Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quilt Along | 5. Wonky Squares-in-Squares Block

My streak of good luck has continued! I've won two more giveaways. First, I won a set of handmade Amy Butler tags from Kelly at I Have A Notion. Then, I won some half-yard cuts of my current favorite fabric line, "Good Folks" by Anna Maria Horner, from new quilt-along-er Joan at Wishes, True and Kind. Thanks so much, Kelly & Joan!

Wow, at this rate I should really go out and buy a lottery ticket.

And now, back to business : ) Welcome back for the third block variation in our quilt along. This version is our wonky square-in-square block. We will largely be using the steps from our first block variation, combined with some of the techniques introduced in the second. We will be constructing this block in much the same way that we made our wonky log cabin block, except that we will (mostly!) use the same fabric for each round of 4 logs. Make sense?

Since you are all now seasoned pros at wonky block making, I'm going to move a bit more quickly. Besides, I can tell by our Flickr pool that many of you have already figured this block out on your own!

First, as always, begin with a center square for your block. I started with a nice, fat 3" square this time, for no reason other than that I wanted to feature that rose design.

As with the other blocks, I shaved a bit off of some of the sides to start giving the block some of its interesting angles. This time, I cut on 3 of the sides. As usual, you can skew anywhere from 0 to 4 of the sides ... and as severely or as subtly as you'd like. Try it out a few different ways and see what feels the best for you.

Let me stop for a sec and point out that nifty little ruler that you see in the picture above. I know I mentioned at the start of this quilt along that the only tool I'd recommend is the 12.5" ruler. Well, a strong second suggestion would be a little ruler like this one. It's much more convenient to make small trims with it than with my larger, bulkier rulers.

Next, plan your first round of logs. When I make these blocks, I usually like to make my first log from a different fabric than the next three. I don't know why, but I suspect it's because I saw Denyse Schmidt do something like that in her blocks. Of course, this is completely optional ... but consider adding a "random" log somewhere in your block, if not in your first round than maybe in a later round. Try it out in the same pattern as your other logs but in a different color, or from a different pattern in the same color. It'll be cool ... I promise.

Sew, press, and trim, as you might expect.

Here's the block with its first set of logs attached:

You might notice that I added thinner strips on the bottom and right side, and wider strips on the top and left. Alternating your strip sizes is a nice way to offset the block's center and keep that middle square moving throughout the block. This is a great time to point you to a wonderful post about some tricks to making effective wonky blocks ... check out Jenny's post on her blempgorf blog.

You know what comes next ...


I went pretty severe on this one ... by my standards, anyway.

Proceed to adding your second set of logs. You can see here that I followed Jenny's advice and used thinner strips on bottom and right side this time, to balance the block out and move the center back closer to ... well, to the center:

With another round of logs attached, it is again time to make some cuts and give your block some more interesting angles:

On to your third round of logs.

In this round, I decided to use a technique that I introduced in the quarter log cabin tutorial -- the pieced log:

And here's my block so far with everything sewn, pressed and trimmed:

Now is a good time to do a progress-check, using your 12.5" ruler as your guide:

So here's what I determined about my block at this point: it's looking far too rectangular, taller than it is wide. Keep an eye out for some common pitfalls, like blocks becoming rectangular, a corner becoming way too pointy, the center sqaure being pushed too far to one side, or the block taking on the shape of a parallelogram.

Not a problem, I'll just make some more trims:

Much better.

Time for your fourth round of logs. Here's another technique you may (or may not) want to try. Square-in-square blocks are built off the premise of using the same fabric for each round of logs. But who said you always have to follow that rule? Isn't the first rule of wonky block making that there are no rules?

For my block, I decided to use one fabric for the bottom (first) log, switch to a different pattern for the next two logs, and finish out the round with the same fabric as the first.

