07 April 2012

Kelp Quilt Tutorial

This tutorial explains how to make a 9” x 65” block for a Kelp Quilt
If you make 11 of these blocks, you’ll have a twin size quilt (65" x 93").

[Directions for queen size variations at the bottom.]

I'm posting this tutorial as a bit of an experiment.  I know I can make money sending these things to magazines, but I prefer blogland. So, here's the deal...

Anyone is free to use this tutorial to construct a quilt; I just ask that they credit me, Rossie, with the design or inspiration.

If you use the tutorial and feel so moved, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar (no obligation).   Rest assured, the money goes into my business account, Fresh Modern Quilts LLC, and I will pay taxes on it through the business.

I'm doing this because...

(a) I often feel that quilt patterns are over-priced, especially if I can tell just by looking at something how it was made.  I am almost never willing to pay $8 for a PDF quilt pattern.  However, I would be willing to give someone a dollar or two for using the idea they brought to my attention, I think you might be like me.
(b) I'm a copy-leftist. As such, I don't think it is possible or moral to claim ownership over most ideas or to try to control an idea.   I'm interested in people's willingness to volunteer payment for inspiration.

(c) I have this really cool idea for some quilting tools, but funds to get the prototypes fabricated.  (Mysterious, I know!)

(d) If this goes reasonably well, I can post more quilts on my blog, rather than keeping them secret while waiting for them to show up in magazines.

Ready?  Alrighty, here goes...

Recipe for one twin-sized Kelp Quilt

Fabric: *six yards of “ground” fabrics in one family of colors (4-12 different reds, blues, grays, etc; you'll use one 1/2-yard cut for each strip, and have one extra half-yard)
*3-yards of white fabric for the “plants”
*1/2-yard of complimentary fabric for binding (assumes 2-inch binding strip width, either straight or bias-cut)

Also needed:
rotary cutter
rotary cutting mat
sewing machine

To piece the patchwork:
1. Start with ½ yard of the ground fabric.

2. Press the fabric.
3. Cut the half-yard into two lengthwise (selvedge-to-selvedge) strips, 9” tall

4. Take one 9” strip and cut it in half again to make two pieces that are 4.5" tall
5.  Then cut those into 4.5" tall pieces into 20" and 12" and 12" pieces.
6. From the white fabric, cut a 1.5” x 20” strip, a 4” x 12” strip and a 3” x 12” strip.

7. Using the pieces cut in steps 3-6, sew each white strip to a blue strip of the same length. Then attach the remaining blue pieces to the other sides of the white strips.
8. Press the seams towards the blue fabric (pressing open works, too).  You'll end up with something like this:

9. Cut each of the blue-and-white sandwich pieces you just made into into 2”-4” widths.
10. Use a design wall, table or floor to arrange these pieces into a pleasing composition.

11. You’ve got another 44” length of blue fabric to play with. Will you insert it all without putting any white in it? Decide if you need more white in your block or if you’d like to fill in the rest of the 65” length with plain blue. If you want more white, plan out specifically what is needed and make those pieces and add them to your design board.

12. When you’ve got an arrangement you like, use masking tape to mark each piece with a number,
13. As you sew the pieces together, line up the CENTER, not the top or bottom.

14. Sew all of the pieces together and press
15. Use a rotary mat and cutter to cut the extra material from the top and bottom of the block (back down to 9”)

16. If your block ended up longer than 65” I recommend leaving it “too long” and deciding which end to cut from after you’ve made all your blocks and are arranging them into a quilt top!

17.  Now that you understand the basic steps, go wild and do it your own way!  Make some strips with lots of plants, others with just a few.  Look at the quilt my bee made based on my design (here) and notice the wide variation.

**You'll likely end up with extra fabric to use in the quilt back or save for another project.

**Queen size variation: Instead of 1/2 yard of fabric for every strip, you'll need 3/4 yard.  Make each strip 94" wide.  You'll need 4 yards of the "plant" fabric and 5/8ths of a yard of the binding fabric (assumes 2-inch binding strip width, either straight or bias-cut).  Eleven strips will get you a queen size quilt (94" square)

**For a baby quilt, I recommend shrinking every dimension (i.e., don't make the strips 9" tall, try 4"!)

I hope this tutorial is clear. Please let me know if you have questions or could use more photos/drawings. I want to learn to write in a really clear way, so your questions are a help to me on my journey!

