Denim Pinwheel Quilt
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:
- 1 yard of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Medium Stripe, Indigo
- 1 yard of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Deluxe Twill Stripe, Indigo
- ¾ yard of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Micro Stripe, Indigo
- ¾ yard of Robert Kaufman’s Railroad Denim Deluxe Herringbone, Indigo
- Two 274-yard spools of Gutermann’s Cotton Sewing Thread in color 1040
- Throw size Quilter’s 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!
39 comments on “Denim Pinwheel Quilt”
Love this! Not only does it have art appeal, but I could see it becoming a kid's favorite blankie to haul around. More durable than quilting cottons and getting softer with age – just like a favorite pair of jeans.
I really like this quilt,it looks vey calm and fresh….
Yes! This fabric couldn't have arrived with any more perfect timing. My son's second bday is coming up and I want to make train conductor hats an have been looking for the perfect fabric!
Truly beautiful. I have been wanting to start quilting and this looks like a nice first project. It would be a hit around the house, too, since both my dad and fiance love everything about trains and the railroad.
Could you please give the final dimensions for the throw sized quilt? This is quite lovely!
Hi Naomi –
Thanks for your question!
The finished measurements of the quilt are 50 by 60 inches.
I love this quilt!!! A great idea for a guy gift!! I would love to pin this to my Quilt & Sew board!!!
Wowzers—absolutely gorgeous, and can't wait to get started! Who knew such a workaday fabric like denim could take on an almost artful quality when stitched up like this? A matching denim bear or bunny (from your tutorials in late winter/early spring) would make a lovely addition for a shower gift.
Love, love, love! Will definitely add to my to do list and finally end that long search for the perfect pattern for my brothers quilt.
Love this! What size is the quilt shown in the main photo?
Hi- This is beautiful! Could you add some pictures or info about the hanging loops you made? How/where and at what point in the process of binding did you add them?
This is so beautiful
Beautiful!! I love it so much and will definitely be on my to do list ! Thank you for uch a well written tutorial 🙂
It is 50 X 60-inches. The measurements are listed under the "Finished Measurements" section of the pattern. Thank you so much for writing in!
Love it! I've made plenty of quilts, but this is my first kit. Included instructions would have been nice; I always measure when I get fabrics by mail, but I had nothing to go by. Other than that, I'm looking forward to making this for my husband!
Thanks for your comment. This is just a materials kit, and the instructions can be found here. I'm sorry if you were expecting something different!
Please let us know if you have any questions about the pattern. Thank you!
Hi Jen –
We actually only added the hanging loops for the photograph, so we tacked them to the back of the quilt using a few safety pins to keep in place. If you are planning on hanging the quilt short-term, this is a fine solution.
For a more permanent method I would recommend sewing the loops into the binding by pinning them to the wrong side of the quilt in the same step that you are pinning the binding to the right side of the quilt, with all raw edges together. Machine sew over all layers. Fold the binding over the raw edge and blind stitch to the wrong side as described in the project journal. Once you are finished, fold the hanging loops up and secure to the binding with a whip stitch.
With any method you use, make sure that you don't have too much pressure in any particular spot, or the seam will tug and pull.
Thank you so much for your question – I hope this helps!
Just wondering what the finished size of the QUEEN quilt would be? Sorry, didn't see it anywhere in the post..thank you!
Hi Vanessa –
Thank you for pointing out the missing dimensions for the additional quilt sizes. I've added them all in.
The finished size of the Queen quilt is 90 by 100 inches.
I hope this helps!
I’m finishing up the throw size quilt for a customer and I’m wondering how you pieced the back from the 2 yards of fabric? I can’t seem to figure it out. I think I need at least 3 to account for the overage. Please help. Thanks.
Hi, I just purchased the kit and am wondering if the fabric included is already pre-washed or if I still need to do that?
I’m totally new to quilting, and need to purchase a non-slip quilting ruler and self-healing cutting mat–I see online that there are many different dimensions of each available at a very large price range. If I’m making the throw sized quilt, what’s the smallest size of both the ruler and the mat that I can comfortably get away with? And what are some recommended brands of each?
Thanks so much for all of your really helpful answers Molly. I didn’t have the money to buy all the extra equipment (rotary cutter, mat, rulers) so I just went with a pair of scissors, the regular ruler I already have, and a really steady hand–the quilt is coming along super well!
I purchased this kit and am in the process of putting the triangles together. I’m doing it all by hand. I am confused about how the different strips go in the fabric. Do you alternate the horizontal and vertical strips with each square? Is this important for the look of the finished quilt?
Thank you. Mary Martin
I’m in the final stages of this project, but I’m having some issues with the bias tape/bias tape maker. I’ve never used one before, so it may just be an operator error, but the 2.5″ wide strips seem to be too wide for the 1″ bias tape maker. As I make the tape by running it through the device, it gets bunched up on the “front” and there becomes a gap between the raw folded edges on the “back”. Did anyone else have this problem? I know the simple solution may be just to trim the strips down in width, but it looks like yours turned out fine at 2.5″ wide- so do I just need more practice/patience? Am I crazy? Has the simple device turned against me?!
A beautiful quilt! Do you sell this in a packaged kit in the size show? Thank you!
Hi. I love this quilt! Thank you for posting such thorough instructions. Can you explain how to convert the yardage given above (for the quilt top) to fat quarters? For example, the full size calls for 7.25 yards. I have 18 fat quarters which I’m guessing equates to 4.5 yards (18/4). Is this math correct? So I’ll need to supplement 2.25 yards or 9 more fat quarters?
Thanks for reaching out! You are correct that you would divide your number of fat quarters by four to get the total yardage equivalent; however, I would keep in mind that Railroad Denim is a 60″ wide fabric, so if your fat quarters came from a 44″ wide fabric, you will need a bit more yardage. Also, there will be some waste when using fat quarters, as the pinwheels start by cutting 6.5″ squares, and a typical fat quarter is 18″ wide. Although it takes a bit more math and planning, I would instead estimate how much fabric you need by first determining how many squares you can cut from each fat quarter (either 6 from a regular width fabric or 8 from a wide width) and then dividing 288 (the number of squares needed for the Double size) by that number.
I hope that helps!
I LOVE this quilt! The fabric, the pinwheels, the colors, all of it. I am an old hippie from the 60’s, that must be why. I am definitely going to make this. Thank you so much!
I see now that this post is 5 years old. I would love to order the fabrics if they are still available but the link states that it is not. Can you tell me if I can still get the fabric. I would love to make this.
Can I buy the fabric listed in this pattern? I couldn’t find these specific ones in your fabric section. Thank You. I love this and want to make it.
Thanks for reaching out! Unfortunately the fabrics we originally used to create this quilt have been discontinued, and at this time we don’t have any similar striped fabrics – I’m so sorry about that! I would recommend looking for tonal striped prints to recreate this look!