Diabolical Jane: a Tutorial


Hi Friends!  If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen the little flurry of activity surrounding this quilt… It’s a copy of a nearly 200 year old quilt that I first saw on a museum tour with the DC Modern Quilt Guild.  I was absolutely obsessed with remaking it in today’s glorious fabrics and it turns out some others are interested in doing the same (have you seen Melinda’s fabulous start?)  I’ll tell a little more of the story of my quilt when it’s finished, but for now I want to get the tutorial up so anyone who’s interested can join in the fun!

In the interest of keeping this free and not too lengthy, I’m going to describe the process I used to lay out and construct my quilt, but I won’t provide a diagram of exactly which fabric went where and which fabrics repeat where.  You can study the pic of the original and my photos for a sense of the design, then go ahead and make it your own!

The original quilt, circa 1830. Photo from the book “Workt by Hand”
Center of my quilt- borders yet to be added.

Notice that the quilt has a center X made of 5, 4″ x 11″ pieces on each arm, and then four identical large, layered triangles, each with a square at the apex of each layer and 4″ x 11″ strips radiating out from the apex square in two matching strips.  It’s easiest to lay out your pieces from the middle out, then we will construct the quilt from the sides working in.  The center ends up to be 74″ square and the original had 14″ wide borders.

The heart and soul of this quilt lies in the fabric selections!  The pieces are large and the sewing is easy, so take your time and enjoy playing with the placement of your fabrics.

It can be helpful to start with more fabrics than you need, so you will have options as you work.  This is a great place to use larger scale fabrics that you love and don’t want to cut too small.  Or fabrics that you bought but didn’t know what to do with because they are so bold!

I recommend cutting your fabric in a few batches, rather than pre-cutting the whole quilt before you start.  You are likely to shift things around and make new decisions as you build the layers.


Fabric Requirements:


20, 3/8-1/2 yd pieces (there are a few spots in my quilt where I repeated fabrics, so you may need up to 3/4yd of a few fabrics if you intend to copy the placement of mine exactly.)

1, 8″ X 12″ or 4″ x 20″ piece (middle 5 squares)


(I give requirements for a border all the way around, no cutouts like the original)

3 yds for a 9.5″ border


4 1/4 yds for a 14″ border like the antique quilt has. (strips will be cut crosswise and pieced)


From the 8″ x 12″ piece, cut 5, 4″ squares for the center of the quilt.  Lay these out on your design wall (or design floor!) in a checkerboard.

DJ first squares

Select about 10 of your 3/8 yd pieces that you want to use at the center of the quilt.  From each, cut 8, 4″x 11″ rectangles and 4, 4″ squares.

Cutting diagram
Cutting Diagram


Beginning in the middle, arrange your strips for the center X.  There are 5 strips radiating from each side of the center square.

DJ center X
Lay out center X


Then begin laying out your large triangles.  Choose one of your sets of squares to form the apex.  Add four strips radiating out from each exposed side of each square.  Cut 4 additional squares of the fabric you choose for the edge and place squares.

DJ step 2

By now you might have an idea which fabrics are working and which are not.  Now is a good time to select and cut more fabrics in the same manner:  8, 4″ x 11″ squares and 4, 4″ squares.  Continue to build your triangles towards the edges of the quilt.  Work in the squares you have cut as you continue.  I had fun and reduced the number of decisions I had to make by matching squares and rectangles in the same positions as the original.  As you get to the edges, you may need to cut a few more squares to fill in the spaces at the edges.

DJ step 3
Center before trimming

Refer to above diagram to see what your layout will look like when it’s done.  Once you are happy with your layout, you can start assembly.


1/4″ seam allowance used throughout

DJ step-outs

We begin in the center of each side of the quilt.  Sew the three squares together as shown.  For the next layer, line up your pieced square unit with one side rectangle as shown and stitch.  Sew the apex square to the other side rectangle, then sew that pieced strip to the other side of the pieced squares.  Continue building your side triangles in the same manner, piecing the strips before attaching them to the central unit.  Always align the pieces next to the apex squares.  The outside edges will be quite uneven.  Piece all 4 side triangles in the same manner.

DJ assembly.jpg

Sew the center X together into 4 long strips.  Attach 2 strips to opposite sides of the center square.

Sew 2 side triangles together with one center x strip.  Repeat with the other 2 side triangles and center strip.  Then assemble all 3 large pieces, aligning seam allowances around the center square.


DJ measureDJ step 3

Be sure your top is well pressed.  Measure and mark a dot at each corner, 8.75″ out from the seam and 2″ in from each raw side edge of the rectangle.  These dots should line up with the corners of the center square on each side.  Draw a line connecting these points, using anything you might have to get a straight edge.  I lined up several quilting rulers, which allowed me to also use the 45 degree lines to check that my edge was straight.  But even a broomstick would work.  Trim along this line.  Don’t panic if you have to trim a little further to get it all square. The original has missing points and it really doesn’t matter in this design.

Mathematically, the trimmed top should measure 74.5″.  Measure yours across several points to figure out how large to cut your border!

Add Border:

For a 9.5″ border, simply cut your 3 yard piece into 4,  10″ strips parallel to the selvage.  Trim two strips to the same length as your center width measurement (74.5″)  Attach borders to two opposite sides.  Cut the remaining strips to your measurement + 19″ (93.5″).  Attach borders to the two remaining sides.

For a 14″ border, cut 10, 14.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.  Sew these together in two sets of two and two sets of three.  Cut the shorter strips to your top measurement (74.5″)  Cut the longer strips to your measurement + 28″ (102.5″).  Sew the shorter strips onto two opposite sides first, and then sew on the longer strips.

Note this quilt is susceptible to wavy borders because of the bias trimmed edges.  For more help getting your border on correctly, see this fabulous tutorial from Anjeanette.

I hope some of you will decide to join in the fun and make a Diabolical Jane!  Here’s a downloadable line drawing of the quilt for adult-coloring fun:

Diabolical Jane Line Drawing










An outdoor demo

A couple of weeks ago (wow, was it really like a month ago?)  the DC Modern Quilt Guild had our annual outdoor sewing meeting.  I love this meeting, even though this time it made me hate the DC Metro sooo much… What would have taken me an hour to drive, on the Metro was 1.5 hours on the way in to the city and 2.5 hours on the way out. 45 minutes of which were in a sweltering rail car with the A/C out… Arrgh. But I digress.

Photo by Frederick Nunley
Photo by Frederick Nunley

We have a lovely space where we like to meet in the US Botanical Gardens. I was pleased to be asked to demo English Paper Piecing this time!  How fun that was, to have so many other people around me catching the EPP bug!

Demo Day Pouch

I brought some bits of fabric for everyone to practice on, and at the end of the day there were lots of basted hexies left behind, some even joined into pairs or trios. What to do with them? Certainly not throw them out! I joined then all together and made this little pouch as a little memento of the day. I’m thinking this will be the perfect size to transport sewing machine and extension cords to sewing meetings. If it doesn’t get swiped for My Little Pony figurines first!

Demo Day Pouch

Would your guild or shop like me to demo English Paper Piecing with freezer paper shapes? Please get in touch!

Star Count

I’m so excited the main part of the quilt is together!  Now it just needs a couple of strips around the edges and it’s done.  I’m borrowing these quilt photos from Frederick, since he did such a good job…  I like the second one because it includes the dimpled elbows of little miss intended recipient.

 The quilt has not progressed much since the DCMQG meeting 9 days ago… now that it’s so big it’s gotten hard for me to work on it while holding the babe and so that leaves, well, just about never, for me to pick up the quilt and get it done.  Not that I am wishing it to be any different.  The fourth time around, we are well aware of how fleeting everything is.  Vivian’s milestones keep flying by; one month, then two, then three.  She smiles big toothless smiles and had her first laugh the other day, watching Evelyn jump up the stairs like a frog.  She grabs at her toys and holds her head up high when rolled on her tummy.  Sigh, where is my newborn nugget?  Speaking of babies, another of mine has recently turned 11… how?  Violet is already a teenager at heart and Evelyn is only a couple inches and a couple of pounds behind her.  I’d wish for a pause button except that they are obviously so pleased with growing up.


Have I mentioned how much I love the back of a piece of patchwork?  I’m sure I have..

Check out the others: Monday Morning Star Count

Museum Demo Day / Star Count #8

Oh, what fun I had last Sunday at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  The museum had invited the DC Modern Quilt Guild to come and demonstrate hand work in the gallery, amongst their exhibit of gorgeous antique quilts.  We sewed a little, we demonstrated a lot, we chatted with visitors almost constantly for the whole 5 hours.  I even did a little repair on an antique quilt someone brought in.  I couldn’t believe how fast the time went.  If I could make a career of that I surely would!

I brought along my English-paper-pieced baby quilt and made a little progress on the orange star.  Other members brought along hand quilting, binding, more EPP, and embroidery.  The table where we sat was such a joyful conglomeration of projects.

Adding to the excitement of the day, my friend Mary Koval had lent me some examples of antique English paper piecing which were unfinished, and still had the papers inside.  With templates cut by hand from old letters and receipts, the backs of these pieces were so fun to stare at.   And the old fabrics… I could pore over these quilts all day and never tire of them.  All that work, all the time spent by some unknown maker, it stays with the quilt long after the maker has passed.  So lovely to behold.

Sunday at the gallery, and later that night, I added a round of shapes to two of my stars- so I’m still at 3, but they are growing!

