A beautiful quilt thrown across a country fence to catch the golden summer sun and a gentle breeze. A pretty picture to be sure. But even better is the fact that this quilt tutorial is simply the easiest way ever to make a queen-size quilt! It's perfect for a beginner. The Fat Quarters, which we cut for our blocks, make it look like you've been saving scraps for years. And, a machine-stitched binding keeps the overall time requirement pretty darn low.
Our sample features the softly nostalgic Fresh Cottons collection from Joanna Figueroa of Fig Tree Quilts for Moda Fabrics. This collection came out in the summer of 2010, but can still be found here and there. We located some at QuiltHome.
To see the nine bed linen tutorials that match this easy, breezy quilt, read our article, Fresh Linens Liven up a Guest Bedroom with Crisp, Comfy Color.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 18 Fat Quarters (If you choose not to use a Fat Quarter Bundle, you'll need to cut eighteen pieces that measure 18" x 22"): we used Joanna Figueroa's Fresh Cottons Fat Quarter Bundle by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda Fabrics
- 9½ yards of a 44-45" wide coordinating solid fabric for sashing strips and backing: we used Moda's Bella Solids in Natural
- 3 yards of a second 44-45" wide coordinating solid fabric for sashing strips and binding: we used Moda's Bella Solids in Ivory
- Queen size quilt batting: we used Warm & Natural's Queen Size Cut
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Quilting thread to match the coordinating solids: we used Natural in the top and Ivory in the bobbin
- Lots of large safety pins for basting quilt (Fabric stores have special pins just for quilt basting, which you may choose as well)
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Straight pins
- Tape measure
- From EACH of the eighteen fat quarters, cut:
FOUR 8½" x 8½" squares (you'll end up with 72 total; you'll use 64)
TWO 8½" x 3½" pieces (you'll end up with 36 total; you'll use 32)
NOTE: This design efficiently uses up nearly every bit of the Fat Quarter. You have just a tiny bit to spare, which you can use to adjust for any off-grain, dye or selvedge issues.
- From the coordinating solid you chose for your sashing and binding (Bella Solids in Ivory in our sample) , cut:
FIFTY-SIX 4½" x 4½" squares for the sashing
SEVEN 2½" x width of the fabric (WOF) strips for the binding
- From the coordinating solid you chose for your sashing and backing (Bella Solids in Natural in our sample) , cut:
ONE HUNDRED-TWENTY 4½" x 8½" rectangles for the sashing and between the blocks
TWO 96" x WOF pieces for the backing. Essentially, you're just trimming off the selvedges.
- Stack up all your pieces into like-sized groups.
- Decide which 8½" x 8½" patterned squares you want where on the front of the quilt BEFORE you begin to sew. Do this by laying them out on a flat surface. This is a queen quilt design, so you'll probably have to use the floor; make sure it's clean. Mix and match until you have a layout you find pleasing. Remember, you have 72 squares to work with, but you'll only use 64; this allows you to an extra 8 to work with so you can best avoid duplicate fabrics and/or similar colors side by side. You can follow our pattern or design your own. There's no 'wrong' design; it's all based on what you like best.
- Using the same method, decide in what order you want the 8½" x 3½" patterned pieces that will run down the back of the quilt.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
As we've mentioned in some of our other quilting tutorials, when you are doing ' patchwork,' it's super important to be consistent when sewing the pieces together. You should think of it like putting together a puzzle. In the end, all the pieces have to fit together perfectly. Don't worry though, fabric is pretty forgiving. We're lucky enough to sew on Janome machines in the Sew4Home studio, many of which have Cloth Guides. These help you to sew a consistent seam, which is really handy with this type of project. For a quick tip on how to make a DIY cloth guide using Post It® notes, see our Whimsy Quilt project.
This quilt has a traditional ¼" quilting seam allowance throughout. We used our Janome ¼" foot to help maintain a perfectly straight line.
Create the patterned block rows
- There are a lot of pieces to keep track of, so work in a specific order, like a grid. We worked from top to bottom and left to right.
- Starting with the first patterned row, pin one 4½" x 8½" solid rectangle right sides together with one side of an 8½" x 8½" patterned square. You should have SEVEN pairs in this first row.
- Repeat to create the seven pairs (remember, we're working left to right) for the remaining six rows. You will create fifty-six pairs.
