Inspired by this fabulous fabric collection by Carina Gardner for Riley Blake (available in store) and the arrival of a new baby in our family in September, this quilt is a great project for a sewer who is new to quilting.
We have written this tutorial with the beginner in mind and so the instructions are quite long as we have tried to explain each technique in the process, those of you who are more experienced will be able to skip to the parts you need 🙂
Instructions for cutting are included in the main pattern.
19 x 6.5” squares (you will end up with 7 half squares spare, if you don’t mind some piece facing in different directions you can reduce the total number of squares needed by 3).
64 x 5” half square triangles (buy pre-cut in your favourite fabrics in store, cut at home with our plastic template, or using the attached paper template).
11 x 2.5” strips (each x 44” wide) for borders.
5 x 2.5” strips (each x 44” wide) for binding.
Batting 44” x 54” (you can get away will less but you will need at least 43” x 53”, if you have a larger piece don’t cut it to size until instructed to).
Backing Fabric 44” x 54” (you can get away will less but you will need at least 43” x 53”, if you have a larger piece don’t cut it to size until instructed to).
6.5” square of template plastic for fussy cutting (make at home or buy ready cut in store), if you don’t have any template plastic you could cut a template out of card, which you then cut the middle out of, leaving you with a mini picture frame that you can still see the fabric through.
Cutting Squares and Triangles
Place your 6.5” square template on your fabric, so that it looks like a diamond rather than a square, and play around with the position until you are happy with the look of the fabric underneath (bear in mind you will lose ¼ inch on each side when the squares are sewn together). Trace around your template and then cut out.
Repeat this process with your chosen fabrics until you have cut out a total of 19 squares (16 if pattern direction is not an issue).
Cut 7 of these squares in half (to make triangles) 4 horizontally (as shown in the image below), 3 vertically. NOTE: This is to ensure you have pieces facing the right way for later, if pattern direction is not an issue you can just cut 4 squares in half.
If you have bought your triangles ready cut then have a cup of tea! If not, take the template attached to this tutorial (you can buy the same template at Prints to Polka Dots in clear template plastic) and cut out a total of 64 triangles.
Its important to use the triangle template as the shape includes a seam allowance to give you perfect triangles and squares when you sew them together (the red line on the image to the right shows you the sew line and the fabric to the right of it is the built in seam allowance).
Piecing Together Triangles
Place 4 triangles together as in the first image below. Once you are happy with the pattern, fold the bottom left triangle over, so that it is on top of the top left triangle (right sides facing). Sew together along the dotted line. Open up and iron the seam out flat (so that one side of the seam sits on each triangle), by ironing the crease out, rather than to one side, you will reduce the potential bulk, make the seam lines crisp and find the process of sewing lots of pieces together later easier.
Repeat with the two triangles on the right.
Now place the right pair on top of the left pair, right sides facing, taking care to line up the seams you have already sewn in the middle, and sew down the dotted line. Iron the seam out as before.
Turn over. At each corner you will see some of the seam sticking out, snip it off. Take a ruler or your 6.5” square template and check that the square is square and the right size, trim as necessary.
Now repeat these steps to create a further 11 squares made out of triangles.
Use the same technique to make 7 half squares, by sewing just two triangles together, if pattern direction is important to you, looking at the first image above, you need to make 3 out of the right hand 2 triangles, and 4 out of the bottom 2 triangles.
You should have at least:
2 triangles (unsewn)
7 half squares (made up of two triangles)
12 squares (made up of 4 triangles)
7 half squares (made out of fussy cut squares)
12 squares (fussy cut out of single pieces of fabric).
Piecing Together Your Quilt
Take 5 of your 2.5” strips and cut into 6.5” lengths.
Pin one of your strips, to one side, of one of your triangle squares (those made up of triangles). Raw edges lined up on all three sides and right sides together. Sew together across the longest side, and then iron the seam flat. Pin the next strip to the opposite side of the square and sew together as before, iron flat.
Now you need to attach a fussy cut square (one made out of a single piece of fabric) to your chain. Look at your own strip and the 3rd image below, place your fussy cut square down in front of you so that it looks like a diamond, making sure the image on your fabric is the right way up. Pin the bottom left side of the fussy cut square to the top strip already attached to the triangles square, right sides facing, all 3 raw edges lined up, sew together across the longest raw edge, and iron the seam flat.
Continue this process, alternating between triangle squares, white strips, fussy cut squares and white strips, until you have a chain which starts and ends with a white strip and which has 3 triangle squares and 3 fussy cut squares in it.
At the bottom end of the chain attach a half square (cut from a single piece of fabric), and at the top end attach a half square made out of triangles. Then lay your chain out on a large flat surface (as in the image overleaf).
Lay out the remaining squares and triangles to create your quilt pattern as below. Make sure you are happy with the pattern/spread of colours etc..
Use the remaining 6.5” strips to make up the rest of the chains (as below).
Check your chains are straight with a ruler. If your chains are very wobbly you can reduce the overall width of all or some of the chains, I did this with a couple of strips which I reduced to 6.25” wide, the quilt will still come together correctly, it will just be slightly smaller width ways.
