The Color Strata Quilt

Color Strata Thumbnail

Rob Appell from Man Sewing teaches us how to make his famous Color Strata Quilt using 2.5 inch strips of precut fabric (jelly rolls).

Get the supplies used here:

Video Transcript (Downloadable PDF Here):

I know you’ve all been asking. What is the quilt hanging behind you on the set? Well today is your lucky day. We have been dying to bring this to you. This is a color strata quilt and are you ready to get started? Here we go.

That is right. Good things come to those who wait. And you’ve all been so patient. I appreciate it. We wanted to make sure we had the book perfect for you. And we also have just gotten three colorways made of this cotton couture fabric from Michael Miller. Now the book is called Color Strata Cut, Seam & Sew. It has several projects in it but what we’re going to focus on primarily in today’s tutorial is how to build our strata by organizing and cutting up our fabrics. So we can do anything within the book. As I said we have three different colorways. This colorway is for the quilt you see behind me, right? And as you get your roll you should have 40 strips. You should have 20 fabrics, so two of each. So we’re just going to kind of unroll and unpack this, ok? And now what I want to do is I want to divide it. So I found the dark, excuse me, there’s my light gray on the bottom so I come down to where I find my light gray right here. And this will technically just separate my 2 ½ inch wide strips into two piles. So at this moment, I have one of each fabric in each pile. I’m hoping that’s going to make sense. I’m going to try to give this to you nice and slow. But guess who was drinking coffee this morning. Once your strips have been separated into two equal piles we’re going to cut the folds out here. Let me show you how that works. So let’s just take a moment and set these aside. I’ve got these prepped out.

When cutting the folds, I use four strips so eight layers. That’s efficient but safe. Turn my strip here and I’m going to lay my ruler across. And I’m just going to go ahead and cut. After you go ahead and cut it, set your little folds aside. We might want to keep those for organizing ourselves a little bit later, ok? Once the cut has been made we can separate these strips now into two actual piles. And I want you to go ahead and do that. So technically you’re doing this for both piles so at the end of this we’re going to end up with four total piles, 2 ½ inches wide by, we’re just going to call this 22 inches. And as I’m restacking you’ll notice I’m keeping my colors organized and in the order in which I want to use them. Now the entire project, no matter what we sew together sizewise, the first and really only rule is all of our colors stay in the same order. So as we’re organizing our piles just remember that. All of your colors stay in the same order. Now we’ve gone ahead and done this and we have our 2 ½ inch strips so I’m going to put this back into my 2 ½ inch strip pile here. And here, oop and I got them out of order right after telling you to make sure you don’t. Easy switch. Ok, so now they’re back in color order.

So one of these 2 ½ inch piles, you’re going to set aside to all be sewn together. We’re making six piles of strata at the end of all of this. The other 2 ½ inch pile we’re going to set aside. We’re going to need that for our variety size stratas. And the other sizes of stratas we’re going to use are also 1 ½ inches and one inch. So we have three total piles. 2 ½ inches, 1 ½ inches and one. How do you get the 1 ½ and one? I’m going to show you right now. So you have two other stacks that you have organized and divided. What you’re going to do there is bring these out and again, about four piles at a time or four pieces at a time, you will have laid your ruler right here at 1 ½ inches and cut through to create a 1 ½ inch and a one inch pile out of what was at one point,  2 ½ inches. I’ve probably over explained that. Let’s take a quick break.

Here comes a sprinkling of clarity for all of you here. Now, back to the main roll. Took it and unpacked it. And sliced the folds out creating four total piles. Piles one and two here we left at 2 ½ inches wide. Pile number three and pile number four we cut longwise to create 1 ½ inch piles and one pile, one inch pile there. And you’re going to see them again. So a total of one, two, three, four, five, and six total piles. Every fabric in order in each pile. What happens next, quarter inch seam allowances. We’re building the next three stratas. Focus on the easy ones first. Get some of those chores done so we can go out and play, it’s Saturday, it’s sunny, right?

So we’re going to build our first strata pile, we’re going to use 2 ½ inches. We’re going to sew them with a quarter inch seam allowance in color order to create a strata that will look like this. Notice, this strata is going to be your biggest strata. Follow along, we’re getting to the smaller ones. So there’s your 2 ½ inch strips. All sewn together from one of the 2 ½ inch strip piles, ok? Setting the other aside. Now we used our 1 ½ inch strips to sew together, same color order. So here we have the 1 ½ inch stratas or strips all sewn together. Remember color order stays the same. You can see it’s not as long as the other one. This is going to keep happening as we move down through our sizes. So that was 1 ½ inches all sewn together. And therefore that consumed this pile, right? So that’s now set aside, we’ve used it up. Last we have our one inch stratas. So with our one inch stratas, here you see much more petitte, right? Just like that. All of the fabrics are definitely in there, it’s just getting smaller because of the width of the strips. Still quarter inch seam allowance . And once you’ve made those, you consumed that first one inch strip set. So now we’re down to three piles left.

