Strip Scramble Quilt Tutorial

Rob Appell of Man Sewing shows us how to make his very first quilt ever made or designed, the Simple Strip Scramble! Learn how to make this great themed quilt with Rob!

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Transcript (Downloadable PDF Here):

Hey everybody, it’s Rob from Man Sewing. And I cannot believe I get to present this quilt to you today. That’s right. This is the very first quilt I ever made. My first pattern I ever designed, originally known as the Dolphin Dance back in 2001. That’s right, I’ve been making quilts and patterns almost that long even though most of you are just now getting to know me through Man Sewing. So hello again!

Anyways, this is the Dolphin Dance but we’re calling it the Simple Strip Scramble because that’s exactly what it is. As we dive into the supplies, I have all of this written down for you but we kind of use a variety of different kinds of cuts. And we’re going to build this quilt in two major sections. First, our strip set rows. And then second, we’re going to build our theme rows. So when you’re doing your strip set rows, you’re going to need four half yards. I have a light. I have what I call two mediums. Let’s not get too sensitive about “color value” They’re just names, ok? And then I also have what I consider a dark. And when I mean color values, yes, my medium and my dark are similar but you can see in the quilt, that you have a lot of movement just through these four fabrics.

So our first step, we’re going to use these four half yards. The dark, the two mediums and the light. But you’ll also need roughly a yard of your theme fabric. So this theme fabric here, these are all from Robert Kaufman, that I’m using a variety of batiks and some of their nature scapes and things. That theme fabric is seen over here and here. Down on the bottom row. I’m not sure if you’re catching that. And I also have, what I refer to as kind of a pillow panel, which are these wonderful fabrics that come with these squares in them. You don’t actually have to use a pillow panel but something that’s an additional “theme” fabric, right? And that’s seen up here, right here, there’s another one down here on the bottom. So when I made my very first one, I used a pillow panel. That’s what they were called back then because we were making quillows. Hey maybe that will be another good tutorial: a quillow for you. Look it up if you don’t know what a quillow is because it’s hilarious, ok? And then eventually we’re going to get on to our inner and our outer borders. So for your inner border, you need ⅜ of a yard. Your outer border, you need ⅞ of a yard. Some of you are going to make this quilt grow. So if you’re going to make your quilt grow, don’t purchase your inner and outer border yet because that yardage I gave you fits this quilt, if you know what I’m saying.

Now, let’s get ready to cut this stuff up. And like I said, we’re going to start with our theme set rows, or our strip set rows I should call them. And if you’re, as you’re thinking about this, think about it in all different kinds of fabric. I’ve seen it done rural birch horses and coffee and blue and white china. And all kinds of fun things. This is really meant to work, meant to design through all your theme fabrics. So I told you you needed four half yards: the dark, the two mediums, and the light. Now that you have the dark in your hand, let’s set it aside. We’re not going to use that just yet, ok? But for the medium, the two mediums and the light, we’re going to cut ourselves a series of strips. All three of these fabrics, I need you to please cut two at 2 ½ inches by the 45” and also two more at 4 ½ inches by the 45’. But what we’re going to do something a little special with our light colored fabric. I also need one extra inch and a half up here. So let me show you how I’m going to cut this down. I’m just unfolding it, ok? And it’s always a good idea to true an edge. I’m putting my ruler on my fold at the one inch mark because I like to start one inch into my ruler so I’m not hitting the corner of the ruler with the rotary cutter because that will nick your blade. Ok, we’ll flip that over and my first cut I’m going to take is the one and a half inch. This is unique, just to the light fabric. The two mediums, you do not need that one and half inch strip. Now, let’s cut our two and halfs. And I’m using the marks on my ruler instead of the marks on my mat for cutting that way my strips are nice and parallel. Ok, so that’s the 2 two and a halfs. And now we need two four and a halfs. Ok? And you’re going to have a little bit leftover of your light and because you did not take the one and half inch strip off your two mediums, you’re going to have a little bit more leftover. And this is how folks start to use some of their additional fabrics to help their quilt grow, alright? Now, once you have all of your fabrics cut, like I do, ha, ha, we’re going to begin our scramble. So the first thing is, let’s crack the eggs and get the one and half inch strip out of our way. We’re going to put this in once all of the rows are built. Ok, so that’s out of our way.