I was playing in my friend Brenda's fabric shop and made some bundles for the Kelp Quilt, which you can find in her shop (Pink Castle Fabrics.) The bundles are no longer listed, but the shop should have the list of fabrics and be able to cut them for you if you'd like. 

both bundles


  1. Thanks so much for the tutorial. Ever since you posted the kelp quilt I have been waiting.

  2. I don't know if I will ever make this quilt, but I do like it very much. It just seems that I have a gazilion quilts to make for other people, and this ain't them!!! lol.
    The odd thing about me really likeing this pattern is, I don't usually use solids, and almost always make scrappy quilts with 30 to 50+ fabrics. Just call me short attention span theatre quilter

    1. I would actually be interested to see it made with scraps. Like, maybe white in the background and the plants made out of darker scraps?

  3. Am I right in thinking the squares in the original are log cabin pieced?

    1. Some of them are & some of them aren't. I had to look very closely at the original to tell.

      I would caution against putting in too many squares. When i was figuring out the placement of my strips they were tough to handle and looked wrong until I figured out to group them together.

  4. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the time you took working out this quilt and then making such a easy to follow tutorial. I was thinking that this would be a perfect quilt for one of my sons and would look great with some hand quilting. Now for the time .....

    1. The time is always the catch, isn't it?
      Though, this quilt does go together fairly quickly in my experience.

  5. This is a great quilt! :)

  6. I love your idea! If I make this quilt or even a version I would happily donate!

  7. Love the quilt! And love the donation idea. You are so right, there are so many patterns out there for simple quilts that I don't want to pay $8 for, but would gladly donate a bit for the inspiration.

    1. Thank you. Yes, I was pretty psyched when I sorted out the donation idea. It seems to be going well, too!

  8. Thank you Thank you!!! Three cheers for copy-leftist.

    I'm going to donate just because I love your reasons for setting it up like that. I may use the quilt for my bee month in May.

    I appreciate all you do for the Modern Quilt community.

  9. I love the quilt, its pretty, but i dont have anyone on my "i need to make a quilt for" list that it would work for. as the grandbabies get older maybe! I did however donate a dollar because i am hoping that your plan works! I would gladly donate to people that inspire me, but i dont ever buy patterns. (mostly because i dont follow instructions EVER and i dont see the point in buying instructions im not going to follow anyway)

    There are a few quilters out there that sell patterns for basic quilts (a split rail quilt... seriously... do we need a pattern for it?) but because i made a quilt using their unique layout of the split rail, and because this quilter has inspired me with their usage of color i would hit the donate button!

    kudos! hope the donation idea takes off!

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support!

  10. I love your donation idea! There was a designer years ago who made 2 levels of patterns that she sold on her website, one was full step-by-step instructions and sold for about $8, but you could also just get a two-page pattern that had a picture of the quilt, a picture of a block, and a line drawing so you could work it out yourself and that was about $2. A few times I have made quilts based on simple patterns from sale, but inevitably once the quilt is almost done I feel so guilty I have to go and buy the pattern even though I don't even read it.

    1. The 2-levels of patterns is also a good idea! Thanks for telling me about it.

  11. I've admired this quilt since you first discribed it months ago. I appreciate the Copy Leftist approach to sharing & am very please to support this endeavor!

  12. I really loved the way you explained how to make this quilt I need to look through my fabric for 1/2 yards to make one. I like your idea of a donation so I gave a dollar to read it. I am a visual creator and cannot follow a pattern, so I don't buy them. I love your way of doing it. I am sure to be back.

  13. I love this quilt. It is just beautiful, so visually interesting!

  14. Go girl. Love the copy leftist idea. This is such a great idea. I have donated just in case I find the time to make my version of your fab quilt. It is one of my all time favorites. And will certainly give credit. That is one of my pet peeves - I feel that one should always give credit where credit is due!
    PS - Had a slight glitch with the contribution link. Let me know if you do not receive the $$

  15. I think your tutorial tip donation "jar" is a ridiculously fantastic idea. I hope it goes over very well.

  16. I think your tip jar donation idea is fantastic. Hope it works out great!

  17. This is a great idea. I had an idea for donation-based tutorials last year, but I never got around to it (I cuddled a baby instead). I am curious to see how it goes for you!

    Urban Patchwork


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