Virtual Grids

May 5, 2011 § 7 Comments

Civil War Quilt BOM

It feels so good to be able to check this one off my list!!  It was a Civil War block-of-the-month at the shop where I work and was quite a challenge.  There were so many rounding errors and just plain mistakes in the block cutting measurements that we ended up redrawing the whole thing in Electric Quilt.  Please don’t ask me what the pattern is because I don’t want anyone to have to go through what we did.  But I am happy to say that the quilt top is finished!  I am donating it and it will be auctioned off.

This brings up a good conversation about block design in general.  When designing blocks, it’s really nice to choose measurements that work with your design rather than against it.  I talk about this in my EQ classes when we get to the drawing segment.  Here’s a little exercise for you:

Most traditional pieced blocks can be drawn on a square grid.  Electric Quilt author, Patti Anderson, calls these divisions the Virtual Grid.  Once you see the grid beneath the block, you will be able to draw nearly any traditional pieced block.  See if you can  identify the Virtual Grid of these blocks above.  Think you’ve got it?

  • No. 1 = 3 x 3 grid
  • No. 2 = 4 x 4 grid (or it could also be a 2 x 2 grid)
  • No. 3 = 5 x 5 grid
  • No. 4 = 7 x 7 grid

Do you see them?  Once you can identify the grid, you will be able to draw almost any block.  Feathered stars, circles, and arcs are blocks that don’t follow this theory.  But many blocks do.  Practice identifying the virtual grid every time you see a block.

So, if you were going to draw the first block, you would want to choose a finished block size that is easily divisible by 3, like a 6″ or 9″ or 12″ block.  Then you will get nice common measurements for the pieces you will need to cut.  If you choose a finished block size like 10 1/2″ you will have a much harder time making this block.  Do you see what I am getting at?

This is the problem that was going on in the quilt pattern above. The finished size of the blocks was supposed to be 9 1/2″ which doesn’t lend itself to any nice round numbers.  Hence the headaches we had in making the blocks.

May your day be filled with nice even numbers today!

§ 7 Responses to Virtual Grids

  • DebbyMcC says:

    It’s all about the grid! One of the first lessons when I was teaching beginning quilt making. I would have them draft the block on graph paper just so they could see the underlying grid and how the pieces all fit together. Only after that did we do quick cutting and piecing, but I wanted them to see the basics before they got into thquick stuff. So many people jump right in without understanding that basic stuff, using all the time saving techniques, then when something goes wrong they don’t know why or how to fix it… Great quilt BTW =-)

  • Viv says:


    Thanks for such a great post. I don’t use my EQ because I really just don’t kow how to access the things I need to in it. I wish there was somewhere in NZ I could go to a class. I’m very much a hands on learner.

  • Alexis says:

    Excellent point and great quilt! I once tried to make a knitted sampler blanket and the different stitch counts drove me crazy. I love that quilt blocks are a bit easier to put together if your understand their underlying structure!

  • Robin says:

    Sounds like technology just complicates things. I’m happy as a clam just getting out my graph paper for quilters, a straight edge and a compass; drawing out each block; tracing the individual pieces onto template material and cutting them out; tracing around them on the back of the fabric (adding seam allowance as they are cut); pinning the pieces to other pieces one by one; and hand sewing them together, one piece at a time. Yeah, it takes a year to make a quilt this way. But you can be sure all the seams will match!!! 🙂

  • Gorgeous Quilt! Sounds like it was a tricky one to put together but the results are fabulous!

  • amandajean says:

    i LOVE the large X that is formed in the quilt top. it’s such a pretty quilt!

  • SewCalGal says:

    How would you draw those blocks out if you set them on point?

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