An Art Show

I don’t often blog about the DC Modern Quilt Guild here, because I’m always blogging about it over here, but this time I am so excited about what’s going on that I have to share it here on my own blog.

My dear friend Frederick, who I met through the guild, has been exhibiting art of one kind or another for years.  Recently he exhibited a quilt in a show at the Anacostia Arts Center that included many different types of art.  His was the only quilt, and what he heard from the gallery was that his quilt garnered quite an enthusiastic response from the public.  So much that, they invited the guild to hold an entire show of quilts in their gallery.  Frederick and I met with the director of the center a couple of weeks ago, and we are making this happen, February 2014!  I have to admit that the rapidly approaching date is slightly freaking me out.  Mostly because, in addition to the work we need to do to coordinate the show,  I also plan on finishing a new quilt to enter into the show myself.   But this is such an amazing opportunity that Frederick scored for us, we just had to take it and run.

I have a couple dozen Works in Progress I could choose from to finish up for this… or should I start something totally new?  🙂  I bet you know what I’ll pick…

Happy Swap!

This summer Natalie of the NOVA Modern Quilt Guild invited members of the local guilds to a secret swap- to give us the chance to “meet” members outside of our own Guilds.  I don’t often sign up for swaps because truthfully, most of the time I’d rather sew for myself.  🙂  But, it sounded fun to get to know some other Modern Quilters in our area so this time I joined in.

Natalie asked us to make a little pouch and fill it with some little goodies.  We all started with the same instructions for the pouch, but were free to customize them for our intended recipients.  We each made a photo mosaic to help inspire our secret sisters.  Here’s the mosaic I was sewing from:

Beautiful, but a bit mystifying at first!  Most of the mosaics I’ve seen use mostly images of fabric and quilts, but hmm, the beach, paper crafting…  I decided I really had to rise to the occasion and do this mosaic justice, so I made the mosaic my desktop background, and I’d just sit and stare at it a few times a day until it started to speak to me.  Really, it was so fun to glean little bits of inspiration from all these images!  I’m glad my partner gave the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles.  Here’s what I finally pulled from the images:

Colors: mint and aqua, sky and sand

Feeling: quirky, romantic, dreamy

Likes: Chunky embroidery, Mixed-Media, Quirky Animals

And here’s the bag I made:

I threw in my own quirky animal, some chunky perle cotton hand stitching, and used lace for the drawstring in a nod to the mixed-media piece in the mosaic.  I tried to make it mint green because that’s her favorite, but I’m afraid it came out more aqua.  I guess my stash overwhelmed me!

I filled it with my new favorite brand of ruler, some FQs and trim in her fave colors, a few little notions, and a tin of fruit candies.  (She said her favorite candy was coconut, but try finding coconut candy that won’t melt in the summer heat!)

PS- see the tiny dot I used for the lining?  That’s my own fabric, he-hee!

I really hope Katie liked the bag – at least now she knows I was really thinking about her when I made it!

Now for my mosaic:

In the only other swap I’ve done recently, my partner never gave me a mosaic or any kind of clue what she likes.  Then she dropped out at the 11th hour anyway.  Arrg.   I didn’t like that experience of sewing blindly so I felt like I had to really take care of my partner and give her some specific clues as to what I like.  Perhaps I was too specific!  I didn’t mean it to be a list of demands…

I said that I like hand sewing.  I said this because I thought she might throw in a pack of hand sewing needles or something- not because I expected that my bag be totally hand made!  But that is what Natalie did.

Wow.  English paper pieced, hand applique, hand quilted with perle cotton.  Just my style (tearing up here..)  And Natalie has twin babies at home.  Amazing.  I don’t know what else to say except that it’s waaay more than I expected!  Thank you Natalie!

My little girls were so excited BTW when it came in the mail, let me tell you!  It’s a purse!  It’s a purse!

Charity quilt block tutorial

As part of the DC Modern Quilt Guild’s charity sewing event next month, I’m coordinating one of the quilts we decided to work on as a group!  Dear Stella donated a fat quarter bundle of these fabrics:

I decided that it would be perfect to use a quilt pattern I designed earlier this year, which was designed especially to be easy to construct but still interesting to look at:

Volunteers were given fabric packets with three,  6.5″ x 18″ strips of the dear Stella fabric, and a 6.5″ by 44″ strip of solid white.

Following are cutting instructions to make the best use of the fabric that was distributed.  For this quilt, the finished blocks will be 8.5″ from raw edge to raw edge.

Stack the three print strips on top of the solid strip, which should be folded with the selvedges touching.

Trim the selvedges and straighten the edge of the prints.

Spin the cutting mat and cut one rectangle at 5″x 6.5″, one at 4″x 6.5″, and one at 2.5″x 6.5″.

Peel off the top layer of the remaining fabric and set it aside, then make one more cut at 2.5″x 6.5″.

