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Scrap Bin Geese Quilt Block Tutorial

Here’s a quilt block tutorial we came across yesterday that looked like so much fun, we thought you might like to try it. It’s the Scrap Bin Geese block tutorial from Andy at A Bright Corner. You start with a set of smallish, color-coordinated scraps: twelve 2.5″ squares and twelve 2.5″ x 6.5″ strips per block, to be precise. And you end up with big 12.5″ blocks that can make a noticeable dent in your scrap pile. We also liked this block because you could use it in a wide variety of different color combinations. (We’re going to try it with blues and greens.)

The tutorial is beautifully illustrated and easy to follow. It includes a layout for a really great-looking quilt you can make from a set of 30 blocks.

If you’re looking for a good way to use up scraps, head on over to A Bright Corner and check it out.


A fat quarter is a quarter-yard of quilting fabric that is cut in a taller and fatter shape than a standard quarter-yard. You will find fat quarters everywhere at your local quilt shop, either sold individually or packaged in bundles like the one above.

Fat Quarters in Detail

To be precise, a fat quarter is a quarter-yard of fabric that is cut into a blocky shape that measures about 18″ x 22″ (46 cm x 56 cm). This is a different shape from a standard quarter-yard, which is cut across the full width of the fabric and is longer and skinnier than a fat quarter. A fat quarter’s shape lends itself to making larger squares and triangles, or shorter strips than a standard quarter-yard. Compare this fat quarter:


To this regular quarter-yard, which is cut across the width of the fabric from selvage to selvage.


A standard quarter-yard measures 9″ by the width of the fabric (42″ to 44″, depending on the manufacturer). This long, skinny cut is great if you want to quilt with fabric strips, but not so great for cutting other shapes like larger squares or triangles.

Buying a fat quarter of a fabric is a great way to get your hands on a color or print you just have to have, without spending a fortune. Quilt shops make this easy for you by displaying fat quarters everywhere. I bought lots of them when I first started quilting. But how can you cut them up into useful shapes?

Cutting Up Your Fat Quarters

There are a number of different ways to cut your fat quarters. Here’s one way we like: cutting the fat quarter into four 9″ squares and one 3-1/2″ x 18″ strip. All very useful sizes.

Cutting Fat Quarters 1

Cutting Fat Quarters into Charms

And here’s a way to cut up your fat quarters into 5″ and 10″ charm squares, so you can make your own charm packs.

Post first published on November 3, 2014. Revised and updated on February 22, 2017.


This week’s easy quilt block is made of nine small fabric squares arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The graphic on the left shows the two kinds of nine-patch blocks you can make from two fabrics. That’s what I will show you how to do in this post.

You can also make a scrappy nine-patch block, where every square in the checkerboard is a different fabric. The cutting and sewing are the same, but the look is quite different.

The versatile nine-patch is one of the basic quilt blocks every quilter can make good use of. While nine patches may look fussy, they actually go together very fast with strip piecing. This tutorial shows you how to make strip pieced nine-patches.

Supply List 

Here’s what you will need:

  • Fabric strips in two colors, one lighter and one darker
  • Rotary cutter
  • See-through cutting ruler
  • Cotton or polyester thread in a neutral color like beige or pale grey. I use 40- or 50-weight cotton thread from Aurifil.

You will also need your sewing machine, of course. If you have one, a 1/4″ quilting foot makes it easier to sew accurate seams. If not, I recommend making yourself a homemade 1/4″ seam guide with painter’s tape.

Sizing Your Block and Fabric Strips 

Before you start cutting, you need to decide how big you want the finished block to be. This determines how wide to cut your strips. This chart shows you how wide to cut your strips to make blocks of various sizes:

For a Finished Block This Size…

…Cut Fabric Strips this Wide  

3” block


6” block


9” block


12” block


Cutting the Strips

For each block, you will need to cut three strips each of the light and dark fabrics (or buy precut strips called jelly rolls at the local quilt shop.) These instructions assume that you cut the strips for these blocks across the full width of your fabric, from selvage to selvage. The table below shows you about how many finished blocks you can make from each set of six strips. (The precise number you will get depends on the usable width of the fabrics, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.)

How Many Blocks will One Strip Set Make?