After sewing, pressing, and trimming, it's time for another check:

Errrrr ... and now you know why I recommend this step. First, it helped me to see that I should be good to go with just one more round of logs. (And, as I mentioned in my last post, you don't always have to use 3" strips for your outer borders. My ruler helped me to see that I can use 2" and 2.5" strips for my outer borders, and still have plenty of room to trim). Also, in this instance, it helped me see that my bottom left corner was sticking way too far out.

Time for some more trims. I trimmed up the bottom and left side to reduce the angle of that corner, and help to keep it closer to square:

Did you notice me practicing one of my earlier tips, too? Look at the left side of my block. See how the yellow log went from skinny at the top to wider at the bottom? I wanted my trim of the pink rose log to offset that angle and balance it out a bit, so I cut that strip to be wider at the top and skinny at the bottom.

How's it looking now?:

Another judgment call. Not enough wonk -- it's looking a little too square. A little more off of the top and right side. You can see the skinny/wide trick again on the right:

Add the first two strips of your final round of logs. You can see that I started improvising from my scrap pile, since I was running short of that outer border fabric. I pieced my first (bottom) log with some coordinating prints:

After another gut check, I added the third and fourth logs. Here's my block before my final trim:

To be frank, I wasn't too thrilled with how that bottom border turned out, so I leveraged my final cut to trim that log down:

And voila! There you have it, the wonky square-in-square block.

If I could change anything about this block, I think I would have added a solid or two. I think, moreso than the other three block variations, this block design really pops with the use of some solids -- I suspect it's because it makes it easier for your eye to discern the square-in-square shape. That seems to get lost a bit when using all prints.

Well, every block can't be a star ... some have to play supporting roles in your quilt, too!

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback. I can't wait to see some of your wonky square-in-square blocks pop up in the Flickr pool. One more block to go, and then it's up to you to figure out how you want to use them in your final quilt design.

Have fun!


  1. I have to say that out of all the blocks so far this one is my favorite, probably due to the intentional framing. Great colors too.

  2. Thanks John - I have been looking forward to this block and its been worth the wait. Your instructions are very clear. Can hardly wait to get started

  3. Ohh somehow I signed it as my husbands user in the previous post and cant seem to get out just now - its me karensc0sm0s from your ORBCQA

  4. I'm loving your tutorials...thanks for doing them! I've been making a wonky log cabin quilt, just figuring it out as I go along, but it's nice to read your tips...I'm definitely getting some new inspiration.

  5. Thank you so much, I'm fairly new to the quilting world, as well as the blogging world - and u are out of this world. Love the site, joined the quilt along,can't wait to get started. Thanks for extremely helpful, and detailed instructions. Very helpful to a newbie.

  6. John this block looks like a star to me, great job. Thanks for the instruction.

  7. John,
    came across your blog and was interested in your fine work. It is great to have the company of anotehr quilt dad. Kepp up the creativity.

  8. What a great tute.. I am hereby a new follower of yours!!!

  9. Oh, great tute, John! Thanks so much, this will come in handy when I get home and start making more blocks. Squares-in-squares- I was doing them and didn't even know it, what a goof I am!

    I appreciate all the time you're taking for this!

  10. ohh.. i like this one.. make my wips go away so i can work on it!

  11. I can't believe how lucky you are. All that hard work for this quilt along must be paying off. I have finished 6 regular wonky squares and was glad to read the extra blogged advice you referenced. Thanks!

  12. Great blocks. I can not remember where I read that you wanted a 15.5 inch square ruler. I don't know where to tell you to buy one, but Creative Grids makes one. Hope you can find one.

  13. LOL -- all this time I was thinking you meant the traditional square in a square block (you know, a small square on point inside a square inside a square on point, etc.). I was wondering how THAT would look wonky. Thank you so much for all your hard work with the directions. I set up a laptop in my quilting studio (aka, the dining room) where I could keep referencing it while making the first two wonky log cabin blocks. Since then, I've been flying solo. Woo Hoo!

