The Big-Block Quilt

The quilt below is for someone who shall remain nameless for right now. While I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog, it’s possible his mommy does. 🙂


The quilt measures about 84″ square and is structured around the 50″ center block. Yes! FIFTY inches, which is why I call it the big-block quilt. I actually found the block design in the book One Block Says It All by Toni Phillips and Juanita Simonich, published in 1998. The book features patterns for 10 60″ blocks, with instructions for interchangeable borders to create bed quilts.

For my purposes, 60″ was too large. If you look at the photo above, you can see the center block is created on a 5-grid. That made it easy to rescale to 50″: just make each “unit” 10″ finished instead of 12″. For example, the tan and blue half-square triangles in the corners of the center are each 10″ units, as is the variable star at the very middle. Each set of two flying geese is a 10″ unit, also.

Remember the wonderful cats and mice fabric from the center? And some of you commented on the postage stamp cloth, too.


I like several of the blocks in the book and used another of the designs in DeLight!, a quilt I made last year. However, the size provides a design challenge. Whether 50″ or 60″, the large size makes proportional borders challenging. For borders to “stand up to” the center, they need to have appropriate visual weight.

I created that proportion in a number of ways. First, the blue stars border contains the center completely, and its relative width stops the eye from extending the size of the center. Second, the center border of broken dishes blocks has a lot of visual weight of its own. It is in high-contrast values, with a large variety of fabrics to hold attention, and it is scaled larger than the center variable star. The second blue stars border echoes the first, creating even more contrast for the broken dishes to play against, and for the outer sawteeth border. That last border has half-square triangles that run around the outside edge, drawing attention with them, and increasing their visual weight. (See my posts on proportion here, here, and here.)

I honestly wasn’t sure this would work, but I think it did.

And the back… A couple of years ago I planned a project with my granddaughter. We were going to use some John Deere logo fabric and a few other things to make a quilt for her little brother. Unfortunately life got very complicated, and we weren’t able to make progress on our project. I checked with her and she agreed I could use the parts of our project for this instead.


I expect the quilt recipient may well want this side showing on his bed. 🙂


21 thoughts on “The Big-Block Quilt

  1. katechiconi

    Wow, it’s certainly a big one, but it works so well. I love the scale contrast between the big block and the smaller hst borders, and you’re right about using so many fabrics, it really makes them sparkle.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you. I think it’s the “sparkle” that makes it work well. If they were low contrast, or if they didn’t use any diagonal lines (just checkerboard, for instance, or rail fence/piano keys) I think they wouldn’t have carried enough weight.

  2. KerryCan

    If I was a little kid with that quilt, I’d spend hours of my life looking for the fabric pieces that match, trying to identify every time each one was used. There’s so much visual interest in this one!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That sounds like me, too. I didn’t have quilts around when I was little, but I remember looking at patterned wallpaper and picking out “pictures” never intended by the paper designer. In fact I still do that with my bedroom curtains. Thank you!

  3. colorpencil2014

    I wish I had more time to leave comments on your blog. I was always look at it and love the patterns, colors. But a cosy child’s quilt with John Deer tractors!!!! That is one lucky grand son!!! xo Johanna

  4. snarkyquilter

    You succeeded in balancing the large center with the borders so neither dominates. Good choice for a child – not too fussy. And I love the space you’ve given the tractors on the back. Better you than me dealing with all those half square triangles on the edges.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, thanks, I think it is good for a child, but also won’t be childish as he gets older. His cousin (other 5-yr-old grandson) has a much different quilt, which he’ll grow into well, but doesn’t suit as well for a little boy. As to the HST, I’ve learned how to deal with them after a couple of bad go-rounds earlier in my quilting life. So they go pretty well now. 🙂

  5. Thread crazy

    You did a great job on this one with all the HST. Love the flying geese in the center block – takes the eye outward away from the center and to the lovely borders. You balanced those borders well.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you. I love the big geese, too. If there is anything I would redesign, though, it would be the very center with the variable star. Maybe push the star OUT with the whole 10″ being the center of the star, and the next 5″ (the closest geese) being the star points. Huh. Should try that… 🙂

      1. Thread crazy

        Hmm..never thought of doing it tgat way so yes, I’d say try it. Then if you don’t care for it as a quilt center block, make it into a wall hanging. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!


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