A Sweet-n-Low Quilt

Like a little pink imitation sugar packet….

This past week, I’ve been making a quilt for an upcoming event where I’ll be teaching, and when it came to selecting the fabrics to make it, I decided to take a break from the elegant and sophistocated fabrics I used to make the quilts for BOOK #2, and choose some fun-n-funky, bright and bold fabrics.

P & B Textiles sent me a variety of fabrics from their newest lines after Quilt Market last fall, and when I looked in my stash, these cheery prints immediately caught my eye. (Considering how much I love kitties, there was instant appeal!) They were perfect for the class sample I needed to make.

"Cat's Secret Garden" by Susan Brack for P & B Textiles. Be sure to look for it or ask for it at your favorite quilt shop. It should be on store shelves now.

There was plenty of contrast between the fabrics, and the value and scale of prints were in perfect ratio to one another. I even loved using the wonky stripe within the blocks to add movement and additional visual interest. And I loved the way the colors played together within the blocks as I pieced them.

Here's a peek at the blocks sewn together. I can't reveal too much, because the class I'll be teaching is a mystery quilt class. Shhh!

But as I sewed the blocks together in rows, I felt the blocks needed, um…..a little “something extra.” The colors were bright, saturated, and adorably cute but they were also just a bit too saccharine for my taste.

I looked up the word saccharine in the online, Internet dictionary. The following definition seemed to fit the way I was feeling about this quilt: “cloyingly agreeable, ingratiating, or exaggeratedly sweet.”

It’s as plain as black and white

So after piecing all my blocks together, I thought about different ways to make the quilt sparkle with some zing to it. It didn’t take me long to realize the answer was as plain as black and white. All I needed was a simple black and white checkerboard border between the blocks and outer border! This quick and simple fix was just the thing I needed to add a little edginess to my quilt and turn the sweet colors into something that packs a visual punch. Take a peek:

And here’s a good question for you: How many of you take the time to square-up (also known as “truing up”) your blocks before sewing them together to form the quilt top? You don’t? Well, you should! Even the most advanced quilter — no matter how straight and accurate her 1/4″ seams may be — needs to square-up each one of her blocks. Yes, it takes time to do this. But there will always be small discrepancies and little inconsistencies no matter how carefully you stitched your blocks and squaring them up ensures points will be crisp and sharp and you’ll avoid puckers and ripples without having to “ease” seams. It also eliminates the need for extra pinning in some cases.

Take a look:

Even though I was very careful to piece all nine of my 9″ quilt blocks (plus a pieced inner border to extend the design) these are the shavings and slivers of fabric which were left over after I squared-up my pieced units and blocks. All those little schnibbles of fabric left in seams could add up to a lot of inaccuracy in my points and block intersections if I didn’t take the time to square-up first! So take it from me when I tell you that you NEED to square-up your blocks. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll see a big difference right away.

My quilt top is finished and ready to be quilted. I promise to share photos of the completed quilt with you after the mystery quilt is revealed in class very soon!

  1. I just love your quilt. The black and white inner border just sets it off perfectly! I love the colors and fabrics! Going to look for the cat fabric in the outer border—too cute—must have some of it!

  2. Elaine — Thank you so very much. What a great way to start my Monday morning; to wake up and see your kind and enthusiastic comment about the quilt. Hope you are able to track down that kitty cat fancy fabric — it is so cheerful, you can’t help but smile when you see it!

  3. Since I’m a messy sewer(not always true 1/4″) I always true up my blocks. I like bodacious blocks about 12-16″. I’m more accurate with them and I don’t get bored so quickly.

  4. I love your quilt !!and you are right , we should take time to square the blocks !it would work better and after all take less time !!next quilt I will think about you !!!hihihi!!!and it will help!!!for sure!!!!

  5. Kimberly, it looks great. Can’t wait for the big reveal. For the last year and a half, I have been doing the block exchange for my guild. I go for simple patterns that any level quilter should be able to make. And I try and list the size of each unit in a block. As you said, if you square up each section as you go, you have a better chance of all the blocks going together and a quilt with areas that do not need to “be quilted out” by your long arm quilter or yourself.
    I have the last mystery I did when we were at Ramstein – still waiting to be put together. I think it was the Hokey Pokey. I believe the addition of black and white is what I need to bring all those colors together. Just too wild for me now. Thank you for the reminder to use B&W.

  6. Wow, that black & whilte checkerboard really makes the other colors pop! Did you use this fabric because you miss your kitties?

    So true about squaring up blocks. It is a PIA, but it really pays off. I also like your idea of using a scant 1/4″ seam. I have a 1/4″ foot with the little bumper on the side, but I have started moving my Bernina’s needle over to the right one “click” to give me that scant 1/4″. It seems to do the trick.

  7. Pat — I love how you have “tweaked” your quarter inch seam to the perfect scant quarter inch by using a 1/4″ piecing foot and moving your needle position one click to the right. Well done!

  8. Hi Jan — so great to hear from you, and thanks for stopping by to leave a comment on my blog. Have you got your blog up and running yet? Can’t wait to see it and make it a regular “stop” on my daily surf time. Your writing style is the best and so interesting!

    I’m glad to hear you echo my sentiments about truing up. It really does make such a difference in how everything fits together, doesn’t it? Also — I hope you’ll revisit that mystery quilt from our time at Ramstein. Maybe all it needs is a little splash of black and white, too! Keep me posted…I’ll be waiting for photos!

  9. Hi, Christine! Happy to hear from you — and also glad to know you’ll think about ‘lil old me next time you’re squaring up your blocks!

  10. Robin — I love big blocks, too! They sure make putting a quilt top together fast and easy!

  11. I want to show you the results of our mystery class at our retreat last fall. We had only two people commit-so many people won’t start unless they know what it will look like! Anyway, we had a good time and I think they look great!

Leave a Reply