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Button Quilted Layer Cake Throw

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Thanks to the pre-cut squares of a pretty Layer Cake, we whipped-up this cozy lap blanket in an afternoon. The patchwork is about as basic as you can get, and the quilting is done with hand-sewn buttons. Rather than crank up the thermostat, keep a pretty throw like this by your desk or chair to keep you toasty while reading, working, sewing, knitting or watching TV. It's also the perfect size for a frosty morning 'car cozy' – tumble the blanket in the dryer for a few minutes right before you walk out the door, then wrap it around your lap... or around your little kiddos, as a warmer-upper while you wait for the cold car to defrost. My mom did this for me when I was small, because we didn't have a garage, only a carport; it made chilly morning drives to school a toasty treat.

A BIG thanks to our friends at Moda Fabrics who originally sent us the wonderful Layer Cake in Circa 1934 by Cosmo Cricket. We had the opportunity a few years back to meet Julie Comstock from Cosmo Cricket at a Quilt Market in Salt Lake City. Their designs are whimsical and nostalgic but with a modern twist that makes them a delightful choice for everything from garments to home décor.

Circa 1934 is an older collection and hard to find outside of a few remants sold by eBay or Etsy vendors. However, you could substitute any layer cake collection to equally beautiful results. Our friends at Fat Quarter Shop carry an amazing selection of Layer Cake options. You could also fussy cut 10" x 10" squares from larger fabric, centering a cute motif within each square.

Our lap blanket finishes at 57" x 57".

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • ONE Layer Cake for the printed squares on the front and back (we used all 42, 10" x 10" squares from a standard 42-piece Layer Cake pack; if you choose not to use a Layer Cake, you'll need to cut 42, 10" x 10" squares): we used Circa 1935 by Cosmo Cricket for Moda Fabrics
  • 2¼ yards of 44"+ wide coordinating solid fabric: we used Moda's 44" Bella Broadcloth in Snow
  • 25 mismatched buttons, each about ½" in diameter
  • 58" x 58" square of lightweight batting: we used Kyoto Soy Soft Soy Batting
    NOTE: Batting comes in a multitude of sizes and shapes. We had a beautiful queen size roll (90" x 108") from which we cut our 58" square, leaving a nice remnant for another project. You could also buy a 60" wide piece off the bolt or a smaller packaged size.
  • All purpose color coordinating thread: we used natural
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Decide which 10" x 10" patterned squares you want where on the FRONT of the quilt BEFORE you begin to sew. Do this by laying them out on a flat surface. We've found it's easiest to use the floor to do this; make sure it's clean. Mix and match until you have a layout you find pleasing. Remember, you have 36 squares to work with on this side, and the exact cuts you get in your Layer Cake may vary slightly from what we had in ours. It's best to avoid placing similar colors side by side and it looks better when you alternate small and large motifs. You can follow a pattern similar to ours or design your own. There's no 'wrong' design; it's all based on what you like best.
  2. Using the same method, decide in what order you want the remaining SIX 10" x 10" patterened squares that will run down the BACK of the quilt.
  3. From the fabric you are using for the solid quilt panels on the quilt back (Bella Broadcloth in Snow in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 38½" wide x 57½" high rectangle
    TWO 10" wide x 29" high rectangles
    NOTE: If your fabric is wide enough, you could cut one 57½" high x 10" strip, but that is not the best use of fabric for the narrower widths. It's more efficient to cut two pieces and splice them together. This will create one additional seam on your quilt back, but will save you from buying a lot of extra fabric. If you line up this extra seam with the patchwork seam of the patterned strip on the quilt back, it will hardly be noticeable.
  4. From the batting, cut ONE 57½" x 57½" square

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Quilt front

  1. If you are brand new to quilting, even though this project is super simple, you may want to review our Quilting Basics Series, which starts here with Part 1 of 5
  2. This quilt has a traditional ¼" quilting seam allowance throughout. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to help maintain a perfectly straight line.
  3. There are a lot of pieces to keep track of, so work in a specific order, like a grid. We worked from top to bottom and left to right.
  4. Starting with the six squares in the first patterned row, pin the squares together into three pairs: one and two, three and four, five and six. Each of the pairs should be placed right sides together and pinned along one side. Keep track of any directional prints to make sure everything is going the right way. Our cute Circa 1934 had number and letter motifs, which we needed to keep careful track of.
  5. Stitch each of the pairs together, using a ¼" seam allowance. Press the seam allowances together and to the right.
  6. Pin the left and right pairs (one/two and five/six) to either side of the center pair (three/four) - still right sides together, still along just one side each.
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  7. Stitch together, using a ¼" seam allowance, to create the first complete six-block row. Press the seam allowances together and to the right.
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  8. Repeat to create the remaining FIVE rows, but alternate the direction of the seam allowances. Press row two towards the left, row three towards the right, etc. This will help you nest your seams together and best match your corners. More on this below.
  9. When your six rows are complete, you can stitch them together. Working from the top row down, pin the first two rows right sides together. The most important thing to remember is to keep your seams in line with one another. It helps to place a pin in the seam to make sure it's lined up on the other side.
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  10. Using a ¼" seam allowance, sew the rows together. Press seams flat.
  11. Continue in the same manner until all six rows are sewn together from top to bottom.
    NOTE: When we assembled the rows, you'll remember we pressed the fabric in certain directions above. This now allows us to ‘nest' the seams of the pieces. One seam is pressed in one direction, the opposing seam is pressed in the opposite direction, and they lay easily against each other. In addition to the 'pinning technique' mentioned above, this will help you to line up the corners so you get ‘perfect points' between the fabric pieces.
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  12. When all the rows are stitched in place, if necessary, trim any excess from all sides of the quilt top so the raw edges are flush and square.
    NOTE: We pressed all our seams open and flat when complete.

