Making a quilt begins with choosing or designing a quilt block, which uses scraps of fabrics in squares, rectangles or triangles in multiple colors to form the block. Once you figure out how big you want to make the quilt, draw the quilt-block design or pattern on graph paper to help you visualize the fabric patterns and colors you need to complete the block. After you’ve chosen the quilt block design and assembled the blocks, you must determine how you want to put them together.
Border, Sashes or Contrasting Pattern
You can join quilt blocks together in one of several ways:
- Add a border around the sewn-together quilt blocks
- Put sashing -- borders -- between the quilt blocks
- Include both sashing and borders on the quilt
- Sew sashing and cornerstone squares
- Rotate quilt blocks to create contrast without borders or sashing.
How wide you make the borders or sashing -- also called lattice -- depends on the overall size of the quilt and the number of quilt blocks. A twin bed, for example, might require that you assemble a series of 18 1-foot square quilt blocks in the middle -- three across and six down -- and add a 1 1/2-inch border on either side and 2-inch borders at the top and bottom for a finished quilt of 39 by 76 inches.
Sashing between the quilt blocks is also a matter of how big you want to make the quilt and the number of quilt blocks used. You can add sashing widths of 1 inch, 2-inches or whatever size you want, but smaller sized sashing in a contrasting color won't detract from your quilt-block handiwork. The idea is to use a border or sashing to reach the desired quilt size, not in place of quilt blocks.
Cornerstones with sashing border each quilt block with a repeated pattern that adds to the finished look of the quilt. When you use cornerstones and sashing, the width of the cornerstones should be the same width as the sashing for an even and balanced look.
The last method doesn't use any sashing or borders at all, as the quilt blocks are simply sewn together to create the quilt.
The quilt top also requires a layer of batting and a under layer sewn to it for a finished quilt. The choice to add batting is a matter of preference, but it adds to the thickness and warmth of the quilt.
About Nine-Square Quilt Blocks
Quilt blocks usually consist of nine squares, but some of these squares may be cut in half to form triangles. Intricate, detailed quilts may use more than nine squares -- it all depends on the pattern. Artful placement and the colors and patterns on the fabric lend to the overall look and design of the quilt block. Quilt blocks are generally 12 by 12 inches, but can be larger or smaller based on personal preference or design.
For instance, the Amish Star quilt block pattern uses nine squares, but a multitude of shapes in light and dark colored fabric to create the individual squares to form the star pattern in the quilt. The lighter fabric requires 12 squares in two sizes, four rectangles and a larger single square. The darker fabric uses 12 squares in two sizes and four rectangles.
Some of the most well-known quilt block patterns include:
- Amish Star
- Blazing Star
- Log Cabin
- Shooting Star
- Weather Vane.
And there are hundreds more.
Sketch the Design
After you’ve decided on the quilt block pattern, sketch out the entire quilt top on graph paper to figure out how many assembled quilt block’s you’ll need to make the quilt, as well as the most attractive way to assemble the quilt blocks -- with or without sashing or borders.
Sashing That Looks 3-D
A quilt with blocks set on the diagonal can have a 3-D quality when you add sashing in two contrasting colors around all the squares to give them depth. For example, the sashing would have a light-color rectangle the width of the quilt block sewn right next to it on one side, followed by a dark one on the perpendicular side.
The sashing opposite the first light one would be dark and the next one -- opposite the first dark one would be light. You would sew a second band of sashing next to the first, only in the opposite or contrasting color for each sash that borders the quilt block. Finish the look by adding a dark border all around the quilt.
How you use sashing and borders on a quilt to assemble the blocks together is entirely up to you.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.