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How to Make a Sunshine and Shadow Quilt

Simple squares make a striking design in
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The Amish are known for their striking geometric quilt designs and "Sunshine and Shadow" is one of the most well-known designs they do. This simple pattern, composed of rows of square patches, owes its design to the way the colors are laid out in the quilt top. The secret to making a successful "Sunshine and Shadow" quilt is to do the planning work before you ever touch scissors or a needle. Do a detailed diagram of your quilt top to keep all the design elements in the right places.

Things You'll Need:

  • Graph Paper
  • Colored Pencils Or Crayons
  • Cotton Quilting Fabric

Calculate the size of your desired quilt in order to find the number of fabrics you'll need. Keep in mind that a "Sunshine and Shadow" quilt is based on a square, instead of a rectangle like many other bed quilt designs. You will need an odd number of squares across and down, such as 21 or 33 squares. If each quilt patch measures 2 inches across, these quilt tops would be 42 and 66 inches across, respectively, without any outside border.

Divide the number of patches in a row in your quilt design and round up. For the 33-block row, divide it by two to get 16 1/2, then round up to 17. You will need 17 different fabrics for your quilt top, from dark to light in value. Most traditional Amish quilts were made with solid fabrics, and this is an attractive option, but you can use prints for a different look.

Arrange the fabrics in order from dark to light. If there are two fabrics close to the same value, place a different fabric between them for contrast. Lay out the fabrics in a row on a couch or table, and step back and squint. If the fabrics look like separate stripes instead of a smeared rainbow, you've got them in the right order. Play around with fabric placement until you're pleased with the order.

Look through a box of crayons or colored pencils. Find one crayon that matches the color of each of the fabrics. Lay the crayons in the correct order on your work table, from left to right. Write the correct number on the label of each crayon, from one through 17 or however many crayons you have. This will keep them in the right order.

Mark off the correct size grid on a piece of graph paper, marking the outside of the square with a black crayon or pencil.

Color in the bottom row of the grid by coloring in each square with a different crayon, from one through 17. Number 17 should be in the center square of the bottom row. Color in the next square with 16, then 15 and so on until you reach the other end of the row at number one again. Place each crayon back in its exact correct place in the row after using it.

Pick up crayon one, which should be on the left end, and move it to the right of crayon 17 on the other end. Color the second row of the grid by filling in each square with the crayons in order, beginning with the new first crayon on the left. Turn around and go back when you reach the last crayon on the right, and finish with the one on the left end again.

Fill in the rows on the grid until you reach the middle row. After this row, reverse the order of the crayons. Take the crayon on the right end of the row and move it to the left end. Use this crayon order to color in the 18th row.

Fill in the rest of the rows in the same manner, always moving the crayon on the right to the end on the left before starting a new row. At the last row, the crayons will be in the same position they were when you began coloring the grid.

Sew the squares of the quilt top following the pattern you drew on the grid. Stitch each row in order, then sew the rows together to make a square.


Pull one darker fabric from the order and place it between two lighter fabrics for visual interest in the quilt top.

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