Strip Width

Number of Blocks Per Six-Strip Set









Sewing the Fabric Strips into Strip Sets

After you cut the strips, you will sew them into two sets of three strips each. One strip set has two dark strips on the outside and a light strip in the center, like this: Nine patch block strips 1The other has two light strips on the outside and a dark strip in the center, like this: Nine Patch block strips 2Here’s how to sew the strip sets together:

  1. Lay one strip of light fabric and one of dark fabric with right sides together, like this:Nine patch quilt block sewing stiprs
  2. Sew along one long side of the paired strips with a scant ¼” seam, then press the seam toward the darker fabric.
  3. Sew a third strip to the strip set so the light and dark strips alternate. It’s good to sew in the opposite direction than you did the first time. This helps keep the strip set straight.
  4. Press the seam toward the darker fabric.
  5. Sew the second set of strips together, pressing the seams toward the darker fabric.

Cross-Cutting the Strip Sets

Next, you will cut the strip sets into smaller units.

  1. Lay the two strip sets with right sides together so the seams nest. If you pressed all the seam allowances toward the darker fabric, the strips should fit together neatly. Nine patch quilt block Strip sets seams nestes
  2. Use your rotary cutter and a cutting ruler to cut sub-units from the paired strip units. The sub-units should be the same width as the original strips. For example, if the fabric strips were 1½” wide, cut the sub-units 1½” wide.9 patch quilt block Cross-cutting strip sets

Assembling the Strip Sets into Nine Patch Blocks

The last step is to sew the sub-cut units together.

  1. Count the sub-units and set aside one third of them. You will use those to complete the blocks later.
  2. Sew together the remaining two thirds of the nested sub-units, joining each pair along one long side. Nine patch quilt block sewing unitsUse chain piecing to save thread and speed up the stitching. Press the seams to one side.
  3. Separate the last third of the sub-cut units so they are no longer nested together.

Sewing Positive or Negative Nine Patch Blocks

At this point, you can choose to make two different kinds of nine patch blocks:

  • Positive nine patch blocks, where the darker fabric anchors the four corners. They look like this:Nine-Patch Quilt Block 2
  • Negative nine patch blocks, where the lighter fabric is in the corners. They look like this:NIne-Patch Quilt Block 3

Some quilt patterns call for positive nine-patch blocks, some call for negative blocks, and some call for both. Once you decide whether you want to make a positive or negative block, you can sew the final sub-unit onto the block. Here’s what to do.

  1. Sew the last sub-unit to the larger section. Position the units like this to make a positive block: Sewing positive nine-patch blockand like this to make a negative block.Sewing negative nine-patch block
  2. Press the blocks and square them up. They are now ready to use in a quilt.

Here are the two blocks that came from the strip sets you saw in this tutorial. The positive block:

Finished 9 patch quilt block positive

And the negative block:Finished 9 patch quilt block negative

And to inspire you to use nine patch blocks in a quilt of your own, here’s a nine-patch quilt I made a couple of years ago. I got the pattern from one of my favorite easy quilt books, Judy Sisneros’ 9-Patch Pizzazz.

Purple Nine patch Pizzazz Quilt

Post originally published March 3, 2013. Revised and updated 2/19/2017.


Last-Minute Valentine Mini Quilt

Valentine Envelope Mini Quilt

Need a last-minute creative Valentine’s gift you can put together in a hurry? Here’s a quick little 12″ x 12″ mini quilt you can make today and give to your honey tonight. The pattern was graciously given to us by Wendy Barnhart of SewManyQuiltsandThreads.com. Thanks, Wendy! Check out Wendy’s site to see a wide array of fabrics, threads, and other useful goodies for quilters. (Wendy also has a Nolting long-arm quilting setup for sale. If you are interested, please contact her through her website.)

How Much Fabric Will You Need?

Here’s what you need to make the quilt:

  • Grey squares: Two 5″ squares
  • Red squares: Three 5″ squares
  • Pink squares: One 5″ square
  • Pink Strips: Two strips 2-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ for the side borders, and two strips 2-1/2″ x 12-1/2″ for the top and bottom borders.
  • Optional: Pink scrap for an applique heart. You can use the extra pink fabric left from making the pink-and-red triangle block.
  • 14″ x 14″ piece of thin batting
  • 14″ x 14″ piece of coordinating backing fabric
  • Two 2-1/2″ strips of coordinating binding fabric. Cut both strips the full width of the fabric, from selvage to selvage.