  14. Thank you so much for taking the time to demonstrate this technique! It is really inspiring! I love your fabric choices!

  15. I agree with having a few solids in there to spice things up, but I love the freedom that wonky style blocks give me. Just slap some fabric down and square it up later.

  16. Thank you so much! I am sorta behind in my squares but now I NEED to make some of these! It's going to be fun but I still need to figure out a layout for them!


  17. Inspirational! I am planning on making a quilt for my son, so it' a lot of fun coming to your blog (and other quilter's blogs too) for inspiration... Thanks for great tutorials!

  18. That was fun scrolling through and watching your wonky block grow up into a beautiful quilt block!

  19. Good job John. I love the whimsical aspect of that block. Colors are prefect.

  20. Just wanted to let you know I've linked to your tutorials from my blog today. Thanks again for doing them!

  21. i realize that i'm afraid of the wonk. i'm too much of a neat freak. i love this block, actually. i think you are too hard on yourself.

  22. Hi John, I've been reading your past tutorials and they really caught my interest. So I decided to give it a try. And today I made my first 2 wonky quilt blocks, thanks to you! If you like to see them:



    Thanks for the tutorials!

    Best regards from a fellow male quilter from the Netherlands

  23. John, just browsing and found your blog. Just wanted to say it's great and I plan to stop by again when I have more time to check out the instructions.

  24. hello. you know how it goes. you are following great quilters blogs and you see something interesting, click it...and voila! you find a new great teacher to add to your own blog. i am so happy to have found your blog. your tutorial is very clear. as a new quilter i have gone stark raving mad and have far too many projects to join in this time but i will be checking back. thanks for your inspiration!

  25. Okay, you've got me. After reading all these posts I just had to start cutting out strips for my own wonky log cabin blogs. Your blog is always so inspiring!

  26. So, have you won the lottery yet? I guess I need to start throwing my name into some hats!

  27. Gettin' to work on this one tomorrow. All of your new pics of blocks are great, bTW!

  28. C & T Publishing is offering The Quilt Show Giveaway. Check out further information by visiting our URL.


  29. This cracks me up! I can make blocks look like this without trying! lol Thank you for letting me know that my poor piecing is now acceptable!

  30. Hi John! I'm way behind on my log cabins! But I realized today as I was making mine that I do it a bit differently. I start with my center square, but I don't cut it wonky-I sew wonky and then trim the seam allowance. I just sew wonky and trim after on each strip. I also work on two blocks at a time, chain stitching and then cutting the back one off the thread and rotating it to the front. I can leave my strips long, just turning the first one of the way to stitch the second one.

    Could you understand any of that??? It's just a little more improv, and a bit faster too- I don't rotary cut the seam allowance, just use scissors that I keep at the machine, finger pressing before stitching.

    (It makes sense in my head, but don't know if I explained it at all!!)

  31. This tutorial will come in very handy as I have to make a wonky square in square block for a Bee I'm in.

    I must get one of those 12.5" cutting squares too - that would come in very handy!

  32. These blocks are really interesting! I think I might try this. Thanks for your posts!

  33. I just love your wonky blocks, John and I really appreciate you taking all the time to show us how to do this! I know how time consuming a tute can be, so THANK YOU very large!

  34. Thank you SO MUCH John, for this absolutely perfect tutorial!!! I just made my very first wonky log cabin for our quilt along at http://adozenquilters.blogspot.com and it turned out Beautifully!!! I am definitely going to make more. :)

  35. I posted on Twitter that I wanted to learn how to do wonky blocks and THREE different people pointed me to this post. It's outstanding! Can't wait to share my results.

  36. Looks like fun! Will try it. Do blocks have to be squared up at the end, for sewing into a quilt?

  37. wow these are great, these would be great for a arts and crafts based fundraising event. I will have to have a go at making these over the weekend and see how many I can make in an hour.

  38. Thank you, love it, totally inspired now with what to do with all my years of leftover various-width strips!