Now we’re going to build groups of families, ok? And I’m just going to leave these folded so we can keep them organized. But the truth of the matter is, we have two rules, ok? So I divide my skinny strips up and my wide strips up, and most of these kinds of fabrics generally are, what do I want to say, directional prints, so we want to be very careful to keep everything heading in the correct direction. And we’re, like I said, we have two sets of rules. First set of rules is we’re building families so every family has a different dad or a different wide, four and half inch strip in the top position. Sorry moms out there but I just have to say it that way because I’m a dad, ha, ha. Ok? So I’m going to set this one aside, take another one of these, and another one of these. And so now I’m just going to slide in basically another one of my large pieces, or my four and half inch pieces. So this kind of becomes the mom. And now we have happy families, so we always get twins. And the twins are born and they’re always just slightly different than the mom and the dad. So what I want you to do is build all three of your stacks first before you sew anything, ok? So this is one stack. The next stack, I’m going to bring in that light, ok? And then I’m going to look here and I see that I have my lighter of my two mediums in that middle position so now I’m bringing my darker of my two mediums into that position. And therefore, based on process of elimination, I now also have a new set of twins. Do you see how I’m doing that? I’m keeping all three fabrics showing in each of the rows but I’m always keeping my skinny sets together and then a different in the wide and I always have a different in the top position, ok? So the last one, oop, should work perfectly that I now have my light of my two mediums in the top, got a new set of twins born and just like that.

Now to help keep this tutorial rolling along, ha, ha, we’re not going to actually show you how to sew all of these together but I’m going to encourage you to use a nice, accurate quarter in seam allowance. I’ve got a fun little quick tip on that if you need. And I’m just going to ask you now to go ahead and sew these groups of strips together and then we’re going to start setting up for another series of cuts. So while you’re getting your stuff stitched together, I’m going to clear off my table, bring in a finished one and show you how to cut it all up.

Oh great, you did a fantastic job sewing all those all together. Very well done. Look how nice mine came out as well. Now, what you’re really working through here, in the quilt, my goal is to make it look like the light is shifting through the water as it comes down. And I’m to teach you how to make that happen. There’s a secret block that shifts everything around there. We’re getting there. But I also want you to be thinking about this while we start working on our cuts. If you’ll notice, I have my lightest of my fabrics in this position. Now my light of my mediums kind of ends up in the middle row so I’m just kind of starting to organize these in my brain. And I also have my darker of my mediums, thick piece, down in the bottom row, ok? We’re going to cut these. You’re going to cut all three of your strip set rows the same. I’ll show you on this one here. Ok? So the first thing we’re going to want to, and it doesn’t matter which direction because we’re basically going to use these from both sides, is I’m going to go ahead and trim off the selvedge. Now check this out. This is a cool trick you should all know. When I’m trimming my strip set rows, I’m actually looking at the way that the ruler hits on my seam allowances so that way I’m trying to make sure that everything is nice and crisp and parallel or square while I’m cutting this, even though they’re rectangles. Ok? So I’m trimming like that. And then the first cut we need, and this again is for all three of them, is an 11 ½ cut. A 12 ½ inch square sure helps with this project. So I’m going to drop my 11 ½ inch on there, mark I should say. And I’m going to slide down just a little bit. This time I’m being very cautious not to nick my ruler. Ok, so you have an 11 ½ inch cut. Set that aside. And now we’re going to make from here two more and they’re going to be 5 ½ inches. So I’ve got 5 ½ right there. One and two, ok? And now we’re going to do two 2 ½ as well. 2 ½ just like that. One of those and another one. Ok? And at this point, yes you do have some leftover fabric. And this is also how you can make your quilt grow. This is perfect size to kind of lay over yourself while you’re watching TV, working on your computer, something like that. But if you really wanted it to fit a kid’s bed, a bunk bed or something, you might want to make it a little bit wider. So you can technically make more of these size of cuts out of your leftovers and then grow the fabric. Just don’t forget you’re going to need extra yardage for your borders, ok?

