Monday, February 4, 2013

Something New Sampler: Cathedral Windows

Amy of The Cute Life has been hosting a great series this year called the Something New Sampler -- a wonderful opportunity for all of us to try a new technique and turn it into a 7 x 14" quilt block which can then be turned into something else fun. Having been dazzled by the versions I've seen online, I decided to go for the gold and try cathedral windows for my day on the blog hop. Now that I'm on the other side of the experience, I can say in all honesty that cathedral windows are pretty unbelievably time consuming, but you can almost forget about that when you see the finished product.

Let's start with a few disclaimers. First, I owe my understanding of the cathedral windows process almost entirely to a superb tutorial by Angela Nash for Moda Bake Shop which I highly recommend that you read after (or before) reading mine. The dimensions are different, but the process is the same.  If anything that I say in this post doesn't make sense, just go check out Angela's version to clarify. Second, I decided at the beginning of January that I was going to be Super Blogger for this project, finishing most of my block and writing down all my instructions back during the second week of January. Guess what happened when I went looking for those instructions this afternoon... I am constantly scribbling directions for tutorials and projects in about four different notebooks that I keep on hand. God only knows what happened to this one, but it's currently missing in action. I reconfigured all my cutting instructions and directions as quickly as possible today, and hopefully I didn't forget anything, but if something doesn't work out exactly right or a step is missing somewhere, just let me know.

(1) 5.5" square of thin cardboard (like the kind used on a shirt box or behind a fabric layer cake stack)
(8) 6.5" squares of solid background fabric (I used chocolate brown linen for mine)
(8) 2.75" squares for the oval petals (all my prints are Timber & Leaf by Sarah Watts)
(10) 1.75" squares for the windows (important note: these will be framed on point, so keep this mind while you're cutting, especially if you're using a directional print)
(2) 2 x 5.5" strips of solid background fabric (not pictured above)
(2) 1.5 x 16.5" strips of solid background fabric (not pictured above)
an iron that can work up a good head of steam
a fabric glue stick (I personally love using my Sewline glue pen for this)

Place the square of cardboard in the center of a 6.5" square of solid background fabric. Mark some fabric glue along the top and bottom corners and fold the side edges of the fabric down, ironing them into place.

Do this again with the corners, and fold the side edges into place, pressing again so that all the edges are crisply folded. Remove the cardboard and repeat with the remaining seven squares.

Fold the fabric square in half both vertically and horizontally, pressing each time so that the lines clearly show, and then unfolding the square again.

Turn the square over so that the folded cut edges are on the top and fold each corner to meet in the middle, being sure to carefully match the fold edges on the outer sides (see Angela's tutorial for more detail on this step).

Press the folds carefully.

Now fold the corners again into the center, this time taking special care to evenly meet the corners neatly in the middle. Press the folds again. Repeat the folding steps with the remaining seven squares and line them up in a two by four grid.

Take two of the folded squares and place them back to back so that the folded openings are on the outside. Open one outer folded corner and pin through the fold line, checking the other side to be sure that they are carefully lined up along matching fold lines. Stitch carefully along that fold line, making sure when you are done that the squares are sewn together yet also able to fold closed again naturally.

Repeat this step with another pair of squares, and then sew the two pairs together in a line of four. Do the same with the remaining four squares, and then sew both rows of four together down the middle.

Take the eight 2.75 squares and place them inside the folds of the backing squares. Once you have decided on a pattern that you like, use a little fabric glue to hold them down. Then carefully sew about 1/8" inside the outer corner of each square so that they are firmly held down. Press the folds back into place. It is very helpful to sew a few quick stitches (by hand or machine) at the center of each folded square to hold the corners together while you sew the windows. These can be removed later when you're finished.

Now place the ten 1.75" squares for the windows onto the three vertical rows of squares in the middle (refer to the picture above). You can use your finger to gently pull in the middle of each folded square edge so that you can see what the background will be behind your windows to help you decide how you want to arrange your squares. Once you have your chosen layout, I found it helpful to ever so slightly trim the sides of each window square to follow the curve of the window and then use a little fabric glue to hold it down in its spot.

How you decide to sew your cathedral windows is now up to you. I decided to do mine by hand because I love to have a hand sewing project to work on in the evenings while I watch tv with my husband. To do this, you simply pull back the middle of each side of the window squares which falls into a very natural curve and sew it down, almost like sewing binding on the back of a quilt. You'll do the same with the squares along the oval edges as well. If you prefer to machine stitch your windows, just refer to Angela's tutorial for directions on that.

When your windows and ovals are all stitched in place and nicely pressed, sew the 2 x 5.5" pieces of background fabric on the short ends of the block using a quarter inch seam allowance and press. Repeat with the 1.5 x 16.5" strips on the long ends of the block. Trim off any excess so that you have a nice 7.5 by 14.5" unfinished block.

The cathedral windows block is truly a work of art. My husband suggested that I frame mine for the wall, but I decided to do something a bit different. Unfortunately my light was gone by the time I finished the project last evening, so you'll have to come back tomorrow to see what I did with mine...

Be sure to visit M-R at Quilt Matters this week too to see her version of a trapunto block. And since her post isn't up yet as I type this, I'm now heading off to Wikipedia to find out what trapunto is...

Linking up to the Let's Get Acquainted Monday Link-up.


  1. Wow! Beautiful - definitely on my to do list :o) You know, when I have time, lol!

  2. Very pretty - thanks for sharing the process!

  3. Very pretty!! I would love to have a quilt from cathedral windows!! They are just beautiful!

  4. Beautiful but way too confusieng and detailed for this brain of mine/

  5. Lovely lovely! It is on my lifetime goal list to make an entire quilt of these. But that's obviously a long-term goal! They're just so beautiful--like little jewel boxes.

  6. Very nice! This is a goal of mine . . .to master these.

  7. I've never done cathedral windows before. Thanks for the tutorial, Heidi! I'm game to try it!

  8. That is beautiful Heidi! And great tutorial!

  9. Fab tute Heidi, I enjoyed making this for the Something NEW Sampler :)


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