Quilt Block Tutorial: Inspired by the Past

Some of you might remember that our quilt, Inspired by the Past made the cover of the February 2022 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting Magazine.  At the time it came out I promised a tutorial in January.  I said that not knowing I wouldn’t be feeling the best.  Well, a week or so ago, a blog reader reminded me that I said I’d do a tutorial and on Saturday I decided to sit at the machine and get the photos taken for the tutorial.


Please understand when I do this can’t give the exact measurements of the pieces as I sold those rights to the magazine.  All I can do is show you how I made my blocks and give you some tips along the way.

I didn’t refer back to the magazine to see how they suggested the construction or even the measurements of the pieces.  How it works is that I submit a quilt…I make it however I want to make and make it using whatever methods I want and they take the design and THEY write the pattern however they want…however they think it’s best cut out and constructed.  That’s why what I say, might be different than how they wrote the directions.

This is how my block came from EQ.


I made myself this little hand-drawn cheat sheet that was a god-send as I made the blocks.  If you look at the notes, it shows that I need 4 of each of the units.  If you see a “1” that means the first color of the block.  If you see a “2”, that means the second color of the block.  “N” means neutral or background.


These are the pieces I cut.  For this, the red is #1 and green #2.


I’m going to concentrate on making this unit first…or at least the first seam of it.  Everything is 2″ based.


I put all of the #2 squares on the #1 rectangle.  I sew…
on the diagonal.  I use a Seams so Easy Guide when I sew and anything this style of unit, flying geese, half-square triangles, or anything else on the diagonal.  You can find a Seams so Easy Guide HERE.

To use the guide, I put the foot on the corner and put the opposite corner on the middle line.  By using this, I don’t have to take the time to draw a line on the fabric.  I love the guide.

I chain-piece these blocks as much as possible.  Notice the pieces I just sewed are still under the foot.  I prep the next pieces.  Now I am making the pieces in the far-right corner of my cheat sheet.  Notice that the diagonal goes in a different direction.

I was asked specifically how I made these blocks.  Chain pieces and organizing my block sewing so that I rarely lift the presser foot is what I do.  I hope it’s not confusing to you.

I feed them through the machine and then feed the matched half square triangles using fabric #1 and #2 through the machine.


I am a huge fan of an Easy Angle Ruler and cut all of my triangles using the ruler.  You can find the ruler HERE.

I do my best to chain piece as much as I can so you can see that now the triangles are under the foot.

I cut apart my previously sewn pieces.

Next up I get ready to trim but I always refer back to my cheat sheet to make sure the diagonals are going in the right direction.

If everything looks good, I trim off the corners about 1/4″ from the stitching line.

At the iron, I press one set with the seam going outward.

I press the other towards the rectangle.  This is important so your seams lay better in the later construction.


Now we’re back at the machine and back working with #1 rectangle units.  Now I put the neutral pieces on the corner.

I feed them through the machine making sure my stitching line is on the same direction as was previously sewn.

Now it’s time to feed the next set through the machine.

Again, I made sure I sewed on the same direction as the previous stitching.


Now it’s time to refer to this cheat sheet.  These are for the corner units.  The question mark is for any random 2″ square.  I team that with a neutral 2″ square.


I leave them under the foot and clip off the rectangle pieces I previously sewed.


I trim the rectangle pieces.  Now I have all of these pieces that can be taken to the iron.


With the rectangles, if I pressed to the corner previously, I press to the corner again.  If I previously pressed to the center, I press to the center again.

Now at the machine, I am working on the corner units again.  The neutral and the half square triangle need to be sewn together.  It’s tricky to make sure the half square triangle is put in the correct position.  Remember I said the red was my #1.  Looking at the cheat sheet, the red needs to be placed as the picture shows.

With those still under the foot, I lay the rectangles out.  I use the pattern to confirm the layout.

I pick up the pieces and sandwich the seams as I run the pieces through the machine.


With those all through, I clip these units and take them to the iron.

