This post is part of the Paintbox Quilt-Along, which you can join at any time.
The back of the Paintbox Quilt is basically two identically-pieced halves, with each half made from different fabric. To make this quilt back, you'll need your 40 swatches (2.5" x 3.5") of solid fabrics, 40 swatches of print fabrics, and 2.5 yards each of 2 neutral solid fabrics at least 42" wide. The back will be most effective when there is some obvious contrast between the two neutral solids.
One half of the quilt back will include a "swatch block" pieced with solid swatches. The other will include a swatch block pieced with the print swatches. Before you go any further, decide which neutral solid you want to use with your prints and which neutral solid you want to use with your brighter solid swatches.
For my quilt, I chose Essex cotton/linen in White and Putty (similar to Kona Stone). Because many of my prints had white backgrounds, I decided to use the prints with the Putty and the solids with the White.
Place your solid swatches in order, by color, starting wherever you want to in the color wheel. I started with brown and proceeded through yellow, orange, red, violet, blue, green and grays to black. Repeat with your print swatches, putting both the solids and prints in the same color order.
Once you have your swatches in order, lay them out according the the chart above. Again, you don't have to start and end with the same colors I did, but your swatch blocks will have more visual impact if you keep both sets of swatches in the same order and snake the order back and forth as indicated in the chart.
From each of your neutral solid fabrics, cut the following pieces:
- 7 strips 1.5" x width of fabric for swatch block sashing
- 2 side pieces 24" x width of fabric, trimmed of selvedges
- 1 top/bottom piece 5.5" x width of fabric, trimmed to 5.5" x 25"
- 1 top/bottom piece 23" x width of fabric, trimmed to 23" x 25"
Note: All piecing instructions assume a quarter inch seam allowance with all seams pressed open.
Start by making your swatch blocks. Stack one row of 10 swatches, keeping them in order. Chain piece the first 9 swatches to one of the 1.5" swatch block sashing strips, sewing along the right side of each swatch. (Note: the pieces in the photo above are upside-down.)
Trim swatches and sashing apart, press seams open and trim the sashing the is now joined to each block to within .75" of the seam between swatch and sashing (so the finished sashing will be .5" wide).
Use the same method to make the other 3 rows. Join rows, using the 3 remaining pieces of swatch block sashing to sew .5" sashing between each row. Remember that your sashing pieces are cut 1.5" wide, so you will need to trim each down to .75" after it has been sewn to a row of blocks.
This process of cutting the sashing too wide and then cutting it down may seem tedious, but I find that it's easier to accurately piece such tiny sashing this way!
You're now ready to put all these pieces together to make your quilt back!
The above diagram shows how to piece the top half, which is the half with the solid swatch block. Sew the corresponding 23" x 25" piece to the top and the 5.5" x 25" piece to the bottom of your swatch block. Finish the top half by sewing a 24" x WOF piece to each side. Square up the bottom edge.
This diagram shows how to piece the bottom half, which is the half with the print swatch block. Sew the corresponding 5.5" x 25" piece to the top and the 23" x 25" piece to the bottom of your swatch block. Finish the bottom half by sewing a 24" x WOF piece to each side. Square up the top edge.
Finish your quilt top by sewing the top and bottom halves together.
You might remember that the Original Paintbox Quilt had big letters on the back. I decided against putting them on this one but, just in case anyone wants to add letters, here is a very basic outline of the process I used on the first quilt:
- Print out or draw the letters you want to use on regular copier paper. (In Microsoft Word, you can manually enter a letter size, up to 400, to get really big letters.)
- Tape your printouts or drawings to a window with the letters facing outward (as though someone were going to read them from the other side of the window) as shown in the above photo.
- Use the window as a makeshift light table to trace the mirror image of each letter onto the paper side of lightweight fusible webbing and follow these instructions for making and sewing the letter appliques.
- Finish your quilt as you normally would, quilting over the letters wherever you encounter them.
When you sandwich your quilt, check to make sure that the sashing between the fifth and sixth rows of blocks on your quilt top (the centermost piece of horizontal sashing) is centered over the seam between the top and bottom halves of the quilt back. This should ensure that the finished quilt top and back are properly aligned.