Simple Squares


  • 2m of denim cotton
  • 2m of cotton ticking
  • About 2 metres mixed feed sack fabrics
  • One 5in square of white/cream fabric for the centre
  • 215cm (84in) square of wadding and backing fabric (you can join the backing fabric if you cant find any wide enough)
  • Buttons and strong thread for quilting

Finished Size

200cm (80in) square

Skill Level


Chris was utilising a number of feed sack fabrics that were purchased already cut into 5in squares. If you have purchased smaller squares, just cut your toning cottons into the same size. Other charm squares could also be used

Getting Started

  1. As feed sack fabrics are purchased in small quantities, and it is unlikely that you will be able to purchase more of a design, Chris has teamed the mixed colours and designs with denim and ticking. This she feels enhances the work-a-day nature of the fabrics and gives a real feel of the make do and mend concept. Of course, you could team the feed sacks with a single coloured cotton, maybe a dark red, or use recycled fabric to further increase the worn quality of the fabrics.
  2. Start by cutting:
    • 56 5in squares of ticking fabric (cut 5in strips across the width and then crosscut into 5in squares)
    • 56 5in squares of denim fabric - these are the blue squares on Figure 1
    • 116 5in squares of feed sack fabric (includes four for the border corners)
    • One 5in square for the centre
  3. Referring to Figure 1, take the first two fabrics in row 1, place RS together and sew. Take the first two fabrics in row 2 and sew together. Continue in this way sewing the first two fabrics from each row together without lifting the presser foot in between. This is called chain piecing. Use a sticky label to number the columns 1 to 15 to save mistakes when they are stitched together.
  4. Repeat step 3 to sew the next two pairs of squares together for all the strips. Continue until all the squares for each column are sewn into one long strip. Press the seams on the first column to the top and on the second to the bottom, continue pressing the seams in odd numbered columns to the top and even numbered columns to the bottom.
  5. Take the first two columns and pin together. Where the seams meet they should mesh neatly due to the pressing. Sew all the strips together and give the whole top a good press. Remove any stray threads.
Figure 1:
Quilt Layout
Figure 1: Quilt Layout

Borders, Quilting and Binding

  1. For the border, measure your finished quilt top through the middle of the quilt. Cut two 3in wide strips of ticking to this measurement. Sew to either side of the quilt. Measure the quilt again including the border youve just added and cut two more strips to match this measurement. Press the seams towards the border.
  2. Measuring as in step 1, cut four 4 1⁄2in strips of denim. Sew two to two sides of the quilt. Sew four corner squares of feed sack fabric to the ends of the remaining two strips. Then continue and sew to the last sides as before. Press the seams towards the borders.

Note: The border is wide to reflect the size of the squares, if your squares are smaller keep the border strips narrower. You could add more borders if you wish.

  1. The centre cream square can be left plain, or suitably embellished. Chris has sewn a heart and the year in backstitch. You could place a larger button in the centre when you come to quilt. This square provides the central point, so make it work for your quilt!
  2. Measure your finished top and cut wadding and backing fabric roughly 2in larger all round. Lay the backing fabric RS down on a clean surface, spread the wadding on top. Float the quilt top onto the top RS up and make sure there are no creases. Put a safety pin in each square to hold the layers together. If you are worried about your fabric put the pin at the edge of a square over two seam allowances where any holes wont be so obvious.
  3. Starting at the centre, sew a button to the corner of each square. Use a thick quilting thread and make sure you tie off well to stop the buttons popping off later. Buttons are a traditional quilting technique in feed sack fabric. They are quick, efficient and sit well with the working fabrics. Chris' buttons are thick plastic in cream and red. Shirts from a charity shop can give a good supply of smaller buttons. Remember, if this is for a young child, use ties instead of buttons.
  4. Cut 1 1⁄2in strips of denim and use to bind the quilt edge, with a single fold binding. A double fold would be quite thick to work in the denim. Sew with one raw edge matching the quilt top and fold to the back and slipstitch neatly.
Simple Square

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 13 Number 10 - September 2005