- Find the SEVENTH pair for each row, and pin the final (the eighth) 8½" x 8½" patterned square to the opposite side of that pair's rectangle. This creates the end unit 'trio' for each row.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch all pinned seams (the fifty-six pair seams and the additional eight end seams). Press all seams toward the patterned squares.
- Now, still keeping track of your original 'grid order,' you'll pin and stitch the pairs together to create your rows. Start with the first square/rectangle pair in the first row, to it pin the next square/rectangle in the sequence, aligning the 8½" sides. Stitch, right sides together, using a ¼" seam allowance.
- Repeat, adding one pair at a time until you have the finished row, remembering that your last "pair" is really the "trio" of square/rectangle/square. Again, press all seams toward the patterned squares.
- Repeat to create the remaining seven rows. When finished, you'll have eight rows total, each with eight patterned squares and seven solid rectangles.
Create the sashing rows
- For those who don't quilt regularly, sashing is the word used for rows of fabric that aren't part of the quilt block rows. It's just a fancy way of talking about the rows in between the colored blocks. The sashing rows in our quilt are made of two fabrics (ivory and natural in our sample) and two shapes: squares and rectangles.
- You need EIGHT sashing rows, each made up of eight 4½" x 8½" rectangles and seven 4½" x 4½" squares.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, begin piecing together the first sashing row. Start with a rectangle and match one 4½" side, right sides together, with the side of one square.
- Work from left to right, adding one piece at a time (rectangle, share, rectangle, square... ), until you have your full row of eight rectangles and seven squares. Press all seams toward the squares .
- Repeat to make the remaining seven sashing rows.
Assemble the patterned block rows and sashing rows into the quilt top
- Working from the top sashing row down, pin the first two rows right sides together. The most important thing to remember is to keep your seams in line with one another. It helps to place a pin in the seam to make sure it's lined up on the other side.
- Alternate each printed fabric row with a sashing row to assemble the quilt top. Refer to the quilt drawing above for guidance.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, sew the rows together. Press seams flat.
- Continue in the same manner until all sixteen rows are sewn together from top to bottom.
NOTE: When we assembled the rows, you'll remember we pressed the fabric in certain directions above. This now allows us to ‘nest' the seams of the pieces. One seam is pressed in one direction, the opposing seam is pressed in the other direction, and they lay easily against each other. In addition to the 'pinning technique' mentioned above, this will help you to line up the corners so you get ‘perfect points' between the fabric pieces.
- When all the rows are stitched in place, if necessary, trim any excess from all sides of the quilt top so the raw edges are flush and square.
Create the backing
- Using the same piecing techniques described above, and a ¼" seam allowance, sew 32 of the 3½" x 8½" patterned rectangles together along the 8½" sides to create one long row. You should have figured out the order of the rectangles above. You'll have four left over.
- Stitch this patterned row in between the two 96" x WOF solid pieces. The colored fabric strip is sewn along the 96" sides. If your seaming is precise, your one long row of rectangles should end up exactly 96" as shown in the illustration above.
Layer and baste
- Find that area again with a lot of available (and clean!) floor space. You need enough room to lay the quilt layers flat.
- Lay the quilt backing RIGHT SIDE DOWN on the floor. If you choose, you may use tape on the corners to hold the backing in place.
- Layer the quilt batting on top of the backing. The batting will extend beyond the edges of the quilt top and backing. This is okay, you'll trim everything flush when you're done quilting.
- Lay the quilt top RIGHT SIDE UP on top of the batting, centering it in the middle of the quilt backing.
- Starting in the center, baste the quilt layers together with the safety pins.
- Be sure the layers are flat and wrinkle free as you work. Place the safety pins about every 3-5".
- Our design has diagonal quilting lines across the quilt.
- Place cotton quilting thread in the machine, and wind a bobbin to match the backing fabric.
- If you have a walking or even feed foot for your sewing machine, this is a good time to use it. The walking foot will help to feed the layered fabrics evenly, so they don't slip. We were fortunate to use Janome's new Horizon machine, which has the built-in AcuFeed System. Love it!
- To quilt the fabric and batting layers together, start from one corner, and stitch a line that runs diagonally through each patterned square.
- Continue quilting diagonally through the quilt so each patterned square has a diagonal line quilted through it. Work outward from the center of the quilt to avoid bunching.
- Rotate the quilt top and stitch a diagonal line from the opposite direction to create an "X" in each patterned square.
