How to make a wonky quilt block

Hey, it’s National Candy Day! Well, really, it was yesterday. But there’s nothing wrong with continuing a celebration of the sugary stuff today—particularly if you give yourself the sweet treat of making a candy-inspired quilt.

“Wonky” may not be an orthodox term in the quilting world, but you know a wonky quilt when you see one. If you’ve ever wondered how to make a wonky quilt block, you’re in for a treat today. We’re talking with Melanie McFarland, co-author with Mary Lou Weidman of the book Out of the Box with Easy Blocks. Melanie’s lollipop quilt features just a touch of wonkiness in the border—look at these fun wrapped candies!

Lollipops quilt

Below, Melanie shows you how to make the main block from her lollipop quilt. Then, she eases you into making those adorable candy blocks.

When you see how easy Melanie and Mary Lou’s freeform piecing can be, you’ll want to make even more whimsical quilts from Out of the Box with Easy Blocks (40% off this week only). So get ready for a new quilting adventure—fun fabric goodies await!

See all the blocks and quilts you can make from Out of the Box with Easy Blocks at the end of this post.

Make a Lollipop Quilt!

Melanie McFarlandNovember 4th is National Candy Day, so why not celebrate by making a non-caloric giant lollipop, or a trio of pops? The wonky quilt pattern “Lollipops” from Out of the Box with Easy Blocks is perfect for customizing. You can turn it into a seasonal gift or table runner: think fall colors, Christmas or Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day pinks and reds, or spring pastels for a perfectly sweet color scheme.

In my opinion, the lollipop quilt is the easiest pattern in the book! In the example below, I’m using a fat-quarter bundle from the “Shadow Flower” collection by Windham Fabrics for the lollipop, and a light aqua background from my stash. You need to make only one lollipop for a darling mini quilt, and it’s fast, too.

Lollipop quilt

Follow along to learn how easy it is to make a lollipop quilt!

Sewing the Lollipop

1. Download the triangle template and print it. Place a sheet of tracing paper over the pattern. Using a Sharpie or other permanent marker and a ruler, trace the pattern. I drew in the perpendicular grainline, through the center, and noted the height is 6⅜".

Trace the template
I traced my pattern from the book.

2. Cut the triangle wedges for the lollipop. I love to use striped fabrics for this block. If you fussy cut strips on the horizontal, they create a fun pattern around the circular candy. First, cut a strip approximately 6⅜" wide across the fabric, from selvage to selvage. Then place the triangle template’s shortest side against the long cut edge of the fabric strip. Trace around the edges of the triangle and cut using a ruler and rotary cutter. To make best use of the fabric, flip the template so that the short edge is against the opposite side of the strip and one long edge is aligned with the angled edge you just cut. Pattern weights will help hold the template in place before you start cutting.

Fussy cut strips

3. Cut a 1¾" x 15½" strip for the lollipop stick. Because I like the realistic look of wood, I used a brown wavy striped fabric for the stick. You could also use solids, in black or tan, or even a fabric color-cued to your quilt theme.

4. For the background, cut the following pieces:

  • 2 squares, 5″ x 5″; cut in half diagonally to make 4 triangles
  • 2 rectangles, 7½" x 15½" (left and right of stick)
  • 1 strip, 3½" x 15½" (top of lollipop)
  • 12 strips, 2½" x 11½" (left and right of lollipop)
  • Approximately 16 squares, 2½" x 2½" (for the candy border)

5. Take the time to lay out the lollipop portion before sewing. Because you cut the triangles from opposite sides of the strip, you’ll want to check that the stripes alternate in every other wedge (or not, for extra crazy!). Sew the pieces together to make an octagon.

Assemble the lollipop

6. Attach the background triangles to every other striped triangle to make four corners. (Make sure you sew the long edge of the background triangle to the striped triangle.) I like to use pins now and again, to hold things together. Mary Lou doesn’t bother (I think it slows her down). Stitch the triangles to the lollipop portion, sewing to the end of the background piece.

Stitch triangles to the lollipop

7. Press the background pieces open and trim the excess background, aligning the ruler with the edges of the lollipop portion.