I press everything to the background.

Using my cheat sheet as a reference, I position my pieces and run them through the machine.


Now I can clip my rectangles from the back of the chain.  Here’s how they should look.


These go to the ironing board.  I press all of the seams open.

Back at the machine I layout the pieces to make sure everything is looking right.  I sew the center square to one side piece.


I clip the corner units off.


Those pieces are taken to the iron and pressed.  I pressed to the colored corner square.

At the machine I layout the pieces checking to make sure the pieces will come together correctly.


I do that for the top and bottom rows, then clip the center row off and add on the unit.

I add the other corner unit…

Now all three rows of the block are sewn.


Many of you would run to the iron with these pieces now.  I don’t.  Once these pieces are ironed, they no longer have any “give”…just in case the pieces need to be manipulated to match up, I like to keep that “give” so I don’t iron.


I sewed the rows together to create the block…

NOW, I iron it.  WHOOT! WHOOT!  One block done.


In the middle of my sewing and picture taking to write this tutorial, my basket of extra pieces flipped over…UGH.  Now I need to resort all of these.

I do want to finish these blocks and make them into a throw or wall hanging for the living room.

For me…my little cheat sheet was invaluable when making these blocks.  They are not “hard” to make but they are a block that it’s easy to place the pieces in the wrong spot.

I hope that helps you with your construction of this quilt.  I’ve had so many of you tell me that this quilt is on their list to make.  If you do make it, I’d love to see your finished quilt.

15 thoughts on “Quilt Block Tutorial: Inspired by the Past

  1. Christina

    Woohoo, my subscription starts with the Feb issue , so delighted I will have 2 of your designs within weeks . Thank you for all your hard work and a great tutorial. God bless xx

    Reply
  2. RuthW in MD

    Jo, that was quite easy to follow! I had to tell myself partway through that “the (red print on cream) Neutral is actually the printed white square/triangle on the piece of paper.” (I always have to make these little ‘adjustments’ in my mind to keep track of what I am seeing.) Thank you for such clear directions to build this block.

    Reply
  3. Hedy

    This is great. I especially liked that you said not to iron at one point because there is still some give to adjust the seam. Your piecing is so perfect! Thanks for this tutorial.

    Reply
    1. Jay

      I have to second what Hedy said. Sometimes I look at your piecing and just marvel at how all those little pieces come together so beautifully. Also, you may think you’re moving slowly, Jo, but for the rest of us you’re moving at light-speed!

      Reply
  4. Ellie

    Thanks so much for that terrific tutorial! You are this all so clear and really simple. Yes it would be easy to get confused and sew things in the wrong place or direction but your idea is a real help! Heaven knows I can get myself turned around easily enough! Lol! I plan to star on this soon .

    Reply
  5. Susan from Michigan

    This would look great with my reproduction fabrics and shirtings. I have the magazine. But I need to make another quilt first. Thanks for the inspiration, Jo.

    Reply
  6. Judith Fairchild

    Jo it’s a joy to read and see the ipictures of the tutorial. I can go back and check what’s next and what it’s supposed to look like with out confusion or having to watch a whole you tube type tutorial even though I like those too. But not to try to make a quilt. I prefer reading directions.

    Reply
  7. Gail L Piper

    Great tutorial, easy to follow – thanks!
    Sorry about the basket tipping over – we have all “been there” and can commiserate… :)

    Reply
  8. Janine Baker

    Thank you Jo for taking the time to do this! I cannot imagine anyone with a heart demanding that you hold fast to your “January” tutorial when you are feeling so crappy!!! Just shows what kind of person you are to do this for all of us. I do intend to make this, but have a few other projects ahead of this one that must be finished before I start another. I have never seen a JO quilt I didn’t love!!! Thank you again for all your efforts. Get feeling better soon. Hugs,

    Reply
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  10. Paula Y James

    Jo, Thanks so much for taking the time to teach us. I’ve never seen a tutorial done like this. Wonderful learning tool.

    Reply
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