- When you are finished quilting, trim the edges of the batting and backing so that they are square and flush with the quilt top.
Binding the quilt
- Stitch the seven 2½" x WOF solid strips together end-to-end (along the 2½" sides) to create one long strip. Press all seams open.
- Press this entire long binding strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.
NOTE: Because this is a beginner quilt, and has a definite front and back, we decided to bind the edge with a machine sewn seam. This is quicker and easier than the more traditional hand-stitched finish. It allows for a clean bound edge on the front with the stitching line only showing on the back.
If you're brand new to binding, you might want to take a look at these two tutorials to give you a solid, overall understanding of binding techniques: How to Make Faux Mitered Corners and Bias Tape: How to Make It & Attach It. Also, since we don't have many photos here, we used this same binding technique on our Door Caddy tutorial; it has quite a few step-by-step photos, which might be helpful for you to review.
- Starting in the middle of the bottom edge of the quilt, and working on the FRONT of the quilt, line up the raw edges of the folded binding with the raw edge of quilt. Leave about a 5" tail at the start. Pin in place to the first corner.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, start sewing the binding to the quilt. Go from your starting point (remember to leave that 5" tail) to the first corner.
- Stop at the corner. Raise the needle and the pressure foot. Pull the quilt out slightly from under the needle to the left of the machine. You do not need to cut the thread.
- Rotate the quilt. To turn the corner, bring the folded edge of your binding up. This automatically creates a pleat and a 90˚ corner. Pin. Line up the next side's raw edge with the raw edges of the binding, working your way towards the next corner. Pin in place about 6".
- Place the quilt back under the needle and foot to continue sewing the binding, starting about ¼" in from the top edge.
- Stop, with your needle in the down position, to continue your pinning once you get past that first 6".
NOTE: You can pin all the way to the next corner, or - because it's so big, you can work with small sections of pinning.
- Repeat these same steps at each corner.
NOTE: This is a queen-size quilt and can become a bit unwieldy. Sometimes it's easier to gently roll the quilt to make it easier to handle and maneuver.
- When you're approaching where you started, stop about 8" short of this point and back tack. This will allow you space to join your binding end-to-end, and then attach it to the quilt for a clean finish.
- With the 5" tail you left at the beginning, and the tail you have at the end, unfold the binding strip and place the two binding tails right sides together.
- Determine the point where you can sew a straight seam (just like you did when you joined the binding pieces end-to-end at the start), which will allow your binding to lay flat against quilt. Pin the ends together at this point.
- Pull the binding away from the quilt so you can place it under the foot of your sewing machine.
- Sew a seam where you pinned the binding. Trim the tails to a ¼" seam allowance. Press open.
- The binding should now be a perfect fit flat against the quilt. Press this loose section of the binding in half wrong sides together (into its original shape).
- Pin the raw edges of the binding to the remaining raw edge of the quilt.
- Finish sewing the binding to the quilt from the point where you stopped to the point where you started, matching your seam lines.
- Press the binding up and away from the quilt front.
- Fold the folded-edge of the binding over to the back of the quilt, encasing the raw edges of the quilt. Align the folded-edge of the binding so it is just beyond your previous stitching line. Make sure your fold is even all around the edge. You'll probably need to futz with the corners a little bit to get the pleats right. Press in place.
- On the front of the quilt, place pins "in the ditch" of the binding seam line, which is just below your original seam line. You will remove the pins as you sew your seam.
- Using a straight stitch, sew ‘in the ditch' - again, this is right along and just below your original seam line. Go all the way around the quilt, pivoting at each corner.
NOTE: You can sew in the ditch with a regular presser foot, you just need to be very careful placing your foot on the fabric and aligning your needle. Then, sew slowly and keep your fabric along running along a needle plate guide line. We're very lucky to have Janome as our signature sponsor, because they have a wonderful Ditch Quilting foot that worked great for this project. It has a handy guide that runs right along the previous seam to keep the ditch stitching perfectly straight.
NOTE: As we mentioned, this is a faster and easier way to finish your binding. If you want a more traditional quilt binding, use a hand sewing needle and thread to stitch the binding down on the back of the quilt with a whip stitch. If you'd like to review how hand-stitched binding is done, this method was used on our tutorial, Turquoise 2010: Moda's Ruffled Jelly Roll Table Runner.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Editing: Alison Newman