Welcome resident blogger, quilt designer and McCall’s Quilting and McCall’s Quick Quilts Associate Editor, Gigi Khalsa! Gigi’s quilt, Chalkboard, is featured in the McCall’s Quick Quilts April/May 2017 issue. Gigi used novelty prints for this adorable baby quilt, which she paired with coordinating prints to create eye-catching quilt block frames. She also used a technique that gives the look of mitered corners without all the work! This wonderful technique is included with the quilt pattern.Read on, and don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom of the post!
Hi there! Thanks for joining us on the McCall’s Quilting Blog! Today, I’d like to talk a bit about my quilt Chalkboard, featured in the McCall’s Quick Quilts April/May 2017 issue. I don’t know about you, but opportunities to make baby quilts are coming thick and fast for me these days! When I hear that a friend or family member is expecting, I immediately start thinking of what kind of quilt to make for them. It’s really fun, but sometimes the quilt needs to be made really quickly, which limits the kinds of patterns and techniques I can use.
Once I got the general idea for Chalkboard sketched out and planned, it was very quick to sew. I credit that to the way I decided to sew it. The quilt block combines the idea of a Log Cabin block with the look of mitered borders. The way I constructed it was to stitch strips to a half-square triangle, then trim the strips so that there are basically two diagonal halves of a block which are then joined. There are multiple ways to make this block, which Ill share below, but there are a few good reasons I went this easy trimming route.
Mitered corners look great, but they’re a little fussy when you’re trying to make something quickly. So, to make things easier, one could replace the miters with triangle-squares as shown below. It’s more cutting and piecing to do it this way, but could be considered easier by some. Remember to add ⅞” to the short finished side of the triangle-square to get the cut size, if you want to go this route.
Or, one could strip piece and cut segments to the size of the center triangle-square, then add pieced units to each corner. Look at the pieced square, cut diagonally, that could substitute for the mitered corner! Its a neat idea, and I like the idea conceptually, but it seems like this method would be quite a bit more work, ultimately, than the way I made it (and more math to figure out what size that pieced square should be).
I’m discussing these theoretical construction methods simply to demonstrate that there is no set way to do most things in quilting. Once an idea is formed, that’s not the end of it—one still needs to figure out how to turn that idea into a reality.
The main reasons I went with my construction method are pretty simple and probably relatable. I really like the clean, uninterrupted seamless strip going directly into the miter, plus I didn’t have a whole lot of those green-and-white prints framing each block. The more seams that were in the block, the more patches I would have to cut, and the more fabric is hidden in those seams rather than sitting prettily on the quilt top.
As shown above, I could use different piecing techniques to achieve the same effect, but frankly, more piecing equals more time and more work, so that’s one big reason I like my construction method. Another reason was the amount of fabric I had. The pattern calls for ⅞ yard for each print, and I had a ½ yard each. I made a practice half-block with scrap fabric and determined the very shortest I could make those strips and still have enough to trim them diagonally. I don’t remember the exact lengths, but that is a tip if you have a little less than the recommended amount of fabric—make a practice block and decide what you might do differently, if anything.
The recommended yardage for Quick Quilts patterns tends to be forgiving, in case it shrinks during pre-washing, or if you make a cutting mistake or two, so it’s useful to read each pattern before starting and figure out where you can make adjustments that suit your particular needs. So, while I was able to get away with less fabric, there was zero room for error in cutting, and so that was another reason for my construction plan.
One traditional tool that helped with my less-than-traditional approach was using starch. I don’t always use it because it takes extra time, but since I sprayed my novelty print fabrics with starch before cutting them in half diagonally, I was able to control the bias a little better and prevent it from stretching out while I worked on my blocks. Try it if you make this pattern, it helps!
Even the simplest patterns provide lots of food for thought if you consider them beyond the surface. Though thinking of different ways to make the same block is just a thought exercise, and nothing more, it helps because it makes me pull on all of my previous quilting knowledge to solve a new quilting problem. It could even be a route to new ideas and new designs because of the different methods and ideas I had to access to come up with a single solution.
Well, that’s a lot to say about a cute, simple baby quilt that’s fast and fun to make! Fast and fun can spur serious thoughts on the nature of patchwork itself if you put your mind to it. I hope you’ll give this pattern a try, however you decide you’d like to make it!
If you’d like to make your own version of the Chalkboard quilt, and don’t yet have a copy of the McCall’s Quick Quilts April/May 2017 issue, you can order it in our online shop. The Chalkboard quilt pattern is also available separately as an instant digital download.