One advantage of working in a quilt shop is that you sometimes get your hands on new fabric ranges first
in order to make up show and shop samples: that was Carolyn Forster's excuse
for making this delightful nine patch quilt
- 17 fat quarters of Japanese Flowers fabric
- 60cm of pale fabric for the centre nine patches
- 1.5m of medium fabric for centre blocks and binding
- 177 x 208cm (70 x 82in) of wadding
- 3.5m of backing fabric (joined with a horizontal seam)
Note: You could use fewer fat quarters but some of the fabric combinations would
be repeated in the nine patches
66 x 78in (167 x 198cm)
The Nine Patches
- The quilt centre is made from nine patch blocks and plain squares. Cut 2 1⁄2in strips
across the width of the pale fabric and then cut two 2 1⁄2in strips along the length of the
fat quarters: you can cut the pale strips into matching lengths if you want.
- Sew a pale strip to a flower one, RS together. Cut the fabric in half to give
two sets of fabric. To one set sew a different flower fabric next to the pale fabric to give
a dark/light/dark set. To the remaining pair, sew a pale strip to create a light/dark/light
set. Press the seams towards the darkest fabric. See Figure 1.
- Continue making sets of pieced strips trying to get a good mix of fabrics. You
will need a total of 160in of dark/light/dark sets and 80in of light/dark/light sets.
Cut each set into 2 1⁄2in pieces. You need 64 dark/light/dark pieces and
32 light/dark/light pieces.
- Lay out the pieces to create your nine patch blocks as shown in Figure 1. Sew
the pieces together; as you pressed the seams towards the dark fabrics they should
mesh neatly at the seams. Continue until you have made 32 nine patches in total.
Figure 1: Making the nine patch blocks from strips
- The border nine patches can be made from individual squares. Cut 25 2 1⁄2in
squares from the darkest fat quarters and 20 2 1⁄2in squares from the paler fat quarters.
Lay out the squares into nine patch blocks as shown in Figure 2 and then sew together. You
need five different nine patch blocks for the borders. You have now learnt two different
ways of sewing the nine patch block – speed pieced strips and individual pieces.
- Cut six 6 1⁄2in strips across the width of the medium fabric and then cut into
6 1⁄2in squares. Following Figure 3 assemble the quilt centre. There are many different ways
of joining blocks together. Here the blocks were joined into rows, first as pairs and
then the pairs were joined until a whole row was complete. The rows were then joined
to compete the top. If you prefer to join the blocks into columns and then join them that
is fine too, use whatever works for you. Press the seams towards the large squares.
The Outer Border
- From the flower fat quarters cut 6 1⁄2in squares. You need 75 in total, so cut
four from each fabric to start with and then cut a few extra from your favourite fabrics.
- With the quilt centre laid out somewhere flat – maybe on a sheet
covering your bed – arrange the squares around it to make two borders.
Pin into position.
- Sew four rows of nine blocks; you can include the nine patches made
earlier for added variety. Join into two pieces of nine by two
blocks and sew to the two sides of the quilt.
- Repeat to make four rows of 11 blocks for the top and bottom borders. Again add
in extra nine patch blocks for variety. See Figure 3 for one arrangement of the borders.
Figure 2: Making nine patch blocks from squares
Quilting and Finishing
- The quilt top is now complete. Press well as this is your last chance. Look at the
back and take away any stray threads and snip off any loose ends. Join your backing
into one piece about 2in larger than the quilt top and lay it out on a clean flat surface,
WS up. Smooth the wadding out on top: if it has been scrunched up in a bag try and
leave it to relax for an hour or two as many of the small creases will drop out.
- Spread your quilt top, RS up, onto the wadding and smooth out from the
middle. Many people find it helps to tape the backing fabric and wadding to the floor
to stop the whole thing moving. This stage does involve a lot of crawling around on
your knees but if you don’t think your knees are up to it then some church/community
halls have large tables that can be pushed together to give a large area to work
on. Or send it away to be basted by a long-arm quilter.
- When the layers are smooth, starting from the centre, pin or tack them
together. If you are going to machine quilt then use safety pins as your machine foot
may get caught up in tacking threads. If you are going to hand quilt then tacking is best,
as your quilting thread can get tangled around safety pins as you sew.
- Quilt by hand or machine. This quilt has a simple diagonal grid sewn from
edge to edge through each block, which holds the layers together and does not
distract from the fabrics.
- When the quilting is finished, trim the edges of the quilt level, making sure the
corners are square. Cut 2 1⁄2in wide strips of fabric for the binding. Join into one piece.
- Fold in half lengthwise with WS together and press to give a folded strip
of binding. Measure the two sides of the quilt and cut two strips of binding this length,
pin to the quilt sides, with raw edges level, and stitch in place using a 1⁄4in seam. Fold
to the back and slip stitch in place.
- Repeat for the top and bottom edge but cut the binding 1in longer than your quilt
measurement. Before stitching in place open out the short ends and fold in 1⁄2in to conceal
the raw edges. Attach as above. Make a quilt label or write on the back with permanent
marker, including your name and the date of starting and finishing the quilt.
Figure 3: Quilt centre with borders
First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 13 Number 5 - May 2005