said it before and I'll say it again... the quilt I made will not win any prizes for technique or color placement, but each and every single component of it means something incredibly important to me --- every shape, every color, every fabric. Whenever I look at it, I'm reminded of so many people, events or other memories that helped shape my life and I feel wrapped up in love and courage and strength. I can't think of a more perfect quilt.
I haven't provided exact cutting instructions or fabric amounts, only the technique. Since this is such a personal kind of quilt, you could adjust this method to any size block and make as few or as many as you'd like.
Step 1: Determine how big you want your finished block to be and cut your top fabric 1" bigger.
I wanted my blocks to finish at 12", so I cut them at 13". You can select any size you'd like but if they are a little bigger, you'll have more flexibility with the designs. You'll trim them down a little more later.
13" square of the main (top of the block) fabric.
I spent a lot of time selecting 20 different shapes for my quilt. Each one means something very important to me. Some I found online and others I sketched free-hand. You will want to pick basic shapes (think "coloring book") and make sure your shape is at least 1" smaller than your finished block size. For example, my finished blocks are 12", so no shape is bigger than 11". In most cases, I opted to leave a little more free space around the edges and kept my shapes no bigger than 10". I traced (or drew) the outlines onto my blocks using a chalk pencil, but you could use any removable marking pen.
For this example, I'll show you how I made my Florida block. This is a shape I found online then enlarged and printed out.
You can see better in this photo how I eliminated some of the sharp edges when I cut it out. It is enough to have a shape that *looks* like Florida, it didn't need to have every single inlet showing.
Here's how my block looked after I traced on the shape with a white chalk pencil.
Step 3: Piece together the fabrics which will show through your shape, making this pieced portion 1" bigger than your shape.
Here is another opportunity to select fabrics and colors that mean something special to you. You may select only 1 fabric or multiple, focusing on one color or several. Think about the shape you are using for this block and what memories go along with it. This may remind you of a specific color, fabric, person (who has a favorite color), etc. Your "underneath" piece does not need to be as big as your finished block, it just needs to be as big as your shape / opening will be, plus a little room (at least 1/4", but 1" or more will be easier to work with in the next step).
This block used simple shapes underneath in colors representing sand, ocean, blue sky and sunshine. You may choose to use more scraps, make a patchwork or anything else you can think of, as long as the pieced shape is bigger than your drawn shape. The paper cutout helped me determine color placement and size. In this example, the piecing is bigger than it needs to be, but those were the scraps I had on hand so I used them as is.
Step 4: Layer and pin the top (shape) block to the underneath (pieced) fabric.
Lay the pieced portion face up on your sewing table. Carefully place your top layer (with the shape drawn on it) on top, also right side up. Take care to ensure that your shape will have a pieced layer underneath all of it. You may need to lift up the edges of the top (shape) block or pick up both layers together and hold them up to the light, to be sure your opening will be covered all the way around, with at least 1/4" around each side. Pin these layers together from the top using straight pins.
Pieced fabric is right side up. Top fabric is also right side up. Drawn shape (on the top fabric) is placed so there is piecing under all of the drawn shape.
Different block, but it shows how I pinned the layers together. It also shows how simple it is to change a shape once it's drawn. I thought the first star was too small so I drew a bigger one around it and used the bigger outline when I stitched.
Step 5: Attach the two layers by sewing along the drawn line of your top shape, using a thread which coordinates with your top layer. Back-stitch at the beginning and end to secure your threads.
I used black thread to secure my layers together, since my top blocks were black. You want this line of stitching to blend in as much as possible. The "underneath" layer should be the star of this block, not your stitching lines. If your shape has inner lines (not just an outline), stitch over all of them now, as well.
A little hard to see, but I stitched directly over that chalk line in black thread.
Step 6: Using small, sharp scissors, slowly and carefully cut away only the top layer of fabric, approximately 1/4" inside the stitching lines.
This is definitely the scariest part! Don't worry too much, though. I made 20 blocks and never (thankfully!) cut through the bottom layer by mistake. I found the best way to do this is to use one hand under the block (holding the pieced layer) and one hand on top of the block (holding the center of the top layer's shape) to separate the two layers of fabric. I snipped through the top layer just enough to get my scissors in, then laid my block face up on my sewing table. Keeping the bottom blade of my scissors on the table and moving very slowly, I trimmed out the center of my shape approximately 1/4" inside each stitched line. I turned my block more than my scissors as I rounded a corner. It is OK if this is not exact or if you have some ragged-looking edges. This edge will crinkle and curl and fray a bit in the wash and it is meant to look "rough around the edges."
Yes, this is a different block :-)
Here's what Florida looked like after trimming 1/4 inch inside the stitched lines.
If your shape has more than 1 opening, just cut each individually.
Step 7: Trim the excess pieced fabric on the back of your block.
Flip your block over and trim away any excess pieced fabric approximately 1/4" outside of your shape stitching line. As with Step 6, this does not need to be exact, but it will help reduce bulk as you quilt the finished product.
It starts out looking like this....
And ends up looking like this.
If you have more than 1 shape, it's not necessary to cut in between all of them, just remove the bulk around the edges.
I wanted my blocks to finish at 12", so once all the steps above were complete, I trimmed them (from 13") to 12.5". My 12.5" square ruler made this pretty simple to do. I did my best to make sure the shape was centered under the ruler, in case I hadn't placed it exactly in the middle of the square.
Step 9: Once all of your blocks are complete, determine how you will lay them out into columns and rows. Stitch together into a completed quilt top!
At the beginning, I was planning to be very deliberate with my overall color choices, starting with dark blocks in the lower right corner "radiating" out into brighter, more cheerful colors diagonally up into the upper left corner. However, I decided I'd rather take each block one at a time, choosing whatever color(s) best suited that block, rather than pre-determining how many blocks I'd have of each color. Though I did opt to keep my darkest block in the lower right corner, I let my daughters help me arrange these into the overall layout. The key here is to do what makes you smile, whether that's from a specific order of the colors or the shapes or because it's what your little girls like best.
1) I decided in advance how many blocks I would have in my finished quilt (20) and what shape would be used on each. I wasn't sure if I'd have 20 unique shapes or not and I thought if I was short a few, I could put hearts in all 4 corners, for example. (That didn't turn out to be the case, but I'm glad I planned the shapes in advance.)
2) Once I had the shapes picked out, I started selecting fabrics from my scrap piles. For some shapes, I knew I wanted it to be a certain color so I just went through my scraps in that color, selecting the ones I liked best. In other cases, a specific fabric was most important to me so I started with that and found other fabrics to go with it. I found it helpful to pick fabrics/colors in advance for all the blocks, as well, so I wouldn't end up with too many of the same color or fabrics.
3) For blocks with more than one opening that require a separate fabric in each, I treated each opening as it's own shape. I drew the shape(s) first but then followed steps 3-7 for each opening, one at a time, then moved on to the next opening.
~*~ May your day be full of Love and Ladybug Hugs ~*~
Thanks for stopping by!
~ Kat ~