Awash With Color Mystery Quilt: Awash With Color Mystery Block 8

For the eighth block in this mystery sampler series, Bird's Nest, you will need your chosen background fabric (mine is black), plus another main fabric (mine is red), and for the rest of the fabrics my suggestion would be to pull out all the scraps leftover from what you've used throughout this series to sort of pull all the blocks together. Besides, using scraps is so much fun when you decide to just go with it. I know that's a hard thing for some quilters to do. It took me a long time to appreciate my scraps and use them, and if I'm honest, I still do a controlled scrappy. It's just not in me to throw all the scraps in a bag and reach in and use the next piece I pull out. I've tried to do that, and I find myself putting them back in the bag until I pick the "right" one. I know what you're thinking: That's cheating. Well, it probably is, but for some of us that's as good as it gets.

Keep in mind that for this particular block you will be making a total of five blocks. I'm using the same fabrics for all five of my Bird's Nest blocks, but you can change up the colors and make them different if you wish. After all, this is your quilt. This is your last block before the finishing instructions that will be forthcoming in the next update, so you may want to lay out all the blocks you've already made and see what you have in the way of colors. You may decide you want to add more of a certain color or maybe add more colors altogether.

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Diagram of Block No. 8 -- Bird's Nest. Make five blocks.

Cutting List for Block No. 8 -- Bird Nest

(Makes five blocks)

From the background (black) fabric cut:
  • 30 (3 3/8-inch) A squares, then cut once diagonally (HST)
  • 20 (3 1/4-inch) B squares, then cut twice diagonally (QST)
  • 30 (1 7/8-inch) D squares, then cut once diagonally (HST)

From red cut:

  • 10 (3 3/8-inch) A squares, then cut once diagonally (HST)
  • 5 (5 7/8-inch) C squares, then cut twice diagonally (QST)

From assorted scraps cut:

  • 5 (3 1/4-inch) B squares, then cut twice diagonally (QST)
  • 45 (1 7/8-inch) E squares
Notes: You can easily substitute your color choices. The only one I would suggest you should keep the same all the way through the Mystery Sampler is the background fabric. All the rest can and should be pulled from your stash if possible.

HST is the abbreviation for Half-Square Triangle. QST is the abbreviation for Quarter-Square Triangle.

Saving all your scrap pieces from each of the blocks is a really good idea. You may want to use those pieces in one of the upcoming blocks to help pull all the colors in the quilt together, or you might possibly use them in a border or binding.

Once I had all my fabrics selected, I cut out all the pieces needed to make my five Bird's Nest blocks. Now this block is a bit more challenging than the past blocks, but isn't that what skill builders are all about? The blocks for this quilt have been all about getting you to take your quilting to the next level, slowing down, and making you think about the construction and how best to stitch the pieces together.

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My chosen fabrics for Block No. 8, Bird's Nest, and cutting out the pieces for my five blocks.

The Bird's Nest block, like most blocks, can be broken down into sections. I like to separate my units and chain-piece each like section. I tend to make fewer mistakes and can concentrate on accuracy. I laid out one entire block to both audition my fabric choices and to get a sense of how best to assemble my blocks (Photo 1). Once I had laid an entire block out, I decided to start with the red-and-black corner pieces (Photo 2). Each block has four corner units so with five blocks I need to make a total of 20 corner units.

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The pieces laid out as they will be placed in one of the blocks (Photo 1) and just the pieces I'll need to make the corner units (Photo 2).

I was off to my sewing machine and began by constructing the corner units, first making the black and red half-square triangle pieced units. First I stitched one each black and red A HST together (Photo 3). I pressed each unit open and trimmed off all the dog ears. Then I placed one black A HST on the top, stitched it into place, pressed and then added another black A HST to the left side as shown, and stitched and pressed it also (Photo 2). This made the pieced half of my corner units (Photo 3). I then stitched one red C QST to each of the pieced units and pressed again.

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Carefully putting together the pieced units for each corner unit (Photos 3-5).

Once all 20 of the corner units were pieced, trimmed and pressed, I placed them back into my block layout (Photo 6) and went to the next unit to piece.

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Corner units pieced, pressed and placed back into the block layout (Photo 6).

Again breaking the piecing down into units, I decided the next unit to tackle would be the center square-in-a-square unit, of which I would need five. I laid out the pieces needed, using a different-color E square for each block and four black D HSTs for one unit (Photo 7). I stitched first one black D HST to the top and bottom of the E square and then pressed them open. Then I stitched two more black D HSTs to both sides and pressed them open (Photo 8). I should mention that I don't trim off the dog ears when making these small units until I've stitched all the HSTs into place, mainly because I find it much easier to square up the unit after they are in place. I made five center units.

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Laying out (Photo 7) and piecing (Photo 8) the center units for all five blocks.

With the corner and the center units completed, I moved on to the cross units. These units are made with four black B QSTs, one assorted-color B QST, two black D HSTs and two assorted E squares (Photo 9). I laid them out and planned how best to piece these together. These are pieced on the diagonal, so I broke them down into diagonal rows. I stitched each diagonal row together and then placed them back in the layout (Photo 10) as I went so as not to mess up the placement or to stitch the wrong pieces together. It's easy to make a mistake when you're working on multiple pieces of similar sizes and colors. On these units I found it easier to work on a few at a time, double-checking the color combinations and the placement. I wanted my colors to be well disbursed throughout my blocks. Not to mention that, since I was working with small pieces, I needed to slow down and think about accuracy.

