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I'm a retired attorney, mother of three, Grandma, Samoyed mom, beekeeper, swarm catcher, quilter and lover of all things Oklahoma.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Can't Screw It Up Baby Quilt

Okay, so I've been working on a couple of baby quilts and decided I would share the pattern I've been using.  The reason I'm doing this is because it is so easy, it would be like stealing to sell it.  The catch to this pattern is that you've got to be willing to risk wasting some fabric in exchange for not stressing out over whether you are going to clip a corner.  And if you clip a corner while doing this quilt, you have simply got to set down the wine and walk away until you sober up.

The good news is that this pattern lends itself to using the beautiful scraps you have laying around  around making your children worry about your mental health.  I so hope you aren't hiding that stash to try to keep up the facade that you are in your right mind because, eventually, someone is going to go through your stuff and they'll learn the truth.  It may be after you're dead and how unpleasant a surprise would THAT be for your family?  Hmm?   And you won't even be there to explain the situation.  Just be honest about it, baby.

So here is a photo of the Can't Screw It Up Baby Quilt before it is quilted (with any luck, I'll get to it in the morning - stay posted for photos):
How big is it?  Well, that sort of goes to the part about not being able to screw it up.  The blocks are 9 inches, finished, and with this pattern, it is just a question of stitching together as many as you want to get the size you want.  In other words - just make as many of the darn blocks as you want and stitch them together.  The one in the above photo is a 3 X 4 baby quilt.   Here are some sizes, based on a small inner border and a 4.75 inch outer border:

Nine blocks (3 X 3):  Baby Quilt
Twelve blocks (3 X 4): Big Baby Quilt
Sixteen blocks (4 X 4): Great Big Baby Quilt or a Lap Quilt for someone you just owe a quilt to.
Thirty six blocks (6 X 6): Lap Quilt if you really like them.
Fifty-four blocks (6 X 9): Twin size - nice for that new graduate going off to college.  Be sure to check with her on the colors she wants, first.
Sixty-three blocks (9 X 7): Double
Eighty blocks (8 X 10): Queen
One Hundred blocks (10 X 10): King

I'm tell you, flat out, I personally would give up quilting before I would make 100 of these blocks for a king size bed.  I am just not that dedicated and get bored way too easily.  IMO, this pattern is better suited for a smaller quilt and if you want to make a larger one, I suggest you make the block bigger.  You do what you want, though.  It is a very fun, low stress, no stress quilt to make, just the thing if you want something easy, quick and happy - and as colorful or muted as you want.
So here is the fabric you need, per block (since I don't know how many blocks you are going to use, I can't tell you how much you need, overall):

Light background fabric (in the above photo, this is the cream background with grey polka dots):

(1) 4 X 4 square
(2) 4 inch wide by 11.75 inches
(2) 4 inch wide by 4.25 inches

Note - you can get 1 block from a 4 inch wide LOF strip of background fabric with about 8 - 10 inches left over.

If you are making several blocks, those 8 - 10 inch leftover background strips are good to use for the short sides of the blocks so there is less waste.  If it were me, I'd just cut several 4 inch wide LOF strips of the background fabric and then cut three "almost" 12 inch strips and use the remainder for the short sides.  After you've done a few, you'll have a better idea of how long the strips need to be.

Oh who am I kidding?  I'd just cut a few 4 inch wide LOF strips after figuring out how many blocks I wanted to make, then I'd cut off the lengths I needed, when I needed them.  If I needed to cut more strips, I'd do it when I was sure.  If I was worried about having enough fabric, I'd be more cautious but I generally get extra, just in case.  Know thyself.
Color fabric (in the above photo, that is the colors of the pinwheels - blue, dark grey and a more muted grey).

(1) 4 X 4 inch square.

1.  Making the center of the pinwheel block:

Okay, so here we go.  First, slap the 4 X 4 background fabric to the color 4 X 4 piece, right sides together, like this:

Stitch all the way around it with a standard 1/4 inch seam allowance.  When you are done, you will have a square with stitches all the way around it that probably looks much tidier than this one:
Cut it diagonally from both sides - like an X.  You'll end up with four pieces:    
Press open all four pieces with the seam allowance towards the color piece.  Yes - you will end up with four half square triangles! Be still my beating heart.
Clip the dog ears/legs/whatever and set them to look like a pinwheel so you know which one hugs the other.

No, don't tell me this proves there really is a way to screw it up.  It blows the whole theme and I don't want to hear about it.

Stitch two adjacent half squares together, then stitch the other two together.
You end up with two halves.  Press them flat.  Pay attention to the direction the seam was laying and make sure it goes in the same direction.

The tricky part about pinwheels is getting the middle right.  Be careful to line up your seams when you stitch the two halves together.  If you need to do a little trimming to get the edge straight, so long as you leave room for a quarter inch seam allowance, no one cares.  Just do it, baby.
After the whole thing is stitched together, press flat with the seams continuing in the same direction.
 If you do it right, there should be a little four patch looking spot in the center of the back.
Don't look too close - when I took this photo, my beloved Janome had just gotten all uplike and created a rat's nest.  I didn't redo it because, frankly, I didn't need the block except that I wanted one to demonstrate.  That's how easy these blocks are - takes no time at all.