These three piles is sometimes where the organization can be a bit of a challenge so I like to look at as colors because when you have to break it up with numbers sometimes it doesn’t divide real evenly to take three and divide it into 20. So let’s not be confused. What I want you to really think about here, we’re going to use every color in every row as we build these kinds of stratas. Look carefully. If you notice in this strata, you’ll see all three sizes are represented. All of the colors are represented and they’re still in the same color order, right? Of course I’m holding the green up. Don’t want you to think I’m trying to trick you. There if I hold the gray up now that’s in the same color order, right? So the next three strata piles are going to end up like this. So here’s one example. Here’s the next example. I’ll hold it with the gray up again. So these ones started with the one inch, ok? Color order stays the same. And then this one here, started on the 1 ½ inches at the gray. Again, all the pieces are in there. And what this is going to give us the opportunity to be very creative in the way we shift our strata around when working within the layout of our quilt. Let me show you how to put all of these together.

So let’s get ready to scramble these piles around. Now one of your stratas will go from large size to medium size to small sizes so we’re going to build that one first. It’s the easiest. The rest of the game is called process of elimination. So with my grays, I literally counted down six. You have 20 pieces that divides into six, seven and seven for your first count out. So one, two, three, four, five, six. And for me I was really excited because I found that the gray and the blue split at six. So I’m going to take my dark to my light gray and I’m going to set this aside and I’m just going to flip it down like that. So this pile goes from dark to light gray and is now split again. Ok, and I’m going to do the same with my one inch strip. And this is just going to help me keep the same color break over and over again so that I don’t get confused and have two fabrics or miss a fabric in one of my stacks. Building from large to medium to small. So now I”m going to count out seven of these blue. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven and my children in elementary school will be so proud I got all the way to seven that way, ok? So now I’m going to flip these down to keep the color order the same as I’m going. And now I see this really great teal color showing through. So now I just come through and make my break again on my other piles. So that I know right where I’m at colorwise. I hope you understand the way that’s working so easy. Now, the last pile I’m going to need would be from that skinny set. It comes right in over here and lays down. And now I’ve got the exact some color order with a variety of sizes . So this is going to form the pile number, we’re going to call it four. We’re going to do it again. So let’s look for the gray, ok? So now I’m going to take my gray down here. We’re going to flip it. Now let’s bring in maybe the blue against that. And because I used a skinny and I used a wide, my next one I’m going to need is going to be my medium right here. My color order is the same. And my check is, I have a skinny, oop let’s do this. I have a skinny, a medium and a wide set of strata on the table. I start with gray, I go to my blue, I finish with my light greens. And again, all of my piles are complete. And I strongly recommend that you  make all three of your piles for stratas four, five, and six all at the same time before you go to the sewing machine because you want to make sure that all of your strata stays in the same color order. I bet you’ve heard that somewhere before haven’t you?

Here’s a quick sample of what I mean by stitching them together. So these are just quarter inch seam allowances and I’m just traveling through here. So if I was heading to the sewing machine, the next thing I would do was install this light gray. But there’s another trick I want you to see. Not all strips are the same length. I have no idea why. I”m busy making quilts, right? So what I do is when I cut out that fold, I always start with my fold up at the top and I try to keep this edge right here nice and clean as I’m going through my sewing machine. So as I’m looking, I’m always starting up here. I’ll lay it right sides together, stitch it out, press it open and then I get this kind of stair step over there that happens. Here it is on a strata pile finished right? So really nice clean edge and a bit of a jagged edge. The reason that becomes important is our next step we want to do is we’re going to sub-cut these strips of strata piles down to create these big columns you see up here in the quilt.

Let’s make sure you really understand what’s going on. So here’s one of my six examples for our sub-cutting down, ok? This is just the 1 ½ inch strips. You see the same 1 ½ inch strips down in front of you. These have now been sub-cut down. I get about two at that three inch mark. I usually shoot for four at the 2 ¼ . See all four of those there, ok? And then I usually get four to five of my 1 ¼ inch strips. But here’s the other thing that I wanted to talk about. Earlier we were talking about saving all of our little folds, right? Our little end cuts there. Well one of the things I often do is keep all of these and I place them in color order in case my quilt needs to grow as my inspiration and creativity grows, right? Another way you can keep these organized is you can just use that last little piece, the rough stair step cut. So this is a good map in case I need to rebuild strata later and I want to put them back together. And another way we can do that, oop disappeared there for a second. Is you can always just glue stick these with a lapel down to a piece of cardstock. You could write the names on them if you wanted for future reference. This is another good way to stay organized, right? So you’ve used your little ends. You’ve used your little folds, keeping yourself organized. You’re going to sub-cut the same something for all six of the strata sets. So we can start playing with the pop of color. And what is the pop color you say? Well let me show you what happened to me.