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The cross units laid out (Photo 9) and then the diagonal rows stitched together (Photo 10).

Once the rows were stitched together and back in place, I stitched each of the diagonal rows together (Photos 11-13). I made a total of 20 cross units.

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Stitching the diagonal rows together to make the cross units (Photos 11-13).

I laid the cross units back into the block layout (Photo 14). Then I stitched the units into rows (Photo 15).

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All of my units stitched and laid out (Photo 14) and then stitched into rows (Photo 15).

And last, I stitched my rows together, taking my time and making sure all the points stayed intact. Once I was satisfied with how they turned out, I squared up each block to 12 1/2 inches, pressed each block once more, and added the finished Bird's Nest blocks to the rest of the blocks for this quilt.

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Pressed and ready for finishing the quilt! (Photo 16).

I love how my blocks look. I've taken my time and paid close attention to the construction of each and every block. I really worked on color placement.

Well, here it is: the final step to our Awash With Color Mystery Sampler. Below you can see how I did the setting. I hope you like it. I've set like blocks in diagonal lines except for the top left and bottom right blocks. I wanted this quilt to look unique, and I wanted to distribute the colors throughout. I think this layout accomplishes my goals. This is the time to play with the setting and be creative with your blocks if you want to try something different. Whether you follow the setting I've designed or want to explore other arrangements, as long as you have five blocks in five rows, the fabric requirements and cutting instructions below will work for your quilt. If you want to add more blocks or different borders, then have fun and go for it! Either way, when you're done, we'd love to see your finished quilts!

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Diagram of the finished layout for Awash With Color Mystery Sampler.

Finishing Instructions

Finished quilt size: 72 1/2" x 72 1/2"

If you would like to set your blocks like mine, here's what you will need: 2 to 2 1/8 yards of fabric to match your background fabric -- I used for black for mine -- for the first border (A and B strips), third border (E and F strips) and the binding, and 1/2 yard of aqua (or whatever color you choose to use) for the second border (C and D strips). You will also need backing fabric and batting to size.

Cutting List for Borders & Binding

From the background (black) fabric cut:
  • 8 (1 1/2" x WOF) strips, stitch short ends to short ends, then subcut into:
    2 (1 1/2" x 60 1/2") A and 2 (1 1/2 x 62 1/2-inch) B border strips
  • 8 (4 1/4" x WOF) strips, stitch short ends to short ends, then subcut into:
    2 (4 1/4" x 64 1/2") E and 2 (4 1/4" x 72 1/2") F border strips
  • 8 (2 1/4" x WOF) strips, stitch short ends to short ends for binding

From aqua cut:

  • 8 (1 1/2" x WOF) strips, stitch short ends to short ends, then subcut into:
    2 (1 1/2" x 62 1/2") C and 2 (1 1/2" x 64 1/2") D border strips

Once all your border and binding strips are cut out and you're ready to finish up this mystery quilt, stitch your blocks together into rows as shown in the layout diagram. Take your time and make sure all the seams are neatly pressed after each addition. Once all the blocks are stitched into rows, stitch row one to row two and so forth until all five rows are sewn together. Press again. Your quilt center should measure 60 1/2" square.

Sew an A border strip to each side of the quilt center and press. Then stitch a B border strip to the top and bottom. Press again. Continue adding border strips in alphabetical order in the same manner: Sew C border strips to the sides and D border strips to the top and bottom, and then the E border strips to the sides and the F border strips to the top and bottom.

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Adding the aqua second border and then the black third border.

Press the entire quilt top and then layer the backing wrong side up, the batting and the quilt top right side up. Pin-baste the layers together and then you're ready to start quilting. This is a great opportunity to also work on your free-motion quilting. I haven't made a sampler quilt for several years and thought it would be challenging to customize each block with a different quilting motif on this quilt. I first stitched all the black background and did some stitching in the ditch to stabilize the piecing and to help to keep it nice and flat.

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Stitching in the ditch to stabilize the top before filling in all the detail quilting.

Then I began to add each design I'd sketched out, changing thread colors to match each fabric.

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Starting to fill each block with quilting of my own design.

After all the black areas were stitched, it was very easy to go in and stitch each color. I jumped from block to block to wherever that color was so I didn't have so many thread and bobbin changes. Since I'd quilted all the black first, I could remove the safety pins and quilt unobstructed. I love the freedom of quilting without having to stop all the time to remove the pins. I love to do "allover" quilting, but there are times it's nice to be more creative. I changed my design with each block in order to practice new ideas and motifs.

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Playing around with different quilting ideas.

I took my time as I went, thinking about each block and how I wanted to fill it. After trying out several new fills, I found a few I really liked. I truly enjoyed every minute of my quilting on this project. Once I finished the quilting, I added the binding and spent a couple early mornings on my deck stitching it in into place while I had my coffee. I love the end results. How about you?

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My finished Awash With Color Mystery Sampler.

For more detailed help with quilting techniques, view our Quilting Lessons or consult a complete quilting guide. Your local library will probably have several on hand that you can review before purchasing one.

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