Sunday, February 21, 2016

Joining Rows to Create a Quilt Top

I've been asked to explain my process when joining rows of blocks to create a quilt top.

This tutorial applies to a "Straight Set quilt". For information about an "On-Point Set quilt" go here.

Using this antique top I bought last year as an example, I will show you my process.  

Garden of Eden blocks
This is a design done in EQ7 of a simple pieced quilt top with rows of blocks and sashing with cornerstones:

First, I design the layout, choosing which blocks go where.  As I usually make quilts with lots of fabrics, this can take a little time.  In this example, all the blocks are the same so I just put them on the design wall and start sewing.

We will start with the first row of sashing/cornerstones and call this Row 1.

There are a total of 8 of these rows:  1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15.

There are rows of pieced blocks, let's call this Row 2:

There are 7 rows of pieced blocks, Rows 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14.

Working from the top, I sew the first row of sashing, from left to right.  Row 1. This goes quickly.

I then sew the first row of blocks. Row 2.  This takes a little more time, as the seams are longer.

Now I join Row 1 to Row 2, carefully matching the intersections where the sashing and cornerstones meet.  Yes, I pin all those intersections.

Unit 1/2:

Now I put that unit back on the wall and sew the next set of these units, Row 3 to Row 4.  When I have that done, Unit 3/4, I join them to Unit 1/2:

Now I repeat with the next set of sashing and block rows:

Unit 1/2/3/4 + Unit 5/6/7/8


This is the TOP HALF of the quilt.  I put it back on the design wall and proceed in the same manner to create the bottom half of the quilt.  NOTE the final row of sashing/cornerstones on the bottom:

Then I simply join the top half to the bottom half:

All that is left to do is add the four borders and this top is done.  Why don't I just start at the top and keep going?  Because as the quilt grows it gets more awkward to deal with the whole thing.  By breaking it down into sections, I only have the entire quilt under the needle for that final seaming, joining the two halves.  If you want to start at the top and just keep going, that's perfectly OK, it's your quilt, do it your way.  

IMPORTANT TIPS FOR BORDERS:  Do not just cut a long piece of fabric (or piece a long border), sew it on and whack off the extra.  This will pretty much ensure your quilt is out of square.  MEASURE your quilt and cut the borders the actual size they need to be to precisely fit your quilt. In this example the sashing rows finish at 2.5 inches and the block rows are 11" high. 

In a PERFECT world, my seams would all be exactly 1/4" and the top would now measure 97.5" x 84", before adding that outer border.  That is raw edge to raw edge. Measure your quilt to find out what size yours really is before proceeding.  Cut borders to fit YOUR quilt.

 The left and right borders are cut (or pieced to become) 5.5" wide x 97.5" long.  After they are sewn to the left and right sides of the quilt, I measure again and cut the top and bottom borders 5.5" x 94".  Sew on the top and bottom borders and you have a completed quilt top, that will finish at 93.5" x 107".  

NOTE:  I mark the center of each border and pin each outside edge and the center.  Then I use as many pins as necessary to keep the border neat and tidy while sewing.  With borders this long, I put pins about every 5".  The more pins you use, the more likely your borders will fit nicely.  We are using the accurately cut borders to create a quilt top that is square, not wonky.  

ANOTHER NOTE ABOUT BORDERS:  While it is generally best to cut your borders on the lengthwise grain for more stability of the borders, I often cut them crosswise and piece them to the correct length.  The most common reason for this is I don't want to buy more fabric just so I don't have to piece a border and can have it all on the lengthwise grain.  I use what I have.  It would take 1.75 yards to cut these borders crosswise, but you would need at least 2.75 yards to cut lengthwise.  And you would have a long piece leftover, approximately 18" x 99".  Yes, you could use that for the binding, but the point is: Do what makes sense for YOU and this quilt.  If this will hang on the wall, use lengthwise cut borders.  But if it's going on a bed I don't think it makes a lot of difference.  You get to choose.  

If you are still with me, I hope this makes sense and gives you a road map to follow as you piece your next quilt top.

Oh, and I had to use diagrams from EQ7 for this tutorial because here is where I stand with my reproduction quilt so far:

Let's Quilt!



  1. Good information. The accountant in you is showing. Love it!

  2. Thank you so much for this info Barbara. very helpful and much appreciated :)

  3. I love your blocks!! I like to put my quilt tops together in quarters to avoid the long seems until the end. So many ways to get to the end! One more reason to love quilting.

  4. Awesome information. I can use this immediately