Making sashing for quilt blocks is easy and a fun way to add a new dimension to your quilting. Sashing can be a contrasting color, or the same as your background, with cornerstones or without. We are essentially using the same techniques you learned in the Beginning Quilting Adding Borders tutorial here on MadamSew. This time your borders are around the individual blocks themselves.
There are two methods of adding sashing, one by the block and one by the row. The method you should use is the one that makes you the most comfortable. So let’s take a look at both ways.
The first method is to put strips between the blocks in rows, then do long strips between the rows. This isn't my favorite way, as it has several long strips that can easily get distorted unless they are pinned well. It is like adding borders to several quilts at once, and is a recipe for too much fullness unless measured really carefully. But, for some, sewing long strips is easier, so here is what you do for the row method. Cut your strips for your blocks in a row the same measurement as your blocks. All the strips should be exactly the same. Ideally, you will have squared up your blocks first. So, if you have 12-1/2-inch blocks, your strips should be 12-1/2-inches. Sew the strips
When you have the rows done, measure and cut the joining strips. Again, these should all be the same. Say the group above are two rows, with 12-1/2-inch blocks before sewing, and the strips were 2-1/2-inches before sewing. What length should you cut your row strips?
The answer is 44-1/2 inches. The blocks sewn in now measure 12 inches each x 3 = 36 + 4 (two 2-inch sewn in strips) + 4-1/2 (two strips 2-1/2-inches on the edges, sewn on 1 side only making each one now 2-1/4 each). An easier way to calculate is to take the blocks plus all the strips finished sizes, then add 1/2-inch for the seam allowances on each end (36 + 8 + 1/2 = 44-1/2).
The second method, and the one I like best, is adding strips to two sides of the blocks, then putting the blocks together. It makes adding cornerstones easier too. The big benefit of this method is that you cut your strips to the measurement they should be, which will help corral any fullness in the blocks and ensure that the top lays flat. In this example, for a 12-1/2-inch block with 2-1/2-inch wide sashing strips, you would cut one strip for each block at 12-1/2-inches and a second strip at 14-1/2-inches.
Laying it out, the blocks will be sashed on the upper side and the right side. The only long strips needed will be across the bottom and down the left side.
Sew the rows. You can see the sashing is almost done.
Now all you have to do is follow your plan to add the same size strip to the bottom, then cut the proper size strip for the right edge and sew it on.
Now, let’s add another dimension to the sashing with cornerstones, and show another way of finishing the last strips. Begin in the same way with cutting strips the same dimension as your blocks. Cut two strips for each block, plus one for each row. Put cornerstones on the same number of strips as you have blocks.
Sew the first strip on the right side of the blocks
Pressing the sewn strip toward the strip, and the cornerstone also toward its strip will allow nesting of that seam.
Assemble your blocks into rows.
Next, make cornerstone strips for the left edge of the rows. These will be put onto individual rows.
The only long strip will be across the bottom.
Then, starting with the bottom, I put the left edge strip on. Next, I added the bottom strip. This is easier to do with just one row, instead of waiting until the whole top is constructed. Alternatively, you could add the bottom strip to each block before putting those blocks together and do the same with the side blocks, but I find keeping track of that is harder. But, use the method that is easiest for you.
The side strips were added to the other four rows. Press the seams in opposite directions to make joining the rows easier and more accurate. Then the rows are put together, carefully pinning all the sashing seams.
One other idea, if you make your sashing strips the same fabric as your background, and add cornerstones, you get an interesting floating design. This has an advantage of having more modern negative space.
Putting a contrasting color on the blocks and the cornerstones will make the colors pop, like this quilt with yellow cornerstones echoing the squares in the star blocks.
One common question is, how wide should the sashing strips be cut? That is a design question, and is up to you. As a guideline, one way is to cut the sashing the same as the width of one patch in the block, half the width, or twice the width.. In other words, if your nine patch block has 4-inch squares finished, cut your sashing strips 4-1/2-inches (which allows the 1/4-inch seam allowance), 2-1/2 inches or 8-1/2 inches. You can also do 1/3 of your block width. So if you have a 9-patch block with 4-inch squares that finishes at 12 inches, you might choose to do 3-inch finished sashings. If you are more into modern designs, use the Fibonacci sequence to choose a pleasing sashing width based on your block size. Sashing doesn’t have to be an even width all over the quilt top, a modern quilt may have different widths across the quilt.
Now that you know how to do sashing, the possibilities for design with your quilts opens up to new dimensions of creativity.
1. You can choose an accent color from one of your prints, or choose a pretty print sashing to accent solid colors in your blocks.
2. You could do one color in the blocks and another color on the sashing.
3. Use a wider sashing to make your blocks float and create even more negative space for quilting.
4. Add design elements to your cornerstones with small block designs like hourglass patches surrounded by contrasting strips.
5. Insert rows of flying geese.
6. Make asymmetrical sashing by adding elements on only part of the quilt
As always with quilting, your only limitation is your imagination! Have fun and Happy Quilting!
See my blog at FromMyCarolinaHome.com for more ideas, quilt alongs and free patterns.