Colorado Block Quilt Tutorial

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Jenny Doan shows us how to make the classic Colorado Block to create a gorgeous quilt!  There’s a sweet little pinwheel in the center of this one!  This tutorial uses Layer Cakes/10″ Squares and the result is just beautiful!

For all the details, go here:

Transcript (Downloadable PDF Here): 

Hi, it’s Jenny from the MSQC. I’ve got a really fun block for you today. Take a look at this quilt behind me. Isn’t this beautiful? This is actually a block that I have always called the Dutch Windmill. It’s a traditional, half-square triangle block–one of the old blocks that we’ve made new by using the precuts.

Now, in calling it the Dutch Windmill, I started to research the name and I couldn’t find a lot of information so I contacted my friend Edie McGuiness. And she sent, she sent me this little piece I wanted to share with you. She says, “The name I found for it is the Colorado Quilt. It was published in the Kansas City Star in January 8, 1941.” So the tagline under the pattern, in the paper read, “A northwestern Kansas woman, Mrs. Pearl Bacon of Achilles, has given us this design as a friendly token to the state that is on Kansas’ western boundary line.” So she lived right there between Kansas and Colorado and this was her contribution to that. And I just love knowing those little bits of history. I think it’s really fun.

So to make this quilt, what you’re going to need is two layer cakes — one of color and one of solids. So, you’re going to have a white one and a solid one, which basically means you’re going to need 42 ten-inch precut squares. So this today with this fabric right here… what we’re using is Ambleside by Brenda Riddle Designs for Moda and it’s just a beautiful line–really soft and summer-y. I just love it.

So this whole quilt is based on half-square triangles, and to make it, you’re going to need a lot of them. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take one background square, one 10-inch square and one colored square, printed square. And you’re going to need 42 of each of these and here’s how we’re going to do it. We’re going to draw an “X” on our background square from corner to corner, like this. And you’re just going to draw a line across here and a line across here, like this. So you’re background square should look like this. We’re going to pair them right sides together with our printed square. And you’re going to do this for every square in the whole pack.

Now what we’re going to do is, we’re going to sew on both sides of this line, this way and both sides of the line this way. So, we’re not sewing on the line. We’re sewing a quarter of an inch away on either side of the line going both directions. So let’s go to the sewing machine and do that.

Alright, now what I’m going to do is, I’m just going to line up my presser foot on the edge of this line. So, that gives me a quarter of an inch. And I’m going to sew straight along using the pen line that I drew as, as my guide for my presser foot. And you just, did you see that? I just whipped that around and I’m coming right back down the other side. I’ll show you again when I get to the other side of the, of the line, of the square. Alright, there we have that.

Now we’re going to come over here to this other line and do the same thing. So we’re sewing on both sides of the line diagonally both sides, and we’re going to flip this around and come down the other side. See how easy I did that? I finished right here and I just flip it around. I don’t even cut my thread and come down the other side. Alright, there we are.

So now what we’re going to do is, we’re going to take our square and I’m going to line this up on my mat so that it fits within the squares–the 10-inch squares– on my mat, and I’m going to come in here and I’m going to cut it right in half down the middle. So that’s going to be 5 inches in from the edge. And we’re going to make our first cut, like that. And we’re going to turn this, line it back up, and we’re going to make our first cut. Now this should come right through the center of your little “X” in the middle. And then what we’re going to do is, we’re going to cut it again on our diagonal lines. So line up your ruler on the line, just like that. And then diagonally the other way, just like this. And then, by doing that, you now have 8 half-square triangles. Look at that! Just in one fell swoop with one, I mean, I just I think it’s so cool.

So now what we’re going to do is, we’re going to take these over and we’re going to press them open, and I just have the dark sides up. And sometimes, sometimes if you sew with two different layer cakes from two different companies, you may have squares that are different sizes. Just choose one of the layer cakes to follow. When you put them together, always make the, you know, always make the background one your edge or always make the, you know, whatever. Just choose one of them to follow. It’s easier than squaring all your blocks up.

