Saturday, February 7, 2015

dreaming easy: a checkered arrow quilt pattern tutorial

if you would like to read about how i came to create this quilt and it's process, as well as get information on how i chose my fabrics, please read this post - dreaming easy: the genesis.

i've tried to write the directions with a beginner in mind so although this is a very easy, fast block, the directions look wordy. more experienced quilters can likely just quickly glance at the photos to get a feel for block assembly. if this is your very first quilt (how exciting!) you are going to need more explicit instructions on basic skills and quilt finishing than i provide here. sarah schraw at sarah quilts and rachel hauser at stitched in color have both done beginner-friendly instructions on these topics.


  • 56" x 72"
  • 63 - 8"sq finished blocks composed of 4 - 4" units
  • 7 blocks per row, 9 rows 
*it is possible to make a slightly smaller quilt at 48" x 56" with just 4 charm packs (two of each type). this would yield a 42 block quilt of 6 blocks by 7 rows.


  • two patterned charm packs of the same fabric line (42 squares ea) for 42 arrow shapes*
  • three solid colored charm packs (42 squares ea) for background 
  • various coordinating prints or solids, at least 5"x10" pieces of each, for 21 additional arrows*
  • 1/2 yd binding fabric
  • 4 yds backing fabric (or the equivalent for piecing a backing)
  • batting
*a single 42 - 10" square layer cake of one fabric line, if subcut into 5" squares would yield 4 squares of each fabric, resulting in enough squares for 84 arrow blocks, 21 more than needed for this size quilt. you could simply select 16 of the squares to use, yielding 64  blocks (only1 extra), or omit some of the excess pieces and save for another use.

**two charm packs will yield 42 of the 63 blocks needed. each arrow requires either two charm squares or two 5" squares of the same print fabric so gather enough additional fabric to make the 21 extra arrows. an 18"x20" fat quarter will yield 12 - 5" squares/6 pairs so you could use a minimum of four fat quarters to round out the fabric needs for the additional arrows, with a bit to spare.

block assembly directions

before beginning assembly, cut all the additional squares to supplement the charm packs.

for ideas about sewing hsts with directional prints, read this post here.
and for information about using low-volume (light colored) prints and being able to see the pattern in this quilt, read here.

chain piecing assembly line

also, please note that the whole process can be streamlined by chain piecing all the blocks at once at each step and doing your pressing and cutting assembly-line fashion. because each block uses only one print fabric, it's pretty easy to keep the block pieces straight and not confuse them.

all seams sewn with a 1/4" seam allowance.

each block will require two identical squares for the arrow shape and two background squares. one of each type will remain a square (top two in the photo), the other two will be used to make hsts (bottom two in above photo).

draw a diagonal line from one corner to it's opposite corner on the wrong side of your background (white) square, then layer it on the printed square, right sides together.

if you are chain piecing, do this for all your blocks before proceeding to the sewing, cutting, and pressing steps.

sew a seam 1/4" away from the diagonal line on each side.

cut between the seams on the diagonal line you drew. press each block open either to the printed fabric side or fully open. your preference. i pressed this seam to the side.

you now have two hst units and two squares. position as shown to create your arrow shape. sew the top two blocks together down that center seam and the bottom two, also, by layering the blocks with right sides touching. if you have the block laid out like this, simply take the units on the right side and fold them over so they are face down on the left side unit. then, without flipping or turning anything, sew down the right hand side of the units.

note: originally, when i began, i was trimming the square units down to 4.5" before i assembled the larger block because that's close to the size of the hst units. however, i found that since i was trimming up my blocks anyway once they were done, i was double trimming and wasting time. the pinked edge of the charm squares can be troublesome to match up and i find that i just don't get the piecing as precise as i'd like, so i prefer to do a quick trim of the blocks when finished. you make the call about how much and when you want to trim. the only time i found it at all helpful to do a pre-trim was when i wanted to sort of fussy cut the square blocks to match up with a certain part of the hsts.

for a detailed picture tutorial of that process, go to this post: checkered arrow block sans pretrimming.

once you've sewn the two sets together, press fully open.

at this stage, i found it helpful to press the seams open instead of to the side. it's kind of a pain because it takes longer, but the bulk begins to add up in these blocks and i found it really helped them to lay flatter when pressed open from here on out. if you really don't want to press fully open, press to the side of the square unit so you have opposing seams for lining up your units.

now you're going to sew the two half units together to complete the block. lay the units together, right sides touching, and match up the center seams by either butting the opposing seams together (shown above, slightly staggered so you can see how they fit together) . . .

 or by matching the seams up (above) depending on how you pressed. if you are a pinner, pin at the seam. i tried both ways and found i prefered pressing the seams open and pinning directly into the seam. above you can see how the pin is actually between the two pieces of fabric where it enters and exits.

sew together and press open.

voila! matching seams. so pretty. but not fully necessary here. on the blocks where my seam was a tad off, it didn't really show up in this pattern like it does in some others. so don't stress over your seam matching here unless you really care.

here's my first block after initial assembly. you can see that even though on the first one i pre-trimmed the square units before assembly, it's not a precise block and i still have odd pinked edges in places. this is why i decided to try forgoing the pre-trim and it totally worked! see photos of what that looked like in process in this post here.

here is my beautiful arrow block all trimmed up.
i like it!

once all your blocks are complete, you need to lay them out in a 7 across by 9 down grid and assemble your rows.

i first assembled each row individually by sewing adjoining pairs across the row, then attaching the pairs to each other, pressing all seams open after assembly, of course. then i sewed two rows together, and then the pairs of rows until the top was completely assembled in a 7 x 9 block grid.

you can read about my process for piecing the backing here.

when your top and backing are complete, sandwich, quilt (i stippled), and bind.
your lovely checkered arrow quilt is ready for use.

linked up with wip wednesday at freshly pieced.


  1. Such pretty colours - it looks so fresh! I'm one of those weirdos who loves trimming HSTs - I think because you can cut any wonkiness away and look like a super-awesome precision stitcher!

  2. I love these arrow shapes! I swear I loved arrows before they were cool:)

  3. Oh I love those colors. They remind me of a quilt I started hand sewing way back in my teens. I wonder what ever happened to that quilt? Anyway, yours is going to be really pretty.

  4. Lovely tutorial. Those colors are so warm and springy!

  5. Thank you for a great tutorial for this beautiful quilt.
    It would make an easy charity quilt too!

  6. I love this quilt. It looks quick and easy and I am going to use it in my guest room. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Is it just me or does anyone else have an urge to put cat faces on these blocks ?Love it.


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