Quilt back

  1. Following the same steps as above, pin the remaining six 10" by 10" printed squares right sides together along their bottom edges.
  2. Stitch together with a ¼" seam allowance. Press all of these seams open. You now have one vertical strip of six patterned squares.
  3. Sew this vertical accent strip to the large solid back panel (the 38½" x 57½" piece). To do this, place the two pieces right sides together along one 57½" side. Looking down at the quilt back, it should be the left side of the accent strip and the right side of the solid piece that are being sewn together. Pin in place.
  4. Stitch together with a ¼" seam allowance. Press this seam open.
  5. Place the two 10" wide x 29" solid pieces together along one 10" side. Pin in place. Stitch together with a ¼" seam allowance. Press this seam open.
  6. Pin this completed solid strip (which is now 10" x 57½") to the remaining 57½" raw edge of the vertical accent. Carefully align the seam of the solid strip with the middle patchwork seam of the accent strip (see our diagram above). Pin in place.
  7. Stitch together with a ¼" seam allowance. Press this seam open.

Quilting the panels together

  1. Lay the completed quilt back right side down and flat on your work surface.
  2. Place the 57½" x 57½" batting square on top of the quilt back, lining up all four raw edges.
  3. Pin around all four edges, and machine baste the batting square to the quilt back, staying very close to the edge - ⅛" or less. Basting these two layers together helps keep them from shifting during the final layering.
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  4. Roll up the quilt back and set it out of the way for a minute.
  5. Lay the completed quilt front right side up and flat on your work surface.
  6. Un-roll the completed quilt back/batting piece and place it right side down on top of the quilt front. They are now right sides together.
  7. Take the time to make sure the two layers are flat and smooth. Also, line up the accent strip on the back with the corresponding strip on the front. If necessary, trim the edges of the batting and backing so that they are square and flush with the quilt top.
  8. Pin around all four edges, leaving an 8-10" opening along the bottom edge for turning.
  9. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, remembering to pivot at each corner and to leave that 8-10" opening for turning. Lock your stitch at either side of this opening.
  10. Clip all four corners at a diagonal, but be careful to not cut through your stitching.
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  11. Turn the quilt right side out through the opening.
  12. Push out all four corners with a long blunt object, such as a large knitting needle or chopstick.
  13. Press around all four edges of the quilt, so the corners are sharp and the layers are flat.
  14. Slip stitch the opening closed at the bottom edge.
  15. Lay the quilt right side up and flat on your work surface. Again, smooth the top and bottom layers flat with your hands so there are no large folds or wrinkles.
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  16. At each of the 25 four-corner intersections of the quilt front, pin through the front and back quilt about ½" away from either side of the intersection point. You will be sewing a button to each of these intersection points and the pins will help insure the button sewing stitches on the back side are lined up and even.
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  17. Hand sew a button at each of these 25 intersection points, leaving the pins through the top and bottom layers of the quilt until the button is sewn. Remove the pins after each button is sewn

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Project Design: Alicia Thommas    
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Gregory Dickson


Comments (7)

Seams Inspired said:
Seams Inspired's picture

I made one of these throws for my husband. He loves it! I loved the great tutorial. Thanks! 

PS...Instead of using buttons, I stitched a tiny 'x' at the intersections. 

In answer to another commenter's question...I've washed the throw a couple of times & have had no problems with the batting bunching or shifting. 

Susan in OK said:
Susan in OK's picture

In Step 8, you press the seams to the left or right.  However, when you go to put those rows together in Step 9, the seams from Step 8 in this step and subsequent steps appear to have been pressed open instead of to the right or left.  Should the seams in Step 8, be pressed to the left or right or pressed open?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Susan in OK -- nesting is the preferred technique as will give you the best look. As we mentioned above - we pressed all our seams open and flat when finished.

Mildred said:
Mildred's picture

If the buttons are the only spot that hold the batting together from the top and the perimeter is sewn from the inside before turning wouldn't the batting bunch after the first wash? Is this kind of batting not suceptible to this collapsing when washed? thank you for the tutorial.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mildred - We did not experience any bunching with our sample. The layers are stitched through with the buttons at 25 points across the throw, which did a good job of securing the layers. And, as you noted, the batting is also basted in place around the edge prior to layering. Because this project is designed as a throw, it is not likely to be washed on as regular a basis as bed linens. We've found the Soy Soft batting to be stable. If you were hoping for more of a blanket - that could stand up to weekly or monthly washing - you may want to add some additional quilting stitches. 

Mary @ Ms. Redo said:
Mary @ Ms. Redo's picture

Love this quilt! The fabrics are wonderful, love the ones with numbers and dots, the colors are perfect. And I love the way you finished it, would never have thought of that, and the button quilting is a completely new idea to me. Thanks for sharing this, I'm going to pin it for future reference. Stay warm! :)