The Lily Pad: The Journal of White Lotus Quilting


More Atomic Quilting: the nine-patch

Posted in Atomic quilting,Block of the Month (BOM),Quilting tips and techniques by whitelotusquilting on October 13, 2010
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No discussion of the fundamental units of quilting would be complete without the mighty nine-patch.  In fact when my daughter and I made our first quilt together, we sought advice about patterns and were led to the nine-patch, perfect in its simplicity and beauty.  It’s where we began our quilting journey.

Nine-patch construction

Of course the nine-patch atom is a little more complicated than the four-patches in the foreground of this picture, in that the nine-patch is a three-by-three grid construction compared to a two-by-two.  It is a useful quilting unit: it can easily be scaled up and down, and can be substituted for plain squares, just like the four-patch, and will similarly make chains if placed in alternating locations.  And likewise there are related ways to build a nine-patch.

(As an aside, the kind of nine-patches we are talking about here vary in specific ways in light and dark, just as the four-patchies do, and come in two distinct varieties, one with light corners and center, and one with dark corners and centers, as in the blue examples above)

You could cut individual squares and sew them together, but because I’m an impatient and not terribly accurate sewer, I prefer to start with strips that I cross-cut and then sew back together.  This gives me both more speed and accuracy — more efficient overall.  But of course your yardage may vary :).

You’ll need two strip sets — one with dark, light, dark and the other with light, dark light, as in the photo below.  The blues are for the nine-patches, the yellow and blue strip above is for four-patches.

Making of 9-patches

Press the seams toward the dark (more on this in a later post) for both sets and then cross-cut in the same strip width that you began with.  Assemble in  alternating sets for lights and darks to complete nine-patches of both varieties and then finish by pressing in whichever direction helps the block lay the flattest.

Making of 9-patches

Here’s another trick I learned from Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville.com: you can also make a nine-patch from four-patch halves and pieces.  Using the yellow and blue strip set, I cross-cut into four-patch halves and then arranged them into most of a nine-patch — you just need a plain square to complete it.  So depending on which strips you have available, and what sizes, and how many sets you want to sew together — and how many nine-patches you need to make — now you have a few choices of how to approach it.

Nine-patch construction

The top right nine-patch was made with four-patch units and a plain yellow square; I hope you can see the spaces between the pieces.

There’s a nine-patch block in the first of the Behemoth blocks, so by now you should be able to make the plain strip, the checkerboard strip, the Thrifty block, and the nine-patch.  Steaming right ahead there!

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Vintage… sort of

Posted in Atomic quilting,Quilts,vintage by whitelotusquilting on March 6, 2009
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Here’s another quilt story.  This one is about a vintage quilt top that my cousin Kris and I found in an antique store in Silverdale, Washington.  She admired this pretty little red and white top, which was in very good shape, and for a good price, too.  We didn’t buy it that day, but after she went home to the East Coast, I went back to the store and picked it up, intending it to be a birthday present in November 2008 — as a finished quilt for her newly redecorated home. Well it turned into a late Christmas present for 2008.  Not exactly on time but that hardly matters.  Any finished quilt is a good quilt!  (I feel that way about stories and writing too).

My cousin loves vintage textiles of all kinds but also favors the bright bold contemporary prints that I love as well.  So I turned her vintage beauty into two quilts.  One side has the vintage top; the other, 10 inch squares of everything red, white and black I could find in my studio.  Well, there were a few new fabrics in there as well. 🙂  If she gets tired of one side, she can flip it over and use the second side.

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Then it got a low-loft cotton batting, and bowing to tradition, an all-over feather pattern with a sort of modern meander.  The thread is a pale pink; something that wouldn’t show up as too much contrast on the red, and not pop out on the white, either.  And of course, I had to add a black and white polka dot binding.  Just because. Kris has it on her purple velvet couch and promises to send a picture.  I can’t wait to see it in its home environment!

Kris red and white vintage quilt

Kris' red and white vintage quilt

If you look at the top closely you’ll see that some of the nine-patches have 5 red squares, and some have 4, though there doesn’t appear to be any particular pattern to it.  One theory is that the quiltmaker ran out of red fabric before she finished.  That makes me even happier to think that the quilt wound up being finished, and being used and cherished in a loving home.  A dream come true for any quiltmaker.

close-up of feather quilting

close-up of feather quilting

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

So there’s lots of ways to make a quilt, or even to finish one.  You can stay within certain fabric categories (Civil War repros, 1930’s repros, Asian, batiks, contemporary, blenders, kids’ prints, etc.) or whirl them all together if that pleases you.  Personally I like the term ‘riotously scrappy’ from Bonnie Hunter; why use 3 fabrics when you can use 30?  Or 300?

That said, there is a certain appeal to this sort of vintage top, worked in only two colors.  Simple and plain as they come.  An austere beauty in its simplicity.  I might never make this kind of quilt top, but I can certainly appreciate it.  If nothing else for its ability to be a backdrop for bolder fabrics!