Liberated (emergency) Baby Quilt {tutorial}


What does one say about Miss Leanne? So much one could say about her!! Let’s see….she’s talented, easy to talk to, uber talented, a great listener, extremely talented, a person I am proud to call friend… oh and did I mention she’s talented?

Alright…now that I have spread the “poo” just enough to get Leanne to show us something spectacular let me tell you what I really think about her. I really do think she is an amazingly talented person who I am proud to call friend! I have really enjoyed getting to know her over the past few months. She really is a great listener and easy to talk to.

Because I don’t think Leanne will do this let me direct you to a few of her amazing items: Shine, Shattered, Bed Quilt, and my favorite The ROYGBIV Log Cabin Quilt (the back is just as amazing as the front)!!!!  Well, you know the drill….enough from me…time to get to the real reason you are here…Leanne, take it away………….

Wonky Baby Quilt - Liberated Shoo Flies - front

Hi, my name is Leanne and I blog at she can quilt. Last week, my spouse casually said, “Remember X, her baby is due in a couple of weeks and maybe we should give her a quilt.” Well, I really like her, and am happy to make a quilt, but that is not a lot of time since I work and mother, and I have quilting commitments and quilting homework and life to do already.

So, although Rhonda asked me to do a tutorial months ago for the Finish-a-Long, I decided at the last minute that my tutorial would be about wonky or liberated piecing – which was my solution to needing a quilt right now. I will show you how to make a Liberated (emergency) Baby Quilt.

This style of making blocks is, for me, far faster than traditional piecing and since each block will be different, it makes each quilt a unique one-of-a-kind piece. This quilt uses Shoo Fly blocks on the front and Stars on the back.

Wonky Baby Quilt

Many people say that they find liberated or wonky piecing difficult and I hope that this tutorial will alleviate some of that concern. The real trick is to stop trying to control the exact placement of the piecing and trust that the block will make you smile when it is all done. You don’t need to plan the wonk, just let it happen.

If you are looking for a great resource, Gwen Marston’s book Liberated Quiltmaking II, which was written 6 years ago, is great and I highly recommend it. If you can get your hands on her first book, Liberated Quiltmaking (without paying the current very steep prices as it is out of print – my friend had a copy inherited from her MIL that she loaned me to read) you will see that she first explained this approach to piecing in book form 16 years ago.

Follow along and I will share the recipe and method with you to make this little 36″ square quilt. It is important to read the whole tutorial before you start.

For the front of the quilt, you will need 72 background squares. I used Kona White. Cut these squares to 4.5″ square. You will need 9 centre pieces also cut as 4.5″ squares. I used Kona and Bella solids for this quilt, picking a darker shade for the centres and lighter shades for the Shoo Fly arms. I chose a ROYGBIV rainbow plus pink and light green to give me 9 blocks.

Liberated Shoo Fly, prepare the fabrics

For the Shoo Fly arms, cut two pieces about 5″ square from your chosen fabrics for each Shoo Fly – so a total of 18 arm fabric squares. You want the arm squares to be just a little bigger than the background foundation squares but it is not necessary to be precise in their size.  Make a nice straight diagonal cut across the square. The diagonal cut is the only cut that needs to be straight, you can use oddly shaped scraps for the arms as long as they are big enough because you will later be trimming those edges. You will then have 36 arm fabric triangles.


To make the 4 Shoo Fly arms for a block, position the arm triangle on top of the background foundation piece. Look at the above picture: the finished unit will have the red arm positioned approximately where the bottom right white triangle is showing in this picture. Position the arm piece (right side down if you were using a print) so that the foundation shows a nice size triangle that is not quite as big as half the foundation. You position each arm slightly differently and that is what gives the quilt its wonk – remember don’t over-think the positioning.

Sewing the Shoo Fly arms

Take the arm unit to your sewing machine and stitch along the angled side of the arm fabric using a 1/4″ seam.

Shoo Fly arms

I check the size and position of the arm by flipping it over, just to make sure it completely covers the background foundation. If it does not, then you need to rip it out and reposition it. Then trim off the unneeded foundation leaving a 1/4″ seam. I uses scissors for this step but a rotary cutter will also work.

Shoo Fly arms

Flip the arm fabric over (so that the right side shows if it is a print) and press. I do not use steam because the wonky angles mean you are working with bias cut fabric that stretches easily. Trim the unit back to the original size of the foundation, in this case a 4.5″ square.

Shoo Fly - lay out the block

Once you have all 4 units for one Shoo Fly completed, lay out the 9 patch block. Sew the three units in each row together, press and then sew the rows together. Press your seams any way you like.

Shoo Fly block - complete

Admire your dancing Shoo Fly. I see it as dancing because the different size arms make it look like it is moving to me. And it reminds me of dancing Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon. Now make 8 more.