So you’re going to do that, like I said, to all your three strip set rows. And the best thing for us now is, let’s keep these families still kind of organized, right? So the next thing I’m doing is I’m kind of getting ahold of my big 11 ½ inch squares of all three. And this will be the first thing I need but we need to cut our darks down first. So let me get ready to do that as well.

Now from our dark fabric, there’s another little trick here. Down in my very bottom row, I also add in some of the dark fabric. Again, the light is shifting through the ocean. Ok? Or through your theme. The other thing we need to do is we need to figure out how tall our strips came together. They’re usually 12 ½ but somehow we all have a different quarter inch seam allowance so I say usually 12 ½. But you can see the darks are going to actually fit in between the strip set rows, ok? So first thing we need, we need a 3 ½ inch piece off of our dark for later. Ok? I’m going to trim this down but I think it’s pretty close because I’ve been playing with these in my home studio. Just make sure it’s perfect. And you know what, I’m going to actually ask you to cut the width of this first because if for some reason your, your fabric wasn’t perfectly square, and when you trim that down, the 3 ½ inch it looks like is going to plenty in there so I guess you could actually do either way. I just want to make sure you’ve got to have enough to fit in here. The bottom could have been two inches or three inches if you need it. Ok? So but I can see that I’ve got plenty on this one so I’m going to cut myself a three and half inch. And if you can’t, if you haven’t figured out yet Rob is always designing on the fly. I kind of like that challenge. I used to also do a lot of graphic design and start with sharpie marker so I was always working kind of in the realm of no return, right? Ok, here’s a fun trick you can do. You can lay your block right on top there and then just lay your ruler here. And I’m going nice and slow to make sure I don’t cut into my block. I also made sure that my ruler was square at the bottom of the fabric still. And now I know that my dark fabrics are exactly the width as my strip set rows were, ok? So I need my 3 ½ inch for later. We’ll also set that aside. The rest can go into our scrap bin.

Ok, so now we’re ready to cut up that dark fabric. And the math is a little bit different than the rest so follow along carefully, right? The first thing I want to cut is six at 1 ½ inches. And be careful when you’re cutting this because could end up using almost all of it. So I need six, 1 ½ . And I need these for the next portion of the demonstration anyway so let’s get these cut off of here. The rest of them I’ve already cut for you. But, so if I’m doing six at 1 ½, I’m also going to six at 2 ½ and I’m going to do then three, that’s why I said it’s kind of odd. I’m doing three and they’re 5 ½ inch rectangles.

Ok, so again, we’ve got these cut. Six of 1 ½, six at 2 ½, and three at 5 ½. Ok? The first strips we’re going to want are our little 1 1/2s so let’s get the rest of these out of our way. Keep them handy. And now I go into kind of an assembly line format. So let me see if I can build these for you quickly. By the first step, I want you to take all three of your 11 ½ blocks you made from your strip set row. And please sew on a 1 ½ strip of your dark onto all three of those blocks. Ok, that’s the first step. Again assembly line style. So you go ahead and go get that done.

Hey, very well done. I really like how we’re working as a team today. You guys are sticking with me very well. So just a reminder, you’ve got your 11 ½ inch blocks with your 1 ½ strips now sewn into all three of the strip set rows you’re building. Ok? And now look, I purposely laid these out so you could see them: my light, my light medium, and my dark medium in order. I’m at the top of the quilt, you guys are down at the bottom of the quilt over there. And now I want to gather the other cuts that I made, these ones from my strip set rows, right? So these we’re going to inset next. Still kind of the same assembly line style but this is a good time for you to kind of make sure you have them all organized like you did earlier with your rows. To make sure that you’re not accidentally having to use your seam ripper later.

