Technically, quilting is a subset of sewing. But if you’re one of the thousands who’ve been bitten by the quilting bug, you’re unlikely to let it take second position to anything. Here at S4H, we don’t claim to be part of the quilting elite, but we are good at making things easy. So when we do quilts, we like to target quilters who are just getting started, giving you a design that looks great but is actually quite simple to do. This Sparkling Pinwheel Baby Quilt creates an intricate-looking pinwheel effect with just 12 cleverly rotated blocks made up of basic half square triangles. Plus, working with our Janome studio machines always makes things so much easier, like using their super-accurate Quarter Inch Seam foot, great feeding system, and the Quilt Guide Bar for easy straight line quilting.
The quilt top uses fabrics with one of the most popular ongoing trends: metallic surface accents on quilting cottons. We originally combined shimmery fabrics from three different collections by Riley Blake Designs, Robert Kaufman Fabrics, and Art Gallery Fabrics.
As mentioned above, the patching and quilting steps on this project are beginner level, but if you are new to quilting, take a look through all our five-part getting-started tutorial series.
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot
- Walking or Even Feed Foot or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio machines
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Some extra yardage is included for fussy cutting.
- ⅓ yard EACH of THREE 44″+ wide quilting cottons in THREE coordinating PRINTS for the quilt top patchwork; we originally used Arizona Agave Fields by Art Gallery Fabrics, Hollywood Sparkle Chevrons by Riley Blake Designs, and Hollywood Sparkle Dots by Riley Blake Designs
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide quilting cotton in ONE coordinating SOLID for the quilt top; we originally used Shimmer Scales Metallic Ivory by Robert Kaufman Fabrics
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide quilting cotton in ONE additional coordinating PRINT for the quilt top patchwork and the binding; we originally used Arizona Triangle Tokens by Riley Blake Fabrics
- 1¼ yards of 44+ wide quilting cotton for the quilt back; we originally used Small Gray Dots on White by Riley Blake Designs
NOTE: This is slightly more than absolutely needed, but ensures you can center your final cut both horizontally and vertically.
- 1¼ yards of 36″+ wide lightweight, low loft batting
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabric
- Machine quilting thread, 50 wt. for straight line quilting; we used a winter white
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Straight pins
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Large safety pins for quilt basting
- Cut ONE 5½” x Width of Fabric (WOF) strip from each of the FOUR quilt top prints. (Arizona Triangle Tokens, Hollywood Sparkle Chevron, Hollywood Sparkle Dots and Arizona Agave Field in our sample).
NOTE: If you are working with any directional prints, as we were with our chevron and diamond prints, you will want to carefully fussy cut your strips to center the motif in the correct direction. For example, all our directionals were fussy cut on the horizontal.
- Sub-cut each strip into SIX 5½” squares for a total of SIX squares from each of the four prints – 24 squares total.
- From the SOLID quilt top fabric (Shimmer Scales Metallic Ivory in our sample) cut THREE 5½” x Width of Fabric (WOF) strips.
- Sub-cut each strip into EIGHT 5½” squares for a total of TWENTY-FOUR solid squares.
- From the remaining print fabric that will also be used for the binding (Arizona Triangle Tokens in our sample), cut FOUR 2″ x WOF (width of fabric) strips.
- From the fabric for the quilt backing (Small Gray Dots on White in our sample), cut ONE 43″ x 33″ backing panel. It doesn’t have to be exactly this size, just larger than the finished size of 40″ x 30″; you will trim it to fit the top.
- Cut the batting to approximately 43″ x 33″ as well. As with the backing panel, it doesn’t have to be exact; you will trim it to fit the top.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
The quilt top
- In order for our finished pinwheel effect to work with a simple block construction, we are creating the half square triangles a bit differently than normal.
- Find all the 5½” squares.
- Cut them all on the diagonal (you can stack and cut or cut individually). To insure the motifs maintain the proper direction for each block, make all cuts from the bottom left to the upper right.
- Pair up a solid triangle with each of the print triangles, rotating the print triangles as shown so the solid triangle is the bottom half of every square.
- Place the two triangles right sides together and pin along the center diagonal line.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch the center diagonal seam.
- Press the seam allowance towards the print triangle (the darker triangle).
- When finished you will have TWELVE of each style of the print/solid half square triangles – 48 squares total.
- Pull one of each of the four different half square triangles to create twelve sets of four.
- Arrange the four half square triangles into a four square block as shown below. It is extremely important that each block is configured exactly as shown. The twelve blocks should look identical to one another.
- Leave the upper left square right side up in position on your work surface. Flip over the upper right square so it is right sides together with the upper left block. Align all the raw edges. Pin along the right side only, which will become the center seam.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch together the two squares. Your triangle points will overlap at each end; this is correct.
- Press the seam allowance to the right.
- Repeat to stitch together the two bottom squares, but press the seam allowance to the left.
