Friday, 12 April 2013

Tumbling Blocks Quilt

A Work In Progress

Lately I have been working on a house-warming gift for a grown-up niece who has just bought her first home.  I wanted to make her a quilt for snuggling on the couch with.  I don't know if she even likes quilts but they are homey and cosy so perhaps she'll appreciate it in the future if she doesn't right now.
The idea came from some of the things that I know about her.  She studied Interior Design at University and in her final exhibition she used hexagons divided up into parallelograms.  Plus her favourite colour is blue.
I saw this tumbling blocks pattern in one of my quilt books and decided to have a go at it.  If you squint your ideas it becomes 3D cubes, or you can see hexagons or even stars!  Here are the pieces laid out so far.
It actually isn't really big enough at the moment, so I am considering introducing another turquoise fabric so that I can make the strips a bit longer. Also, I am going to unpick the turquoise triangles on the very left and restitch them onto the right, so that the edge will finish with neat block shapes.

The Process

I am going to record how I did this in this post, mostly for my own records, but perhaps somebody else might be interested or curious too.
You need to choose fabrics that can be grouped into dark, light and medium tones.  I used just one fabric for the medium tone, and it needs to be a pattern that isn't too noticeable.  I used 1.5 metres of medium tone, 1 metre of darks and 1 metre of lights.  Cut the darks and lights into strips that measure 2 3/4" wide and the medium tone needs to be cut at 3 1/4" wide.
Second: Sew the dark and light strips either side of the medium strips until they are all sewn together.  Press the dark pieces towards the dark and the light pieces towards the medium.
Third:  Cut the strips at a 60 degree angle.  Darks get cut sloping up to the left, lights get cut sloping up to the right.  Cut at 2 and 3/4" intervals so that each piece is 2 3/4" wide horizontally.
Fourth: Now cut the medium tone fabric that is in the middle into a perfect triangle by cutting from corner to corner.
Fifth: Sew a dark parallelogram and triangle to a light parallelogram and triangle.
 When you sit them 'right sides together' they will always have these little 1/4 triangles poking out.  Try to sew a 1/4 seam where the little dog ear meets the top fabric.
Again, press dark seams towards the dark and light seams towards the medium.
Sixth:  You will end up with lots of these units.  They are all the same really, if you turned the top pile around it would be the same as the bottom pile.  But I separated them to stop myself from getting confused when I lay them out. 

 Take the pile that starts with a triangle on the left and lay them down in a row of four.
Then take the pile that starts with a light parallelogram on the left and lay them down in a row beneath your first row. You will see that a dark is always lined up with a light beneath it.

Seventh:  Once you are happy with the layout and you have checked that they all match, start sewing the rows of units together.
The first picture in this post was after I had sewn the above pieces into strips, just to get an idea of the overall layout.  I am looking forward to getting all those strips sewn together to see if it all really does line up and look like tumbling blocks!

To see my next steps in the process, please click here.


  1. I don't particularly care for quilts beyond the sentimental value they hold (sorry most of the world who loves them), but I think the quilt you made your niece is so fantastic! The design and the colors are so well thought out. She's sure to love it!

  2. This is amazing! What a brilliant gift, am sure it will be loved and treasured (if not, send it to me!) :)

  3. So very cool! I always admire quilters and their piecing designs. I've just made quilts with squares and haven't ventured out into anything more.

  4. I think she will love it whatever as you've put so much thought and time into it. You could add borders as a simple way to increase the size - might frame the blocks nicely. Juliex

  5. This is a beautiful quilt and a really lovely gift. I hope she does like it.

    And thanks for sharing the details. One day I will make a quilt, so this could prove useful!

    1. Hi again - just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for a Liebster award. In case you have already read my post, I stupidly managed to leave you off my original post, so it is now updated to include you (and Alison). Huge apologies for the omission!

  6. Wow, this looks fab, I bet it will be loved!


  7. This is looking lovely, what a thoughtful and special gift! I'm sure she'll love it. Well done!

  8. Beautiful work......Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  9. Wow, what a nice quilt. I will try to reproduce. One question: how wide did you cut your 60 degree strips? Thank you

    1. Thanks Cinderela!
      The width of the strips are mentioned above under the heading THE PROCESS.
      But I'm happy to mention them again for you: the darks and lights are cut into strips that measure 2 3/4" wide and the medium tone needs to be cut at 3 1/4" wide.

      Happy sewing!

  10. Hi Nessa,
    Thank you for answering. I saw the measurement on top, but that wasn't my question. English is not my first language, maybe that's why you didn't understand me. :) For example, once I assemble 2 dark strips with a medium strip in the middle and it's 1 meter long. How many time will I cut at 60 degree? Do you cut at 60 degree every 3 inches? Thank you in advance

    1. Oh yes, I see now. I shall add this detail into the post too - thanks for noticing.
      Cut every 2 3/4" horizontally at 60degrees. Please feel free to ask more questions! Look forward to seeing your quilt!

    2. Thank you Nessa!
      I will post a picture of my quilt when I'm finished.

  11. I"m so happy I found your tutorial. I have been wanting to make a tumbling blocks quilt for so long, but it was so intimidating and you explain it so well. One question about pressing, you say to press the light toward the medium, but also to press the dark toward the dark. I"m sure it's a typo and I would like to know how you pressed your dark strip set. Thank you so much for sharing, I can't wait to start!
    Cathy J

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments Cathy!
      Regarding the pressing: on the strips that are a dark, medium, dark combination I pressed seam allowances towards the dark fabrics. I pushed the iron down the middle strip and that flattened the seam allowances towards the dark fabrics.
      On the strips that are the light, medium, light combination, l pressed the seam allowance into the middle. Onto the medium coloured strip.
      Hopefully that makes it more clear. It just helps make the seams nestle together better.
      Feel free to ask anything else Cathy, and good luck!

    2. Thanks for the quick response. My strips are cut, now to just sit and sew


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