Press and trim triangles

8. To complete the lollipop center of your quilt, sew the 2½" x 11½" background strips to opposite sides of your lollipop unit. Press the seam allowances toward the background fabric. Then sew the 3½" x 15½" background strip to the top of the lollipop and press. Sew the 7½" x 15½" background pieces to each side of the 1¾" x 15½" stick, and then join the stick unit to the bottom of the lollipop. Square up your block. Your lollipop block should end up anywhere from 14½" to 15″.

Sewing the Wrapped Candies

Here’s how we assemble the candy. Remember, we’re sewing them wonky so each one may be a bit different. Let go and have fun!

1. To make the candy border, strip-cut the fabric for the candy pieces. Cut a 2½" strip across the width of the fabric, selvage to selvage. Cut each strip into 2½" squares to make the individual portions of the candy.

Cut strips for the candy pieces

Cut strips into squares

2. Place your colorful candy portions (the 2½" squares) right-side-up, on your machine’s soleplate area. Place your background strip under the presser foot, wrong side up.

3. Notice that three units make up each finished candy block. In the two outer units (the twisted wrapper ends), the bright fabric is a triangle with two more triangles of background fabric at top and bottom. In the remaining unit (the candy in the middle), one piece of bright fabric is surrounded by small triangles of background fabric at each corner.

Wrapped-candy block close-up

4. Insert the squares of candy fabric, one at a time, between the soleplate and the background strip. For each end unit, expose a long triangle of candy fabric beyond the background strip. For each middle unit, expose a smaller triangle. Begin stitching a ¼" seam, along the long edge of the background strip, catching the candy portions as you go.

Stitch the candy pieces

5. Remove the sewn strip and it should look something like this, background on top and colorful pieces underneath, with right sides facing each other.

Sewn candy strip

6. Flip the sewn pieces, so that they are both wrong side up as shown below, and press from this back side.

Flip and press candy pieces

7. Still from the back, trim the pieced candy units along the edges of each 2½" square.

Trim candy pieces

8. Repeat step 6, this time sewing a background strip to the other side of the candy pieces. Here’s what it looks like, after you repeat the step, showing more background and looking closer to the finished appearance of the block.

Progress of candy pieces

9. Keep stitching and trimming until your finished units look something like this, and then join the units to make a candy piece. (I could sew these candies all day!) In the quilt shown, I used 14 candies total: 2 each for the top and bottom borders and 5 for each side.

Three candy units

Completed candy block

10. Sew a contrasting narrow inner border around your lollipop block (mine is about 1″ wide, finished).

11. For the top and bottom borders, join two candy units and three 2½" background squares, alternating the candies and background pieces. Measure your quilt top from side to side through the center, and then trim your border strips to that length—it’s okay to cut off part of the candy pieces; remember, this is wonky sewing! Then sew the border strips to the top and bottom of the quilt top.

12. For the side borders, join five candies and four 2½" background squares, alternating the candies and background pieces. Measure your quilt top from top to bottom through the center, including the just-added borders. Trim your border strips to that length and then sew the borders to the sides of the quilt top.

13. Layer, baste, and quilt your lollipop quilt, then bind the edges. (For help with quilt-finishing techniques, go here.)

All done. Hurrah—give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve learned a new technique and had fun doing it. Now you can make more of the quilts from the book Out of the Box with Easy Blocks!

Thanks for the sweet tutorial, Melanie!

Check all the step-by-step block patterns you can stitch from Out of the Box with Easy Blocks:

cat face block cow block ice pop block
Cat Face, Cow, and Ice Pop blocks

pieced center star block apple block hoochy heart block
Pieced-Center Star, Apple, and Hoochy Heart blocks

faces block high heel block handbag block
Face, High Heel, and Handbag blocks

flower pot block coffee pot block pineapple block
Flower Pot, Coffee Pot, and Pineapple blocks

The book also includes instructions for piecing your own freeform letters, like these:

patchwork letters

Finally, Melanie and Mary Lou offer directions for making freeform-pieced borders featuring Monkey Wrench blocks, Flying Geese, and all kinds of “hoochy” angles from fabric strips.

