My New Favorite Quilt Is the One I Just Finished: A Tale of Plaids, Stripes, and Minky

I'm feeling particularly happy this week because I have an actual finished quilt to share!

From first cut of fabric to last stitch on the binding took just about three months. That's a pretty quick turnaround for me. Just like Laura wrote last week, I, too, have a stack of Unfinished Opportunities waiting patiently in my sewing room. In general, I prefer making quilt tops more than actually quilting. Every once in a while, though, I see a quilt all the way from start to finish without letting it sit.

A couple of months ago, a quilting friend, Tracy Allen, offered me her stash of plaids and stripes -- some yardage, some repurposed shirts and blouses. She had done what she wanted to do with them, and they were taking up physical and mental space she was ready to clear out. She came to my house and delivered four large bags of fabric; just sitting on the floor looking through them and sorting them into piles was entertaining and inspiring.

Design and Piecing

I decided a simple quilt block would work well with the riot of colors I was drawn to, so I chose a rail fence design to start. I cut two-inch strips from a bunch of fabrics I thought worked well together, then arranged them on my work surface by value. Each block is made from four strips, arranged from light to dark. I sewed together strips I thought looked good together, making sure I could see a value gradation in each set. I used whatever length strips I had, then cut 6 1/2 inch lengths to make blocks. Sometimes I would get two complete blocks from a set, and then have just a strip pair left, so I'd choose two more strips of appropriate value, add those, and cut more blocks.

Once I used up most of the strips I had cut, I sorted and counted the blocks I had made.

I figured out how many more I wanted to make to get to a decent cuddle-on-the-couch size, then looked at what colors and values I needed to balance what I had already made.


I laid out the blocks (my design "wall" is actually the hallway floor) with the darkest ones in the center and the lightest on the outside edges. Then I switched some of the colors around a bit to have the greenest ones all on one half. I kept the position of the darkest strip constant, which makes a kind of stair-step pattern, and is another way to keep some order within the chaos of color and pattern.

Once I decided on a layout, I marked the blocks with labels.

Because I can't leave the blocks out for the duration of the time it takes to sew the top together, I need a way to keep track of which block goes where, and which end is up. I use painter's masking tape marked with row/column designation -- 1a, 1b, ... 10g, 10h, etc. That way I can do chain piecing and still keep all the blocks in order.

I try to avoid ironing the tape directly; I don't like when it gets on the iron. But the tape doesn't seem to leave a residue on the fabric even when it does get pressed. When I'm done piecing the top, I take the stickers off and put them back in their "storage spot" on the wall.