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In the Quilting World

Candle Mats: Changing Block Sizes to Make a Project Faster

Many times a quilter will find a pattern that is almost what they're looking for but ... not quite. It may be the size isn't right, the color is too strong, or possibly it's a pattern with a technique the quilter is unsure of or one that they just don't like to do. The beauty of quilting is that there is usually another way to accomplish a certain look or technique if you're open to a bit of change. Older quilt patterns can easily be updated to suit a quilter's needs or tastes with just a little tweaking. If a quilter is open to change, the possibilities are endless. Next time you see a certain project that almost appeals to you, stop and think what you can do to make it just what you're looking for.

There are certain blocks that really appeal to me and others that are not quite to my liking. I like simple lines and tend to gravitate to geometric patterns even in quilting. Peek-a-Boo Squares, our free download for this update, is a great pattern with the look I want ... well, with a few changes.

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This is the original Peek-a-Boo Squares used for this redesign before I tweaked the pattern.

If you'd like to work along with me on this project, download the pattern PDF under the Free Pattern tab at the top.

I love to work in bright fun colors just so long as it's not something I will have to live with day to day. If it's to be a part of my home, it needs to be more subtle. I love neutrals in my home for the most part, and I use pops of color to accent. My first thought for this cute candle mat was to go bright, but once I began to dig through my stash I decided that I'd go with my traditional color choices. I found a great beige for the background fabric and decided on a black batik instead of the strip used in the download, along with a batik print to replace the floral. Once the fabrics were chosen, I began to tweak the pattern's block size. Instead of making nine 3-inch blocks, I decided on four 6-inch blocks for the center. This saves time and simplifies the piecing. I changed the 1 1/2-inch squares to 2 1/2-inch squares for the block centers, then changed the 1 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch rectangles to 2 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch rectangles to make it fit together. The piecing and instructions for the block instructions will still work the same. The only difference is that I will end up with a 6-inch finished block instead of a 3-inch finished block. Then I reduced the number of blocks I would need to four instead of nine and proceeded to cut out the appropriate number of pieces.

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My fabric choices cut out and ready to start piecing.

Because this block pattern has a partial seam in the construction, the first seam must stop about a 1/4 inch from the end. To make this easier I measured 1/4 inch from the end of the first seam, stitched up to the line and stopped.

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Draw a line at the bottom of the 2 1/2-inch square and then stitch to the line and stop.

Once the first seam is stitched, press it open and prepare to add the next rectangle as directed. Don't worry about the 1/4 inch; that will be completed on the very last seam of the block.

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Stitch to the drawn line, flip open and press seam.

Add the next rectangle as directed. As the second rectangle is added, the 2 1/2-inch square in the middle will not be visible because it will be under the second rectangle. Stitch and press open.

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Add the second rectangle, stitch and then press open. Add the third rectangle and press open.

Now comes the fourth and final rectangle. This is where the partial seam is now stitched. First push back that 1/4-inch opening out of the way so you can attach the fourth and final rectangle to the block. Stitch along the 4 1/2-inch side as shown; then press open.

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Stitch the fourth rectangle into place using the open 1/4-inch space as your starting place; then press open. Refold to the last partial seam.

Stitch the final partial seam closed and press. The block unit is complete.

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Stitching the partial seam and the finished block unit.

The next step is to stitch the four blocks together to make the candle mat center and then add the cream borders.

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Candle mat center assembled and then the borders added.

After the top is assembled, I layer the candle mat top, batting and backing, and then quilted it. 

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Quilting the layered candle mat.

Once it was quilted, I squared up the top and added the binding.

This was a fast and fun project. It took me about three hours from start to finish, and that also included adding the binding. The fabric required to make this was minimal and easily found in my stash. This would make the perfect rainy-day go-to project, and I need to keep it in mind. Because candle mats are small projects, they're perfect for working from your scraps and stash. A candle mat is also the perfect small gift. I think I'm going to really enjoy a year of small projects featuring candle mats. Just think of all the great gifts I can make for others.

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My finished candle mat.
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