So the key to this is I’m now coming in and I’m finding the next group, and these are from the 5 ½ inch cuts we did earlier. And you’ll notice that these fabrics are the same family but they are not from the family, from the row they’re starting with. So in other words, this is now what’s called a group A. So now group B lands here, and then we’re just going to add these on and we’re going to add these on. What are you looking for? What are you checking, right? You’re making sure that this fabric is different than these but these are the same. Different, but these are the same. Different, but these are the same. Ok? I think you’ve got it. Now as you see, that’s in the middle of all the rows but here comes the switcheroo. The switcheroo is really cool. The switcheroo happens from those wide 5 ½ inch dark strips. And you only have one for each row. That’s why you only needed three instead of six of them. Ok, so if you look at the quilt behind me, you’ll see that the upper row is on the left-hand side, the bottom row is on the left-hand side, but the center row, or the middle row is now over on my right-hand side. Can you see how that shifts? Here it is. Then we’ve got it down here again. And then all the way over here at the end. Ok?

So what I normally do is at this point, I go ahead and I assemble this much of it so that when I’m done, this will be looking like this on the table. Ok? Easy enough. Now, just so you can see the entire layout in front of you, the next thing I’m doing is I’m grabbing my skinny strips that I had made earlier, these are the ones that are the 2 ½ inchers, right? And now they’re going to go in the row they haven’t been used in yet. So if this is my light medium, there’s my light medium, oop here’s my light medium. So therefore they must fit down here. Ok? And I’ll show you this and I’m going to get you a really good shot from the top here where you can see exactly what I mean. And again, I’m double checking my work. And I want to point out a couple things here. Yes, on one side you will be sewing the strip set row to the dark. On the other side, you will sewing two strip set rows together. This could be the only place in the entire quilt that your seam allowances may want to line up or may need to match up. Because you do. You end up right up in here with these nice little chunks in these blocks that come together. So yes, you’ll have two strip set rows that touch each other on one side with that skinny and the wide. And then over on the other, yes it’s divided with the dark.

Once this portion is completely built, right? Now we need to come in here and we need to get our 2 ½ inchers that we made. And they’re just going to finish out each row. Ok? Just like that. Make good sense for everybody? So at this point, this is the entire strip set row. Let’s go ahead and assemble all of these because we’re going to need these completely done so that we can get into our theme fabric and our pillow panel or our additional themed row. So while you’re working on stitching those together, I’m going to reorganize and show you what you’ve just finished.

Oh you are doing a fantastic job. Look at how nice we’ve all done together. This is awesome. So here it all is constructed, right? And now once you have these, you really are ready to start on your theme rows. So let’s just go ahead and slide these out of the way. But I’m going to need to keep them handy. These now become my measuring devices, right? So let’s just go ahead and slide this out of our way for a moment. And now we’re going to get into those pillow panels. And like I was saying earlier, you don’t have to use a pillow panel. You certainly can. Or any additional theme fabric will work. I happen to fall in love with this stuff. And not only did I fall in love with it because of the print and the detail, but I really fell in love with it because this black inner border is a half of an inch, therefore I can get you a perfect quarter inch seam allowance and still show as much of the print as possible. Whew! That was a mouthful. So what I’m really trying to say is I’m going to use the print to cut my quarter inch seam allowance but I want to go ahead and spin this around so that I can really pay attention to what I’m looking at here for a moment. So I’m laying my ruler right there where I can see my quarter inch marker. I’m not sure if you can see that or not, but my quarter inch marker is right there on that black line where the black line meets the print on the other side. So I’m going to cut this. Now we can set that aside. I’ve used, I’ve used, I almost said chosen to use, but I have used one, two, three, different blocks from that same print. You could certainly use more if you wanted to. Let me finish trimming this down real quick so you know what I’m doing.

