I’m not a painter, but I have always imagined that quilt making is a lot like oil painting. Both involve a detailed setup and complex series of steps, yet both tap into a deep well of freedom and creativity. My sewing projects tend towards the quick, easy and practical, but every once in a while I like to slow down and explore big gestures using the refined techniques of quilting.
This Simple Four Square Quilt crystallizes everything I love about quilt making! It uses traditional block patterns in a decidedly unorthodox way, exploring color and proportionality much like a striking modern painting. I used Robert Kaufman’s Architextures prints, whose simple mechanical drawings I love for their clean freshness. I anchored the prints with a cool gray solid, and for fun, added a hot pop of neon orange dots.
With a project like this, it is important to do all of the steps, from the cutting to the piecing to the pressing, with care. Savor this deliberate process; it is well worth the extra time! The finished quilt is truly something special, an heirloom that is modern, elegant and simply beautiful! –Molly
To make one quilt:
- 5 half quartered yards of lightweight cotton prints (Please note: we originally used Robert Kaufman’s Architextures prints, which are unfortunately no longer available)
- 1/2 yard Michael Miller’s Neon Dot or similar lightweight cotton
- 1 yard of Kona Cotton in Ash (Please note that this fabric is no longer available, but you can browse our Spectrum Cotton colors here!)
- 1 3/4 yards Robert Kaufman’s Architextures Hatches in White or a similar neutral lightweight cotton
- 1 1/2 yards of 90-inch wide Moda Muslin in White (used for the backing only)
- a 274 yard spool of Gutermann’s 100% cotton thread in color 1040
- A throw sized cotton batting in Request weight.
48 inches x 48 inches
Piecing a quilt top uses the same process regardless of the block pattern. The cut pieces are always sewn (or “pieced”) right sides together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. We recommend pressing all of the seam allowances towards the darker side of the seam wherever possible.
All of the blocks are 24 inches finished.
This is a key for all the diagrams below.
Log Cabin Block
Excluding the White Hatches and the muslin arrange the seven other fabrics in the order in which you’d like them to go, starting with the center color. Assign them numbers 1-7.
From Fabric 1: Cut a 1 1/2-inch square.
From Fabrics 2-5: Along the width of each fat quarter, cut one strip 1 1/2 inches wide by 18 inches long,
From Fabrics 6 and 7: Along the width of each fat quarter, cut two strips 1 1/2 inches wide by 18 inches long.
From the White Hatches:
- Cut three 1 1/2-inch wide strips selvage to selvage. They will be roughly 44 inches long. Cut off the selvages so the ends are neat right angles.
- Rectangle A: One wide rectangle 13 1/2 inches by 11 1/2 inches
- Rectangle B: One wide rectangle 11 1/2 inches by 24 1/2 inches
1. Arrange the Fabric 1 square right side facing up and the Fabric 2 strip wrong side facing up.
2. Lay the Fabric 2 strip on top of the square matching up the left and top sides. Pin the two pieces together along the top and cut the Fabric 2 strip to match the right edge of the square. Sew the two squares together along the top pinned side.
3. Press the newly sewn pieces flat. Orient them so that Fabric 1 is on the bottom and Fabric 2 is on top.
This is the beginning of the Log Cabin section of this block, which will be called LC from now on.
Lay the Fabric 2 strip on top of LC (remember that right sides always face each other, see Notes), matching up the top and right sides. Pin them together and cut the Fabric 2 strip to match the bottom edge of LC.
Sew the strip to LC along the pinned side and press it open. Orient the new piece as shown above, with Fabric 1 at the bottom left and the new strip of Fabric 2 on the right.
Lay a White strip on top of LC matching up the left and bottom sides. Pin them together and cut the White strip to match the right edge of LC.
Sew the strip to LC along the pinned side and press it open.
Orient the piece as shown above.
Lay a White strip on top of LC matching up the top and left sides. Pin them together and cut the White strip to match the bottom edge of LC.
Sew the strip to LC along the pinned side and press it open.
You have now made it all the way around once and should be able to see the log cabin shape taking form. The LC piece will be always be a square once you finish a round.
Keep building the LC piece in this manner, maintaining the block’s orientation as established. Sew the next fabric in numerical order, first to the top and then to the right. Then sew the White to the bottom and the left. Do this for each of the seven fabrics until LC measures 13 1/2 inches square.
Arrange LC so that the colored fabrics are along the top and right sides of the block and the white is at the left and bottom sides.
Sew the 13 1/2-inch side of A to the left side of LC.
Sew B to the bottom of the A/LC piece.
