Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie was a serendipitous discovery? When Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, ran out of baker’s chocolate, she tossed some semi-sweet chocolate chunks into the batter, hoping they would melt while cooking. Instead of chocolate cookies, what came out of the oven was a delicious surprise, and chocolate chip cookies were born!
The design for my Denim Pinwheel Quilt was just such a happy accident. We had just gotten in Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim, and excited about every fabric in the collection, I sewed up a bunch of combinations for our Big Pinwheel Pillows. As I laid all the sample squares out on the table at our weekly Bee meeting, the reaction was the same all around: These were going to make beautiful pillows, but my gosh, they should also be a quilt!
And we were right! The quiet complexity that comes from mixing various Railroad Denim stripes gives this quilt such a rich story. The grid of nuanced color variations is reminiscent of a minimalist painting hanging in a museum, yet the humble denim cloth reminds me of my grandfather’s overalls, all lined up on the hooks beside the door of his farmhouse. The perfect mix of classic and modern.
Now, I won’t say that this quilt stacks up anywhere close to the chocolate chip cookie in terms of amazing discoveries, but it sure stacks up nice! – Corinne
To make one throw size quilt (50 by 60 inches)…
- Fabric for the Binding: 3/4 yard of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Medium Stripe, Indigo
- Fabric for the Backing: 2 yards of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Micro Stripe, Indigo
- Fabrics for the Pinwheels:
- Two 274-yard spools of Gutermann’s Cotton Sewing Thread in color 1040
- Throw size Quilter’s Dream Natural Request Dream cotton batting
- A 25 mm Bias tape maker
- Curved safety pins
For Larger Sizes
To make the quilt in larger sizes you will need the following yardages:
Twin (60 by 90 inches)
- 1 yard of the binding fabric
- 4 yards of the backing fabric
- 6 1/4 yards of an assortment of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim for the Pinwheel Squares
Double (80 by 90 inches)
- 1 yard of the binding fabric
- 5 yards of the backing fabric
- 7 1/4 yards of an assortment of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim for the Pinwheel Squares
Queen (90 by 100 inches)
- 1 1/4 yards of the binding fabric
- 5 1/2 yards of the backing fabric
- 9 yards of an assortment of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim for the Pinwheel Squares
King (110 by 100 inches)
- 1 1/4 yards of the binding fabric
- 6 1/2 yards of the backing fabric
- 10 3/4 yards of an assortment of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim for the Pinwheel Squares
50 inches by 60 inches
Prewash all fabrics before starting.
Use 1/4-inch seam allowances unless otherwise noted.
When piecing, please note that you can use both the right and wrong sides of the Medium Stripe and Deluxe Twill Stripe fabrics, just make sure the fabrics are facing with the proper side up before sewing. Have fun creating different combinations!
Note: When cutting simple rectangular shapes for patterns such as this, straight, clean cuts are key. The best way to make these cuts is with a rotary cutter and a non-slip quilting ruler on a self-healing cutting mat. If you have limited experience using a rotary cutter, I recommend visiting our Rotary Cutting Tutorial.
For the Pinwheels, cut a total of 120 6 ½-inch squares from the fabrics.
- 38 squares from the Medium Stripe
- 36 squares from the Deluxe Twill Stripe
- 28 squares from the Micro Stripe
- 18 squares from the Deluxe Herringbone
For the Binding, cut the Binding fabric (the Medium Stripe) on the bias (at a 45-degree angle to the grain of the fabric) in 2-inch strips. Cut enough strips so that when pieced you have a total of 232 inches.
To make the quilt in Twin (Double, Queen, King) sizes cut a total of 216 (288, 360, 440) squares. These will piece up into 54 (72, 90, 110) Pinwheel Squares to be arranged in a grid of 6 x 9 (8 x 9, 9 x 10, 11 x 10).
The Backing should be pieced and cut to at least 6 inches larger in length and width than the finished quilt tops.
Make the Pinwheel Squares
Each Pinwheel Piece is made from 4 squares of two colors of the Pinwheel fabric. You will need two squares of each fabric.
The square in this example uses two squares of the Medium Stripe with the right side as the proper side, and two squares of the Deluxe Twill Stripe with the wrong side as the proper side.
Lay one small square with the proper side up. Place a second piece on top with the proper side down and the stripes parallel to the first square’s stripes. Repeat with remaining two squares.
With a pencil and a straight edge ruler, mark a line from the upper left corner of one of the square stacks to the lower right corner. Pin fabrics in place on each side of marked line.
On the second stack of squares, mark the line from the upper right corner to the lower left. Pin fabrics in place on each side of marked line.
Sew a seam ¼ inch along each side of the marked lines on both squares.
Cut along the marked lines of both squares. You now have four pieces.
Open up the pieces and press the seams to one side. Since the fabrics are the same or similar, it does not matter which direction you press the seams, but make sure to press them toward the same fabric on all four squares.
