Early Spring


All fabric quantities based on 45" fabric

  • A4 sheet of template plastic
  • 2m of varying cotton scraps for the 18 basket blocks (use at least 2 different colours for definition, here we’ve used yellow florals and greens)
  • 1 3/4m of calico
  • 50cm of fabric for sashing 1
  • 1m of fabric for sashing 2
  • 3/4m of plain fabric for border triangles and binding
  • 1 3/4m of fabric for outer border
  • 5m of cotton fabric for the backing
  • 2 1/2oz polyester wadding or cotton equivalent 74 x 96"
  • Marking pencil / pen

Finished Size

70 x 92"

Skill Level


You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Early Spring

This quilt is speedy to machine piece and is hand quilted with a simple grid. The colours were inspired by spring bulbs - but you can choose your own colour scheme for the basket tops depending on your favourite flowers.


  • To save joining strips of wadding, buy a quilt size piece.
  • If you are using a variety of colours for your baskets, use a neutral mid grey thread instead of constantly changing thread colours on the machine and bobbin.
  • When sewing patches, blocks or strips, always use a 1/4" seam allowance.


Some of the scrap fabrics used in Early
Spring, collected over the years.
Some of the scrap fabrics used in Early Spring, collected over the years.
  1. Using template plastic, trace off the 3 templates and cut accurately with sharp scissors or a craft knife.
  2. Prewash all your fabric to check for shrinkage and colour fastness. Iron whilst still slightly damp. From the calico, using a pencil, mark out and cut 120 triangles, using template A, 18 squares using template B and 36 rectangles using template C. Remember to add a 1/4" seam allowance around each shape.
  3. Each of the 18 blocks has a green basket. So cut 4 triangles, template A and 1 square, template B in various green fabrics for each basket.
  4. For the basket tops, cut 140 triangles, template A and 12 squares, template B. Cut an equal number from each fabric or if you have small scraps as much as each piece will allow. The fabric layout is decided later! In this quilt, 8 floral triangles have been substituted for calico for a little variation.

Sewing the blocks

Figure 1: Pinning the triangle blocks together.
Figure 1: Pinning the triangle blocks together.

TIP! It is important to pin and sew accurately to ensure that your blocks all end up the same size. Take your pair of triangles, place right sides together and pin, making sure that the pins go through the drawn line. (Figure 1). This is also the line that you stitch along. As you sew, carefully pull out the pins before they get to the presser foot to prevent any bent pins or broken needles.

  1. Match up and pin pairs of triangles in the following sequence for sewing: for each basket, pin 2 green triangles to 2 matching floral triangles and the remaining 2 green triangles to calico triangles. Pin the remaining 84 calico triangles to floral triangles.
  2. Machine sew in a long string like bunting for speed (chain piecing). Iron all these patches.
  3. Assemble each of the 6 Cacti basket blocks in the following sequence (Figure 2), remembering to iron the seams every time you assemble a strip. As long as the green fabric and calico is in the right position, the floral fabrics can be positioned in quite a random pattern. Iron the sewn block. Each block should measure 12 1/2" including the seam allowance.
Figure 2: Sewing sequence for the Cacti blocks.
Figure 2: Sewing sequence for the Cacti blocks.
  1. Assemble each of the 12 Basket of Chips blocks in the same way (Figure 3), Iron the sewn block. Each block should measure 12 1/2" including the seam allowance.
Figure 3: Sewing sequence for the Basket of chips block.
Figure 3: Sewing sequence for the Basket of chips block.

TIP! As your fabrics are probably a mixture of lights and darks, it is best to press the seam towards the dark fabric. If the fabric is the same, you can press the seam open.

