How to Make a Churn-Dash Quilt, Part 1

Hello fellow sewing-enthusiasts! I am so excited to share this quilt-a-long project with you here at WeAllSew. I learned to make quilts from my mom when I was growing up. About fifteen years ago I began doing it in earnest and took classes to broaden my skills. I have since worked in a quilt shop where I taught beginning quilting classes. I still love to teach quilting basics on my blog, Diary of a Quilter, which I have been writing for over five years now.

For this quilt-a-long we are going to make a traditional Churn Dash quilt block using some short-cut techniques to speed up the process and with very little fabric waste. This is a classic quilt block with a huge potential for a variety of looks, depending on the colors and fabrics used, including a modern, updated version.

Week 1: Choose and cut fabrics.

This specific design works best with two contrasting sets of fabrics. Here is a version using traditional quilt fabrics such as shirtings and other reproduction fabrics in high-contrast red and white.

Churn Dash in reds and whites

The same pattern in more contemporary aquas and green prints contrasting with the more the modern solid white.

Churn Dash Quilt - turquoise and blue

For this version I wanted to try something more subtle and “low-volume” (or low-contrast) to create a quilt with a slightly more washed-out palette inspired by spring.

Churn Dash Quilt-Along on WeAllSew

To give it more of a modern look I chose solids again as one set of my contrasting fabrics but this time I went with a range of colors in the blue and green spectrum.

turquoise and blue fabrics

For the contrasting fabrics I went with low-value prints on light/white backgrounds. (Also popularly called “low-volume” prints right now and a fun current trend in modern quilting.) I added some variety of colors in my prints. One way of adding visual interest to any quilt design is to throw in a color that is slightly unexpected. I love the term “zinger” for those unexpected colors. In this case, looking at the selection of prints, notice how the pink print and the yellow print stand jump out.

low volume prints on white

A variety of scales (sizes) of prints can also add visual interest to a quilt design. Using the prints paired with the solids gives the quilt contrast, but giving a variety of scales of prints ads even more depth and visual texture.

And then, just to be a little bit rebellious, I added one dark print fabric that blended with my solids.

the "zinger" - darker turquoise print

Fabrics used in this quilt:

RJR solids

  • Sea Glass
  • Blue Skies
  • Cove
  • Notting Hill
  • Beach House
  • Nile Green

Kona solids

  • Aqua
  • Leaf

Prints from collections such as

This quilt is based on 1/8 yard strips of fabric. You can use either a traditional 1/8 of a yard strips (4-1/2″ x 44″) or something called a Fat Eighth. This size piece is a really convenient size to find. A Fat Eighth comes from cutting a quarter yard of fabric (Fat Quarter or traditional quarter) in half to create a boxier shape (9″ x 22″). Some fabric manufacturers also sell bundles of pre-cut Fat Eighth pieces.

1/8 yard strips of fabric

Fabric Requirements are:

  • 15 “light” eighth of yards (4-1/2″ x 44″) or Fat Eighths (9″ x 22″)
  • 15 “dark” eighth of yards (4-1/2″ x 44″) or Fat Eighths (9″ x 22″)
  • 5/8 yard border fabric
  • 1/2 yard binding fabric
  • 3-1/2 yards backing fabric

This quilt finishes at 58-1/2″ x 69″.

If you prefer a bigger quilt size the fabric requirements for a twin size version (70″ x 91″) are:

  • 24 “light” eighth of yards (4-1/2″ x 44″) or Fat Eighths (9″ x 22″)
  • 24 “dark” eighth of yards (4-1/2″ x 44″) or Fat Eighths (9″ x 22″)
  • 1 yard border fabric
  • 5/8 yard binding fabric
  • 5-1/2 yards backing fabric

Prepare to piece your blocks by pairing up a contrasting “light” eighth yard and a “dark” eighth yard cut to create 15 sets of fabric. Match them right sides together and cut two sets of strips 4-1/2″ x 21″. Keep these two sets together.

pair solid + print

Next time we will talk about cutting and piecing the blocks.

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