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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Strata Squared

Hey there, friends!  As promised, I'm delighted to share my latest scrap quilt finish with you.  Since this quilt took awhile to put together and the process spanned several blog posts, I am including everything in here for those who want to give it a try.  But first, the big reveal!  Here she is, in all her 84" glory.

I'm calling this one Strata Squared.  The stacked random layers of scraps create such a neat effect, and I feel like that name captures the pattern perfectly.  If you're a scrap quilt lover and want to make your own Strata Squared quilt, this post is for you!   The steps are very straightforward, but I'll address some of the specific difficulties that come along with sewing this number of narrow strips together.  So, let's jump right in!

First, you'll want to cut your scraps to 1.5"wide, leaving them at random lengths.  I didn't cut any length off of my scraps at all.  They were left at whatever length they happened to be, ranging from 2" all the way to a full selvage-to-selvage strip!  These strips finish at just one inch wide, and it's the narrow width that gives this quilt such a neat look.

A word about sorting-  I always store my scraps by color (never by size), using one glass jar for each color of the rainbow, plus gray/black, and a multi-color jar.  The two baskets are for my white scraps and Christmas scraps.

You'll notice that my jars are not huge.  They only measure about 6" in diameter by about 12" tall, but they hold more than you might think.  I purposely don't have large scrap jars.  I know that if my jars get full, I can get two or three lap size quilts out of them, or about one queen size quilt.  That's about the amount of scraps I can process at one time without getting overwhelmed, so I choose to keep them manageable and NOT get bigger containers.  And you'll notice that after this quilt, they're ALL empty (with the exception of one scrap of backing fabric from this quilt)!

If you have more scraps than I do (and I know many of you do), don't despair!  Just grab a couple of handfuls of scraps from each color for this quilt and leave the rest for another project.

Next, grab and sew!  Randomly grab scrap strips and sew them end to end, creating one loooooonnnnggg strip.  Random is the name of the game here.  Mix in your white strips randomly as well.  You'll see that when you start to actually sew the quilt top together, you won't have any control over what fabrics touch each other, so just let that go right now.

Since you won't have any idea how long your strip is, you also won't know exactly how large your quilt will be.  I guessed that mine would be somewhere between a twin and queen size, but only because I know how much my scrap jars hold from past experience.

Okay, so because I didn't originally plan to write a tutorial for this quilt, this is the part that I didn't take photos of, so you'll just have to bear with me.  Choose a scrap piece to be your center. I chose a white scrap measuring about 1.5" x 2".  If you want a more rectangular quilt, you can choose a longer strip for the center.

Start sewing around the center scrap like a log cabin block.  When you get to the end of one side, cut your long scrap strip in line with the side (I just use my scissors), turn the piece and continue sewing down the next side.  Keep sewing around and around the center piece and watch your quilt top grow!  I took a few photos while sewing mine together.  Here it is at 48 inches-

and 54 inches-

and 60 inches-

and 72 inches-

Keep sewing your long strip to each side around the center until you get to the end.  Once you get toward the end of your scrap strip, you may find that you don't have enough length to make it all the way down the next side, and that's the point where you'll want to stop.  I had about six feet of my strip left over, and after all of this repetitive sewing, I felt just fine tossing that last little bit in the trash (but you can keep it if you want to).

As your quilt top gets bigger, it can become more tedious to sew.  Keep the weight of the quilt top on your sewing table so it doesn't pull, which will help keep your sewing straight, and try not to stretch your strip while you sew.  Both of these things will make your life much easier later on.

And finally, my quilt top finished at 84 inches-

Notice in the photos that I did NOT press my quilt top during the process.  When adding narrow strips like this, pressing over and over can easily distort the strips, making them wavy (think about adding borders to a quilt), and little bits of distortion can really add up to make bigger problems later.  I know this seems counterintuitive because as quilters we usually press often, but trust me on this.  Leave the pressing to the end.