The next step is to join the chains together. Take one of your remaining 2.5” white strips and lay it over the 2nd chain, along the edge which is next to the first chain (see below). Sew together along the long raw edge, trim the short ends of the white strip in line with the fabric underneath (they will be trimmed again later so no need to be too precise), then iron the seam flat.
Place the corner piece (no.1) on top of the white strip you just attached to the second chain, right sides facing, lining up the raw edges and making sure the tip of the triangle is lined up with the centre point of the square made of triangles in the adjoining chain (see the red circle on the middle image below), pin together and sew along the long raw edge. Iron the seam flat and trim off any excess fabric (again this doesn’t have to be too accurate at this stage).
Place your next strip of white fabric along the right edge of the 3rd chain in the quilt (see earlier image for numbers), right sides facing with the raw edges lined. Sew together, as before, trim off the excess fabric and iron the seam flat.
Place the section you have already sewn together (strips 1 and 2) on top of the white strip, right sides facing, so that the long raw edges are lined up and the white strips in each chain are also lined up (see images below).
Repeat these steps to join the remaining chains to your quilt, finishing just before the final triangle (corner). NOTE: When you get to the middle you will need to join two white strips together to get the correct length, do this before pinning to the quilt, make sure you iron the seam flat and try and line up the seam in the strip with one of the 6.5” white strips in the adjoining chain (see image below).
To attach the corner follow the same principles, but this time attach the white strip to the main part of the quilt first and then line up the corner triangle with the middle of the square made of triangles in the final chain in the main quilt, just as you did at the start.
Now iron your quilt front.
Before adding the border you need to square off your quilt. Use a tape measure to check the width/length, along the top and bottom, left and right edges, hopefully they are within ½ an inch of each other, even if they are exactly the same your quilt might still not be square so keep reading! Take a quilting ruler, or anything which you know has a true right angle, a large hardback book for example, and lay it over each of the corners to see if they are square (vertical and horizontal outside edges at 90 degrees/right angles to each other, in line with the edges of your ruler or square).
If your measurements are out, or corners not square you will need to trim your quilt to get it square, this can be frustrating and time consuming but get this right and the quilt will come together beautifully, rush it and you will regret it (take it from someone who has been there!). There is no easy way to do this, it depends on how out the measurements/unsquared the corners are as to how drastic you need to be. If it is very out, even to the naked eye, you may want to unpick and re-sew some sections before continuing. Start at the corner you feel is closest to square and lay your ruler out, mark out the lines on both external sides of the ruler. Now treat this corner as your guide, and using your ruler work around the quilt marking out straight lines, ensuring the corners are square when you reach them. Trim.
Adding the External Border
Start by cutting 2 x 10” strips off one of your 2.5” border strips. Pin one to another full length border strip, right sides facing, raw edges on a short side lined up, and sew together along the short edge, ironing the seam flat. Repeat with the second 10” strip and another full length strip. You should now have 2 extra-long strips.
Pin one of the remaining 44” border strips to the left (short) side of your quilt, allowing the strip to overhang by a minimum of 3” at each end, right sides and raw edges together. Sew along the outside edge, starting and ending ¼” from the top/bottom edges. Iron the seam flat.
Now pin one of the longer strips to the bottom of the quilt, again so that there is an overhang at each end. Sew into place, starting at the point the strip meets the seam of strip you have just sewn on and ending ¼” from the end. Iron the seam flat.
Fold your quilt in half diagonally, so that the bottom border is on top of the left border, taking care to line up both sides of the border pieces, you will create a triangle as in the 4th image below. Pin together to give stability and draw a line from the point on the quilt where the two border sew lines meet, to the outside edge, at 45 degrees (creating a mitred edge). You can use a quilting ruler to make sure this is at 45 degrees, or use the line created by folding the quilt over and simply extend this across the borders (see 4th image below). Sew along the line, open out your quilt to check that the corner sits flat and the seam is in the right place, when it you are happy, trim away the excess fabric and iron the seam flat.
Building Your Quilt
Cut your backing fabric wider and longer than your quilt, a good few inches on each side if you can spare the fabric (you do this because the fabric will almost certainly move when you start quilting the layers together and having more fabric on each side than you need will mean you don’t have to worry about any movement).
Place the fabric, right side down on a large flat surface, and tape or clamp it down around the edges to keep it taut. Now place the batting on top of the fabric, taking time to smooth out any creases of wrinkles (you don’t need to tape/clamp this layer down).
Pin the three layers together at very regular intervals (the more you pin the less it will move, excepted wisdom is to pin every 3-5 inches), experienced quilters tend to use safety pins rather than regular pins as due to the weight of the quilt, pins tend to fall out sooner than you would like.
Untape the quilt and check the back for wrinkles and creases, if there are any, now is the time to repin to remove them.
If you have one, attach the walking or quilting foot to your sewing machine as it will make the job of quilting easier (I started with my normal foot and had to unpick several lines of top stitching due to creases creeping in, when I switched I had no more problems).
