Quilt patterns with large blocks (+ craft book month!)

NEWS FLASH: We interrupt our regularly scheduled Monday post to bring you this special news: September is Craft Book Month at Craft Buds!

Craft Book Month at CraftBuds

Lindsay Conner, editor of the Craft Buds blog, is celebrating crafty books throughout September with daily posts about our favorite subject. She’s asked us to share a favorite craft book and show a project that one of us has made from the book—and around these parts, that’s an easy order to fill. (But thank goodness Lindsay only asked for one book and one project. If we blogged about every project each of us has made from a book, we’d be blogging for years.)

It was tough to decide which book to feature (we’ve published more than 1200!), so we decided to find out who in the office had most recently finished a quilt from a book. Turns out it’s our managing editor, Karen Soltys. Today, Karen shares the story behind her version of the “Buttonhole” quilt, made from the book Modern Basics II by Amy Ellis.

Take it away, Karen—and to those visiting the Stitch This! blog for the first time from Craft Buds, welcome!

A few years ago, when my oldest nephew, Andrew, graduated from high school (okay almost 10 years ago!), I made him a quilt. His sister, Abby, graduated a couple of years later and I made her a quilt. A tradition had begun.

My most recent niece to graduate is Emily. Since she is just 18 and I’m (ahem) not, I thought she’d appreciate a more modern design and color palette than I usually work with. So I turned to Modern Basics II by Amy Ellis to peruse the patterns. I selected the “Buttonhole” quilt from the book because I love the unusual rectangular block.

Buttonhole quilt

“Buttonhole” quilt from Modern Basics II

I knew I’d change the color palette to include Emily’s favorite color, green. And I wanted the quilt to fit a double bed and be long enough to use as a bedspread in a college dorm. (I made the blocks the size given; I just made more of them so that I could set them in four columns of nine blocks each.)

Modern Basics IIEven though I started the quilt in February, true to form, I didn’t finish all the sewing until the day the machine quilter called me to say she’d be ready for my quilt top in three days. Yikes! I quickly finished sewing the rows together, then decided that one of my fabrics was way too dark compared to all the others. I dashed off to the quilt shop for a new shade of purple, made three replacement blocks, and got out the seam ripper to remove the offenders. Fortunately my machine quilter was better at managing her time. I got the quilt back with a few days to spare before my flight to Pennsylvania for the graduation. I’m not sure who was more of a whirling dervish—me sewing on the scrappy binding, or tropical storm Andrea, which arrived on graduation day!

Here are a few photos of Emily at her graduation party with her new quilt.

Karen's quilt for Emily

Karen's quilt for Emily 2

I think she likes it.

Next time I’m going to start a year before graduation because the remaining kids in my family are twins—two sets of them!

Thanks for sharing the story behind your beautiful quilt, Karen. Your nieces and nephews are lucky to have such a thoughtful—and deadline-driven—aunt!

Craft Book Month at CraftBudsAlso thanks to you for stopping by, Craft Buds fans! Feel free to browse our freebies, check out our How to Quilt page, and sign up for Stitch This! emails while you’re visiting. For our regular blog readers—visit CraftBuds and check out the Craft Book Month blog-hop schedule. Follow along all month! If you have a blog, you can link up your craft-book project during September and you’ll automatically be entered to win some fantastic prizes from Craft Book Month sponsors (like us).

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog post. Thanks for letting us be a part of Craft Book Month, Lindsay!

Quilt patterns with large blocks

Detail of Secret Garden Album quiltLeft: 16″ x 16″ Album blocks from Supersize ’Em!

What’s the best way to make a quilt fast? There are lots of options. Sewing big squares of contrasting fabrics together to make a quilt top is a good go-to idea. But if you’re looking for the complexity, depth, and beauty that pieced blocks provide, there’s one little trick that many quilters rely on for big impact: quilt patterns with LARGE blocks!

With the big-block quilt patterns we’re featuring in four fun books today (all at 40% off), you’ll discover:

  • A reason to cut into your large-scale prints
  • A way to turn a single block into a finished quilt
  • An excuse to pare down your fabric choices (how about just 3, 4, or 5?)
  • An idea for featuring a beloved theme in great, big blocks

Ready to dive into some big-block quilt patterns? Your stash, your rotary cutter, and your precious time awaits!

Got Big Prints? Spotlight ’Em in Big Blocks

From Debby Kratovil, author of Supersize ’Em!

Supersize 'Em!Big blocks are a great way to finish a quilt in less time. The pieces in each block are larger, which makes it come together quicker and easier, and just a few blocks make a good-sized wall hanging. Add sashing and borders, and you’ve got a bed-sized quilt in no time. Some may think it’s just a lazy way to get a quilt finished, but who can argue with being able to accomplish more in less time?