Are you ready to step out of the box—or are you already box-free? Tell us your story in the comments. Then pick up your copy of Out of the Box with Easy Blocks—40% off this week only—and instantly download the eBook for free!

Freddy Feathers Baby Chick

Step-by-step project: “Freddy Feathers Baby Chick”


Step-by-step project: “Chocolate Whacky Cake”

How Sweet It Is

Step-by-step project: “How Sweet It Is”

My Little Angel

Step-by-step project: “My Little Angel”

Ice Cream Cones

Step-by-step project: “Ice Cream Cones”

Her Royal Highness

Step-by-step project: “Her Royal Highness”

Postitively Pretty Posies

Inspirational project: “Positively Pretty Posies”

Purple Cow

Inspirational project: “Purple Cow”

Nine Lives

Inspirational project: “Nine Lives”

Designer Handbags

Inspirational project: “Designer Handbags”

Steppin Out

Inspirational project: “Steppin’ Out”

Caffeine Anyone

Inspirational project: “Caffeine, Anyone?”

This Says It All

Inspirational project: “This Says It All”


Inspirational project: “Baby Sweet”


Inspirational project: “Summer Ice Pops”

Celebrate Dream Cake

Inspirational project: “Celebrate Dream Cake”

12 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I often fall out of the box and make wonky blocks when I don’t mean to but I have tried techniques that are more freeform and find them fun and liberating.I love that candy border! Thanks for sharing!

    —Diane on November 5, 2012
  • My wonky blocks in the past were never intentional……….love this idea. Ice cream cones on a beach quilt, wrapped candy on a Christmas quilt………so much fun!

    —Nancy on November 5, 2012
  • I’m so far into the box that I’m loving the smell of cardboard. Help me! I sincerely love this stuff.

    —Patricia Hersl on November 5, 2012
  • Love the "out of the box" blocks. it’s a great way to play!!!!

    Jean on November 5, 2012
  • I love the fun in all these blocks. The High Heels and Purses would make a great reversible quilt for my 13 y.o. granddaughter. I’d love to have this book–just need to get through some UFOs and already planned projects first.

    —Joanne Scott on November 5, 2012
  • They are cute but not my thing. I like more regular things and not so scrappy.

    —Barbara Adams on November 5, 2012
  • The Lollipop quilt looks like a really fun quilt. I love wonky quilts.

    —Marilyn R on November 5, 2012
  • There is a wonderful poem (can’t remember who wrote it)?

    Puple Cow
    I never saw a purple cow,
    I never hope to see one.
    But I can tell you anyhow
    I’d rather see than be one.

    Obviously, the first block I would make is the Puple Cow!

    —Lynne on November 5, 2012
  • I’m thinking some of this wonky-ness is going to show up on a quilt that goes to comfort someone that survived the disaster called Hurricane Sandy. I think maybe they could use some laughter and cheering up. Love the ideas.

    —Claudia on November 5, 2012
  • Ogden Nash wrote the poem about the Purple Cow.

    —Claudia on November 6, 2012
  • My first wonky quilt was a pattern called "Goofus" by ruthie Miller. Yes, ruthie is spelled with a small R. "Goofus" is in relation to a Log Cabin design with 2 light and 2 medium/dark sides per square. The strips of fabric aren’t uniform in size, they are wonky; they can be skinny at the top and fat at the bottom, and in any shape, form, or fashion. Two different fabrics sewn together in the same strip is acceptable, as long as they’re in the white or medium/dark color for that row. Depending on your block size will determine the strip width you use. My largest width was an inch. I cut out geometric shapes of whimsical animals as a center square and worked around the center, just liked you’d do for the red center square in a Log Cabin block. This quilt turned out so cute, it has been a favorite of mine to make children’s quilts with, and if a wonky strip was long, I chained stitch my blocks. The nice outcome about "Wonky" you use up those what-am-I-going-to-do-with-these-odd-shaped-strips.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on November 7, 2012
  • If I wanted to make diabetic candy from the patterns of "Out of the Box with Easy Blocks" book, would I use pastel fabrics? This really looks like a fun and cute book. Thanks, Melanie and Mary Lou.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on November 7, 2012

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