Making a Checkered Garden Block 

The Checkered Garden block is one of the most fun quilt blocks to make! I love that with some time-saving shortcuts, it comes together quickly and accurately!

A brightly-coloured quilt block lays on a wooden work bench.

Pattern

If you’d like to make one of these blocks (or several!) for yourself, you’ll need to check out the Film in the Fridge website. Ashley has provided a FREE tutorial on how to make the Checkered Garden block, and her site includes all of the cutting directions and assembly instructions. 

Shelly places a quilt block on the design wall, next to several others.

I’m just here to share my best tips for getting your blocks to look va-va-voom!!

Scrappy or yardage?

I knew right away that I wanted to make my Checkered Garden blocks super scrappy. Like many sewists, my scrap bins are overflowing, and I wanted to see if I could make a small dent in them. 

I combed through my bins and pulled out a variety of colours - I included most of the colours in the rainbow, although I don’t believe there’s any red in these piles (it makes up a very small part of my stash).

Various strips of fabric in a rainbow of colours.

My plan was to make a quilt that was a 5 x 5 layout which would mean a total of 25 blocks. Since each block has 5 different colours in it, I cut up over 125 different scraps of fabric, which allowed me to mix and match to my heart’s content. 

Shelly stands at her sewing island cutting a lot strip of fabric.

One thing I’ll say about making a scrappy version of this quilt: it took FOREVER to cut up all those different piles of fabric. In the future, I might try to make one out of fat quarters because it would speed up the cutting process immeasurably.

Choosing fabric pairings

Once I had my giant piles of fabric, I had to choose which five colours might end up in any block. I wanted to make sure that each block had a decent amount of contrast - I wanted my Checkered Garden blocks to POP!

This was especially true after I made a block that turned out a bit disappointing. It looked cute up close, but as soon as I placed this block on my design wall and stepped back a few feet, the “plus” in the center of the block all but disappeared. Womp womp.

A green, yellow, blue, and pink quilt block is taped to a white wall.

From that point onwards, if I was ever unsure whether a certain combination of colours would look good together, I took a photo using my phone and then applied a black and white filter. If any of the two colours (that were next to each other) were a similar shade of grey, I swapped out one of them. 

A black and white photo shows strips of fabric in varying shades of gray.

You can see in this first photo that the fabric on the left and the one next to it are very similar in value (lightness / darkness). So I switched out the second fabric and now all of a sudden the fabric on the left looks much lighter. That’s a good thing!

A black and white photo shows five strips of fabric, with a variety of light and dark pieces.

I’ve included the colour version of this photo as well for your viewing pleasure, as well as a picture of the finished block. It turned out cute, right? 🙂

Strips of fabric alternate in size and colour.
A pink and blue quilt block lays on a desk.

Construction Method

I LOVE the way Ashley has you make these Checkered Garden blocks! Wherever possible, she includes shortcuts, like making a large square and then sub-cutting it into four smaller pieces. 

Shelly holds an iron next to a blue square of fabric surrounded by a citron border.
Shelly pulls apart four smaller squares that were cut from a larger square.

She also uses a fair amount of strip piecing. 

Shelly uses an iron to press a strip set of fabric.

Here, you can see that I’ve sewn three different fabrics together, and then I used my Stripology ruler to cut them into smaller units. 

Shelly uses a slotted trimmer ruler to cut up a strip set of fabric.
Shelly's hand picks up several strips of fabric.

This results in super accurate pieces that you sew together, and saves a tonne of time. Genius!

My only complaint

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Checkered Garden block. BUT…. Ashley’s instructions have you construct each block identically.

Shelly uses an iron to press a quilt block in green, pink, white, blue, and citron.

If you like to press your seams to the side (as I do), then this means you’ll have some serious lumps and bumps when you go to sew your quilt blocks together. As a longarm quilter, lumpy quilts are not my favourite (my machine does NOT like going over big bumps).

So I made some changes to the pressing instructions!

I’ve got a hack that will help you make all of your Checkered Garden blocks nest perfectly. 

It involves a two-block system and some strategically-placed fabric in order to maximize contrast. It’s simple but incredibly effective.

Want to check it out? 

Tap on the image below to download my FREE Checkered Garden pressing guide.

Or, if you prefer videos, you can check out my full-length YouTube tutorial (where I walk you through making the block from start to finish). 

Let me know in the comments if you’re going to start making some Checkered Garden quilt blocks!

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