Block Quilting 101

Posted by Pearl on 2/24/2014
Quilting can seem a really intimidating prospect for a new stitcher, but it doesn't have to be. For those new to the craft, block quilting is the way to go! For fast production, machine quilting might be a good option, rather than hand-stitching, but the concept remains the same.

Block quilting is simplest because it is exactly what it sounds like—you’re stitching together blocks of fabric to make your quilt. That’s why quilting fabrics are so often sold in fat stacks and charm packs; they provide complementary color palettes of printed and solid fabrics to make your quilt design as easy as possible. The fabric swatches, called quilt squares, are pre-cut and edged with pinking shears to create the tell-tale zig-zag edging. The edges are pinked to minimize fraying.

If you’re creating a quilt for the first time, a crazy quilt block design is the way to go. Crazy quilts are got their name because their pattern is really no pattern at all! Quilters take whatever they have available and stitch it in whatever way it fits together. Old historical crazy quilts are made of the scraps of literally any and everything the quilter can find, and it’s a jigsaw puzzle-like process to fit unique shapes together to make a squared quilt in the end. Quilt squares allow you to block quilt without the hassle.  The only guideline at all might be to try to vary your colors and prints, square-to-square.

Machine block quilting is even easier as you can literally run each seam in seconds. One thing to be sure of whether you’re hand or machine quilting, is to keep your seam allowances consistent. A half-inch is usually standard. After you’ve stitched it all together, you can also flip the quilt and steam press your seam allowances flat. This will help to reduce puckering later. 

Once you have your blocks all stitched in their crazy-quilt design, then you can lay it flat, with the back side up, and used rolled batting to create the thickness we all love in quilts. A solid color backing (usually in white, but not always) lays over the batting, and it’s a good idea to pin the three layers to keep it from slipping too much. If you want a “frame” on your quilt, this is easily accomplished at this stage by making sure your backing overhangs the quilt front by about an inch. After you've quilted the fabrics together, you can the press the raw edges of the backing down and onto the front of the quilt, and stitch it down along each edge, making the frame.

Now the real fun begins! Either by hand or by machine, you stitch the layers in a decorative pattern (a diamond pattern is popular and is created by stitching on a bias [diagonal] every so many inches and then turning the quilt to stitch on the opposing bias, crossing your first bias stitches to create diamonds).

You can frame the quilt as above, or use commercially produced seam binding to make a finished edge too.