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In the Quilting World

Tips and Tricks for Working With Panels

There are so many panels available on the market for quilters, from cute and cuddly panels for babies to holiday themed to general interest. It's easy to find one for just about any occasion. And fabric manufacturers generally offer yardage of coordinating prints for their panels. It's easy to add a few borders to a panel and call it good, but it's fun to get a little more creative and create showstopping designs.

Hi, it's Carolyn Beam here again; I'm the person who writes this update. Thanks for joining me as I share my thoughts about quilting with you. As always, I'd love to hear ideas and suggestions from you as well.

Before we get started, I have selected a pattern that I think might be of interest to you. The pattern I'm suggesting is the Emerald Coast Quilt Pattern. This pattern reminded me of vacations on the beach with the waves crashing onto the shore. While it's made in cool blue batiks, this design would look great in any color.

Back to panels. Panels come in all different shapes and styles, from ones where the design runs the entire width of the fabric to ones that are printed in smaller squares or rectangles. Each has lots of design opportunities besides presenting challenges as well. I want to share some different ways I have worked with panels to create fun designs. While I'm not giving you patterns for each of these, the ideas I'm sharing can guide you on how to effectively work with panels.

The first one is a panel that runs the width of the fabric. It's called Animal Alphabet by Deane Beesley Designs Inc. for P&B Textiles. It has a fun alphabet design in pink or blue with several coordinating fabrics. I chose to use the pink panel with three coordinating pink prints along with fabric from my stash. Here is my finished design:

Animal Alphabet Quilt
Animal Alphabet Quilt
Animal Alphabet by Deane Beesley -- click here for larger image Fat quarters of coordinating prints -- click here for larger image
Animal Alphabet by Deane Beesley. Fat quarters of coordinating prints.

The panel measures 23 3/4" x 41 3/4". This was not an ideal size since it didn't divide evenly. However, it was only 1/4" off of the even measurement of 24" x 42", and I thought I could work with that. Sometimes it's necessary to get a little creative with dimensions. Since 24 and 42 both divide by two, the first thing I thought of was working with 2" finished dimensions. I drew my idea out on graph paper to see if I could make it work. Since I only had fat quarters of the coordinating prints, I needed a design that didn't use a lot of fabric, and I knew I had some background fabrics in my stash that I could use.

Graph paper or a design program like Electric Quilt (EQ8) are great for playing with design ideas. I used the dimensions of 24" x 42", and I'll share how I made the odd dimensions of 23 3/4" x 41 3/4" work. For a design like the one I came up with, placing the coordinating prints in diagonal rows, drawing it out first is very helpful. However, if the arrangement you want to use doesn't fit evenly like mine did, another option is to just randomly place the different coordinating prints.

For this design, I needed 13 segments (78 total), 2 1/2" wide (2 inch marks finished), cut from each of these bands. The strips are cut 2 1/2" wide or 2 inch marks finished (everything is divisible by two).

Six different bands from strips 2 1/2" wide. Segments are cut 2 1/2" -- click here for larger image
Six different bands from strips 2 1/2" wide. Segments are cut 2 1/2".

I sewed the segments for the side borders together with a 1/4" seam allowance knowing that they would end up being slightly longer than the panel. Once I sewed and checked the measurement, they were 42 1/2" long, whereas my panel (with the seam allowance) was 42 1/4". I went back to my border and took in a few of the seams to make them a little more than 1/4", but enough to make my borders fit. By taking a slightly larger seam allowance in several different places, the difference isn't noticeable and allowed me to work with the panel in a creative way. I did the same thing for the top and bottom borders.

Side borders -- click here for larger image Top and bottom borders -- click here for larger image

These border strips were a creative way to add a fun design element to this panel and make it a usable size. The finished size is 36" x 54 1/2".

This is one way to work with a panel with an odd size. Here are some other ways:
1. Add a border(s) to make the panel a workable size. Borders don't have to be the same width on all sides.
2. Add a few quilt blocks to just the corners with solid sashing between them.
3. Add sashing between quilt blocks to equal the desired length.
4. Add a piano-key border, varying the width of the strips (or adjusting the seam width as needed) to equal the desired length.

Other panels have smaller images running across the width of the fabric like this Little Darlings Woodland panel by Sillier Than Sally for P&B Textiles. Along with the panel, there are coordinating prints.

Little Darlings Woodland panel -- Click here for larger image
Little Darlings Woodland panel.
Coordinating prints for the Little Darlings Woodland panel -- Click here for larger image
Coordinating prints for the Little Darlings Woodland panel.

An easy way to work with a panel such as this is to first cut the individual images out. Size doesn't matter, as long as they're all the same size. Any number of borders can be added to the individual images, and I chose to add borders in a Log Cabin fashion. I cut strips 2" wide and added strips to the sides first, followed by the top and bottom. I mixed up the different prints and added two rounds of borders to each image.

Two rounds of borders sewn to one panel image -- Click here for larger image
Two rounds of borders sewn to one panel image.

I ran into a problem as I was sewing the blocks. I was working with eight fat quarters of coordinating prints and discovered that I could only add two borders to eight of the blocks, and I wanted a nine-block quilt top. So I mixed things up a little for the center block. I cut leftover border strips 3 1/2" long (3" was the finished size of the two borders added to the other blocks) and pieced them together to make a piano-key border for the center block. I did have to trim the ends of each border to make it fit, but not too much to be really noticeable.

Center block with piano-key border -- Click here for larger image
Center block with piano-key border.

It was an easy solution and added a little more interest to the quilt. Here's the quilt top.

Little Darlings Woodland quilt top -- Click here for larger image
Little Darlings Woodland quilt top.

Using panel blocks in the centers of Log Cabin blocks is an easy way to build a quilt top. It doesn't matter what size the panel blocks are nor does it matter how wide or how many Log Cabin strips are added. It all works!

I've had this owl panel called Life's A Hoot by Tammy Andersen for Adornit in my stash for a long time.

Life's A Hoot panel -- Click here for larger image
Life's A Hoot panel.

These owls would be fun as the center patch of Log Cabin blocks. I figured out how big to cut the squares based on the design. I used fabric from my stash for the logs that I cut 1 1/2" wide -- a variety of lights along with teal, green and orange.

Four Log Cabin blocks -- Click here for larger image
Four Log Cabin blocks.

Here's a tip for using panel blocks as the center of Log Cabin blocks. It's important to know which Log Cabin block arrangement you're going to use. You will want the panel block images to face the same direction when the blocks are sewn together. Notice in my four blocks that the centers are all oriented correctly, and the logs are sewn on differently. Once you know the Log Cabin arrangement you will use, you'll know which sides of the center need to be light and which need to be dark. The top left block has the first light strip sewn to the right, and remaining logs are added clockwise. The top right block has the first light strip sewn to the bottom. The bottom left has the first light strip sewn to the top, and the bottom right block has the first strip sewn to the left side. The remaining logs are all sewn on in a clockwise manner.

I hope I've given you a few ideas on working with panels in creative ways. If you'd like to see more ideas for working with panels, please let me know. Email me at Editor@QuiltersWorld.com.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Take care,


Carolyn Beam

Carolyn Beam
Editor, Quilter's World magazine

Carolyn has been quilting for over 40 years. She took her first class when her oldest son was a baby and hasn't stopped since. She has traveled the country teaching and lecturing and has had many designs published in books and magazines. Besides making quilts for family and friends, she also makes quilts to donate to the fire department her youngest son works for. Carolyn is married with three grown sons and one adorable grandson.

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