Tuesday, April 5, 2016


This is a speedy pattern I used to make a baby blanket for Baby Lincoln. I had several large pieces of licensed John Deere print that I had been saving for a project and decided the upcoming birth of Baby Lincoln was the perfect time to make use of it.

This quilt pattern is "speedy" because the large center is actually a printed piece that I cut to the size I needed to work with the outer border made with several different blocks/prints. I also took into consideration what the finished quilt size would be, but it was primarily a project using simple math skills and then cutting the pieces the sizes required to complete this.

I hope this post will show you how easy it is to make a quilt freely without really a specific pattern with specific requirements. All it takes is a little math and a little planning. The sewing part is "speedy".

Things to consider when trying to decide the widths for each section: 

The center or focal print - Does it have a repeating pattern? If it does, will it look good seeing the pattern repeat in the center? How large is the repeat?

The prints for the block border (border # 2) - Do any of them have a pattern that is large enough that you need to make the blocks a minimum size to be able to appreciate it?

The width of the narrower border #1 can be any size that will help (mathematically) for the number of blocks to work out for the center print.

The width of the outer border #3 can determine the finished size of the quilt.

To illustrate what I am saying, the pieces I wanted to use for the block border #2 needed to be a finished 5-1/2 inches to show the patterns on some of the blocks. If I had 5 blocks down the sides, that would equal a finished 27-1/2 inches (5 x 5.5 = 27.5) 

Normally I make inner borders between 1 - 2 inches wide. If I made the border 2 inches wide, that would mean the center piece would be 25.5 inches. I like outer borders to be generally 4 inches. When I added all of these widths together -- follow me closely here --
B #3 + B #2 + B #1 + Center + B #1 + B #2 + B #3  =
    4"  +  5.5" +   2"   +    25"   +   2"   +  5.5" +    4"    

                               = 48.5 "

That was a little bigger than I wanted it to be. When I looked at the center piece I saw I could work with a smaller center and just have a wider Border #1. 

Since I needed the blocks for Border #2 to be a finished 5.5 inches, that pretty much meant that those 5 blocks would need a center and a border to equal 27.5 inches. The combination I came up with was - a 23 inch finished center with the first border measuring a finished 2.25 inches (2-1/4 inches). That made my finished quilt 46 inches square.

3.75  + 5.5 + 2.25 + 23 + 2.25 + 5.5 + 3.75 =  46

Now that I had "done the math" and knew what my finished numbers were the next thing I needed to do was cut the fabric. 

The thing to remember before you actually cut the fabric is that the numbers you came up with mathematically for the completed quilt will be a 1/2 inch smaller than what you will cut (except for the outer border.) You lose 1/2 inch on each side of the blocks when you sew them together because of the 1/4 inch seams you take. The outer border only "loses" one side (1/4 inch) - because the binding covers the other 1/4 inch so you can include that 1/4 inch in your figures. 

A really nice thing about this speedy quilt, is the strips that you cut for borders #1 and #3 will be cut the width of the fabric (wof). That means you only have to be concerned with the width that you cut the strips. (Did you notice the blocks in the four corners? I think of them as "cornerstones". The really super thing about using them?...the wof will be wide enough to "fit" the quilt top up to this point. Why is this good?....you will need less fabric to cut the borders. If the quilt top to this point is bigger than your fabric is wide, you will have to cut the border strips down the length of the fabric or have seams in the borders and on a baby quilt or lap quilt size, I personally hate to do this. 

I also used the same fabric/print for the "cornerstones" for the corners for the border with blocks (Border #2)

SO for my quilt, I cut the following:

Center  - cut a 23 1/2 - inch square

Border #1 - cut four strips - wof  x  2-3/4 inches

Border # 2 - cut six  - 6 inches squares from 6 different prints

Border # 3 - cut four strips - wof  x  4 inches 

Cornerstones for Border # 3 - cut four  - 4 inches squares


Assembly now is quite speedy.

On each side of the center piece, sew one of the 2-3/4 - inch strips. Since this strip is longer than you need it to be and it has the salvage on it also, you can allow extra at the beginning. Press the seam toward the center piece. (I will explain why later when I explain how I machine quilted the quilt.)

Once you have the border sewed on the sides, you will sew the other two strips on the top and bottom. Before you press these seams toward the center, cut off the excess.

Here it is with the center and the first border. The length of the sides are 27.5 inches (2.25 + 23 + 2.25 = 27.5)

I always sew sides first and then top and bottom. This block border has 5 blocks on each side + the 4 cornerstones or 27 blocks total. I chose to sew the cornerstones on the top and bottom strips. 