How to Make the Quilt

  1. Make triangle blocks from the red, grey, and pink squares, then use a square ruler to trim them to 4-1/2″. See our half-square triangle block tutorial here. You will have one red-and-gray block and one pink-and-red block left over to use for other projects.
  2. (Optional) Print out this page and trace the heart shape to use as a pattern for your applique. Cut out the heart with scissors or your rotary cutter.
  3. Sew the center blocks together.
  4. Add the side border strips, then add the top and bottom border strips.
  5. Layer the quilt sandwich with backing fabric right side down, batting on top of the backing fabric, and the quilt top on top, with right side face up.
  6. Use fusible web, 505 basting spray, or a glue stick to fix the heart to the grey section of the bottom right red-and-gray triangle block. Use a straight stitch or zig-zag stitch to sew the heart to the block.
  7. Square up the quilt sandwich and trim off the extra batting and backing fabric.
  8. Sew on the binding. See our binding tutorial here.

All done! You’re ready to give someone special a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s greeting.


One of the skills new quilters seem to feel most nervous about is working with colors. How can you tell which colors go well together? I always recommend noticing which colors attract you and make you feel good. If you like a certain color combination in a painting or on a friend’s sofa, you will probably like those colors in a quilt, too.

There’s an App for Choosing Colors

My friend Lisa recently introduced me to a terrific free online tool for turning a photo into a color palette you can use to chose quilt fabrics. It’s called the Canva Color Palette Generator, and using it couldn’t be easier. You simply upload a photo you like to the Generator page. The page automatically creates a color palette drawn from the colors in your photo.

This Valentine’s mini Log Cabin quilt caught my eye as I was scrolling through eBay listings for unfinished quilt tops. I like bright colors, and something cheerful about this top really spoke to me. I also admired the amount of work the original maker put into piecing the top, even though it wasn’t a miracle of precision piecing. I bought the top and finished it into a Valentine’s mug rug.

Then I thought this quilt might make a good test case for the Color Palette Generator. Here’s what I got when I uploaded a photo of the quilt to the generator page:

Left to my own devices, I would not have thought up this combination of colors. The light and dark grays especially came as a surprise. But now that I see the colors together, I am very happy with them. And all I have to do is print it out this page and take it right to the fabric store.

If you have a photo or a quilt whose colors you really love, even if you can’t quite say WHY you love them, try the Color Palette Generator. You may be surprised by the colors it finds for you.


Practice Your Stitches with a Test Quilt Sandwich

Don’t you hate having to pull out the seam ripper?

It can be so frustrating to think your sewing is going perfectly, then you take a look at the back side of your quilt and see that you have a line of the little thread loops that indicate thread tension problems, or a tangled nest of threads that mean your thread has jumped out of your sewing machine’s uptake lever.

It’s also frustrating to start free-motion quilting and find yourself sewing jerky, crooked lines instead of beautiful, swirling ones.

That’s where a test quilt sandwich comes in.

What is a Quilt Sandwich?

If you haven’t heard the term before, a quilt sandwich is the three layers that make up a quilt:

  • Quilt top
  • Batting in the middle,
  • Backing fabric on the bottom.

The photo above shows a quilt sandwich with all three layers visible.

I make a layered sample that consists of a big scrap of plain muslin on top, cotton batting in the middle, and muslin on the back. I use muslin because the plain background makes it easy to see my stitches.

This test sandwich lives at my sewing table. I use it to try out new stitches before I start sewing on a quilt I’ve spent hours carefully putting together. The sandwich gets used over and over until I’ve filled in all the empty spaces — then I usually use it some more. The end result isn’t exactly pretty, but it has saved me many times from inflicting damage on my real quilt.

Here is a test sandwich I’ve been using for some time now:

And here are some situations where it’s helpful to use a test sandwich:

  • After putting in a new bobbin or top thread. Sew a test seam to make sure your thread is flowing smoothly. Check the back side of the sandwich to make sure you don’t have tension or threading problems.
  • Trying out a new stitch. I like to try new decorative stitches that I haven’t used before. Stitching a test seam shows me how the stitch actually looks on the fabric and lets me know if I have the sewing machine settings adjusted properly for that stitch.
  • Starting to machine quilt. When you free-motion quilt, it can take a few minutes to get back into the swing of making the smooth, steady movements that produce smooth, even lines on the quilt. Start out a machine-quilting session with a few minutes on your test sandwich, so you know the first stitches you make on your actual quilt will be good ones.
  • Using a new type of batting, thread, or fabric. Make your test sandwich out of the same materials you’re going to use in the actual quilt, so you can see how your stitches will look on the finished product.
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