Once your top is finished, then (and only then) should you press it.  When pressing, use a very hot, dry iron with plenty of starch.  Try not to pull your quilt top with the iron, and always iron with the direction of the strips.  This means that instead of pressing the quilt from top to bottom as I usually do, I pressed around and around the quilt to keep the strips as straight as possible.

Basting was probably the biggest challenge of this quilt.  Despite my very best sewing and pressing, and despite the fact that the strips all looked nice and straight after pressing, there was still some fullness in the quilt top.  These narrow strips naturally want to snap back toward the center of the quilt (especially at the corners).

Ordinarily when basting, I smooth out the entire quilt top and make it lay perfectly flat before placing the first basting pin.  No matter how much I tried though, each time I tried to smooth out one side, the  strips on the adjoining side would start pulling toward the center (those corners again!).

After about an hour of smoothing the quilt and not really getting anywhere, I was on the verge of tears and realized I had to come up with a new plan.  Instead of smoothing the entire quilt at once and then pinning the whole thing, I just started pinning from the center outward, working just one side at a time and smoothing the quilt as I went along.

The thing about narrow strips is they're a bit stretchy.  That could be seen as a bad thing, but the stretchiness can also be used to your advantage. Once you place a few pins, you can smooth and tug (very gently) to make sure the strips are as straight and taut as possible, and the pins will keep the quilt from snapping back toward the center.

Just work in small sections, don't get discouraged, and pin your way around the entire quilt until you have it basted.  Then it's time to quilt!

My original plan for this quilt was a very dense, giant spiral to echo the design, but after basting and realizing how much the strips want to pull back toward the center, I realized that there were too many little places where fullness in the quilt top might lead to a fold while quilting.  Because you can't change direction on a whim if your quilt needs it, straight line designs (and straight-ish designs like a spiral) are less forgiving of fullness in your quilt top.  With stippling, if you encounter a place in your top that has a tiny bit of fullness and see that your quilt might want to fold over, you can just change direction to avoid those puckers.

I quilted Strata Squared with a very dense stipple.  This 84" quilt used 17 bobbins of my favorite 50 wt. Aurifil thread!  I chose to quilt with Dove gray, because amazingly, it blends into every color just beautifully.  All you see is the lovely crinkly texture.

For the backing, I used Moda Grunge Basics in Silver, along with this fun print from the Endless Summer collection for Anna Maria Horner's Conservatory.  This print picks up plenty of the colors from the front and really pops against the gray.

I love how the sunshine filters through, showing a hint of the colors from the back!  I went with a crisp Kona black binding to finish it off.

This quilt was a labor of love from start to finish.  Though the steps are simple, there were a few hiccups that I had to work through to get it done.  And in closing, let me just say that perfection in quilting is wildly overrated.  Is every strip in my quilt perfectly straight?  No, and that's okay.  Am I worried about the fact that there are little places where I had to "quilt around" some fullness?  No, and that's okay.  This quilt is full of cherished scraps, and I'm okay with letting it be what it is.  What's more, I really LOVE it for what it is.  It's going to live on my couch and get lots of snuggles for many, many years.

Hopefully, sharing my process will help you avoid these pitfalls and let go of your own worries in your own Strata Squared quilt! So, dive right into your own scrap bins, and give it a try!


  1. It's stunning! Would love to see it on a bed.

  2. gonna make me one!!! love the looks of this. maybe it will help get my quilting mojo back.

  3. It is just awesome. It mush be quite heavy with all those seams. 17 bobbins???
    I want to make a giant log cabin like this with mainly white and off-white strips with just a few pops of bright thrown in. I've collecting scraps but not started cutting yet :-)

  4. Thanks for sharing about your process; photos or not that's a lot of really helpful information. I think the stipple quilting was a really smart choice for this and I'm so glad that this is going to be couch snuggle quilt in your home!

  5. What a great quilt! So beautiful! And a great use for scrap strips. Thanks for sharing your process, your problems and your solutions!

  6. That's so amazing, Kelly! Such a great idea for just getting all those scraps sewn up. Thanks for all the tips and info about how you made it!