Once I decided the arrangement for the 25 blocks, I sewed five of them together to make a strip (sewing the tops and bottoms not the sides - I made the quilt with an obvious top and bottom so I laid the blocks out with the patterns going this way.) and sewed them to the sides. I pressed the seam toward the blocks and away from Border #1. (Picture is below.)

I started the strips for the top and bottom border #2 with the cornerstones. Then I sewed them across the top and bottom. I pressed them toward the blocks also.

Pieces laying out to decide arrangement.... (I overlapped them to get the full affect)

Sewed and pressed...

One more border and the quilt top is made. How speedy is that?

Once again I sewed the sides first - just as I did with Border #1 and pressed them toward Border #2. And like with Border #2, I sewed the cornerstones to the top and bottom strips. This time though I did have to cut the ends off so that they measured the length of the finished sides up to this point. After I sewed the cornerstones at the beginning and ends of these strips making sure the pattern was correct for the finished "look" of the quilt with a top and bottom, I sewed the top and bottom Border #3 on and the quilt top was finished.

If this looks a little different, I actually cut the outer border strip about 5 inches wide. After I had the top all sewed together, I experimented by turning the rough edges under to see how it looked. The result was the above picture.

I chose a flannel for the back and bought twice the length of the quilt plus a little extra. (The little extra I bought ended up being a lot more than I needed which was a blessing.) After I prewashed and dried it on low, the flannel had shrunk so that I just did have enough for the backing. 

I folded the length in half and then cut the material on the fold. Rematching the two pieces so that the nap was going in the same direction, I sewed down one side of the two pieces with a half inch seam and pressed the seam open. You have quite a bit loss on the sides when you do this, but I couldn't find any fabric 54 inches wide to use for the backing. I did have the seam down the middle on the back when I layered the backing, batting, and quilt top.

I trimmed away the excess to make the quilt square.

For the machine quilting, I decided to follow the black lines separating the smaller pictures on the center piece using black thread on the spool and a matching color for the backing on the bobbin. It was a lot of stopping and restarting, but the end result was fabulous. Everyone thought they were individual pieces I had sewed together.

I also stitched in the ditch on both sides of Border #1 using green thread on the spool. (This is why I pressed the seams away from the border after I sewed it on. Stitching in the ditch is so much easier when you have the "ditch".)

I didn't want to make Xs on each of the blocks in Border #2 so I just made alternating diagonals that then formed an X in the cornerstones.

Using the green thread on the spool again, I stitched in the ditch again on the outer border, Border #3, but just on the inside. Since the binding would be on the other edge, I let that hold down the border.

The last thing I did before adding the binding was to sew an X in the outer cornerstones. You can see it better in the picture showing a little bit of the backing.

I was so pleased with the finished quilt and so were Downstairs Manager Josh (and Amy) at Hillcrest Thrift Shop. Now let's hope Baby Lincoln also likes it.

If you would like to see how I made the binding, you can check out the process from this POST. While I usually cut my strips 2 inches wide for the binding, I did decide to cut them a 1/4 of an inch wider (2-1/4 inches) since I was using flannel for the backing.

(Finished quilt is 40-1/2 inch square)

Center - Cut one 17-1/5 inch square 
Border #1 - Cut three strips wof  x  3-1/2 inches (one of the strips can be cut in half and it will border both sides of the center piece)
Border #2 - Cut twenty-four 4-1/2 inch squares (can use a charm pack. After you wash and dry them, cut down to a uniform 4-1/2 inch square. Not much waste and you don't have to chose a bunch of fabrics if you aren't using your stash and the charm pack blocks will shrink a little.)
Border #3 - Cut four strips wof  x 5 inches
Outer Cornerstones (optional since finished quilt will be 40-1/2 inches square) - cut four 5 - inch squares.

Backing - Buy 1-1/4 yards of 44-45 inch wide fabric

With this option, the finished quilt is 40-1/2 inches square. You won't have to buy double the length of fabric for backing as long as it is 44- 45 inches wide. You can also omit the cornerstones on the outer border if you like since the wof strip will be long enough for the top and bottom. Personally, I like the cornerstones, but it is optional. The twenty-four 4-1/2 inch cut blocks for Border #2 includes the cornerstones. You can use the same print for these cornerstones or not according to what look you are going for. 

If you have any questions (I do try to make the process seem painless), please ask. Hopefully I will be able to answer your question.

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