So check this out. Here is the very first strata quilt so original in the strata series that it didn’t make it into the book. Because as I sewed the strips together, I realized not enough impact. Not enough pop, right? And actually as I laid in onto my ironing board and that day I had fresh white fabric on my ironing board, I realized the contrast between the strips and a bright white or a jet black or something like this would be way cool, super impact high energy Man Sewing style, right? So let me show you how I then found how to audition. I took an entire piece of black fabric and I laid it over my design board I use. I usually lay it flat out. And then I started taking my strips and playing within the different strips that I cut. And what I was really looking at was the widths in between because at this point I had no idea how long I was going to make some of these strips as I went through. I was just playing and auditioning. And in the quilt you see behind me, one of the things I really enjoyed doing was rotating the top of the quilt or the top of the strata strips. So I was going green, gray, green, gray, green and so on. I easiest way to really teach this I think for all of you is to ask you to go through and try to make all your strips roughly the same length. In different combinations. And you’re seeing like some of your small pieces down here. Here’s one of those long strips, right? Here’s a super long strip coming together. So work through until all of the strata you’ve cut is roughly the same length. You have plenty of strips to play with. And then join those seams. So you would sew together. And look what happens, this is really cool. When you sew that together it creates what I call the maverick block. That unexpected because now you’re joining two colors and you give a new size where we would be seeing it. So this adds a lot of interest. So when you’re joining your stratas, generally I’m joining my like colors because they’re on the same ends as I go through.

Once they’re all the same length and stitched together is when you can really come through and play with the audition process. And find lots of fun strips to work with. I can’t stand. I’m a nit-picker, you know that. Ok, so let’s see, this one is going to go green up here. Let’s try a different size in here. Keep playing as we go. So the whole concept is I literally just designed until it felt right. And in this quilt what I noticed was I liked it when the strips were starting to form different widths. And that brings us to the other portion of the book I really want you to understand. And it’s a concept we call syncopated rhythm. You jazz music fans or people that have studied African textiles for a long time, you’ve seen it or heard it out there. Syncopated rhythm is when you see harmony but not a specific cadence, right? So it’s not one, two, three, one, two, three over and over again. It’s going to have a variety of different widths. So you technically cannot predict what size comes next in my quilt but it doesn’t bother our eye because it seems harmonious. So syncopated rhythm play a little bit with the unexpected.

I will give you a last trick though. I often use my wider strips on my edges and my narrower strips in the center because it helps draw my eye into the center of the quilt, right? So you’re dealing with learning how to make your strata. You’re learning how to make your strata into strips so that you can audition, right? You’re playing with your pop color. And don’t worry in a second I’ve got a show and tell and you’re going to see all of this in other examples. And you’re playing with your syncopated rhythm. So that you can make really fun easy organic intuitive quilts working with some high contrast and a lot of fun. And my goodness the free motion quilting is fantastic through these because you’re basically dealing with single layers of stuff. Now let’s get ready for show and tell. I’m going to clear this out of the way real quick.
Ok, show and tell time here. Now using the exact same colorway that you saw in the quilt behind me but I’m using orange as the pop color. And with the orange as the pop color, all of these strips are the same width. So do they have to be different? No. They can also be the same. Orange is a complimentary color to the blue and green. That’s what gives the pop like the black does over here. Or for example, I’m just going to slide this one out of the way here. This one is another one of my favorites called beat, right? The white here you see is your pop color but for that syncopated rhythm, what I did is I cut the ends off. This is a 30 inch square quilt. I cut the ends off of my 45 pieces of my Fairy Frost and I stitched them to the end of my strata rows first so then both the strata rows and the Fairy Frost rows in this particular one are all 1 ½ inches wide. So it’s all the same but you get that interest across the top. Syncopated rhythm there. This one is one of my favorites. I’ll just do it like that so you can see it. Now in this particular, this is the third colorway you’re seeing and we’ve included the greens and yellows you see as the pop color as part of your strata rolls as well. So those are included in the 2 ½ inch pre-cuts. So you can use the purples and blues to create your strata, the greens and the yellows to be the pop color as well. That was a lot of fun. Try to push my yellows to the center to bring your eye in like I did with the skinny strips in the black. And the very last, the very easiest and probably the most fun to construct. Don’t forget about using your scraps. That’s right. This is that second colorway you see in here. And the fun of this was I created different kinds of strata. Some exact construction technique just less colors per strata. And then what you see in here, the pop color comes from the cool against the warm. And then the syncopated rhythm comes when I took this block here and I rotated it so it’s got a little different direction in its seam allowances than everything else. My goodness, it seems like a mouthful. But it ought to. We’ve been working forever on this video for you. Getting the supplies just right. Getting my new book just right. I’m so excited you’ve been able to finally get to see your color strata cut, seam and sew tutorial. What am I going to come up with next time here at Man Sewing.

posted: Jelly Rolls | tagged: , , , , , ,
Have you used this tutorial to make something cool!?
Send it in to us and share it with the world!
  • Lori O’Shea

    What is the finished size of the Color Strata Quilt using 1 jelly roll and 2-1/2 yds of accent fabric?