- Place the top and bottom units right sides together, carefully aligning the center seams, which should be facing in opposite directions. Pin in place.
- Again, the corner points will overlap; this is correct.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance stitch together.
- Repeat to create the remaining eleven identical blocks.
- When all the blocks are complete, they will be rotated to create each of the three rows of four blocks.
- Starting with the top row and working from left to right, position the first block as it was originally created.
- Rotate the second block in the row 180˚.
- Place the third block in the row in the same original position as the first block.
- Rotate the final fourth block in the row 180˚ so it matches block two.
- Row two is an opposite pattern of row one, and row three is identical to row one.
- As you can see in the drawing below, the pinwheel pattern now appears across the quilt and gives the patchwork a much more complex looking pattern than the actual stitching demands (we love the secret non-complexity!).
- With all your blocks laid out in the correct order and with the correct rotation, assemble each row. Go slowly and deliberately so everything stays in the proper configuration.
- Place block one and block two right sides together. Pin along the right vertical edge only, carefully matching the seam allowances and the points. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch block one to block two.
- Following the same method, add block three to the block one/two unit. And, finally, stitch block four to the block one/two/three unit.
- Press all the seam allowances to the right.
- Repeat to create row two, but press all the seam allowances to the left.
- And, repeat again to create row three, and press all the seam allowances to the right.
- When all three 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.
- Your seams ‘nest together’ and create perfect points on the front (a perfect intersection of the corners), in part because of how you alternated the direction of the seam allowances above.
NOTE: Remember, if you are new to this and other quilting techniques, refer to our Quilting Basics series.
- Stitch the rows together, using a ¼” seam allowance. Your careful matching along the seams will create those perfect points on the front.
- Repeat to stitch the final row in place to complete the quilt top.
- In addition to your careful seam allowance matching, at the center points of each block you can pinwheel the seams for an even flatter finish. To do this, remove a few stitches from the seam allowance at the very center to open up the seam. This allows the points to make a little pinwheel at the back so the front of the quilt will lay nice and flat.
- Press all the seams in their original directions from the back, creating as flat a surface as possible.
- Then flip and press again from the front.
Layering the quilt front, the batting and the quilt back
- Place the 43″ x 33″ batting panel on your work surface or a nice, clean floor. Layer the quilt top on top of the batting, right side up. Center the quilt top so there is batting showing all around and pin the layers together about every 4″. You can use straight pins or the large safety pins.
- Once the batting is firmly secured to the quilt top, trim away any excess batting so the layers are perfectly flush on all sides.
- Gentle roll up the top and batting and set to the side.
- Place the quilt back panel wrong side up and flat on your work surface/floor.
- Gently unroll the the quilt top and center it right side up on the quilt back.
- Re-pin all the pins/safety pins through all three layers. If desired, you can also baste around the outer edges to hold the layers securely in place.
- Trim the quilt back if needed to perfectly fit the quilt top, ie. all the raw edges of all the layers should be flush.
Straight line quilting
- With the three layers secured, the next step is the straight line quilting.
- If desired, attach a Walking or Even Feed foot or engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use.
- The three layers of this quilt are quite lightweight and thin. If your machine has a great feeding system like our Janome studio machines, you may not need a special foot. We simply used the Clear Satin Stitch foot and inserted the Quilt Guide Bar into position.
- Starting at the exact center point of the quilt top, and using a fabric pen or pencil that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to air, draw in horizontal quilting lines to follow across the quilt top. Our lines were ⅞” apart, giving us four rows of quilting between each seam.
- If you have a Quilting Bar as we did, you can simply draw one vertical line at the center, then use the bar as your guide, running it along the previous stitching line at a ⅞” distance. First quilt from the center to the top, then return to the center line, flip the quilt in the opposite direction and quilt from the center to the bottom.
NOTE: If you are new to straight line quilting, check out our Guest Tutorial from Heather Jones.
- When all your rows of quilting are complete, check the edges.
- If needed, trim the quilt back and batting again to perfectly fit the quilt top.
- Collect and assemble your binding strips end to end.
- Pin the binding strip to the raw edge of the quilt, leaving approximately 2″ – 3″ at the head and tail.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch the binding in place.
- Pull away the free ends and stitch right sides together at a diagonal, trimming away the excess so the finished binding lays flat against the quilt top. Stitch the final section to close the seam.
- Flip over the quilt and press in the raw edge of the binding ½” all around.
- Bring the folded edge over onto the quilt back. It should just cover the seam line. Pin in place all around, making a pretty miter at each corner.
- Hand stitch the binding in place or machine stitch-in-the-ditch. With very narrow bindings like this one, we traditionally opt to hand stitch.
NOTE: If you are new to binding, as mentioned above in the intro, we have an excellent tutorial: Complete Step-By-Step For Binding Quilts & Throws.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild