Grandma Mae's Economy Block Quilt Tutorial

Jenny Doan

Grandma Mae's Economy Block Quilt Tutorial

Quilt Size: 77¼" x 77¼"
Jenny Doan demonstrates how to make a beautiful, old fashioned Economy Block using 2.5 inch strips of precut fabric (jelly roll). For this project, Jenny chose a "Nature's Pace" Digitally Printed Roll Up by Studio RK for Robert Kaufman. This quilt was inspired by a very special antique quilt made by the great-grandmother of Kate, our amazing Marketing Manager. It comes together easy-as-pie with snowballed corners and sashing that never has to match up!

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video transcript

Hi everybody, it’s Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. And I’ve got a super sweet project for you today. So this quilt right here on the table in front of me is an old antique quilt. And on the first Thursday of the month, on a Facebook page called MSQC All Stars, I do a little one hour thing called Unfinished Business and we’re finishing up projects and things like that. And one day Kate, who works in our marketing department brought this quilt in because we were talking about old quilt blocks and there are several on here that need repair or that sort of thing. And so we talked about it. Well I became enthralled with this quilt and I just thought it was so beautiful and I wanted to make it. It’s made by her great grandma Mae and, I mean, I just thought it was beautiful and so this is my take on it right here. And I just think it came out beautiful. It’s so fun to see an old quilt in new colors. I mean it just came out beautifully. I searched the block in Barbara Bracmon’s book and the block is called Economy Block so we’re calling it Grandma Mae’s Economy Block. And let me show you how to do it because it’s super easy. 

So to make this quilt you’re going to need one roll of 2 ½ inch strips and we have used Nature’s Pace by Studio RK for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. You’re going to need one packet of ten inch background squares and you’re going to need an additional 1 ½ yards of background fabric and that includes your sashing and inner border. For your outer border you’re going to need 1 ¼ yards of fabric and for your backing you’re going to need 2 ½ yards of a 90 inch wide cuddle fabric. 

We used a 2 ½ inch strip for this and so we’ve got it right here. Out of each strip you’re going to get two blocks. There are 40 strips in a pack and so you’re going to get 80 blocks. Now 80 does not make a great quilt. If you do eight by ten it’s like a runway and so I was going for 81 so save this little extra piece at the end because I got a block out of this extra piece. Now I didn’t have enough of the same exact fabric to do it but I had enough so that it looks right. So you would never know this if I didn’t show you so I’m going to show you my little secret right here. This block right here, these are two different fabrics. But you wouldn’t know that unless I told you. And so just keep those extra bits so you can come up with one last block so then the quilt is nine by nine and it measures 77 square. So it makes a great size quilt. Alright let me show you how we did this.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to stack these up and I’m going to cut two blocks at a time with one strip. And so the first cut is going to be 2 ½ inches. And so these are our little squares. This is our little block right here that we’re making. And our little squares here in the corners are 2 ½ inches so we’re going to cut, this is for block one. And I’m going to cut this one right here, this is for block two. And then our little sashing strips right here. These are 3 ½. So we’re going to cut a piece that is 3 ½. And I’m just going to turn my ruler sideways, come up here to 3 ½ like this and I’m going to cut this piece. Now this is your extra piece that you’re going to want to hang onto so that you can make that last block. Alright, this little piece right here, obviously you’ll notice it’s much fatter than the sashing. And so I just chose to cut this right in half. This is 2 ½ inches and so I cut it to 1 ¼, right in half down the middle. Now a lot of these that have the pinked edges, they aren’t actually perfectly 2 ½ so lay them on your lines and just see where those pinked edges fall. And I’m just going to go ahead and trim these off. You don’t have to and I didn’t once I did a few. But you may want to do that so that your measurements are exact. The smaller you go with sewing, the more careful you have to be. And so I’m going to lay my ruler on here. It’s 2 ½ and you can see my little pinked edge here is peeking out and so I’m just going to brush that off. And then I’m going to come to 1 ¼ and that should be directly ½ of this block right here. So now I have four of my sashings for this block and four of my sashings for this block.

So now what we need to do is we need to make all of our squares around the corner of our block. So these are all just snowballed blocks on all four sides. And so what we did with that is we took our square right here and we put little triangles on all four sides. Now there’s several ways you can get these triangles. If you have a 2 ½ inch strip you can just cut 2 ½ inch squares all the way along and cut them on the diagonal. If you have a layer cake, I want to show you this because this is kind of a fun little trick. If you have a layer cake you can get a bunch out of one square and let me show you how we do that. First, what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut them in half like this. So you know, my ruler is five inches wide so I know I can just set it on the edge and it will be at five inches. So I’m going to sew this and I’m going to turn, I mean cut this. And I’m going to turn and cut this as well. And then what I’m going to do is I’m just going to stack these up on top of each other like this. And you can leave them whole, you can leave them out there but this to me was easier. And then what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut this again in half. Oop, let me make sure this is lined up. Remember the smaller the piece, the more careful you have to be. Alright so now we’re at 2 ½, cutting again 2 ½ and flip this around and cut it at 2 ½. Make sure they stay lined up.  And then before you move them, we’re just going to take our ruler and cut diagonally both directions like this. So there’s one. And here’s the other. And so from this one layer cake you’re going to get 32 of these half square triangles. 

And this is what we need to put on all four sides of our block. Now because they’re bigger like this, we’re going to put two sides on and then the top and bottom. And so let’s go ahead. We’re just going to lay these here and put two sides on and the top and bottom. So you’ll want to center this on your block and I just do that, it’s very forgiving because we’re going to trim it up at the end. But I just do it by looking and make sure I have about the same amount on either end. You could finger press it in half and find the middle and do it that way if you like. But these are pretty forgiving. We’re giving you a little bit extra cutting room. And so we’re going to lay this one on here. And I really just look to see, I have about the same amount sticking out on the top and the bottom. Alright, then what I’m going to do is I’m just going to finger press these back, use my fingernail and make a little crease. And then I’m going to grab two more and we’re going to put these on both sides. And when you line it up, you want to make sure, when you line it up, you line it up with the edge of this. So don’t come out here to these white pieces. Make sure it goes right along the edge of your little square. And you should have those little ears that are just sticking over. So here’s our last side. I’m just going to sew that down. And now we’re going to iron this and press this nice and flat. And I’m going to just lay this on here, set those seams and then press it open. 

Now you can see, take a look at this. You can see how wonky this is, right? And so I actually have a little clear piece, because I’m working on a personal quilt that requires 3 ½ inch squares, I have this little clear piece of plastic that I use to fussy cut, to set in the middle of my blocks so that I can do it. So I just had, you know, cut you some of these so in case you guys want them because honestly if you’re doing a quilt like this that has to be squared to 3 ½ there’s a lot on here. There’s four in each block times 81 blocks you’re squaring up. And so use any squaring tool you like. Any squaring tool will work. But it was easier for me just to set this in the middle like this and, you know, just make sure that, and then just trim off my edges. So I just made sure that, see how wonky this is and I couldn’t ever manage to get them more perfect.And so I just went with the wonkiness and then trimmed them up. And you’ll see how good they look once we trimmed. It was so much easier to have this one little ruler that just was the right size. What you’re watching when you trim is you want to make sure that you still have a quarter of an inch to take your seams on these sides. Although there are plenty of blocks in this quilt  where you lose a point, well now I can’t find one. And see if you can’t find it when you look at it quick,never point it out. So what I’m going to do here now is I’m going to make sure that I have four of these all trimmed up and ready. And this one I’m going to trim off. And I would trim two sides and then flip it. And then rest my ruler in the corner and then trim and trim. So this isn’t necessary but super helpful. 

Alright so now our little pieces that we cut of our sashing, we’re going to put one in between these two blocks right here and one in between, you know, all four of our blocks is going to have this piece in between it. So we’re going to lay this on top of here and this is our 3 ½ by 1 ¼. I’m going to lay it right on here. So again, watch your quarter of an inch. And I’m going to sew that. I’m going to push this back. And then I’m going to add this to the other side.  Alright so let’s go press these open. And I’m going to press so that my seam comes to the middle on both sides like this. And honestly if you haven’t done many tiny things you’ll feel like a champion when you get this done because it’s like, OH! It’s so cute and I did that and it’s so tiny. So for me I’m really happy just to sew big blocks together so when I do something tiny it’s like a miracle. 

