Tuesday 5 January 2016

San Tan Valley Sunset

An Improvised Quilt Tutorial: 


A few years ago I was teaching a quilting color theory workshop to a fantastic group in Laporte, Saskatchewan, Canada.  As a sample for the workshop I sewed together this panel (photo below) from scrap pieces of  warm colored fabrics.  Going through fabrics in my studio last week I found it, as tacky as ever!   A blog post in the making,  this is a good sample to demonstrate how to incorporate bright colors with neutrals to make a fabulous quilt top. I know, I know, this is not a good looking color combination at this point, but please read on...the end result is amazing!  I even surprised myself :)

 Step 1: Toning Things Down
Find a multitude of warm neutrals to combine with your bright warm colors.  
The warm neutrals refer to those which are related to browns. 

 Step 2:  Making the Blocks
Cut the tacky warm colored panel into 8" squares. 
I now have a total of 8 blocks.  
As this is an improvising method, this number can vary depending on what you have.   
This method also works very well for left over odd blocks. 

Step 3:  Outlining The Blocks
Referring to the following 4 photos, select a warm neutral 
in a light shade as a border for your blocks.  
Cut one WOF 3" strip for each of your blocks.  
Strip piece the 3" borders onto your 8" blocks. 
 Trim the resulting block to 12 1/2".
Tape the block size on your ruler for easy reference.

Step 4:  The Neutral Setting Strips
Cut your remaining warm colored neutrals into 2 1/2" strips.  
You will need an equivalent of 40 width-of-fabric strips.  
Tip: Cut striped fabric perpendicular to avoid crooked stripes. 

Cut approximately 24 - 2 1/2" short red blocks to use as an accent.
These can be 3" or 4" long. 
I also had a wavy border left from a previous project
that I trimmed to 4 1/2" wide to also use as an accent. 

Cut 5 - 4 1/2" red (or any warm color) blocks to add as an accent.  

Using this 2 1/2" Strip Quilting Method, your warm colored neutrals, 
and your red blocks, make your setting background strips.  
It took about 40 WOF (width of fabric) strips 
to have enough for my background.  

As you join your strips end to end, alternate a long strip with a 2 1/2" red block.  Setting in these small red blocks will bring color continuity to your quilt.  It is perfectly fine if you do not have enough red blocks to go in between every strip.

Once you have 2 long lengths of strips sewn together side-by-side (now 4 1/2" wide), 
cut this into 6 equal lengths.   Sew in your 4 1/2" red blocks as in this photo.  
This is also the point in which I inserted my left over wavy border.  
Now divide this long length into 3 equal sections.  
 Sew these together side-by-side, resulting in 6 strips sewn together to 12 1/2" wide. 

Step 5: The Design
Your strip sets and blocks are now ready for the design board (or floor in my case). 

Lay out your odd blocks in a pleasing pattern, imagining your strips in between.  
Keep in mind the finished quilt size that you desire when you do this.  
This quilt top is 60" W x 66" L.

Measure the length in between your blocks. 
Cut the 6-strip sets to this desired length,
adding 1/2" for your seam allowance. 

Sew the 6-strip sets in between your blocks and
continue with this process until you have enough for your quilt top. 

Lay your strips out, rearranging if you desire. 
It helps to look vertically and horizontally. 
I am liking this horizontal layout. 

As this quilt developed the beautiful colors reminded me 
of the desert and gorgeous sunsets in the San Tan Valley of Arizona. 

Remember the tacky panel from the beginning?  
I absolutely love the transformation using this neutral color method.

I hope you do too!


  1. I love everything about this beautiful quilt. My sister lives in Arizona, I am from Ohio. She has bought me my 1st sewing machine 1992 and she just bought me a brand new incredible one, so I have to figure out how to make this for her..it is bright and cheery just like my best friend/ sister. Great works!!