Assembling the top

  1. Cut 12 strips 2" x 13" and 12 strips 2" x 16" from the yellow sashing fabric. Repeat with the green sashing fabric, cutting 24 of each size. Use a rotary cutter and mat if you have one - it’s far quicker for cutting strips.
  2. Pin and sew the two shorter 13" yellow strips to opposite sides of each Cactus block. Iron and trim off any excess fabric. Repeat with the longer 16" strips. Repeat for all the Chip blocks using the green sashing.
  3. From the plain fabric, cut 10 right angled triangles D, size 15 1/2" for the border (Figure 4) and 4 triangles E, size 111/2" (Figure 5) for the corner triangles. Referring to Figure 6, lay out all the basket blocks on point and border triangles in the correct position. You will need to arrange and rearrange the basket blocks until you get a good balance of colours and fabric patterns.
Figure 4: Cut 10 border trianglesFigure 5: Cut 4 corner triangles.
Left, Figure 4: Cut 10 border triangles
Right, Figure 5: Cut 4 corner triangles

TIP! Once you have a pleasing arrangement of blocks, it’s a good idea to label the blocks 1-18 with a pin and scrap of paper. Leave the quilt undisturbed and leave the room. Go and make a cup of tea (you deserve it!). When you come back, you’ll see the quilt with a fresh eye. Any rearrangement which is necessary to achieve a better balance is much more obvious. Plus if you then decide you liked the original placement, all the blocks are still numbered.

Figure 6: Layout of the quilt blocks and border triangles
Figure 6: Layout of the quilt blocks and border triangles
  1. Pin and sew the triangles and blocks as shown in Figure 7 into strips, pressing all seams. Pin the strips together to complete the quilt top, matching the corners of the blocks. Sew then iron.
  2. Check the measurements of your quilt top - it should be 46 1/2 x 62". Cut 2 border strips 5 x 63" and 2 strips 5 x 57". Sew the shorter borders on opposite sides, trim off excess, followed by the longer borders. Iron.
Figure 7: Order for piecing the strips together
Figure 7: Order for piecing the strips together


TIP! If you are a beginner to hand quilting, chose a patterned fabric for the back. Any slight irregularities in the stitching will be almost invisible.

  1. Cut and iron your backing fabric. Sew together if necessary to make a piece large enough for the back. It should be at least 2" larger than your quilt top on all sides. Cut the wadding to this measurement also. Lay the backing fabric out on a carpeted floor, right side of fabric facing the carpet. Lay the wadding carefully on top followed by the quilt top, right side up. Take care that each layer is flat without wrinkles.
  2. Pin the 3 layers together, working in a grid like fashion from the centre outwards, smoothing the fabrics and wadding to the outside edge to give a flat surface. Check there is no puckering on the quilt back. Tack the 3 layers together, again using a grid pattern from the centre. Do not lift from the floor until fully tacked.
  3. Each block has 3 types of quilting with cream thread - ‘in the ditch’ quilting along the seams at the edge of each basket base for definition - triangle shapes quilted 1/4" from the edge on the calico and straight line quilting surrounding the base of the basket. Always quilt from the centre block out to the edge.
  4. The border triangles and floral border are quilted all over in a 1 1/2" grid and matching thread colour. Mark using 1 1/2" masking tape, or mark using a ruler and quilting pencil.
  5. Once the entire top is quilted, again check the measurements and that the edges are straight. Cut binding strips 2 1/2" wide and join to give a total length of 330".
  6. In turn, on each shorter side of the quilt, pin the binding 1" in from the edge, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. Machine sew the binding to the quilt, trimming off any excess at the ends. Fold over the binding to the back of the quilt and fold under the raw edge. Pin and slip stitch by hand. Repeat on the other three sides, neatly folding in and sewing the corners.
  7. Make a label for the quilt back with your name and year the quilt is made.

TIP! For quick marking of straight lines, stick 2 strips of 1" wide masking tape on the fabric and quilt along the edge. If you prefer, you can quilt the entire quilt top in a grid pattern and ignore the other quilting suggestions.

Early Spring

First published in Popular Patchwork May 2000