Sometimes life itself is complicated enough without the added difficulty of a quilt block containing 94 pieces, numerous oblique angles and some delicate appliqué thrown in for good measure! By the end of 2002 I was feeling worn out and stretched; as Bilbo said, "like butter spread thin over too much bread." I wanted to make some quilts for myself (no, not just 'wanted', I 'needed' very badly to be playing with fabric stroking, cutting, piecing and pressing) but I wasn't up to making any of the large and intricate quilts that are on my 'To Do' list.

MAXimum Impact
MAXimum Impact 65 x 65in Made from 6in squares and backed with soft flannel, it's a bright and comforting quilt for a seven-year-old!

Instead, I decided to set myself the challenge of going 'back to basics', and seeing what I could make using just one simple shape the square. Firstly I set myself some rules as if this were a challenge set by a quilt group. They were:

  • Finished quilts will be 36in square.
  • They will be made of squares, the finished size of some must be two inches but other sized squares can be used as well. The whole quilt can be 2in squares, but the quilt may not be (for example) all 6in squares. It CAN be a mixture of (finished size) 2in, 4in, 6in squares, etc. NO rectangles or triangles. No curves. No appliqué. Squares ONLY.
  • It may or may not have a border.

Next, I spent some very pleasant hours at the computer using Electric Quilt 5, working out various designs, some of which worked (and are included here) and some did not so were consigned to the 'Recycle Bin'.

Simply Squares
Simply Squares 35 x 60in

Ideas I played around with included:

  • Nine-Patch
  • Four-Patch
  • Irish Chain
  • Trip around the World
  • Graduation using hand dyed fabric
  • Colourwash

It was immensely satisfying and calming to go back to basics and make small quilts even if this stage they were simply 'virtual ones'! That exercise relaxed me so much that I was able to go to my sewing room and play with real fabric, without feeling that I had to create 'something significant'. None of the quilts that came out of this project will ever be entered in shows or competitions, but my cousin's children (and of course the dog) now have some extra cuddly quilts to play with.

During the construction process I admit I broke my own rules but so what this was my 'challenge' so I could make it up as I went along! You could set a 'Simple Squares Challenge' with your own quilt group using the guidelines above wed love to see the results! Remember to set an end date for your challenge; allow enough time for members to actually make something, but dont set the deadline so far in advance that everyone will forget about it and the project will fizzle out.

Quakertown Squares We're still in Kansas, Toto
Quakertown Squares 65 x 88in Yes, this whole quilt was made of squares not a single setting triangle in sight! Hilary Gooding introduced me to this terrific pattern from Quakertown Quilts ( First you piece a quilt top using nothing but squares then taking a deep breath you slice up the top, and when it is sewn back together the result is a lovely quilt 'on point'

"We're still in Kansas, Toto" 50 x 60in A very simple Single Irish Chain, which left lots of open spaces for trapunto quilting. The floral design is based on 'Kansas' by Hari Walner.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 6 - June 2003