Monday, April 16, 2012

April Showers and Scrappy Squares

It's already mid-April, and our weather has been alternating between rain and sunshine.  I prefer sun, but I know we need the rain. It's certainly better than northern Minnesota, where they had another wet snowfall over the weekend!  The rain also brings time to think... time to remember... time to ponder the scraps of my life... all the bits and pieces that have been joined together to fashion who I am.  I think of the people who have moved through my life and added the color, the laughter, and sometimes the tears.

Families fashion who we are, as well.  I watch my grandchildren moving through their lives... sometimes hurrying so fast to grow up that they fail to appreciate the importance of living in the moment.  Growing up doesn't always bring with it the ability to be responsible... that is a lesson we learn through the choices we make, by sometimes stumbling and being forced to make different choices, and sometimes simply by being wise enough to recognize the examples others might provide for us, whether those examples are positive or painful.  As parents (and grandparents) we come to know that we cannot prevent the pain, any more than we can provide the happy endings.  Always, we can surround them with love and support their decisions... with praise when their choice is made with wisdom, and oftentimes with silence when it is not.  If we believe in a higher power, we can pray that they will receive the protection that we cannot provide.

The rainy weather gives me a chance to hibernate in my house and work on projects, since I'm not inclined to venture out in bad weather.  My current project is a Scrappy Squares quilt... a pattern I've been wanting to execute in fabric for a long time, but have been procrastinating.  I have projects already bagged up waiting for the finishing touches, and didn't need another one... or so I kept telling myself.  But there are days when my energy level just isn't up to hunkering down and doing the work it takes to finish them up.  I keep telling myself that one of these days, I will feel energetic and able to be on my feet for long enough to get some quilts pinned, ready for machine quilting... and one day that will happen.  It's happened before, so I know it's possible!  But today isn't that day.  I always seem to have more ideas than energy, and the creative urges are strong within me, and so I create... believing that some day the mundane finishes to the creativity will happen, also.  

Scrappy Squares Quilt:
2-1/2” strips of light pattern fabric
2-1/2” strips of dark pattern fabric
Tools needed: 
½ square triangle ruler
6-1/2” square ruler
12” square ruler
Rotary cutter and mat
Sew one light strip to one dark strip.  Set seam by ironing on wrong side, dark side up.  Then lift dark fabric up and press from the right side, and the seam will be pressed toward the dark fabric.  Make two sets.  Join into a tube, alternating dark and light fabrics.  Press tube flat.   See photo at the right.
Cut triangles with a right angle ruler. See photo at the left.  There will be just a few stitches at the top of the angle.  Open these stitches… you probably won’t even need a seam ripper.  Again, set seam on triangle by ironing the stitching, dark side up.  Lift point and press from right side, pressing the seam toward the dark fabric.  You should get 8 triangles from each strip.  When pressed open, they form 6” squares.  Square them up using a 6-1/2” square ruler.  Each square should measure 6” when finished.  Join in sets of two, alternating light and dark points.  Photo below shows 4 strips joined before joining them into the tube, and also what the square will look like and how they should be joined to form the block.
Work gently, as you will be working with bias sides on your square.  Join 2 sets of two  to form an 11-1/2” square.  Square this up, if necessary.  To make a scrappy quilt, each strip should be of a different fabric.  It takes 4 of the 6” squares to make the large square.  Note that each “tube” of 4 strips, 2 light and 2 dark, will yield eight 6” squares, or two 11-1/2” blocks when joined.  Figure how big you want your quilt… for example, if you want your quilt to be a lap quilt for your sofa, you might want to make it 55” x 66”, and therefore need 30 squares (5 squares wide by 6 squares long).  You can add a border to extend the size somewhat and frame your quilt blocks.  Since we know it takes 4 strips (2 light and 2 dark) to make 2 full squares, in order to obtain 30 squares, you will need 15 total units, or sixty 2-1/2” strips, half light and half dark. 
 Join the 11-1/2” squares in rows, making sure to butt them to opposite colors.  See photo at the left, which shows 16 blocks.  Try to space the squares in such a way that each one is next to a different color.  Add borders, then quilt as desired. If you like, you can make the pattern in just two colors.  I chose to use jewel tones for my quilt… purples, blues, and greens in various shades.  This is an easy quilt to make, even though the sides are bias.  I pinned them carefully without stretching, and it worked up beautifully without distortion.  I plan to put a light 2-1/2” border all around the quilt top, then add a piano key border to each side, binding in a darker color, and will probably quilt in the ditch with a walking foot.  

There is usually a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when we can convert our thoughts and ideas into fabric.  Our friends give us praise for a job well done.  We gratefully accept their accolades... feeling fortunate to be able to release the artist within us by working with fabrics as well as other mediums.  But perhaps the highest accolade we can receive is from our children... at least, it is for me.  My oldest son and I were dancing to It's a Wonderful World, the Mother/Son dance at his wedding, and he whispered in my ear that when he hears this song, it reminds him of how I raised him to see life.  I think that may be the highest praise I've ever received.  


  1. I don't know why it's always more exciting to start a quilt than to finish one! I love your scrappy squares quilt!

  2. Gosh girl, you've got it all!!! Wonderful blog, a way with words, lots of grandchildren, you sew and OMG, the recipes, will have to be duplicated! I found you by way of Norma Soulet and glad I did. I had to simply become a follower! Do the same if you wish:)

  3. I love the idea of this quilt and was wondering if I could do it with 1 1/2" strips. I have lots of these cut up already for a log cabin quilt and thought I could try. I am a beginner quilter and would need precise explanations on how to do it though if you have a few minutes :-)

    hugs from France,

    1. Some others have answered your questions on one of the lists, Joanne. You certainly could use 1-1/2" strips, but the block size would be different. I have a half square triangle ruler, as you see, and you would use it the same way. Join 4 of the strips into a tube and cut your triangle as shown for the quilt on my blog... just would be different markings. Since the block would be quite a bit smaller, you might want to make a block of 4 squares and perhaps make a 9-patch to set between the blocks to give the eye a place to rest. I'm not sure what size your block would be to know if that would work... I'll have to make one up and check it out!

  4. thanks Alaena, I will try that out.

  5. Thanks for doing this tutorial!