October 17, 2019

Six Inch Sampler Quilt and Learning Quilt Math Tutorial!

Oh man, I have so much to say about this quilt. Let's start at the beginning!

In 2016 Pat Sloan announced the Splendid Sampler, a sew along for 6" blocks with lots of different designers. The blocks were free on her site when they first came out, but now they are in a book. There's actually even a second Splendid Sampler book

Turns out that after a couple of weeks, the blocks being released were just not my cup of tea. Some I loved, some I didn't. At the time, I didn't have any experience or desire to do appliqué, or some of the other shapes and techniques involved. I was loving the traditionally pieced tiny blocks though, and really wanted to finish my quilt. (You can see my block progress on Instagram at #amjsampler.)

I also looked into doing the Farmer's Wife quilt pattern, which is also a book of patterns, and I liked a lot more of those, but it still wasn't just what I was looking for. Camille Roskelley made a version of that quilt that I really love! She did the traditional layout, with sashing and cornerstones. I opted to cram mine all together, I just thought they looked fun all touching, though I do normally love the look of sashing.

Image via @thimbleblossoms Instagram
Since I couldn't find a perfect pattern for what I wanted, I started trying to make any and all 6" blocks that I thought were pretty. I used Google and Pinterest to find free 6" blocks, but that only took me so far. After a while I decided to start figuring out how to diminish the measurements for bigger blocks I liked. It turned out to be a wonderful exercise in learning quilt math and resizing blocks. Let me show you what I mean.

First, pick the block you want to minimize. There are so many classic and traditional blocks out there, you don't need to worry too much about copying. Or, you can diminish the math from a pattern that you've already purchased. The first thing you have to decide is how many sections make up the grid of the block. Are the sections divided equally into a 2, 3, or 4 grid like this? Or even more?

Let's look at this one, which is actually one of the real Splendid Sampler blocks, the very first one I believe! You can see that the block is divided into 16 equal sized squares, in a 4 by 4 grid. Since it finishes (or we want it to) at 6", each little square needs to be 1.5" in the end. With seam allowances (1/4" on each edge) that's 2" for each of the 16 squares.

Half of them are easy- just plain old 2" white squares. The other 8 are HST, which you probably know how to make already. If you don't, I have a half square triangle tutorial here. You want those to also be 2" unfinished, so you'll start with 3" squares of each. You'd need a 3" square of each of the prints, and (4) white 3" squares to make the 8 HSTs needed.

Other blocks have a 3 by 3 grid, like the white star on aqua in the lower corner of this one, as well as the plus block with green right above it. In a 3 by 3 grid finishing at a 6" block, you want each component to be 2" finished, so 2.5" cut. So, the star would have (8) 2.5" aqua squares, (1) 2.5" white square, and (8) 1.5" white squares for corner triangles.

Once I got comfortable with the simpler/larger grids, I had the courage to try the tricker 5 by 5, 6 by 6, and even step outside the grid configuration. There was a lot of trial and error, cutting mistakes, and figuring things out by doing. At first it's confusing and then your brain trains itself to be able to form the correct math for the desired shapes. It really helped me so much!

There were lots of firsts on this quilt, including my first (and only so far) floating seam! I'm not going to explain that one here, you'll have to look it up, but you can see the block on the left here. Those other two blocks are big time favorites! The string block has Bonnie and Camille selvage quotes- "You do not find the happy life, you make it." Never truer words!

Here's the fabric pull I started with for this quilt. I mostly shopped from StarlitQuilts on Etsy. I added many more prints throughout the process but kept to the red, pink, green, aqua scheme. I was tempted to add navy a few times, but I'm glad I didn't in this case.

Lots of personal projects got put on the back burner the next year, including this one, but I finally made the final 5 blocks this summer and got it sent off to Amanda Rucker of Five on Sunny Quilting. She suggested this mini orange peel-like design and I think it was just perfect. Thanks Amanda! You can see more of her work at @fiveonsunny. Let's have a good look at this texture, and cutie Jake.

The background on this one is Kona Snow. The backing is from Bonnie and Camille's Vintage Picnic line several years back. The sashing is a printed solid all the way back from Miss Kate! The binding is from Merry Matryoshka by Riley Blake. Instagram friend @sewsabrina helped me find the last bit of it on this continent I'm pretty sure. She is the best! It was so perfect for this project.

Let me know if you have any questions about it. See you Monday for a First Snow update and prize!


  1. Excellent explanation on the quilt math... LOOKING at squares and seeing what made up a quilt block is what ultimately got me into quilting. Hmmmmmn 🤔 I think THIS is what they did....
    😁 thanks Alli, this is actually Jeanne from TravelingDyeCo 😉

  2. The quilt blocks are beautiful with nice colorful shapes.

  3. Mathematics was my favorite subject in school and college. I love numbers, but I don't like writing tasks like essays and theses. It’s good that I found letter recommendation services and started turning to writers for help. Thanks to them, I realized where I made mistakes. And I had time to work on my writing skills.