  7. Awesome in its simplicity yet seems very work intensive. Love all the colors. Beautiful.

  8. It looks amazing, Kelly! That tiny stippling is the perfect touch and the black binding finished it off just right :)

  9. What FUN, Kelly!! Thanks for sharing your super scrappy process with us. I'd love nothing more than to jump right into making one of my own!

  10. I wondered about the fullness when I first saw the finish. Thanks for sharing how you handled it, especially about not ironing until the end. I can see how that would be a problem also. You did a great job and it looks straight to me.

  11. This is gorgeous! I am bookmarking and especially will keep in mind the tip to NOT press until the end (that is so hard for us compulsive pressers). A couch quilt is the perfect job for a project like this, you can have your whole life in it!

  12. That is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  13. It's beautiful! Thank you for all the tips. I am very tempted to try one myself!

  14. Thanks for sharing the good, bad and ugly process of sewing so many strips together and for all the tips to make it easier for anyone. This is an amazing quilt. It's more of a memory quilt!!

  15. I LOVE this quilt! You've inspired me to give it a try. I think I'll start with a small baby quilt and then who knows! Thanks so much!

  16. I love this and may have to empty at least some of my scraps. I made a similar quilt with alternating 2.5 and 1.5 inch strips based on this post/instructions
    I pressed and squared up every other row and found at the end, my quilt had very little fullness in the center

  17. I love this quilt! And I hope to make this someday soon!! Thanks for sharing this quilt and all your tips!!!

  18. Gorgeous and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. This quilt is definitely on my "to do" list.

  19. This is coming at a perfect time! I just finished making pineapple quilt block with
    1-1/2" strips i've been saving for years!!! I have over 100 and my strip box is still overflowing... does this stuff "re-produce"?? This is next on the list...

  20. This just might be my favorite scrappy quilt ever. Serious quilty goodness Kelly. Now I'm thinking about cutting narrow strips from my stash/scraps . . . as if I don't have enough WIPs already.

  21. Love the scrap quilt where you can sit and look at the pieces and name them "This is from the baby's quilt and this is from...." And the pressing tip - perfect. Maybe I'll start one and just let it grow as I finish each quilt. I'll leave it for someone to finish the way my mother gifted me some of her unfinished pieces! Thanks all around.

  22. Thanks for sharing. I think it would be interesting to make but not sure my brain can handle 1.5-inch strips. LOL

  23. Kelly, thank you for sharing this wonderful scrappy quilt tutorial and pictures. Wow, it's amazing......and I won't have to cut strips to make this one for myself. I just happen to be straightening up my sewing room for the umpteenth time, and I came upon several shoe boxes full of random 1.5" strips!!!! Yeah, I silly of me! But now I'm ready. Happy quilting.

  24. Wow, amazing! I love this and I'm inspired to make one similar. Yay you for creating it, and thanks for sharing the tutorial.

  25. Love the whole thing. Thank you for your tutorial and inspiration, gotta try this

  26. Very nice thank you for the tutorial : )

  27. A great scrapbuster, thanks for the instructions, it's on my list to do this summer!!!!

  28. Great Scrappy quilt finish! Looks like a lot of fun to make. I might have to make one!!!! Thanks for the explanation! take care!

  29. Love the quilt and tutorial! What did you use, if anything, as batting? It looks as though you may have no batting. ❤️

    1. Thank you so much!! Yes, there is definitely batting in this quilt. I use Warm and White. I can definitely understand why you might have though that though. It looks like that because the sun is shining through it so brightly.

      :) Kelly

  30. I really like the use of your scraps with this quilt. I definitely am going to make one of these quilts. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Love it. Just what I need to help me destash this room. Best part, I can stop whenever I feel its big enough. Since I make lots of charity quilts this is a "perfect" pattern.
    Thanks for freeing my matchy matchy spirit. Pegeth

  32. I love this quilt and am going to print this out and make one! Thanks for all of the hints. I am a compulsive presser so this is going to be tough for me. I will have to hide my iron while working on this one!

  33. What a beautiful quilt! Thank you for sharing this tutorial! I can't wait to get started on mine!


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