Crosscut this rectangle into two, 2.5″x2.5″ squares.  The leftover 1.5″x2.5″ rectangle is waste.

From the remaining bits of fabric, you should be able to cut one more of each of the rectangle sizes listed above.  You already have enough squares.

Now mix and match your cut rectangles into 6 blocks.  Vary where the white falls in each block, and allow some blocks to have more white space than others.

Chain-piece the blocks together, first in horizontal pairs.

Then sew the pairs together to finish the blocks.

In the final quilt, the blocks will be rotated randomly, and will be much scrappier than this, as everyone received a different strip set.  Can’t wait to see the final results!

Jay McCarroll

Me 'n' Jay McCarroll

The Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild had Jay McCarroll in as a guest speaker and they were kind enough to invite nearby guilds to the party… Four happy souls from our DC group drove up to see him and we had such a good time.

I have never watched Project Runway*, so I don’t know what he was like on TV, but sitting there just talking to us he was such an approachable and likeable guy.  And funny.  He whiled away three hours flitting between stories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania (Maybe that’s why I liked him so much, we are Homies) to living in an attic in Amsterdam and back to New York.

* I never turn on the TV so I only ever end up watching what Garrett turns on, which would be whatever sport is in season or some esoteric comedy that’s only suitable for late-late night viewers.  Anyway…

Jay McCarroll

Now after his TV stint Jay Designs fabric for Free Spirit and it’s such great stuff, really unique which is really what the industry needs more of.  But, and c’mon now, the shop where he spoke did not have any of his fabric there for sale!  There was a room full of women adoring this guy and soaking up his aesthetic and they had not one fat quarter of his fabric there for us to purchase.  They had months to plan this…  I hear (and I say) over and over again how hard it is to find fresh, on- trend fabric in the established brick and mortar shops, it seems like the designers I really love can only be found online and I don’t know what to do about it except open up my own place.  I’m sure it’s harder than it looks 🙂  But it’s on the list.

Thanks Jay for a great lecture, I will be purchasing your fabric online, and thanks to the Baltimore MQG for inviting your neighbors for the fun!  We need to do more together in the future…


Last weekend a small bunch of DC Modern Quilt Guilders met at Material Girls Quilt Shop in La Plata, MD.  Plans were made, fabric was purchased.  Those of you who couldn’t make it missed a really, really nice modern shop with super-helpful staff.  And a resident baby.

Elle spray-basted 9067 charity quilts.  That’s 25 quilts per minute folks; she’s that awesome.

Elle Spray-Basting

Molly and Elle tried to figure out some presto-mitered-corners way to sew together a double-sided blanket.  I hope you figured it out, Molly, because it sounded really promising…

And Leah was hand quilting a most gorgeous rainbow quilt that will be a Christmas gift for her lucky sister.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.  It is stunning.

Leah's Quilt

Jamie, who organized it all, got a quilt top half-pieced, and I can’t wait to see it finished.  That girl has really good taste in fabric…


I popped all the papers out of my hexagons and got them ready for hand quilting.  All in all a great day and totally worth all the gas we all used to get out there!


Autumn Oak

On the way home I had to stop and leap out of the car with my camera; the sideways light of the sunset was so amazing.  These leaves just glowed. It was a wonderful day.

Glowing Autumn Sunset

Autumn Sky

Pretty Umbrella Girls Charity Quilt

Just wanted to put out some quick pics of the charity quilt I worked on at today’s DC Modern Quilt Guild sew-in.  I bought the focus fabric because I wanted to use the red-pink-orange trees in some pillows for Violet and Evelyn’s room, and I didn’t have any plans for the little umbrella girls, but they are so cute and cheery so it seemed perfect for some charity sewing.  I picked a bunch of bright fabrics from my stash for the strips-

It’s an interesting balance finding fabric for a charity quilt, right?  They have to be fabrics that I’m willing to “give up” but I still want the finished project to look like it was made with care.  I want whoever receives the quilt to feel special.  So several of the fabrics are new and haven’t even made it into their intended projects yet, but I included them anyway just to make it extra-pretty.

Don’t mind my crummy cell-phone pictures.  It’s late and I have to get to bed so I can get up and drive to Philadelphia for a quilt show.

Umbrella Girl Blocks

I made some progress today but I would have made more if there weren’t so many interesting people to get to know at the meeting!  Life is rough, right?

I’m thinking of a young adolescent girl as I make this, so I probably won’t send it to the pregnancy center that the Guild selected this year.  Maybe I will send it to the Hershey Medical Center with the other quilt that my Mom and Aunt and I put together over the summer.

And because Elle made me aware that Evelyn Bea has grown quite a bit since I last posted pictures, here she is doing big girl things:

Big Girl Bea

Lest you should think that I am still sewing with a baby sleeping peacefully at my feet.  Not quite.