Trim any seam allowance that extends beyond the corners.
Complete the Pinwheel
Lay out the four pieced squares as shown above, making sure that all adjacent stripes are perpendicular to each other.
Lay the top right square over the top left square with proper sides together. Align and pin the right side edge of the two layered squares.
Repeat to join the two bottom squares.
Sew along the pinned edges and press open with seam allowances to one side.
With right sides facing, align and pin together the edges of the top and bottom halves of the pinwheel, carefully matching up the points at the center.
Sew along the pinned edge, making sure that the seam meets the tips of the pinwheel points without sewing through them.
Press the seam open.
Repeat with remaining small squares until you have a total of 30 finished pinwheels.
Finish the Pieced Top
Trim the finished pinwheels down to 10 ½ inches square, making sure to keep the straight seams centered.
In an open space, lay the squares out to arrange for the quilt top, making sure that all adjacent stripes are perpendicular to each other.
For the throw size, arrange 5 squares across and 6 rows down.
Sew together the strips of 5 squares to start, making sure that all straight seams are aligned. Press seams to one side.
When you have 6 strips of five squares, sew these together along the long sides, making sure that all straight seams are aligned. Press seams open.
Your quilt top is now finished!
Lay the cut piece of the Backing fabric (the Micro Stripe) right side down smoothly on a flat, clean surface in a large, open space.
Cut a piece of the batting just a little bit smaller than the backing fabric (about 53 by 63 inches) and center it smoothly over the backing.
Finally, place the quilt top, right side up, onto the backing and batting layers, centering it so that the batting and backing show around all four sides.
This is the quilt sandwich.
Pin-baste the quilt sandwich with curved arm safety pins. Place the first pin at the center of the quilt, making sure to pick up all three layers: backing, batting, and quilt top. Then, pin outward in concentric circles 3 to 5 inches apart. Pin all the way to the corners and edges.
You can quilt in any pattern you like, as long as there are quilting stitches no less than 8 inches apart. We chose to “stitch in the ditch” for our quilt, sewing along the straight seams of the pieced top as illustrated in the picture above.
To quilt by machine, use your machine’s walking foot and sew right beside the seam on the side without the seam allowances pressed under it. Quilt all vertical and horizontal straight seams.
Once you’ve finished quilting, trim the batting and backing to match up with the top.
Prepare the Binding
If they are not already, cut the ends of the bias strips at a 45 degree angle (this cut will run straight with the grain line of the fabric). Then piece the bias strips together to create one long piece that measures at least 12 inches longer than the total circumference of your quilt. Here’s how…
(I used the wrong side of the Medium Stripe fabric as the proper side of the binding strips.) To piece the strips, pin the short ends together at a 90 degree angle with proper sides together. The points should overhang about ¼ inch on each side. Edge stitch.
Press the strip open with the seam allowance to one side and trim any seam allowance that extends beyond the strip.
Once you have one long strip of bias tape, use the 1-inch bias tape maker (following the manufacturer’s instructions) to press the bias strip into single fold bias tape.
Bind the Quilt
Trim the ends of the bias strip to at a 90-degree angle.
Open one side of the bias tape. Lay the quilt right side up. Starting along one of the straight sides of the blanket (not in a corner) and with the bias tape wrong side up, pin the open edge of the tape to the raw edge of the quilt.
When you get to a corner, fold the binding strip on top of itself to make a triangle at the corner as shown above. This little triangle will be essential for making mitered corners in the next steps.
Pin the binding around all 4 sides of the quilt in this manner, leaving a tail at the end of the strip un-pinned as shown above.
Starting two inches from one end of the bias, sew the binding to the quilt with a ¼-inch seam allowance, stopping your seams ¼ inch before each corner and then starting the next seam ¼ inch after the corner.
Continue to sew around all 4 sides until you reach the point where the beginning of the binding overlaps the end of the binding. You should have about a 4-inch gap.
To sew down the ends, fold the extra length of both ends over so that the creases of each end meet in the middle of the gap as shown above. Press flat.
Sew the two ends of the binding together at this pressed crease and trim the seam allowance to ¼ inch. Press to one side and sew across the gap with a ¼-inch seam allowance.
Now flip the quilt so that the back side is facing up. Fold the binding over the raw edge of the quilt and using pins or binding clips, secure the binding around all four sides.
When you reach the corners, miter them as shown above. They should fold easily into place.
Sew the binding to the back of the quilt using a slip stitch. (Here I use red thread to make the stitch clearer, but you will want to use a thread color that blends with your fabric.)
First, thread a needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread.
Insert the needle through the bottom crease of the binding (leaving the knot tucked under the fold); pick up about ¼-inch of fabric, as shown above.
Then take a tiny stitch from the quilt-back directly below the spot where the needle exited the binding.
Continue in this manner along all four sides.
Sew each corner into place with a few tacking stitches.
Once you have sewn around all four sides, you’re done. Turn your quilt over and admire all your hard work!