I usually set the pinwheels under a heavy board while they are hot and that really smushes them flat.
In the following photo example, you'll notice that there are three different colors of the pinwheels - one is blue, the rest are either grey or a muted grey.
Now, I am sure you are sitting there thinking that I did a pretty cool thing with the grey and muted grey.  Very stylish, very hip, very modern.  That's me, of course.  I will let you in on a little secret.  I accidentally sewed the dark grey fabric to the background fabric wrong.  The muted color is actually the back of the dark grey.  No worries.  I told you, you simply can't screw up this quilt.
Finally, sort of clean up your pinwheel.  Make it nice and straight with the diagonal lines hitting the corners.  You can use a 4 inch square ruler - which I did for the most part - but this is one of those places where YOU CAN'T SCREW THIS QUILT UP, BABY!  If your pin wheel is a little larger or a little smaller, no worries.  In fact, that might make it a little more interesting.  The block pattern is intended to absorb small mistakes and you won't even notice they happened.  Even if it is a little wonky, it doesn't really matter.  This is a confidence builder, ladies.  BE FREE!!

2: Adding the outside of the pinwheel block:

After you clean up the pinwheels, stitch the 4 X 4.25 inch background strips to a side.  Doesn't matter which side.  Press it with the seam allowance against the background fabric.

Then, stitch a 4 X 4.25 inch strip of background fabric to the opposite side.  Don't try to make it fit - if it is too long (and it will be), just let it creep past the edge and trim it off, later.  Press it with the seam against the background fabric.  At this point, you've got about a 11.5 inch by about 4 inch shaggy looking block.  Doesn't have to be perfect.

Once you get opposite sides on, trim and add the other two sides (the 4 X 11.75 inch background strips).  Press with the seam allowances towards the background fabric.

If you are at all worried that things might come up short, cut the long sides to about 12 inches. That length is generous - Don't try to force them to fit.  There is NO forcing in this quilt.  If they are too long (and they will be) just let them hang over the edge of the side.  Chances are you won't need that much and if that is the case, adjust in cutting for subsequent blocks.  I am writing this for the folks who are nervous that they are going to mess up and giving them lots of room.

3.  Squaring up the blocks:

The trick is that you use a 9.5 inch square ruler on these large, floppy blocks.  And the second trick is to find the center of the ruler and place it on the center of the pinwheel.  If you are using a 9.5 inch square, it will try to trick you because of the half inch measurement on two sides.  Don't be fooled.  It won't be the end of the world if you get a pinwheel a little off center but better to take the time before you start cutting and find the center spot.  See what I mean?
You really want it at the 4.75 inch mark to get it in the center.
For each block, center the square ruler, then slightly twist it so that the pinwheel is off center.  Before you cut, make sure that the ruler is still on the fabric! Don't turn every block the same way - twist some to the right, some to the left, some don't twist at all, twist a lot, twist just slightly.  The point is to make each pinwheel slightly off kilter from its neighbors.  That give the quilt energy AND it masks any small problems with the size.
A note on fabric:

First - I didn't want to confuse you, earlier, but I'll risk it now - if you have a few pinwheels you don't want to twist, i.e., you want them to be just straight up, you don't need to add 4 inch wide strips to the center pinwheel.  Just use 3.5 inch wide strips and it will be wide enough.  The pink pinwheel in the photo just above isn't twisted, for example.   Keep this in mind when it comes to cutting out the background fabric LOF if you are running short.  I personally think adding a few "straight" blocks makes the quilt look better.

Next - If you wanted to use charm packs for your colors, you can do that.  Charm packs are 5 inches square so just cut out a 5 X 5 inch background fabric square (instead of a 4 X 4 inch square) to make the center of the pinwheel blocks.  Then, change the background strips from 4 inches wide to 3.5 inches wide.  You end up with center pinwheel that is about an inch larger but that might actually be an improvement for a larger quilt.  You'd still end up with a 9 inch finished block.

4.  Piecing the top:

Lay out the blocks in the order you want.  I'd alternate the short sides with the long sides.  See the seams in this photo?
That way, you don't have as many seams to match.  Life doesn't have to be so hard unless we just let it.

5.  Inner Border:

I think adding an inner border is nice but you don't have to do it.  I just added a 1.5 inch wide strip in a complementary color.

6. Outer Border:

The edges of the pinwheel blocks have enough space that you really don't need a border unless you just want one for looks or you want to make the quilt bigger.  If you wanted to frame it, you could do that with a colorful binding and not even worry about a border.  Up to you.

However, for the purposes of this pattern, I used a 5 inch wide strip to make a mitered border.
I can't say as I am particularly proud of the way the edges of the fabric met.  I could have used an easier fabric that blended better but I liked the colors in this one.  I could have just put on a horizontal/vertical border but I wanted to practice mitering edges.  It doesn't really matter because it is going to look nice, regardless. The corners where the miters meet aren't perfect but I will stabilize and smooth them out when I longarm it by choosing the right batting and by stitching in the ditch around that corner.

This quilt went together super fast and, as I said, you really can't screw it up.  If you decide you want to do one, please send me a photo - I'd love to post it to show it off!

Thanks for visiting,



  1. Thank you for showing us the way you make pinwheels. I haven't seen that technique before.

    A great tutorial. :)

  2. Thanks, Miriam! I've been doing it this way for a long time. In a quilt that I want to be "perfect," I make them slightly larger than needed and just plan on trimming them down to fit.