I began making quilts in the early 1980s. I fell in love with scrap quilts, wanted to make one and envied other quilters who had a “stash.” My fabric stash was almost nil and easily stored in one small box. But, as I made one quilt after another, (and worked in a fabric store for five years) my stash grew considerably. Eventually stash reduction rather than stash building had to become priority.
I particularly love those scrap quilts which contain fabrics that lead to a story. When I look at the fabrics in Blueberries and Cream, I see some from the quilt I made my son when he was three — nearly 25 years ago. I see salesmen’s samples that I scrounged from the store. (Someone had thrown them away!) I see some purple fabric that was left over from my first granddaughter’s quilt — made only a year ago. There are prints that remind me of friends far away and other prints that I can’t imagine buying (surely I had better taste than that) or have no idea how they came into my possession. Some prints are admittedly rather ugly. But, like all good scrap quilts, they come together and somehow work.
Recently a friend asked me my secret for using such a wide variety of fabrics in one project after I’d shown her a photo of this quilt and I replied, “Use lots of different fabrics within a general colour scheme. For this one, blues/ greens/blacks/a little purple and a dash of burgundy.” I wanted this quilt to be generally blues and greens (my boxes of those colours were overflowing) but broadening the colour scheme gives it more energy. Black prints are always useful in a scrap quilt. Because this quilt is genuinely scraps you’ll notice that the scale of prints varies widely. Some prints are large, some are even what older quilting books call “fine-figured calicos.” Using a solid colour and a tone-on-tone print for the border helps to somewhat balance the overall busyness of the centre.
To make your own Blueberries and Cream quilt start by determining a general colour scheme. (If you don’t use blues and greens you’ll have to think up a different name.) A simple place to find a workable colour scheme is to pick a multicoloured print and note the colours in that print. If the colours work together in that particular piece of fabric (and the manufacturer thought they did), they’ll also work in a whole quilt. Divide your fabrics into light, medium and dark piles. You’ll be making two kinds of blocks — super quick nine-patch, which uses mediums and darks, and half-square triangle which uses lights and darks. All cutting directions assume rotary cutting skills.
Super quick nine-patch blocks
Cut 84 medium/dark 7.5-inch squares. Pair them up, right sides together. Sew, using a 1/4-inch seam allowance, along two sides (see Figure 1) and cut in thirds (2.5-inch slices, see blue lines on Figure 1). Open up sections A and C and add one slice of B to each, making sure the colours alternate as shown in Figure 1. Press seam allowances toward the darker fabric. Place these two units right sides together and line up the seams so they nest into each other. Stitch across the top, perpendicular to your first seams (again using a 1/4-inch seam allowance) as shown in Figure 2. Again, cut in 2.5-inch slices as shown by the blue lines. Once more, open up sections A and C and sew one slice of B to each. You will now have two 6.5-inch nine-patch blocks with opposite colouring.
Warning: This technique is addictive.
Half-square triangle blocks
Cut 42 6-7/8-inch light squares. Cut 42 6-7/8-inch dark squares.
Cut in half diagonally. For each block, pair up a light and a dark triangle, right sides together. Stitch along longest edge, again using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Press open, pressing seam allowances toward the darker fabric. The finished size of the resulting square should be 6.5 inches.
(Piecing tip: I find I often stretch triangles when sewing on the bias and as a result, my finished squares aren’t quite square. Therefore, I prefer to cut my initial light and dark squares slightly larger than 6-7/8 inches; sew the lights and darks together and then trim to size — 6.5 inches square. Doing so ensures that my half-square triangle blocks fit my nine-patch blocks perfectly.)
Next, sew 2 nine-patch blocks to 2 half-square triangle blocks as shown in Figure 3. Seven rows of six make a queen-size quilt.
Border 1 -Solid purple 1.5”
Border 2 -Tone-on-tone teal 6.5”
Border 3 -Solid purple 2.5”
Mitre corners. (Most basic quilt-making books have excellent tips on measuring borders and mitring corners.)
Finished size: 90×114 inches.
This quilt requires three metres of Warm & Natural cotton batting. A cotton batt is preferable for machine quilting. I used a queen-size flat sheet for the back but I needed to open up all the hems to make it large enough. A sheet is difficult to hand quilt through but works well for machine quilting. A friend helped me pin-baste the layers together. Blueberries and Cream is very simply machine quilted, mostly following seam lines in the centre with a few curves to add interest and texture. The border is quilted in a vine pattern, drawn on freehand with chalk. I used a variegated polyester machine-quilting thread for this project. Although I had used the same thread in a different colour in a previous quilt, this particular spool gave me some headaches. The thread seemed to want to shred, in spite of me changing my needle to an embroidery needle and skipping all non-essential guides when threading my sewing machine. I finally found a solution when I was nearly finished the quilting. I used this thread in my bobbin as well and when one ran out, I filled two bobbins and decided to try using one on top instead of the spool. The fact that now my thread was twisted the opposite direction from what it would have been coming off the spool seemed to help the shredding problem. In hindsight, I wish I would have changed threads at the first sign of trouble. The quilt is bound in a dark-green print. A scrap binding would also have been appropriate.
Ruth Bergen Braun writes from Lethbridge, Alberta