Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How To Make A Shadow Block Mini Quilt

Earlier this week I shared my latest quilt finish, a Shadow Block Mini Quilt. Today, you can make one, too. One very important thing to keep in mind with this project is that the smaller the project, the more important it is to be accurate. Be extra careful with your cutting and check to make sure your seam allowance is an accurate 1/4". If you do those two things, your project will come together perfectly.

Fabric requirements:

  • Focus fabric - Twenty 3" squares
    A charm pack (an assortment of 5" squares from a single fabric collection) is a good way to bring variety to the squares, or, if you have been quilting for a while, you can probably find a nice assortment in your fabric stash. If you wanted to cut the focus squares out of the same fabric, you need a quarter yard or fat quarter.
  • Shadow fabric - 1/4 yard or fat quarter
    This fabric should be a solid, medium value neutral. The finished quilt shown uses a tan, but a gray, or even khaki green would work for this. As long as there is contrast with the background, it should provide the right effect.
  • Background fabric - 3/8 yard light solid fabric
  • Backing fabric - 5/8 yard
  • Binding fabric - 1/4 yard

Cutting for the quilt top:

  • Focus squares
    • Cut twenty 3" squares
  • Shadow
    • Cut twenty 1" x 2 1/2" rectangles. 
    • Cut twenty 1" x 3" rectangles.
  • Background
    • Cut forty 1" squares. 
    • Cut twenty 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" rectangles. 
    • Cut five 19 1/2" x 1 1/2" strips.
      These strips form the sashing between each row of blocks. You may want to wait until your rows are sewn together before cutting these strips. That way if your seam allowance is off a little, you can cut these strips to the length of your rows.
    • Cut two 17 1/2" x 1 1/2" strips.
      These two strips will go on either side of the quilt top once everything is sewn together. Again, it might be a good idea to wait and check the width of your quilt for greater cutting accuracy.


 Make the blocks:

Each block needs one 3" square of focus fabric, two 1" squares of background fabric, one 1" x 2 1/2" rectangle of shadow fabric, and one 1" x 3" rectangle of shadow fabric.

First, stitch the background squares to the shadow fabric. Press the seam toward the shadow fabric.

Next, stitch the shorter shadow fabric and background strip to the side of the focus block. Press toward the focus block.

Then stitch the remaining shadow and background strip to the top of the block. Press toward the focus block. Your finished block should measure 3 1/2" square. Check each block and trim it to size if needed. Or, adjust your seam allowance if the resulting block is too small.

Once you have made a couple of test blocks and are pleased with the result, you might want to try chain piecing some of the parts to make it go together faster. Chain piecing is when you have lots of similar piecing to do so rather than starting and stopping for each one, you stitch one right after another without cutting threads.

It can also help with pressing. I chain pieced all the squares to the shadow rectangles. The connecting parts helped my pieces stay flat and secure on the pressing surface. It's hard to wrangle a tiny one-inch square for pressing. Once I had them all pressed, I cut the units apart and continued to the next step.

Arrange Blocks and Add Sashing:

Once you have twenty blocks made, lay them out in four rows of five blocks, switching them around until you are happy with the arrangement.

I tried to do the arranging at the beginning but discovered it was too hard to keep them in order while the blocks were being assembled. You can see where I had already made two blocks to check my accuracy before playing around with the layout. I ended up arranging them again after all the blocks were made.

When you arrange your blocks, make sure the shadows are all facing the same direction. The next step is to add sashing between the blocks. Each row of five blocks will need four 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" background rectangles sewn between. Press the seams toward the sashing strip. If your seam allowance has been accurate throughout the project, each row will measure 19 1/2" long. It is okay if it doesn't. Just make sure to adjust the length of the long sashing strips as needed.

Now stitch long sashing strips (the 1 1/2" x 19 1/2" background strips) between each row, then to the top and bottom of the quilt top.

The last step is to add the remaining two background strips (1 1/2" x 17 1/2") to each side of the quilt top. Your top is finished!

Cut your backing fabric a few inches bigger than the quilt top. Layer the top, some batting, and the backing fabric and get ready to quilt. There are a million ways this top could be quilted, but I really wanted to emphasize the shadow on mine. It is heavily quilted with free motion straight(ish) lines sewn on each one. The only other quilting is straight lines along the edges of each block, both horizontally and vertically.

There is no quilting on the focus blocks so they will stand up just a little more than the rest of the quilt top. Once the quilting is completed, trim and square up the edges and add some binding. I am finally getting the hang of machine binding so that is how the sample quilt is finished.

This quilt is fast and fun to make.

If you make this quilt, I would love to see how yours turns out.

Please leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any questions.


  1. I bought some of Marilee's Numbered Pins recently; they're basically pins with numbers on them, and they are super useful for keeping things in order after you've arranged them! A bit pricey for pins, but they've really helped me because I am ALWAYS sewing things in the wrong order!

  2. Beautiful! Thank you so much for the tutorial!!!

  3. i really love the effect of this pattern. i tend toward mini quilts and this is great for all the charm packs i have collected.

  4. What a great tutorial! I loved the way you used the large scale prints!

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy making one of your own.

  5. I just saw you quilt on Pinterest, LOVE IT! I plan to make it larger using my stash of Kaffe fabrics. Thank you for your inspiration and instructions!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is definitely a good quilt for showing off beautiful fabrics. Enjoy!

  6. I love it too☺ I have seen many variations on the internet, and a few tutorials, but your tutorial is excellent - thank you. Now to decide which fabrics to choose from my stash😕 I always cut my leftover fabrics into squares or strips, and keep each size in separate boxes, so it won't take me long to sort out the focus fabrics!

  7. Nice quilt and good tutorial thank you
    For a cute way to use up those leftovers I just can't seem to part with.

    1. Thank you for the tutorial. I agree with Rochelle! ������

  8. I've always wanted to make a quilt like this but have put it off. I'll start with the mini as a wall hanging and proceed to a larger size. Thank you so much for giving me the inspiration to begin these projects and for the very clear and helpful tutorial. I love your website.

    1. Thank you! I'd love to see a picture of your finished quilt.

  9. what is the finished size of quilt please... ? :-) love love love this project, THANKS for posting! it would make a super fun I SPY quilt too, wouldn't it!!!

    1. Yes, this would be lots of fun as an I SPY quilt! The finished size is 21 1/2 inches by 17 1/2 inches.

  10. This would make an easy QAYG project!

  11. This tutorial is terrific. Thanks. A quick question: I want to use full 5" charm blocks. When I do that what would you suggest be the width and length of the shadow fabric?

  12. 5" chaarms would use 1 1/2" shadow strips with 1 1/2" background squares.
    MSQC has a youtube for 5" charms.

  13. Thank you for sharing and I love it

  14. I made my kids a shadow quilt using the squares signed for their wedding. They love it.

  15. Would like to print. Can't find where it will let me print.

  16. I would like to print this. Can't see where I can print

    1. I finally figured out how to print it out. I am on my cell phone, the three dots in the right hand corner - tap on them - a drop down list will show go to share - tap on it and in the list from it is the printer! Good luck and happy sewing!

  17. Do you have a pattern for along size

  18. Replies
    1. Hi Pam. I don't have a pattern but you can use these instructions and make bigger blocks. If you use a 10" cut focus fabric, a 2.5" x 8.5" and 2.5" x 10.5" rectangles for your shadow fabric, and 2.5" squares for your background, you will end up with a 12" block that will finish to 11.5" in your quilt. Add a 3" (cut 3.5") sashing between the blocks. If you make a quilt with 49 blocks (7 across and 7 down), your quilt should end up around 105" square.


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