While saving time is a great advantage, perhaps an even bigger asset to making big blocks is that the larger pieces are a great way to showcase big, bold prints that you don’t want to cut up into itsy-bitsy pieces. With inspiration from the projects in this book, you can pull out your large-scale prints and slice into them without fear!

Quilt blocks from Supersize 'Em

Big-block examples fromSupersize ’Em!

Are there any rules to working with big blocks and big prints? Not really. One thing that I do recommend is to abandon fussy cutting. Occasionally, it’s fun to highlight a specific motif, but for the most part, just cut the fabric, even if a huge flower is dissected. “Surprise cutting,” as I like to call it, is whimsical, free-form, and fun. Other than that, follow the same guidelines as you would when making any other type of quilt: make sure your ¼" seam allowances are as perfect as possible; measure twice, cut once; cut and sew a sample block before cutting out the pieces for an entire quilt; and don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you get stuck. And remember, it’s not a race, it’s a hobby—have fun!

See all 22 quilt projects in Supersize ’Em!.

Stitch a Single Block—End Up with a Finished Quilt

From Evelyn Sloppy, author of Sew One and You’re Done

Sew One and You're DoneSew One and You’re Done began as a search for interesting new patterns for charity quilts. I wanted to make quilts that were quick and easy, yet visually appealing and fun to make. After trying several ideas, I settled on taking a traditional block, maybe changing it a bit, and then enlarging it to create a “big block.”

By working with a limited fabric palette, larger pieces of fabric, and only one large block, I could piece a quilt top in just a few hours, and the results were stunning. The quilts I made were lap sized, ranging from 45″ to 56″ square. I had such fun making these quilts that I just kept designing and piecing until I had completed the 19 quilts you’ll find in Sew One and You’re Done.

Quilts from Sew One and You're Done

“Wild Goose Chase,” “Winter Dreams,” and “Pumpkin and Such”

Quilts from Sew One and You're Done

“Porcelain Stars,” “Star within a Star,” and “Triple Bear’s Paw”

Quilts from Sew One and You're Done

“Cranberry Fudge,” “Starburst,” and “Vintage Star”

Quilts from Sew One and You're Done

“Cat Tails,” “Schooltime,” and “Best Friends” (available as a free pattern)

(Quilts from Sew One and You’re Done are also available as individual ePatterns.)

Although I originally intended to make these quilts just for charity projects, I now find myself also making them as table toppers, wall hangings, and gifts. They’re a great size for a baby quilt or as a lap quilt for a sick friend. They’re so quick to sew, you could even make them for everybody on your Christmas list. They’re easy enough for the beginning quilter, yet interesting enough for the more experienced quilter. I now like to keep a stash of these quilts on hand for gifts. In Sew One and You’re Done, I also show how to enlarge the big blocks to make even larger quilts by adding plain and pieced borders.

Enlarging one-block quilts

To make a queen- or king-size bed quilt, simply piece four blocks together. Then, learn how to quickly finish your quilt, from tying or simple machine-quilting ideas to a fast machine-binding technique.

Now’s a good time to pick a pattern and get started. And, for double the pleasure, how about making two quilts at the same time—one for you and one to give to a favorite charity?

Faster Big-Block Quilts: Limiting Fabric Choices

From Laurie Bevan, author of Lickety-Split Quilts

Lickety-Split QuiltsA beautiful quilt doesn’t have to be technically difficult or scrappy, or use hundreds of pieces, or take months to make. The quilts in Lickety-Split Quilts are fast to sew because they’re made from big blocks, so you need fewer blocks to make a good-sized quilt. None of these quilts has more than 12 pieced blocks. Some are bold and exciting and some are soft and pretty, but all of them piece together quickly.

Using a limited number of fabrics to make a quilt also speeds up the time you spend cutting and piecing. You’ll be cutting six strips from one fabric instead of one strip from six different fabrics. When you start sewing the pieces together for the blocks, each block uses the same fabric in the same position. This allows you to keep sewing; you don’t have to stop and think, “Now where does this fabric go?”

