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Scrappy Quilts with Traditional Style Blocks

Growing up, we had a scrap bag. While I didn’t start quilting until I was an adult, as a child I was always sewing something. My sisters and I made a lot of our own clothes and there were always leftover pieces. I would look through the scraps searching for the right piece for various projects, including doll clothes, which I made by the dozens.

So naturally when I began my first quilt I automatically went to my scrap bag. I was living in India at the time and had fallen in love with the Indian hand-block printed fabrics. I had made clothes, bags and other items as gifts and for my own use and all the scraps went into the scrap bag. My first quilt, begun in 1972, was a Grandmother’s Flower Garden made with fabrics from that bag. Although I have to admit I made a few trips to the marketplace to purchase a few more fabrics for my quilt.

I “organized” the scraps so that I would use the same fabric in individual flowers, but then each flower would be put together differently. There were a few repeats.



From that point on, I have loved making quilts with lots of different fabrics. To me, the more fabrics the better.

I often am asked, “I understand how to use lots of different fabrics in quilts such as Baby Blocks or Thousand Pyramids, but how do you do it with block style quilts?”

First and foremost, you have to select a block design, shade it in grey scale, and determine where you want the lightest, mediums, darks and darkest tones.  I will illustrate with the block used in my quilt pattern Desert Star but the same process is used for all of my designs.

Here are two different ways you might choose to shade in the block, Desert Star.


Version A


Version B


I selected version A and then decided how many different value groups to have in the quilt. You can see here that I have six different values. Number 1 is  the lightest fabric. Fabrics 2 through 4 are light to dark with light in the center. Number 2 is not as light as the background fabric, number 1. Fabric 6 is a medium value and could be similar in value to fabric 3.



Once you have the block design and have decided on value placement within the block, the next step is to select a palette of colors. If you are at a loss for colors that look good together you might want to select one of our shaded bundles to start with. To get as many fabrics as possible, fill in with colors from your stash that fall within the same general color range as those in the bundle.

Next sort the fabrics into color groups. Here are the color groups I used when I made the quilt from the Sonoran Spring bundle:


Group 1, lightest fabrics for background


Group 2, star points light


Group 3, star points medium


Group 4, star points dark


Group 5, darkest fabrics for small triangles


Group 6, medium blues/blue grey for large corner triangles


Here are four different blocks made up of those color groups.  It is fun to see how many different blocks you can make using the same “formula.” Since this is a digital image, I have only used the four different blocks in the quilt shown here, but if I were making the actual quilt, I would follow the same formula. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be strict with the colors. For instance, depending on the other fabrics used, a fabric used as a dark star point in one block might be a medium point in another block. Just have fun and relax!



Stay tuned for another blog on how to incorporate border print fabrics in this design.

9 thoughts on “Scrappy Quilts with Traditional Style Blocks

  1. Thank you Jinny for your clear explanation of this process. Now if I need a reason to justify collecting more of your lovely fabric, I will show my husband this and tell him that I’m expanding my ability to make gorgeous quilts.

  2. Wonderful explanation of how to choose fabrics. Thank you.

  3. This Star visual presentation is excellent. Th. Eat I have seen. Thank you.

  4. I love your way of changing the pattern to black and white. Genius. I can now see the light, medium and dark. I have difficulties distinguishing between mediums and darks. Having a you show your medium and dark picks of fabric is very helpful. I just finished my first scrappy quilt and am looking forward to doing another.

  5. In the paragraph where you describe the values 1-6, should the last sentence start with “Fabric 6 is a medium value” rather than “Fabric 5?”

    1. Yes, you are correct, this has been updated. Thank you for the callout.

  6. You really helped and explained it so clearly. Thank you so much. I’ve used the grey scale when making a bargello,but didn’t think to transfer that idea to blocks! What a light bulb moment. You’re a genius.

  7. My email was wrong. Sorry

  8. Years ago, I made my first 1000 pyramids quilt project on my first flannel wall (a one yard piece of flannel taped to the wall). It was a “flood” light moment when I realized how light or dark a fabric was depended on the shade of its ‘neighbors’.

    Oooh, I do look forward to Wednesday mornings and my “Jinny” lesson. Thank you.

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