A traditional quilt top is made up of equally sized blocks, stitched together to form a square or rectangular grid. As I came to assemble my Super Size Economy Block quilt, it occurred to me that the way I sew mine together is not exactly the way that convention tends to dictate, but I do it so that I can keep things as accurate as possible, so I thought I would share with you what I do.
This is my finished quilt:
I think we can all agree that there are a lot of points in that sucker! There are 448 to be precise, but only 224 touch other blocks. The effective block layout is as follows:
Traditionally you would sew the blocks together in rows, then join the rows together to make the top.
But is that really the best way to do it? The way that will give you the most accuracy? In reality we don’t sew things absolutely in line with each other, there’s a fraction of an inch here or there, and the more you join together one after the other, the heavier the drag on the seams by the longer end and the wonkier it can get. I’ve exaggerated the examples of the most common results in the diagram below, but it’s fair to say that trying to sew these together would not lead to a nice flat seam between rows, which in turn would not lead to a nice flat quilt top:
So how else could we tackle it? What would lead to the least unbalanced seams? This is how I tackled mine, using the diagram below to show the divisions:
- Firstly I sewed four-patches as delineated by the pink and navy lines.
- Then I joined those four patches into bigger four patches as delineated by the navy lines alone.
- Finally I created the daddy of all four patches to finish the top by joining those four quadrants together.
With the exception of the far right column, in each case the joins were made with equal amounts of fabric on each side of the seam, so neither side could drag the other down. With the far right column, joining its component parts to the next square gives relatively little difference in size to create drag.
Happily I lost no points in the assembly by following this method – over the years I have experimented with different options, and this is by far the most accurate for me.
What about you? Have you found a better way? Let me know in the comments.
Hi Katy. Very interesting-I’ll certainly give it a go when I next make this style of quilt.
I do this, too. I started by sewing blocks into section “blocks” then eventually joining the big blocks. I have trouble with dexterity and managing long seams and long strips of squares so this seemed like a good way to do it. I even plan my quilt sizes and layouts based on this method. It works for me!
Thirty years ago, my grandmother taught me to chain piece the columns into one big piece and to not cut the chains. Iron seams in opposite directions so all seams are now butted together and the chain essentially pins the seams. Sew across all seams with resulting perfect points. I associate what you call “traditional” method with newer quilters who perhaps feel us “old quilters” don’t have as much to add. Another reason why its unfortunate that modern quilters feel such a need to separate themselves from many with lots of experience…
I have generally gone the row by row method but I had been wondering about making blocks to add to more blocks . I thought this would be more manoeuvrable . Thanks for this
Your method has been my method from the time I first started putting quilt tops together. It most certainly makes it easier to keep things squared up. I also use this method when making granny square afghans. Your finished quilt is lovely.
Well I never thought of this! So clever and since I have a ton of economy blocks to piece myself I think I’ll give it a go!
I avoid long seams as much as possible (for the reasons you stated) and so do the same as you (or something like it, depending on the number of blocks). I do like finding out how different people approach what seems, at first, to be a simple thing.
I’m with you on staying clear of the long rows. I find I have to pin, pin, pin and pin some more if I sew a quilt top by rows. There’s less pinning for me if I just keep making blocks out of my blocks!