Roundabout Quiltalong :: Part One (Fabric, Cutting and Layout)

Welcome—so glad you decided to quilt-along. We're going to do some serious immersion therapy to get over our fear of piecing curves. Business first: the finished quilt will be approximately 53" x 75". The finished blocks will be (edited 7/1/09 from 11.25") 11" and set five across by seven down. This tutorial is going to assume a few basics about quiltmaking—I'm going for more of a pattern tutorial than a learn-to-quilt tutorial. If you're looking for information about how to use a rotary cutter and details about sewing perfect 1/4" seams take a look at these sites for some really well-written beautifully-executed tutorials.

For the quilt top you'll need thirty-five twelve-inch squares in a mix of colors and patterns.

For the original I sorted by color and then put them into groups: pinks, oranges/yellows and blues/greens. With this version I'm going cooler (remember the whole point of making this quilt is to trick Jake into liking it better and getting mine back). I think it's really important not to get too hung up on the fabric though. My general philosophy is: if you like it, use it. So after you decide on which fabrics to use, cut 12" squares out of 35 different fabrics. I usually cut a few more fabrics than I need so that I have a little room to mess around with the design. I'll use any extra blocks to piece the back.

After you've got your squares cut, click here to download the template. Be sure to print the template at 100%. Cut along the pattern line and trace it onto a piece of cardboard or template plastic (I used the back of one of Quinn's drawing paper pads). Cut out the cardboard template *using your paper scissors*. I know of what I speak here people. I've ruined a pair or two of nice scissors in my time by being lazy about this.

Lay the template onto one of your cut squares. Using a sharp pencil and taking care not to pull the fabric, trace along the template edge. Now cut along the traced line (using your special-reserved-for-fabric-only-don't-let-the-kids-use-this-pair-scissors). Repeat with each of your squares.

I sort the pieces by color group but you can use any sorting technique you like (hue, value, scale of print, etc.). And then the fun begins!

My preferred method of designing is: get it up on the wall and leave it there until it's right. (My design wall consists of a not-quite-large-enough piece of white felt hanging by two thumbtacks is in my very high-tech studio/bedroom/office.) Every time I walk by and I see something that isn't working, I move it and go about whatever I was doing. Eventually it starts to settle into a pleasing layout and I just know when it's done. I also get a lot of (sometimes unsolicited) advice from the architect and the eleven-year-old in my life (who are usually right).

With the first quilt I didn't stagger the circles but with this one I think I'm going to. It's up to you. My concept here is to have the circles be comprised of one color group and the surrounding squares be of another. But I've taken a little leeway with this.

If you want to share photos of your fabric choices or process or care to discuss amongst yourselves, come on over to the flickr group I've started. I'm also happy to try and answer any questions you have in the comments. It's my first attempt at this, so please be gentle with me.

I'll give you a few days to get going and then we'll come back and get to the sewing.

I'm hoping for a weekend full of bare feet, grilled meat, open windows, bathing suits on the line and

wet naked babies.

Here's wishing you whatever you think of as a perfect summer weekend.