Published on Tuesday March 9th, 2010

I’ve spent the past five days under the thumb of an ugly cold, not much good for anything but lolling on the couch with my box of Kleenex and countless mugs of tea. I’ve read about 140 pages of Wuthering Heights, watched the Pride and Prejudice miniseries for the umpteenth time, and I’ve finished sewing the binding for the baby quilt I started last summer. See?


This is the slapdash log cabin I named Satsuki (for the girl in “My Neighbor Totoro”). I finished the top months ago, then realized that the eight-point stars I wanted to machine quilt over each block were going to cause a problem.


If you don’t quilt from the center of the whole quilt, you tend to get bunchiness somewhere. For me, that was going to be in the sashing between blocks. I was too wedded to my eight-point stars to change my mind, and not feeling fastidious enough to make the quilting process much more complex by sewing the parts of the six stars on the interior of the quilt first. I wanted to just sew one whole star at a time, block by block, so that’s what I did. Like the rest of the quilt, the stars are intentionally free form. I made no attempt to align the points from block to block, and I let them be lopsided because the bright center squares aren’t really in the center of each block.


Sure enough, the bunchy sashing happened exactly as predicted. So I created a fix and pretended it was a design element.


Yep, I used red embroidery thread to whipstitch up the center of the sashing, gathering and securing the excess fabric in a pleat.

If you want to make a quilt like this yourself, you’ll need a yard of fabric for the back (I had enough excess in my yard to also make the small squares that link the sashing strips from the backing fabric), a yard of flannel for the batting, five fat quarters in neutral fabrics (mine looked very quiet in their bundle but livened up considerably once I was sewing them) for the log cabin blocks and the outer border (this was exactly enough; I had hardly any fabric left over), about a third of a yard of neutral sashing fabric, and small amounts of leftover brights for the block centers and binding. Start with a 2″ square of your bright fabric, then start snipping scraps of the neutrals at random to fit around it. I cut every piece with scissors as I was ready to attach it, and I let the strips be variable widths so the whole thing would be rustic and cattywampus. Don’t measure anything, but keep working around and around until it looks like you’ve got a square about a foot wide. When you’ve made six blocks, square them all up to 12″. Cut seventeen 2″ x 12″ strips for the sashing and twelve 2″ squares for the small squares linking the sashing strips. Assemble them around the six blocks and sew all together. Then cut the remaining neutral fabrics into 4″ strips of variable lengths and piece them together in lengths sufficient to log cabin them around the quilt to form the outer border. Make the quilt sandwich with the backing and the flannel, then draw eight-point stars (as you’d see in a compass rose) radiating from the center of each block to its edge and corners (don’t quilt into the sashing). Machine quilt around the center square and along the lines for the star you’ve drawn. You’ll need two hanks of embroidery thread to whipstitch the pleats; just pinch up the center of the loose fabric in the sashing and whipstitch from the center of one of the small sashing-linking squares (these must have a name, right?) to the next. Let the center of that little square stay loose and poofy. Repeat in all seventeen of the sashing strips. Cut 2″ strips of variable lengths from your scraps of brights for the binding and attach it in the usual way. (I like the directions in Bend-the-Rules Sewing for the Lap Quilt for bindings.) Et voila! A cute baby or lap quilt that makes you feel terribly creative and folk artsy and doesn’t task your patience for fussiness or accuracy. It’s liberating, I promise you.