Looking to spice up your quilting life, but want to keep things simple? Now’s the time to get started! Today four talented designers share their favorite quilt-piecing tricks with you. From stitching Cathedral Windows quilts by machine (!) to perfecting a prairie-points quilt border; from creating versatile folded-corner quilts to making two-at-a-time triangle blocks without triangles (!), these designers will show you their best tricks for keeping fancy quilts trouble-free.
Ready to take your quilts to the next level of greatness—but not the next level of difficulty? Learn how these authors came up with their clever ideas; then give one of their quilt methods a try!
From Flip Your Way to Fabulous Quilts by Donna Lynn Thomas
I’ve always been intrigued by the effects one can achieve using several fabrics in a pieced unit to create a striped pattern. In the 1990s I wrote two books, Stripples and Stripples Strikes Again!, that explored the use of squares, rectangles, and triangles cut from pieced strips. The possibilities for fun with these shapes continued to intrigue me over the years, and I wanted to develop an even simpler method for achieving a striped effect.
Driving home from teaching a workshop one day, I was playing around with ideas in my mind yet again and—bam! There it was in full form! I pulled over to the side of the road and wrote down my thoughts. The next day I set aside time to implement the concept on the most difficult block I could imagine for this process, and it worked perfectly! The bonus was that the technique was as simple as can be for anyone to use and was based on a familiar technique—folded corners.
If you’ve been quilting for a few years you’ve probably run across the simple concept of folded corners:
1. Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the smaller corner square. Carefully place the smaller square on the corner of the larger parent unit with right sides together. Sew on the marked line.
2. Press the small square back over the corner, right side facing up, and check it for accuracy. Be careful not to stretch it. It should lie exactly on the corner of the parent unit.
3. Trim away both extra layers of fabric under the top corner triangle ¼" from the stitching line.
By expanding on that familiar technique, I could start designing with all those glorious striped units again, like the ones below, using a process anyone could repeat. What fun!
The 13 folded-corner quilts in the book, all shown in different colorways, are divided into three chapters:
I hope you enjoy working with these new ideas and find all kinds of possibilities and uses for them in your own quilts!
From Prairie-Point Pizzazz by Karen Sievert
In 1998, I went to our local quilt guild’s show. There I saw a quilt titled “Autumn Leaves” by Janice Streeter, an incredibly talented master quilter. Janice had used prairie points on bias strips to make her leaves dimensional. To this day, I remember it as one of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen.
Well, needless to say, visions of sugarplums, or rather prairie points, were dancing through my head! But, I needed an easier way to incorporate prairie points into my quilts because bias strips just didn’t work for me (they curve!). I tried and tried, as many of us do, and I finally failed my way to success. After many years of experimentation, figuring out what didn’t work, I was finally able to figure out a way that did work. Watch me demonstrate the simple technique in this video:
So easy! After you learn the basic technique, you can meander through the patterns. If you’re like me, you’ll be enchanted with the dimensional butterflies in “Flutterbyes in My Garden.”
Everyone loves the endless possibilities of “Color, Color, All Around.”
And if you’re a mother or grandmother, then the “Peekaboo” pattern was designed just for you.
I hope Prairie-Point Pizzazz will leave you with visions of prairie points dancing through your head! The possibilities are infinite, and as much as I’m excited about these patterns, I’m just as excited about the ones still to be realized.
From Triangle Tricks by Sally Schneider
I was skiing with my friend Mary Kelleher, and from out of the blue, I got the idea for a shortcut technique to make Shaded Four Patch blocks. I was so excited that I just couldn’t stop talking about it to Mary as we rode up the ski lift. I even asked her for a pencil and paper so that I could draw it, but, of course, she didn’t have any. She suggested that I draw it in the snow, and that’s where I drafted my first Mary’s Triangles block! I named my technique after Mary because, even though she doesn’t quilt, she is a most encouraging friend.
Just what is a Mary’s Triangles block? It’s a familiar quilt block, which is also called Flying Goose and Shaded Four Patch, that’s made using a shortcut technique. The technique is a simple one, and you can complete dozens of blocks in just a few hours. In this book, you’ll find projects made with two different variations of the block. Block A features a large triangle on one side and a square surrounded by small triangles on the other side. Block B contains only triangles.
The beauty of the Mary’s Triangles technique is that you don’t actually cut and sew triangles! There’s no fussing with matching points, sewing on cut bias edges that can stretch, or keeping your fingers crossed that all your blocks will turn out the same size. By starting with easy-to-cut squares and rectangles, you can quickly sew units that turn into two blocks for the work of one.
In Triangle Tricks, you’ll find instructions to make Mary’s Triangles blocks in sizes ranging from 2″ to 12″—and half sizes, too! You’ll find ten quilt projects, plus a wonderful gallery of quilt photos to spark your creativity even more. Here are just a few of the step-by-step projects:
Amazon reviews for Triangle Tricks (where new copies of the printed book are going for $106.40!):
- “Worth every penny”
- “This book is so cool”
- “I cannot stop reading this book”
- “This book was like a gift from heaven when it arrived”
- “This is my favorite quilt book right now”
From Machine-Stitched Cathedral Windows by Shelley J. Swanland
If you’ve always loved Cathedral Windows quilts but thought them too difficult or time-consuming, then you will be as excited as I am about this approach. Although they look like old-fashioned Cathedral Windows quilts, these quilts are made using a completely different method of construction. Unlike traditional methods where each piece is sewn by hand, this technique lets you construct the entire quilt by machine.
This technique isn’t just about being able to machine stitch the pieces together. What makes this technique different is the way the pieces go together.
Next, the window panes are positioned, and the folded edges of the frames are pulled over the raw edges of the window panes, tacked, and quilted by machine.
While this may all seem like a puzzle now, once you complete the first frame piece, I guarantee the lightbulb will go on and you’ll never use another method to complete a Cathedral Windows quilt again.
In addition to saving time, there are other advantages to this method. Fabric choices can be varied on three different levels: in the background, the window frames, and the window panes. While this alone allows for an infinite number of fabric combinations, the grid style also can be changed, opening the door to many possibilities.
Before I discovered the foundation-grid system, I’d never been able to complete a Cathedral Windows quilt, so you can see why I’m so excited. I hope you, too, will be just as excited. Have fun experimenting with colors and patterns, and enjoy your Machine-Stitched Cathedral Windows quilts!
What are some of your favorite piecing tricks? Share your patchwork knowledge in the comments!