Alright so here’s our little blocks right here and let’s look at this. So this strip right here now is ¾ of an inch. How cool is that? And we did it. Alright so now we have to add our center strip. So here’s another one of our 3 ½ by 1 ¼ inch strips and we’re going to put a white square right in the center there, a background square. So let’s go ahead and sew these two pieces together. So this little square right here, this is a 1 ¼ inch square. And you’ll need to cut some of those from your fabric too, from your background. Every block needs one. You’ll need 81 of these. Alright now we’re going to push this back and we’re going to add the other strip like this. And on these little pieces one of the tricks is if you don’t want to backstitch everywhere which you can do. But if you’ll shorten up your stitch length a little bit then it will help so that when you’re, these little seams, it’s so easy to pop these little seams. And it will help them. So I generally sew on about a 2 ½ or a three. When I’m doing something tiny like this I’ll shorten it to a two. So then what we’re going to do here is we’re going to lay this right sides down and this should line up exactly and nest. Matter of fact I’m going to press this seam out right here. So my two squares, these seams are pressed in. My sashing strip it’s going to be pressed out. And then they’ll just lay in there and nest perfectly. So here’s what I mean by nesting right here. This is going to lay here and my seam will be, the bottom one is going that way and the top one is going that way and then we’ll just sew them down. Alright so a little backstitch. That was a super hard habit for me to break because I came from clothing sewing, you know, to quilting. And, but every seam in a quilt is generally enclosed in another seam and so you don’t have to worry about the backstitching. But with these little tiny blocks, you know, on the edges and things like that you just want to make sure those seams don’t pop. So just shorten your stitch length just a little bit. Alright now I’m going to add this other one on here like this. And again my seam should just nest perfectly in the middle. And I am going to make it sew on this one. And this is our cute little block. Isn’t that so cute? 

So you’re going to make 81 of those. And what we’re going to do now is I’m going to teach you a shortcut sashing trick. So you’re going to measure your block and it should measure roughly 7 ¼. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut some 1 ¼ inch strips, 7 ¼ and we’re going to put it on one side. It doesn’t matter what side. But we’re going to go ahead and sew that on there like this. Just line it up and sew it. Now we’re going to press this open and we’re just going to roll that back. Alright now what we’re going to do next is out of all of our little leftover pieces that we had right here, we’re going to cut some 1 ½ inch squares because those are going to be our little cornerstone blocks right here. I’m sorry, 1 ¼ inch squares. And these are our little blocks on our 1 ¼ inch strips. And so what we’re going to do next is we’re going to take the same 7 ¼ inch strip and we’re going to sew a 1 ¼ inch block to that. So we’ll just come right here. And then this one, we’re going to finger press back, we’re going to add to the bottom corner of this just like that. So we’ll put these right sides together, make sure your little seams nest up here at this corner so if you’ve pressed it the wrong way just make it go the other direction. We’re just going to lay this one back this way and then we’re going to just sew straight across. Alright and you’re going to do this to all your blocks. Alright.

So actually you’re not going to do this to all your blocks. You’re going to do this to the blocks that have the inside corner because when you put them together like this, you’re going to be able to lay them together and just sew that straight seam right there and it’s already going to be bordered and cornerstoned. But you don’t want a cornerstone out here unless you do and then you can add it. And you don’t need them on the top and the bottom row. Alright so you can see like on this block right here we’ve got the side sashing and the bottom sashing and we’re just going to sew them together. So we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight sashing on this block but on this block over here we just put a sashing strip on the bottom and then we’re going to put one long 1 ¼ inch strip all the way down the side for that inner border for that inner sashing right there. Also that happens on the top and the bottom of the quilt. You don’t need that little cornerstone. But this is a great way to put together a sashing row without ever having to line things up because I really have a hard time lining things up. You guys know that if you’ve sewn with me at all. And so this was just a little trick that I learned to be able to put sashing with a cornerstone in. And then you’re just sewing these together like straight rows. And so it just works. It’s really slick for adding that sashing and getting it done. 

So then once you get all your blocks together you’re going to add a 1 ¼ inch sashing all the way around. And then you’re going to add this nice five inch border out here. And it’s just a beautiful border. But wait, there’s more. Look at this back. We backed it with cuddle. Cuddle comes 90 inches wide and this is a beautiful color. And one of my favorite things about cuddle, when you quilt with it, is that the quilting pattern shows up so well. I just love how the pattern shows up and I just think it quilts out so beautifully and it just makes you really want to snuggle in this quilt. So it’s really fun. The inspiration came from, again, Kate’s great grandma. Also just a little fun note, this block appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1933. And so it’s just really fun to know some of the history behind some of our blocks. So we hope you enjoyed this tutorial on Grandma Mae’s Economy block from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. 

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