Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boston Commons Quilt

I've wanted to make the Boston Commons quilt from the most recent Kaffe Fassett quilt book for a couple of years now. The smallness of my new sewing room added some weight to the importance of the project, and it was finished yesterday. I used some, not all of my fabric from the excellent Fassett line from a couple of years ago, several batiks and a few others, most notably some fabric from dresses I made my girls when they were little.

I strip pieced this thing, which was a formidable technical feat in itself. I thought about writing up detailed directions with illustrations, but the problem is that strip piecing something of this size is extremely unforgiving. Every cross strip has to be cut just right - no mistakes - and all the seams have to be exactly 1/4, otherwise you get a parallelogram instead of a rectangle. However the brave soul who feels capable of strip piecing something like this (as opposed to cutting out 2048 squares) can probably understand the following directions.

We are going to make diagonal rows, smallest ones first and large ones that include the two center squares last, adding shorter and shorter sets of strips to a number of panels of long strips. We will cut off four crosswise strips from these expanding panels at each step.

First cut 90 half-square triangles, for the edges, and 4 quarter-square triangles for the corners. I used a template for finished short edge of 2.5", with 1/4" seam allowance on the short edges and 3/8" seam allowance on the diagonal edges, because I finish my quilts with 3/8" binding.

Now cut enough 3" strips for the outer ring (the plainish blue in my version). Don't count on your yardage being 42" wide. Some will be, but other fabric will be less than 42 inches, and you will only get 13 squares from each strip (the exception is batiks - they are almost always 44 inches long). This particular quilt had 22 rings (the inner "ring" has only two squares). The outer ring had 90 squares, so I needed 7 3" strips, the full width of the fabric (7 x 13 = 91). Cut four 3" squares from one of the strips. Sew four triangles to these squares, two with the diagonal facing up and two with the diagonal facing down. Press seams towards triangles. Set aside the two with the diagonals facing down. Sew two triangles to the other two squares to make trapezoids - not parallelograms! These are the shortest diagonal rows. Sew a quarter square triangle to each row and press seams towards the quarter square triangles.

Now the next step will be repeated for each ring.

Cut enough strips for the next ring (For the second ring, you will need 86 squares, so you'll still need 7 strips). Sew all of these strips to the strips of the previous ring. Press so that the seam goes in the opposite direction from the previous seam. That is, every other strip will be pressed flat, and the other strips will have the edges pressed in (the outermost squares will be pressed flat). Cut four crosswise 3" strips from one of the panels. Sew four triangles to the outermost square of these strips, two with diagonal facing up and two with diagonal facing down, and press seams towards the triangles. Set aside the two with diagonal facing down, and sew the ones with diagonal facing up to the ones set aside in the previous step. These strips should always turn out to be trapezoids. Press, and sew these two new strips to the ever-widening corners. Always press the long seam towards the corner. Eventually this becomes more difficult than the other way, but I thought this would cause the final result to be rectangular rather than skewed.

For the last ring, only add enough fabric for two squares. Cut just two crosswise 3" strips and sew the reserved quarter-square triangles to the ends, and then sew these strips to the set-aside strips from the previous step. Add them to the two now enormous corners and sew the two halves together.

I did not follow these directions exactly. At some point I created separate sections of strips and an inner section of the crosswise strips - not necessary, but it broke down the job into smaller pieces. Also I had some fat quarters to work in, and the dress fabric strips had to be pieced. If all this is too confusing, don't even try it - cut out 2048 squares, and perhaps lay them out on a design wall. I made a few mistakes along the way and will have to either live with them or pick out a square or two. A full layout of all 2048 squares would have allowed me to avoid these mistakes.

Now how to quilt this thing? That is the question. I would like to send it out to be quilted, but I don't know anyone with a long-arm quilting machine. I will be making some inquiries. Otherwise it will become a UFO, which is the fate of many of my creations.


  1. Hi Cris, This is a beautiful quilt. I love this pattern. I have a couple of questions. What are the dimensions of the finished quilt? Each small square is 2.5 inches? Thank you, Dawn

    1. It is about 82 x 86. Each small square is 2.5 inches finished. I wish I could say it's been quilted, but it's still just a top. I have to get it quilted professionally, either that or become a professional quilter myself, and so far that isn't happening! Glad you liked it.

  2. Have to say I am in awe of how much work you've put into this top! Here is a link to the Elenor Burns Quilt in a Day video showing another way to strip peace this. It is made out of all strips 2.5" and 2.75" wide, no HST! If you decide to make another one in the future I recommend watching both videos (it is a 2 part video.) http://www.quiltinaday.com/theater/2300/2307.html