Whispering Windmills quilt

Four fabrics in 16″ x 16″ blocks: “Whispering Windmills”

Today’s quilter lives in a hectic world in which there are too many quilts to make and not enough time to make them. If you are one of those busy quilters, Lickety-Split Quilts may be just the solution for you. I hope you find some time to quilt, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it! Here are a few more projects from the book:

For All My Sisters quilt

Four fabrics in 15″ x 15″ blocks: “For All My Sisters”

Graphic Design quilt

Five fabrics in 16″ x 16″ blocks: “Graphic Design”

Red and White Baskets quilt

Three fabrics in 16″ x 16″ blocks: “Red-and-White Baskets”

Big-Block Quilts, Classic Theme: Houses

From Joanna Figueroa and Lisa Quan, authors of Fig Tree Quilts: Houses

Fig Tree Quilts--HousesHouses have inhabited the heart of quiltmaking as far back as quilting goes. Whether you prefer the country or the city, romantic villas or hearty homesteads, quilt designs featuring houses are a gateway to big quilt blocks. Here’s what Joanna Figueroa and Lisa Quan say about their decision to focus on house blocks in their first book:

“Coming up with new quilt designs is not something that either of us struggles with much. In fact, the process of narrowing down what designs to work on and what colors to use to successfully execute those designs is often the toughest part of being a quilt designer. So, when we first started thinking of working on a book together, we knew it would be a great opportunity to combine a huge variety of ideas, all with one specific theme. It wasn’t hard to choose House blocks as that theme; ever since we could remember, both of us have been drawn to house quilts of every kind, finding something uniquely charming about them.”

You’ll find several big-block quilts featuring houses in Fig Tree Quilts: Houses.

Main Street in Season quilt

“Main Street in Season” (House blocks: 22″ x 28″)

My Cotswold Cottages quilt

“My Cotswold Cottages” (House blocks: 10″ x 10 ¼")

City Flats quilt

“City Flats” (House blocks: 9½ " x 17⅜")

Faded Homesteads on the Prairie quilt

“Faded Homesteads on the Prairie” (House blocks: 16″ x 16″)

See more quilts from Fig Tree Quilts: Houses.

Do you have a fast-tastic big-block quilt pattern that you use again and again? Share what works for you in the comments!

11 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I like to make disappearing 9-patch quilts. I use my 6.5″ square ruler for each block. Makes a really big block. If I want a bigger block, I add a 1.5″ sash between the 6.5 squares. Twelve will make a twin size quilt.

    —Mary Douglass on September 3, 2013
  • No, but I need to find a big block pattern! I could finish more quilts faster!

    —Carol on September 3, 2013
  • Ive recently discovered how fun it is to use large blocks. It might be a little difficult to cut the larger pieces, but I enjoy less cutting (tendinitis in my wrists), and faster piecing. And a large one-block quilt with just a few colors is so stunning. Perfect baby quilts!
    The two I have completed for gifts are: Diamond Daze, found in Quiltmaker’s Quilts from 100 Blocks Fall 2012. Three shades of yellow and gray each. Stunning two-color quilt and my fastest quilt to put together.
    And Melissa Corry’s Starburst Quilt Along on her blog http://www.happyquiltingmelissa.blogspot.com
    I used the 40″ block and a border to make my favorite size crib-quilt: 44×60. A yellow background with three shades of purple made a stunning two-color quilt that’s fat quarter friendly (although I used yardage in my stash).
    I plan to make more, because they’re fast and easy for baby gifts.

    Rachell R on September 3, 2013
  • No, but I am trying it with a log cabin block.

    —Susan on September 3, 2013
  • wow what a beautiful sight nicely done lots of great ideas thanks!!

    nicole on September 7, 2013
  • I love Karen’s quilt… this book sounds like a must-have! Thanks for joining us for Craft Book Month!

    Lindsay on September 10, 2013
  • I generally don’t make anything larger than finished 12 inch blocks, however on occasion, I have made finished 18 inch blocks using the Shoo-Fly, Hole In the Barn Door, and Churn Dash patterns. These blocks are made with different colors, sometimes separated with sashings (lattice)or put on point. They’re especially fun and fast to make for charity and children’s beds. If you want crazy for children, make (fussy cut, stripes, checks, dots, etc.) for the Shoo-Fly’s body and it’s feet.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on September 10, 2013
  • beautiful sight loved all the quilt designs.

    Nicole on September 18, 2013
  • Love these books! Now I am going to have to order them:-) Thanks for all the lovely ideas and designs!

    —Leann Stites on September 20, 2013
  • As a mystery quilt for our guild I enlarged the Goose in the Pond square. I gave my parents a four block queen size quilt for Christmas. Everyone at their assist living residence had to come and see it. Big block quilts are faster, easier and does put some dent in my stash. Happy quilting:)

    —Sheila Ivany on October 28, 2013
  • I am looking for some 16inch finished quilt block patterns. I would like for them to have 4 1/2 inch half square triangle corners. If you should have any ideas I would be very much appreciated. Thanks Linda

    —Linda Powell on October 18, 2021

Leave a comment

*Indicates required field