Monday, August 30, 2010

Stack & Whack Wonky Block Tutorial

I really like the look of the wonky log cabin quilting style.  I made one of my first quilts using this block.  I was asked to demo a wonky log cabin in our most recent Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  While putting a few blocks together for our meeting, I had an "ah-ha" moment and came up with the following technique I'm calling the Stack & Whack Wonky Block.  It's similar to a wonky log cabin in appearance, but the construction is very different.  I know this isn't a new technique because I have seen it used in other quilts, but I have never seen a tutorial before on how to do it.  I love the versatility of using this method.  It can be used for wonky blocks as I show in this tutorial or a more squared-up version using straight cuts rather than wonky.  There are a few big positives about using this method:
  1. It wastes very little fabric whereas the wonky log cabin can waste a lot.
  2. It preserves the orientation of your fabric so your stripes and other designs aren't going 4 different directions.
  3. It's a quick way to cut several blocks.  You can rotate the finished block to vary the look.

The one drawback is that you have to be very careful not to mix up your cut strips.  It's like putting a puzzle back together without the picture if you mix up the strips. I suggest only cutting and sewing one set of blocks at a time. My quilt above is made from 9 different sets of blocks.

Step 1--Decide your block size. 
  • Add 1" to your desired finished block size for each cut border.  Also, in order to add a bit of flexibility, add 1.5" for the outside seam allowance. For example, if you want a 12" finished block, and you were to cut two borders as I did in this tutorial, you'll need to add 2" as well as an additional 1.5" for the outside seam allowance so you'll start out with a 15.5" square of fabric.  Once pieced, you will square your block to 12.5" for a finished, sewn block of 12 inches.  (These estimates are based on a 1/4 inch seam allowance.) 
Step 2--Cut
  • Stack four or five squares of fabric, lining up all edges.  If you are using a directional fabric, make sure you have it oriented correctly.  I paired three prints with one square of white.  (While I wanted quite a bit of white in this quilt, I didn't want every square to have white.)  My finished blocks have three layers--the center block and two borders.  By cutting four fabrics I was able to mix up my selection when arranging my blocks so all of my blocks have a slightly different variation of fabrics.

  • Make the first cut.  Using your ruler and rotary cutter, slice strips off each side.  The wonkiness of the cut is up to you. Keep in mind seam allowances and the number of cuts you will end up making before your block is complete. For example, don't make your cuts too wide that you don't have enough fabric for center cuts. Likewise, don't cut too narrow that you will have problems later with seam allowances. Most of my strips were around two inches wide.

  •  Next cut strips off the top and bottom.  This completes your outer border.

  • Repeat the process to cut the inner border.  First cut the sides and then the top and bottom strips.
  • Be careful to not mix up the pieces.  Now arrange the blocks on a design board.  (My design board is nothing fancy.  It's an old piece of foam board covered in Warm and White.)  I start by arranging all my outer borders first. (You'll have to look closely for the white border in the bottom right.)
  •  Next arrange your inner borders.
  •  Finally add your center blocks.  After sewing a section, I always place it back on the board while working on other blocks.  This way I don't get mixed up.  I had to undo my fair share of seams while sewing this quilt when I wasn't careful enough to keep them straight. 
 Step 3--Sew
  • Take your center block and the top and bottom strips for your inner border and sew them together.  Press seams.  Trim slightly if the edges aren't even.
  • Next sew on the side pieces for your inner border.  Notice they will be a bit long.  The center section is now shorter due to your seams.  Simply center the side strips and sew.  Press.  Trim your edges after sewing. 

  • Add the top and bottom strips of your outer border in the same manner. Trim your sides as needed to even them up.  Be careful not to change the angle of the inner borders of your block; only trim the excess off the edges. 

  •  Add your side strips for the outer border and square up your block.  I squared mine to 11.5" for an 11" finished block.  I recommend using a square ruler for this.  I find it is much more accurate. 

  • Finished! Notice that by simply rotating the finished blocks it gives them each a different look. 


  1. That is cool, I might try it with a layer cake!

  2. This is fantastic.
    I'm sitting here first thing in the morning, second cup of coffee beside me, haven't done any quilting for 2 months (it's winter so it's knitting weather...) and now I'm all enthused.
    What a shame I have to got to work today! I have Just The Fabric to make this.
    Thanks so much!

  3. Thanks for spelling this all out. I'd love to give it a try.

  4. I love this! I am going to get started this afternoon!

  5. I love this! Thanks for the tutorial, I'm going to make a christmas quilt with a cute layer cake using this method!

  6. Wow! I just have to make this when I'm "allowed" to start a new project. :D Thank you for such an easy-to-follow tutorial! (Printing it out now for my Wish Board)

  7. like the comment about using a layer cake to do this. have put it on my bucket list

  8. Couldn't you do this to make a wonky lag cabin with effectively no waste? I will give it a try and post a link if it works

  9. I'm math challenged and just don't get how to judge the size of the block.
    Could you perhaps just tell me? If I wanted a 12" finshed block, what size are the orginal solid squares of fabric?

    Also, it looks like 4 squares of different fabrics = 4 finished squares does this equal a set? You said to work on sets at a time and that used 9 sets for your quilt. 9 sets each with four fabrics? That's 36 squares. You used 35 squares right?

  10. Thanks for the wonderful, clear tutorial. I used it today and had a lot of fun. :)

  11. Thanks for this great tutorial! It was a perfect idea for a baby quilt I wanted to make. Even though not all my fabric was big enough, I used my cuts as a pattern for the smaller pieces.

  12. Ditto... Thanks for this great tutorial!

  13. Great tutorial! Love how each block looks different. I've featured your tutorial on my blog today along with other Stack and Whack tutorials.

  14. Thanks for the tutorial - i was looking for a wonky square block and am certainly going to try this one