Making the Shoo Fly Blocks

Once you have the hang of this block, chain piecing works well and is really fast. Remember, it not important to precisely place the arm fabric on the foundation in an exact spot, which makes the piecing  fast and easy.

Shoo Fly blocks

Then you can trim them all at once.

Wonky Baby Quilt - front detail before quilting

When you have all 9 blocks made, arrange them as you like. Sew each of the 3 blocks in a row together, press and then sew the rows together. Stop and admire your quilt top of dancing Shoo Flies.

Wonky Baby Quilt - back - wonky stars

Here is what our back will look like. A very large wonky star with a smaller one in the centre. This takes even less time than the front to make. I chose to use a dark Kona Coal background so that the new mom would not hesitate to throw this little quilt on the floor or the grass for the baby to play on.

Now, here is where I confess to not thinking well ahead. I made my back and front identical sizes which makes the basting and quilting far more challenging. So I am going to tell you how to make the back about 2″ larger than the front so you can baste it and quilt it with that extra room and trim it down later just before binding.

You need to cut eight 14.5″ x 12.5″ background fabric squares for the large star and eight 4.5″ background fabric squares for the centre star.

Wonky Star back - pick a rainbow of fabrics

Choose a rainbow of prints for the star points. I later decided that I wanted different prints for the small middle star so I picked a second rainbow as well. You will need large pieces of the large star point fabrics, at least a 13″ square for the large square prints. A fat quarter will be more than enough or even large left over scraps.

For those of you who will ask, the prints, from left to right, are designed by: Monaluna, Sweetwater, Kate Spain, cannot remember, Denyse Schmidt, Jennifer Paganelli, Robert Kaufman, and Tula Pink.

Wonky Star

Unfold your prints and eyeball a 13 or 13.5″ square of the print. Cut along the diagonal of that square to get a nice edge on the triangle of the fabric. Again, the only nice edge that you need is the diagonal cut, don’t spend time making the other triangle edges straight or neat

For the centre small star, you can do the same but you need about a 5″ square of each colour and then you cut the triangle from that square. You need 8 star point fabrics for each star. Pick a nice fabric for the very centre of the small star and cut it to a 4.5″ square. This square is a good opportunity for a fussy cut of something cute.

Wonky Star

Set out your foundation pieces and position the first point fabric with the right side of the print facing the right side of the background foundation fabric. It is important to remember that you are not working with a square background foundation because it is 12.5″ x 14.5″. Positon the star point so that the 12.5″ side of the foundation will be at the bottom of the point unit (bottom of the picture).

The star point will end up being approximately where the background fabric triangle on the left of each unit is in this picture (It does not matter which point you make first). Because we are working with rectangles designed to give you a back which is 2″ larger than the front, be careful not to position your star point any more than about 2.5″ from the top of the foundation background piece. You need to leave the 2″ space of background at the outer edge of the point blocks because you will trim it off when you do the final trim of the quilt just before you bind it.

You will notice now that this step is exactly the same as making the Shoo Fly arms. These blocks are related.

Wonky Star

As for the Shoo Fly arms, sew along the star point fabric, 1/4″ from the edge of the printed fabric. Trim off the excess foundation – check first to make sure the star point will cover the entire foundation before you trim by folding it over. If not, you need to rip out the seam and reposition the point fabric and  resew it.

Wonky Star

Flip the star point fabric to the right side, and press. Notice that at the top of the unit there will be at least 2.5″ of foundation from the top of the star point.

Wonky Star

Trim the unit back to the foundation’s original size. Don’t follow this photo exactly (remember I planned my quilt badly), trim your unit back to 14.5″ x 12.5″.

Wonky Star

Position your second point fabric on the unit. You want the star points to cross along the 12.5″ side of the foundation background fabric – it is easy to get these units turned as you work.  Imagine the finished unit – the star arm will be approximately where the foundation and bottom bit of the first point are seen – in this photo on the bottom right.

Sew the second point in place with a 1/4″ seam. Ensure that there will be at least 2.5″ of foundation at the top of the star point. So, you are doing the exact same step as the Shoo Fly arm a second time facing the other way.

Wonky Star

Check the size and then trim off the extra foundation and the bottom bit of the first point.

Wonky Star

Press the second point to the right side and then trim the unit again. You are trimming it to be 14.5″ x 12.5″ (not the square seen in the picture). The 12.5″ side should be where the star point fabrics cross (the right edge in this photo). Admire your work and than make the other three point units for your big star. Again you can chain piece these to speed up the process.

You also need to make the smaller centre star point units, using the same steps with the smaller background and point fabrics. For the smaller centre star unit, make the final result a 12.5″ square block. As this smaller star is in the centre of the overall large star block it needs to be an unfinished 12.5″ square even for the larger size back that you are making.

