Tutorial: Herringbone Quilt

Posted in: Block Party, Tutorials — By on August 7, 2012 7:15 AM

It’s been a while since the last tutorial in our “Block Party” tutorial series, but I think this one is worth the wait. Herringbone is all the rage these days, and with this tutorial you’ll be able to make a herringbone-patterned quilt!

This quilt pattern is a variation on the string-pieced quilt, it just incorporates angles into the design.  It’s a great way to use those scraps or fat quarters in your fabric stash.

There are two variations of this quilt that you can choose from:

An asymmetrical herringbone pattern:

OR, a symmetrical herringbone pattern:

The overall process for both is pretty much the same. In this tutorial I am making an asymmetrical pattern, but I will describe how to switch it up to make the symmetrical version at the end.

This tutorial will show you how to make a block that is 16.5″ square.  You can make your quilt larger or smaller by changing the widths or lengths of your columns accordingly. For this tutorial, all seams are 1/4″, which is standard for quilting.

A note before cutting your fabrics: If you look at a herringbone pattern, you’ll see that it’s made up of repeated V-shapes. The quilt requires cutting pieces to form either side of each “\/”, so that half of your pieces are angled one way (\), and half are angled the other (/). When you’ve chosen your fabrics, make sure that you split it up so you have roughly the same amount for either side of the “\/”.

If you look at the diagram below, you can see that the pattern is made up of 4 columns of fabric strips sewn together. The fabric strips angle down in opposite directions, and the pattern is made by alternating the columns. To make the quilt block, first we will sew each column, then we will sew the columns together.

Making the columns: 

First, determine how wide you want your columns to be. I wanted my finished quilt block to have 4 columns and be 16.5″ wide, which meant that each column had to be 4.5″ wide (accounting for a 1/4″ seam allowance when sewing the columns together).

To make a column that is 4.5″ wide, I needed to use fabric strips that were also 4.5″ across when cut on an angle. Remember I mentioned earlier that we wanted to use the same amount of fabric for either side of the “\/”? That means that when cutting my strips, I needed to start with 2 pieces of the same fabric that were both 4.5″ wide.

Now, you want to cut these pieces of fabric in opposite angles. For my quilt block, I used a 30° angle, but you may choose to use 45° or whatever you like.

  1. Cut the bottom edge of one piece of fabric on a 30° angle. (I used the 30° line on my cutting mat as a guide.)
  2. Rotate it so the top is now at the bottom, and cut that bottom edge on a 30° angle, too.
  3. Take your second piece of fabric and flip it over, so the right side is facing down. Cut the bottom edge on the same 30° angle.
  4. Rotate it so that the top is now at the bottom, and cut that bottom edge on a 30° angle, too.

Voila! The two pieces of fabric are angled in opposite directions!

Now you can use the top and bottom edges of the fabric pieces as a guide to cut this fabric into strips. For the asymmetrical quilt block, you can be random with the widths.

It’s hard to say exactly how many fabric strips you’ll need to cut because this will depend on how wide the strips are. For my quilt block, I knew that the finished column would be 16.5″ long, and so I kept a running total of wide the strips I cut were as well as roughly how many extras I’d need because of the seam allowances. You can always cut more if you need more, so no need to sweat about this.

Once you’ve cut strips like this with each of your fabrics, make sure they are separated so that you can see which ones go together:

Now you want to stitch your columns together. Right sides together, line up the top of one strip with the bottom of another, leaving 1/4″ hanging on either side. That way, when you open them up, the sides will line up straight… more or less :)

Repeat this until the columns are your desired length, and press the seams open so everything falls nice and flat. Sew as many columns as you need for your desired size.

Now stitch’em together. This will be a bit finicky because of the number of pieces, but hang in there!

Press your seams open again, use your rotary cutter to square up the top and bottom, and what do you know — you’ve got a herringbone quilt block!

To make the symmetrical version of this block, you would need to cut strips that are equal widths. The only other difference with the symmetrical version is that you’ll need to make sure that everything lines up when stitching the columns together.

I made my 16.5″ square into a cushion as a housewarming gift for my friend Lee, but I’d love to try making a full quilt using this pattern. I’d definitely use wider columns and strips though, otherwise I’d probably go crazy cutting out all those little pieces!

I hope you find this tutorial handy. Post any questions you have in the comments and I’ll do my best to clarify anything that may be confusing!

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  1. Sarita says:

    These are the most simple and easily understandable instructions I have found for his quilt. Thank you for posting!

  2. Jennifer says:

    These are the best instructions for a quilt block. Thank you for taking the time to post this!

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