Ah, the call of a quilter looking for something simple to stitch.
Squares and rectangles are the building blocks of most quilts, and for good reason. Simple shapes with straight lines and 90-degree corners, squares and rectangles are easy to cut, easy to arrange, and easy to sew. And the really fun part? Even if you cut nothing but squares and rectangles, you can still end up with a ziggy zaggy quilt of simply stitched, perfectly pointy triangles.
Below, we’ve gathered quilts with rectangles and quilts with squares for every occasion. You’ll learn:
- How you can combine simple rectangles to make gorgeous quilts
- The pressing tip that can make or break quilts pieced from charm squares or Layer Cakes
- How avoiding triangles can yield triangles
- How to stretch beyond square blocks
How to Make Stunning Quilts with Rectangles (and nothing but rectangles)
It doesn’t get much easier than piecing rectangles, but Judy Turner and Margaret Rolfe prove that rectangle-only quilts can look anything but simplistic. The authors tell how their patterns came together:
The designs in this book were originally inspired by traditional arrangements of Japanese tatami mats. These mats are always made in exactly the same size, and their rectangular shape—the same size as two squares placed next to each other—allows them to be arranged in interlocking patterns. For example, two mats placed side by side form a larger square, three mats form a larger rectangle, and arrangements of both eight and eighteen mats make even larger squares. Since all the blocks are based on a single shape—the rectangle—all are one-patch designs.
The combinations of rectangles come to life when some rectangles are dark and others light. There are many possibilities for making different block designs by varying the placement of darks and lights within each block.
Look intriguing? Learn more, including secrets to making scrap quilts work, in our Scrap Quilt Success – It’s Point-less post.
Charm Squares and Layer Cakes: Pressing Secrets Revealed
You’ve got a bunch of precut squares. Do you need to press them? A master at assembling charm packs and Layer Cakes into beautiful quilts, Carrie Nelson offers the following advice: “Unless you’ve been carting your Layer Cake or Charm Pack squares all over town, they probably aren’t too wrinkled and shouldn’t need more than a quick spiff-me-up pressing. But there is one important thing to mention—if you like to use steam to press while you’re sewing, I recommend that you press the squares with steam before you start cutting. If the unwashed squares are going to shrink even a skosh from the steam, it’s better that they shrink before you cut than afterward.”
Thanks for the tip, Carrie! See below for examples of her gorgeous designs, all made with charm squares and Layer Cakes.
How to Sew Squares into Triangles
How do you sew triangles without cutting any? It’s easy. As Nancy Mahoney shows us in Square Deal, all you have to do is place a small square at the corner of a larger square or rectangle, stitch across the diagonal, and then trim. Easy! Nancy says that this method is “a wonderful way of creating triangles without actually cutting triangles and sewing on the bias.”
Take a look at what you can achieve with Nancy’s methods for quick and easy quiltmaking.
How to Move Beyond Square Blocks
I wanted to see if I could design a group of quilts using only rectangular blocks and challenged myself to explore various ways of setting them together. I came up with some unexpected and unusual designs that I hope you will enjoy. Some of the quilts are set together in rows using traditional construction, while others are easily assembled using partial seams.
At first, my designs begin simply as a drawing, a glimmer of an idea or a figment of my imagination. Until I’ve found the colors and fabrics to make my quilts complete, my designs aren’t real to me. Once it has been pieced together and quilted, a quilt becomes real—a true and faithful friend. I’m not sure how this happens, but I believe it’s why quilts offer such great comfort and love to the people who use them. They become our friends, sharing in our joys and sadness, and they somehow miraculously manage to do this while remaining inanimate objects.
Take a peek at Ilene’s quilts below. Can you spot the rectangle blocks? Sometimes they’re easy to see, sometimes not!
Was your first quilt made up of simple square blocks, or did you attempt something beyond basic? Tell us about it in the comments!