This morning my helper cat, Beau, and I were enjoying a little coffee break before I started back on my Crossroads project. I received note from Carly asking about how my herringbone quilt “Memories in Black and White” was constructed.
Sounds like a great thing to do! Tutorial it is!
Like Carly, I was dissatisfied with quilts that I saw online that were made using an obvious “block” construction method or the zig-zag look of HST’s laid out in a chevron arrangement.
I decided try using foundation piecing and learned an awful lot while ‘rasslin that puppy.
So, here for the tutorial, I’ll give you my tips for putting together a herringbone pattern that looks continuous and uses A LOT of scrap strips. I will be demonstrating by using some of my scraps from my “Crossroads” project and some dissolving “wash away” foundation paper that I had in my stash of supplies.
A couple of caveats:
- This quilt is for experienced/intermediate quilters. It involves a lot of bias seams that can go wonky in the blink of an eye (and not in a good way.)
- You have options on what to use for the foundation:
- Non-removable: fabric that becomes another layer in the quilt is good, but can add weight to the quilt. Even the lightest weight cotton can add some heft that can be little weird.
- Removable option 1: tear-away foundation is made of a non-woven product are easy to write on and use, but is a mess to remove. Removing the foundation leaves lots of little bitty pieces of paper. In some cases I was picking it out with tweezers. No fun.
- Removable option 2: wash-away foundation is kind of expensive, but I happen to have some on hand so that’s what I’ll use for this demo. Overall, I have pretty mixed opinions with dissolving foundations completely dissolving, especially on applique projects. There always seem to be a cloudy film around the stitches. We’ll see how it works on the back side as a piecing foundation.
OK, let’s go!The pattern is pieced in sections, the sections combined to make long columns, then the columns sewn together to make the top. For this tutorial, I’m going to use one half of each sheet of foundation paper for each section of herringbone piecing.
Start by marking a couple of guidelines at a 45 degree angle on each foundation. Mark one side at one angle and the other side at the other angle.Use a marking tool that will not bleed – I use either a pencil or a permanent pen. Mark 45 degree guidelines on each piece of foundation to keep the strips going at the proper angles.
To start piecing each section, lay one strip of fabric up next to the guideline. (My strips are 1 1/2″ wide mostly because that’s what size most of my scraps are.) Pin and baste it to the paper using a scant 1/4″ so it is hidden when the next strip is added. Don’t eliminate this step.Then, take the next strip in the sequence, put it face down on top the basted strip. Offset it at the ends to making sure that it extended well beyond the edges of the foundation after it was sewn and flipped over. Pin well and stitch a 1/4″ seam along the long edge, then flip the second strip either up or down and press well. Keep adding strips, pin well, then flip and press.
Try to keep the edges of the strip parallel to your guidelines. This can be a little tricky because the fabric will want to slide around on the paper. Press well (see, I even scorched the paper a bit) and pin each strip well each time.
If you even want to have a shred of hope that the strips will match up from column to column, now is the time to take the non-second it takes to pin the strips to the strip below it as well as the paper to keep things from sliding around. If you’re using uneven widths of strips, never mind.
(If you want another look at the “stitch and flip” technique, take a look at my tutorial for my string quilt here.)
Moving up and down from that first piece, fill up the piece of foundation with strips.It’s really important to keep offsetting the ends of the fabric to accommodate the angle when you trim down the section.
To emphasize what this offsetting looks like, here is a close up of how each strip is started – you can see how you start off the edge, then pick up the strip that is set on top.Press your section well on the front. I give it a quick spritz with a starch product before moving on. Flip it over to the back and trim the edges straight – parallel to the edge of the foundation. Do not trim the top and bottom of the section. You will have a parallelogram. (Oooh! High school sophomore geometry comes in handy again!)Next, remove the little extensions of foundation that are peeking out from behind the ends of each section – not all of it – just the top and bottom triangles that you can see.
Join the sections into columns by placing the next section at a right angle, and stitch – the same way you make bias binding. See the little “ears” on each end of the seam? You need those so the column is straight.(I am leaving the foundation in place this time to help minimize the stretch when joining setions.)
For the black and white herringbone quilt, I alternated mostly-black strips with mostly-white strips to get the zigs and zags to line up. I had to unpick several strips because either I didn’t correctly press the strip flat or my joining seams were not quite perfectly 1/4″. This is where it counts to pin well and make sure you’re staying parallel to the marked guidelines on the foundation.
The bias edges of the columns mean that there is stretch – LOTS – so the foundation is helpful in keeping the stretchiness under control. If you stretch it too much to align one column to the next, trust me, you’ll end up with a lumpy seam.
After your columns are joined BUT NOT UNTIL YOU’RE ALMOST READY TO QUILT, remove the foundation. I will tear out as much of this dissolving foundation as I can , then let the remainder dissolve when I wash the quilt AFTER it’s quilted. I do not recommend washing the quilt top without it being quilted.
I made little inset triangles for the very top and very bottom of each column – but this is enough on the tutorial for now. You can piece the inset triangles using bits of your foundation, or just use a chunk of fabric. (Herringbone Tutorial Part 2
will be up soon is up!)
Have a lot of fun and good luck! It’s a challenging process, but the look is well worth it. (Isn’t the challenge why we do it anyway?) I’d love to see a photo of your work when you get done!
All the best – Chris