Make sure the bottom bobbin has a colour thread close to the colour of your backing fabric, and the top thread on the sewing machine matches the main colour on the top of the quilt (we used yellow on the bottom and white on the top).
The reason for stitching on top of the quilt is not just tradition or decorative, it is to hold the batting in place for the long term, preventing it from warping, twisting or moving over the life of the quilt. For the batting we sell we recommend sewing lines at least every 8-10 inches.
You could achieve this by sewing ‘in the ditch’ which simply means following the joins between pieces of fabric in the top of the quilt (you will end up with a clean look on the front but you need to be very confident that your pattern is square as the outline will appear on the back of your quilt and wibbly lines will stand out a mile. We have chosen a simple and effective method, which tends to hide errors but uses a lot of cotton. We used a zig zag stitch (set long) and simply repeated it all the way across the quilt, because there are so many lines, the eye is overwhelmed and slightly wiggly lines are not noticeable without close inspection – its very forgiving!
Start at one end of the quilt and sew a zig zag line from the top to the bottom.
Now move your quilt along and sew the next line so that the outside of the sewing machine foot is in line with the tips of the first zig zag. As you sew, instead of pulling your fabric taut from the front the back, pull the three layers taut from left to right, moving your hands through the sewing machine with the fabric, this will help prevent creasing.
Every few lines, stop and check the back of the quilt for creases and to see if the fabric pins need moving, you will be amazed at how much the fabrics can move when being sewn together, and a regular check will ensure no creases are sewn into the quilt.
Once you have sewn the three layers together, take out any remaining pins then check that the quilt is still ‘square’ (use the same method as earlier), trim the excess batting and backing fabric away as you go.
Binding your Quilt
The final stage is to bind the edges of your quilt. Start by joining all your binding strips together ‘on the bias’ (instructions below).
Take your first two strips and place one on top of the other, at right angles (see image below), right sides facing, making sure any sleevage is sticking out on each side.
Pin together and place under your sewing machine foot so that the left top corner is under the needle and the bottom right corner is straight down from this, sew down from corner to corner, see 2nd image below. Trim away the excess fabric and then iron the seam flat, you should now have one continuous piece of fabric.
Now take one end of the strip and place it approx. ½ way down one side of the quilt. Pin in place so that the raw edges of the tape and the quilt are lined up. You will start sewing it into place approx. 8” down from the start of the tape (see illustration below).
Sew down to the first corner, stopping ¼” from the edge. Take the quilt back to your table to work the corner.
Fold the binding tape back as shown in the 3rd image below, taking care to make sure the vertical edge of the resulting triangle is at a right angle with the sewn edge of the binding (see 3rd image below), then fold the tape down over the top of the triangle (it should look like the 4th image, with the raw edges lined up on the next side and the resulting fold lined up with the edge of the quilt on the side you have already sewn). Pin into place, turn the quilt round and sew the next side ending ¼” from the next corner (don’t sew over the crease on the side you have already sewn, all will be revealed later!).
Repeat these steps until you get to the side you started on, on this side stop approx. 8” from the start of the tape (NOT the end of the tape or the start of the sewing, but the actual start of the tape).
Unpin the start of the tape and then open out both ends of the tape. Place the two ends together, right sides facing and at a right angle to each other (see image above) and sew together along the yellow line in the image above. Turn the fabric over and check that the binding tape falls flat on the quilt, adjust if necessary, when you are happy with the finish, trim the excess fabric away and iron the seam flat.
Fold the binding tape back in half and pin into place along the edge of the quilt, sew together.
Turn over your quilt and fold the binding tape over the raw edges.
“The following instructions are for finishing the quilt by hand, this method is quicker than you might think (one evening in front of the TV!) and gives you an almost invisible finish, I have often thought I would just run the tape through the sewing machine and ended up spending more time unpicking, where the line wasn’t perfectly straight, and after spending all this time making your quilt, you owe it to yourself to give it a great finish.”
Take your needle up through the binding on the crease (fold) line.
Push the needle back down as close to the point where you just came through as possible (making an almost invisible stitch) pass the needle down through the backing fabric and batting (do not go through to the front, just the back and batting) and back up into the middle of the binding, stopping inside the crease. Then push the needle along the INSIDE of the crease, before coming back up out of the top of the binding (see image below). Repeat these steps to the corner.
When you reach the corner, finish with the needle pointing up out of the backing fabric, ready to go back into the binding tape. Fold the next side of the binding tape over to make a mitred corner (the fabric should be folded into a triangle as in the first image below, before folding over). Take the needle up through the point of the triangle (if you are using very wide binding you might want to add a few stitches along the mitred edge). Then turn the quilt and work the next side. Continue sewing sides and corners until you get back to the start.
Congratulations! You have now completed your quilt, time to start planning the next one!
Riley Blake’s Little Ark Collection, Riley Blake White Cotton Fabric and Sasparilla Flannel
(we used a flannel fabric on the back for extra cuddly softness but you could
also use a cotton).