Stacked Stripes Block
From the White Hatches fabric:
- A: Two 9-inch by 24 1/2-inch rectangles
- B: One 7 1/2-inch by 8 1/2-inch rectangle
- C: Three 1 1/2-inch by 16 1/2-inch rectangles
From the Gray fabric:
- D: One 1 1/2-inch by 6 1/2-inch rectangle
- E: One 1 1/2-inch by 8 1/2-inch rectangle
- F: One 1 1/2-inch by 7 1/2-inch rectangle
- G: One 1 1/2-inch by 5 1/2-inch rectangle
From the an assortment of the fat quarter prints:
- H: One 1 1/2-inch by 10 1/2-inch rectangle
- I: One 1 1/2-inch by 8 1/2-inch rectangle
- J: One 1 1/2-inch by 9 1/2-inch rectangle
- K: One 1 1/2-inch by 11 1/2-inch rectangle
Sew Piece D to H, right sides together, along one of their 1 1/2-inch sides. Do the same for pieces E to I; F to J; and G to K, as shown in the diagram above. Arrange the pieces so that the gray sides are all on the left, and the new strips are in the order shown above, with the D/H piece at the top and the G/K piece at the bottom.
Sew a C piece to the bottom 16 1/2-inch side of the D/H piece. Remember to press the seams towards the dark side.
Sew the E/I piece to the bottom of the previously sewn C piece.
Sew the second C piece to the bottom of the E/I piece.
Sew the F/J piece to the bottom of the second C piece.
Sew the third C piece to the bottom of the F/J piece.
Sew the G/K piece to the bottom of the third C piece.
You’ll now have an 8 1/2-inch by 16 1/2-inch striped piece. Sew its right 8 1/2-inch side to an 8 1/2-inch side of piece B.
Sew the 24 1/2-inch side of one piece A to the top of this section.
Sew the 24 1/2-inch side of the second A piece to the bottom of this section. Press the seams.
Flying Geese Block
Cutting and Sewing the Flying Geese Pieces
From the Gray fabric:
- Thirty four 1 1/2-inch squares
From an assorment of the fat quater prints:
- Seventeen 1 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch rectangles
Using a Hera Marker or an Erasable Fabric Marker, draw a corner-to-corner diagonal line on the wrong side of each 1 1/2-inch square.
1. With the diagonal line going from the bottom left to the upper right of the square, lay a square on a rectangle, aligning their left sides. Pin them together along the diagonal line.
2. Sew the square to the rectangle along this line and cut off both layers of the upper left corner 1/4 inch from the seam.
3. Press the Gray piece upwards.
4. With the diagonal line going from the upper left corner to the lower right corner, align a second square to the right side of this rectangle. Pin them together along the diagonla line and sew the square to the rectangle along the diagonal line.
5. Cut off both layers of the upper right corner 1/4 inch from the seam.
6. Press the Gray piece upwards. This is a finished flying geese piece.
Repeat these steps to make seventeen 1 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch flying geese pieces.
Cutting for the Block
From the Gray fabric:
- A: One 24 1/2-inch by 8 1/2-inch rectangle
- B: One 21 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch rectangle
- C: One 14 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch rectangle
- D: One 20 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch rectangle
- E: One 24 1/2-inch by 10 1/2-inch rectangle=
You will also need the 17 flying geese pieces.
1. Place the first flying geese piece right side facing up with the point of the printed triangle facing upwards. Place the second flying geese piece on top of the first with the wrong side facing up and the point of the triangle facing downwards.
2. Pin the pieces together along the bottom edge. Sew them together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Be careful not to sew into the tip of the printed triangle.
3. Press the pieces flat.
Sew three flying geese pieces together in this manner and orient them with the points of the triangles facing downward. This is FG1.
Sew ten flying geese pieces together with the points of the triangles facing upwards. This is FG2.
Sew four flying geese pieces together with the points of the triangles facing upwards. This is FG3.
Sew the top side of FG1 to a short side of B.
Sew the top side of FG2 to a short side of C.
Sew the top side of FG3 to a short side of D.
Sew the right hand side of the B/FG1 strip to the left hand side of the C/FG2 strip.
Sew the right hand side of the C/FG2 strip to the left hand side of the D/FG3 strip.
Sew a long side of A to the left hand side of the B/FG1 strip.
Sew a long side of E to the right hand side of the D/FG3 strip.
From the White Hatches cut a 24 1/2-inch square.
Piecing the Top Together
Arrange the Stacked Stripes Block with the stripes section on the left and the Flying Geese Block with the flying geese section at the bottom. Sew the right hand side of the Stacked Stripes block to the left hand side of the Flying Geese Block.
Arrange the Log Cabin Block with the log cabin section at the upper right hand corner. Sew the right hand side of the Log Cabin Block to the left hand side of the Blank Block.
Sew the bottom of the Stacked Stripes/ Flying Geese Section to the top of the Log Cabin/ Blank Block Section.
Finishing The Quilt
I sent my quilt to be finished to Quilting by Karen. I sent her the finished top, the batting, the muslin backing fabric, and the remaining Gray fabric (for the binding) and she basted, quilted, and bound it for me. She did a great job! You can reach her at quiltingbykaren AT cox DOT net.
Getting a quilt finished like this may seem a little over the top (no pun intended!), but it isn’t as expensive as you might think, and the craftmanship of a professional quilter is very hard to replicate at home. This is especially true if, like me, you have limited floor space to baste your quilt. The only problem with sending a quilt top out to be finished is that you might never finish your own quilt again!
With that said, if you would like to do it yourself, you might want to check out the basting and quilting section of this previous project!