Barn door quilt-a-long: week 1

Welcome to week 1 of the barn door quilt-a-long! (If you missed the post about fabric requirements, you’ll find it here.)

This is what we’ll be doing this week:

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Week 1: the 7 center rows

I originally intended to start this week by doing all of the cutting for the quilt. But as I was working on it myself (had to double check that math!) it occurred to me that it would be way more fun to start assembling it right away. You’ll get the satisfaction of seeing it come together quickly and you’ll be able to play around a little more with your fabric selection and layout.

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This will also give us the opportunity to have a periodic link up to see how the quilts are looking!

So here’s the new schedule (and I do apologize if you were terribly attached to the last one):

  • Week 1 (January 6) – center rows (9-15)
  • Week 2 (January 13) – top rows (1-8) & link up for week 1 progress
  • Week 3 (January 20) – bottom rows (16-23)
  • Week 4 (January 27) – borders & link up for weeks 1-3 progress
  • Week 5 (February 3) – quilting & finishing
  • Week 6 (February 10) – final link up celebration (with at least one giveaway, possibly more!)

Here is your Barn door assembly chart, containing all of the measurements for the entire quilt. This week we’re going to start in the center and work our way out.

Without the borders, barn door is a 63 3/4 inch square that forms the primary “X” design of the quilt.

Barn door diagram

Image credit: Anne at play-crafts.com. Thanks Anne!

This X is composed of 23 strips. To create the assembly chart I numbered the strips 1 to 23 from top to bottom. Most of the strips in the quilt are composed of one middle strip, 2 HSTs (half square triangles), and 2 side strips.

Edit: All of the strips are 3 1/4 inches wide.

You can find my HST & hourglass unit tutorial here, and my cutting tutorials here and here. For even more basics, read through my beginner’s series

When you assemble your strips, be sure you join each unit with a true 1/4 inch seam. As in most quilt patterns, the math for this design depends on an accurate 1/4 inch. Anything more or less will cause trouble when you are lining up your rows.

I like to keep a small ruler right by my sewing machine and I frequently check my seam allowances.

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The 1/4 inch line of the ruler should line up with your thread

(You’ll note that my HST/hourglass tutorial encourages a scant or “less than” 1/4 inch seam for making those units. Don’t be confused by this! Just remember that you can always use a scant seam for a unit that will be trimmed, but when you are joining multiple units into a finished block or quilt, you will most often use a true 1/4 inch seam because that is the amount accounted for in the math.)

For this quilt, I think it’s helpful to be able to nest your seams when you are lining them up. I press all of my middle pieces toward the middle and all of my outer strips toward the outside.

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Your triangles and hourglass don’t have any abutting seams so you can press them any way you want. I chose to press them open so my quilt top will lay flatter. If you don’t want to have to think about which way to press your seams, pressing them open is always an option. It just makes lining up the points slightly trickier (in my opinion).

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The hourglass and triangles are pressed open; the center strips are pressed toward the center; the outer strips are pressed toward the outside; the seams joining the strips together are pressed open

Once you have your first 2 rows assembled, joining them immediately will help you determine whether you’ve cut and sewn accurately up to this point. If your points are not lining up, try to figure out what has gone wrong. Double-check your measurements and your seam allowances. This is another advantage of assembling a little at a time!

I advocate heavy pinning and I’ll tell you why: fabric stretches. Pinning doesn’t just ensure that your components line up, it offers some resistance to the tugging of the presser feet and feed dogs on the fabric. If you often have a small amount of fabric that sticks off the end of one side of your work, that is why. I know it’s an extra step, but it’s worth it to avoid dealing with the uneven edges later.

Focus on lining up the angles of the triangles. The lines of the triangles create the “X” design of the quilt.

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Pin where the triangles meet first.

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Then place one pin at each outside edge of the strips. Keep adding pins in the middle of the pins you’ve already placed until you have pins every few inches. Sew your strips together, removing the pins at the last possible second before your needle reaches them.

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Continue assembling strips until you have your center 7! Or of course if you’re on a roll keep going. You now have all the information you need to complete the entire quilt top.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions. One of the benefits of a small quilt-a-long is the opportunity for more extensive interaction and collaboration.

Don’t forget to post your progress on our Flickr page! Let me know if you guys are Intagram users. I could dust off my account if it’s something you guys want to do. #barndoorQAL anyone?

25 thoughts on “Barn door quilt-a-long: week 1

  1. So excited to get started! My fabric choices have been piled on my cutting table, just waiting for today to arrive! And thanks for the chance to start sewing right away … I always like to see how it’s going to look 🙂

  2. I’m so glad that you decided to post the schedule this way because I need to experiment some before I commit to cutting all my fabric. One of my fabrics has a strong geometric pattern that I don’t want to interrupt, so I’m going to attempt to incorporate the HST right onto the end of those strips. Right now, my brain is fiddling with 2 different plans of attack. I figure that best case scenario is that I figure it out. The worst case scenario is that I waste a little bit of fabric (gasp!) and have to trim off the wonky edge and use the remainder of the strip for one of the shorter pieces farther down the quilt.

    • You could try using 45 degree seams instead of HSTs, like when you’re making binding. That was actually my first idea when I designed this quilt, but I decided that math would be too hard to communicate. So instead I decided to embrace the “patchwork” look and intentionally NOT line up my prints. I know the print you’re talking about from your Flickr photo though, and I agree that one would look really sharp uninterrupted.

  3. An Instagram tag would be great! Also, forgive me if I’m missing this somewhere, but how wide are you cutting your strips? 3 1/4? Thanks Sarah, can’t wait to dive in, hopefully this week!

  4. sarah, it’s looking beautiful so far! I’m glad you changed the schedule the way you did. makes me feel like maybe I can participate now. currently, I’ve got tons of strips laid out on my table as I try to get my son’s wonky coins going and I just found out I need to make a baby quilt by Saturday! eek! lots of fun stuff, but how do I do it all at the same time? getting a couple of rows done rather than trying to do all the cutting sounds better to me. =)

    • ps – where’s your button? the link I gave you should have given you some html code so you could put a button generator gadget on your sidebar for followers to add to their own blogs.

  5. Hooray! I was so excited when I saw this show up in my blog reader. I can’t wait to get started! Your rows look so fab. I was nervous the colors I chose were going to be too similar to yours, but we’re going to have very different projects. Yay!

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  11. Okay this is just off the cuff without reading over the directions too seriously….what is the measurement of each middle strip…? I get the hour glass (I think) and the next row is a square of the same size but to cut all the fabric I thought the quick reference sheet would have this so I don’t have to figure. Am I missing something? thanks ahead of time. I will probably see 2 seconds after I post this so sorry if it is a stupid question. 😦

  12. Pingback: Barn door quilt along: week 5 | Sarah Quilts

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