blocking basics

blocking basics

By Patricia Belyea

WAUCONDA WA  Do you block your quilts? Most quilters tell me they don’t.

Me? Yes, I always block my quilts. The blocking process transforms my quilt sandwich from three layers into one. 

My quilt tops are filled with markings from a water-erasable blue pen. So the blocking process completely washes out those marks.

I also use this step to square up my quilt.

Clover blue water-soluble marking pen

After I’ve stitched my quilt sandwich, I dunk my project into a tub of tepid water. I pump the quilt up and down in the water until it’s soaked through.

Soaking a quilt for the blocking process

After the quilt is water-logged, I drain the tub. Then I begin to squeeze the sodden pile.

I don’t twist or wring the soaked quilt as that would be brutal to the fabric’s fibers. Also twisting produces extra wrinkles that are always hard to remove.

I roll the wet lump in a towel and squeeze everything again. The towel is immediately sopping wet.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

I transfer the quilt to another towel. The bundle is no longer dripping wet.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

With the quilt wrapped in the second towel, I head to the living room where I have a clean bedsheet on top of the wall-to-wall carpet. The quilt, quite crumpled-looking, is spread out on the sheet.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

I let the quilt rest a short while. Then, beginning at the center, I slap the quilt with one hand. This accomplishes two things:
1 The warmth of my hand begins to smooth out the wrinkles
2 The fibers of the three layers become fast friends

TIP: I dress for the task. Or, maybe I should say I undress for the task. I wear light sweatpants, a t-shirt without a bra, and no shoes. This lets me get on the floor and be able to move around easily.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsAgain I let the quilt rest awhile so it dries out a bit more.

Using study pins, I pin all around the outside of the quilt, squaring it up. I continue to slap the fabric as well as pull on the edges so that each block becomes flat and smoothed out.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsQuilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsThe next day, the quilt is bone dry. I remove the pins, pull up the quilt, trim around the edges with my 4-foot t-square, and finish the quilt with a Designer Facing.

Quilt blocking process by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

I started blocking my Love On Fire quilt at 4pm one day and was finished with the process by 8am the next morning. Blocking the quilt wasn’t a big project time-wise or energy-wise. Yet it makes a big difference to the finish of the quilt.



ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.