Wonky Star

Here is an example of how you arrange the units of the 9 patch star to sew either the larger or smaller star together. You need to finish the smaller star first so it can be the centre square of the larger star’s 9 patch.  I did not end up using this particular centre star on my quilt, so don’t let the picture confuse you.

Wonky Star - finished

Once you have pieced your back together, stop and admire your wonky stars. I have to say that wonky stars are my most favourite block ever to make. The little bit of wonk makes each one different and they all make me smile. For your reference another hugely popular tutorial for making wonky stars is by Victoria at the Silly Boo Dilly, here.

Then you need to sandwich and baste your little quilt. I used a thin, 100% cotton batting for this quilt. My basting tutorial is here if you need one to follow, and there are many others available online too.

Wonky Baby Quilt before washing

Once the quilt has been basted, quilt it as you like. I decided to do an all over stipple with a few loopy loops thrown in. This is also an ideal size quilt for hand quilting if you enjoy that or have the time. The picture above is what the quilt looks like after machine quilting but before it is washed, so you can see how your quilting might look as you are quilting. The quilt is fairly flat and reasonably stiff.

After you have quilted the quilt, trim it back to nice square about 36″ square (or the size you need so that both the front and the back fabrics reach the edges) and apply the binding. I generally follow this binding tutorial from Elizabeth Hartman at Oh Fransson!. However, I never bother with clips or pins when I am doing the hand stitching part – I just snuggle under the quilt and pull the binding in place as I go. For this quilt I used a print for the binging from Jennifer Paganelli’s Honey Child fabric line which I also used on the back.

Wonky Baby Quilt - front detail

Here are some closer shots of the quilting after washing. The washing will transform the quilt into a soft blanket with a lovely hand or drape. And since it is for a baby, do wash it before you give it away – it is going to be washed often. You don’t want new mom to be the one who finds out the fabric colours run or a seam opens, it is better that you solve those issues for her before you give it.

Wonky Baby Quilt - back detail

I debated using a different coloured thread on the back than front but in the end decided that I like the softening effect white thread had on the darker back. I used Superior Threads King Tut thread in a creamy white for the quilting.

Wonky Baby Quilt - back

This quilt looks very complicated yet it is fast and easy. I started it on a Wednesday night after supper, worked on it a bit each evening and finished it Saturday of the same week. For me that is lightning speed to finish a whole quilt – a perfect solution for that last minute gift.

Wonky Baby Quilt - Liberated Shoo Flies - front

I love how the liberated Shoo Flies are bold, graphic and full of movement. This age old block can be still be so modern and fun. Now I want to make a much bigger quilt of Shoo Flies, which is easy to do by the way – just add more blocks until it is the size you want.

Wonky Baby Quilt - binding detail

Thank you to Rhonda for hosting the Finish-A-Long and the tutorial series. If you have any questions about this tutorial, feel free to ask me – you can find me on my blog, she can quilt, here.

By the way, Rhonda is a podcaster and is playing along in a special podcastiversary giveaway here. You do want to click through and visit, it could be worth your while and if you have not listened to her podcasts yet, I highly recommend them. I listen while I sew, it is sort of like having her over for a visit.

Rhonda asked me to remind you…If you participated in the Pre-First Quarter Linky Party don’t forget to link up your finished projects to the Post-First Quarter Linky Party so that you can qualify for the prizes.

The Pre-Second Quarter Linky Party will go live on April 7th….get your 2nd quarter lists ready!


17 Comment

  1. Great tutorial Leanne…I really need to try this one of these times.

  2. Well that just goes to show how quickly you can make something special. Great tutorial Leanne, thank you.

  3. Gorgeous! Thanks for all the tips x

  4. Brilliant tutorial Leanne. I'm so with you on the love of wonky.

  5. Great tutorial! Love this wonkiness!

  6. Really lovely 🙂 Great tute too!

  7. What a darling quilt & love Leanne's tutorial. I really appreciate Leanne too – quite an inspiring quilter and friend!

  8. Beautiful! Thanks for the great tutorial!!

  9. I really love this! Going to star in my Reader and come back when I need some inspiration!

  10. That is a super duper fantastic tutorial! I'm totally going to do this for my next emergency baby present (which is in October, so I know about it — hah)!

  11. Love all the colours in this, thanks for the tute!

  12. Love Leanne's tutorial, thanks so much for posting it!

  13. What an awesome looking quilt! Thanks for the tutorial =D

  14. Oh I love your liberated shoo flys!!! The solids are beautiful on the white background. I just started playing around with wonky stars and I have to say I'm hooked!

  15. I'm making one – inspired by yours!
    Thank you for the tutorial:-)

  16. love it! fresh and fun!

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