So now we have eight of these half-square triangles. How cool is that? So we’re going to do that with two squares because it takes two squares to make a block and I have one done here. So, the first thing you’re going to do for your block is you’re going to make a pinwheel for the center. Now there’s lots of ways to do this. For me, this is just the way that makes the most sense in my brain. So I’m putting one of each color, like this. So now we have our little pinwheel. And we’re going to build out our block from there. Oop, wait a minute! There we go. All lines go to the center: white, dark, white, dark, white, dark. That’s how you remember it. You want to check it and make sure.

So then what we’re going to do is, I’m going to line out these stars, make the legs longer. So take the fabric that matches. And you can do this all in one color. You can do it, you know, however you want, just, just watch what you’re doing. And this one, we’re going to go ahead and make the legs longer. And then we’re going to build that square out around each side. So, the points are all going to go together now, like this. So all the points come together. Our points are going to come this way and this way. They all come together. All your colors come together is what I’m trying to say. And you should have… just like that and just like that. Isn’t that the coolest block? It makes a really cool block.

So now, what I generally do to make this faster is, I first, I sew my pinwheels together. So let’s go and do that. And what I’m going to do is, I’m going to lay these two pieces, these two right sides on each other. And I’m going to sew down this side and then not cut my thread and sew down this side as well. And that will give me… then I’ll just have to open it up and sew across the middle. It will hold it in place. That’s a little trick of chain piecing. So we’re going to sew down here a quarter of an inch and down here a quarter of an inch without cutting our thread. So let’s do that.

There we go. And that lays pretty nice. So we have our center pinwheel. So now, let me show you what we have going here because this will make it a lot easier for you. We have, we’re going to sew two: two of the grays and two of the yellows and two of the grays and two of the yellows. So we’re going to sew those together where they go, like this. These two are opposite. So we’re going to leave those last. So right now, what I’m going to do is, I’m going to stack mine up and I’m going to just put all of these in a pile and I’m going to sew the two yellow sides, the two gray sides. You see what I’m saying. Here we’re going to sew these together. And that happens to four of these on the outside. And these also. And then I’ll just take these over to the sewing machine and we’ll just whiz through the whole pile.

So let’s cut these apart now and iron them open. And so these are all the outside blocks to our pinwheel and it just goes together really quick. So we’re just going to iron this. So here’s these two and they’re going to go right here on this side like this. And then these two, here’s the two yellows and the two grays, like this. And your grays, wherever your grays are, you’re just going to line them up. And here’s grays over here, so we’re going to line them up. Yellows over here, line them up, line them up. So then what we’re going to do is, we’re going to sew these two rows together like this and like this, which you can, again, just take over and do.

Now we’re going to do, we’re going to sew these two onto our pinwheel. And so I think what I’ll do is just stick a little pin in here and a little pin over here so that I don’t lose where I am, which I’ve done twice already. Alright, now we’re going to sew these on here.

So here’s our center piece, right here. Now we just need to add our side pieces on. And we’ll go ahead and do that. And that will give up our block. And you get this awesome block–the Colorado block! I think that is so fun! I didn’t, I love knowing the stories behind these blocks and I love taking the old blocks and making them, making them new again, and being able to use them with precuts. So there’s your Colorado block.

So once you finish making your block, you’re going to go ahead and make 20 of them. Now that’s going to give you a layout just like this. You’re going to sew your blocks right together, four across by five down. That’s going to give you a quilt that’s about 74” by 90”. We went ahead and added a five-inch border on there. You’re going to need a yard and a half fabric, of fabric for that, of yardage. And it will just come together so quickly and so much fun. It was really enjoyable for me to learn the back story on this quilt too. I just think that’s really fun to find out that information.

So we hope you enjoyed this tutorial on the Colorado quilt from the MSQC.

posted: Intermediate Quilting Tutorials, Layer Cakes, Quilts and Quilt Blocks | tagged: , , , , , , ,
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  • Cindy

    I would like to know how much bigger your backing needs to be than your top?

  • Pamela Johnson O’Brien

    Sorry I just reviewed the Tut again and didn’t remember the additional cuts to make the 8 1/2 sq’s Now I understand.

  • Fran

    What is the size of the HST’s ? Some of us are trying to use up existing fabrics in our stash, and might have enough smaller pieces to create the blocks, just not a big enough chunk to start with the 10″ x 10″ size.

  • Angeline

    What is the name of the marker you are using?