Now the key to this, a lot of this as you saw, is a measure as you go kind of thing. So what’s going to happen now is whatever the raw cut of this is is going to determine how tall I make my theme fabric. Rob, would you please speak English. I know what you’re saying right now, right. So what I’m saying is I’m going to measure from top to bottom here. Comes up. It’s 11 ¼ so therefore when I get ready to cut my theme fabrics, they’re going to also be cut at 11 ¼. Ok? So that way as I get ready to seam this fabric in, it fits perfectly. See how nicely that works. Now, where are we going to put this stuff? This is very important. And when I look at those blocks, if you’ll notice these orcas are diving into the quilt. A really cool trick about art is you always want to bring your viewer’s eyes in and creatures or things with eyeballs, wherever they’re looking directs the viewer’s eye as well. So these guys swimming in brings our eye into the quilt plus there is also some landscape or mountains up above. So I think that that should be higher in my ocean than deep underwater, right? I put my turtles in the middle because they’re kind of looking straight at you. Oh sorry, I couldn’t resist. And then the bottom, I’ve got my dolphins and they’re swimming in this way. So I’m looking at that, and now if I look at my way out I’ve just done, my whales are swimming out of the quilt and therefore you might go out of the quilt too. So I want to sew this to this side, right? So if I was preparing for this, I’m going to get rid of that selvedge. And yes, I’m going to do this left-handed. And no, I’m not left-handed so I’m going to be very careful, ok? And then this will now be stitched to that side and that seam allowance is going to disappear just like it did here in my finished one. You know what, let me slide that out of your way. See how nicely the black seam allowance disappears right there. And that’s the bottom, so how the dolphins are swimming in to my theme fabric.

Now the cool thing about this, once you have this constructed and the one for the top row constructed, it’s going to kind of help us make our middle row. So you’re basically making two of these to start with, ok? And then this is how I do this. Once I have this completed, and I know this is going to be positioned kind of between my middle and my bottom row, I find my middle and my bottom row, and I simply stitch it all together. I’m going to start on this end, ok? And I’m going to sew my quarter inch seam allowance across here. And when I am done and I have pressed my seams out, and I am happy, I am going to then take, uh oh! I’ve lost my ruler. Well I’ve got one of these handy. I’m going to take my ruler, lay it across here and then slice that right off. That extra piece of fabric will generally fit right into this position. And the one that’s created from the other theme row will fit right here in this position. I asked you to get a yard. You can probably get away with ⅔ of a yard but sometimes, again, you want to make this grow. Or you want to shift around your pillow panels. So with having a yard, you’ve got plenty of this for actually all three rows. But we can use our scraps for both rows if we like. Ok? So that’s pretty darn simple.
Now, if you’d like to know, you’re all but done. Once you’ve constructed those so let’s just kind of talk about the way the rest of this quilt finishes off so you can see it all in one finished piece. So remember the 1 ½ inch strip from our light? Here it is up in the top. You’ve got a theme row with creatures swimming into the quilt. You’ve got your strip set row with your lightest fabric up here in the middle. You’ve got another theme row. This theme row usually you get your additional fabric or that pillow panel in the middle. Next one down, I have a strip set row with my lightest of my mediums in that center position. Another theme row. That’s going to have my whale, er dolphins swimming into the quilt. Way down here, bye! I’ve got, ha, ha the other theme row, the darkest was in that position. And then as a reminder, you’ve got your 3 ½ inch strip of your dark at the very bottom of the quilt. So I do, I now go through and I construct all of those rows together and then I simply come back in and I add my outer border. Excuse me, that wouldn’t work. I add my inner border then I add my outer border. And I believe this is a two inch strip. And I believe this is a five inch strip. I would have to check my notes to tell you. And I will make sure that is posted because we even have a pattern for you on this quilt if you are interested. So check this out, you just survived my very first quilting class ever. 2001 I made this quilt. I taught it in front of a group of people. And actually some of those people are still speaking to me to this day. So hi to all my friends, Emily and Anna and those who were in that class. I still love all of you. You are great. And as a matter of fact, all of you watching this show doing your own simple strip scramble, you rock and roll as well. So we will see you here next time, here at Man Sewing.

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