Quilting tutorial: Cathedral window square and assembly

An example of a Cathedral Squares quilt in progress (image by Kristen from Flickr).

The “cathedral window” quilt square is different from others in that, instead of being sewn into the usual top-batting-backing quilt sandwich, it provides its own bulk by being folded into multiple layers. As one blogger puts it, it’s “fabric origami.” The nice thing about this is that once you are tired of working on it, it’s done, since all the raw edges are hidden and you don’t need to deal with batting or backing. Since you use so much of the background fabric, you’ll want to use something inexpensive, as you won’t see most of it.

You create visual interest in this design by cutting squares of squares of colourful fabric and placing them point-down over the seams between the stitched-together squares, then stitching the edges of the “windows” down to keep the colours in place. Here’s a more detailed how-to, similar to the process described in this video.

Part 1: Making the backing squares

  1. Start with a square of background fabric. It should be approximately 4 times the size of what you want your finished square to be, because you will end up folding it in half twice.
  2. Finger-press 0.25″ seams along all of the edges.
  3. Fold the square in half along one diagonal and finger-press to get a crease, and repeat for the remaining diagonal.
  4. Unfold the square, right side down, and bring all four corners to the center of the X formed by the diagonal creases.
    • If you want to add an accent colour for the lens-shaped “petals”, do this:
    1. Cut a square of fabric about 0.5″ smaller on the sides than the current backing square.
    2. Centre this fabric over the folds (you will pin it in place in the next step).
  5. Fold all four corners of the backing square into the centre and press.
  6. Use a couple of stitches to firmly tack the points down, and secure the accent fabric if you used any. You should have a package that looks like an envelope.
    • Avoid stitching through the very last layer of fabric to keep a tidy-looking back.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 to get a second square.
  8. Line the edges of the two squares up and use a zigzag stitch to join them together as close together as possible.
  9. Repeat the above with all additional squares.

Part 2: Adding the accent fabric

  1. Measure the diagonal one one of your backing squares. Divide it in half and subtract 0.5″. Cut a square of accent fabric that is the resulting length on the sides.
    • E.g. if your backing square is 6″ on the diagonal, half that is 3″, and your accent pieces should be 2.5″ square.
  2. Pin the accent fabric over the seam between two backing squares, point down. It should be centred in the “diamond” created by the X seams.
  3. Fold an edge of the backing fabric over an edge of the accent fabric and use a straight stitch to sew the backing fabric down over the raw edge. Repeat this for all 4 sides of the accent fabric.
  4. Repeat the above with all additional squares.

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