Pick-Up Sticks Quilt and DIY Instructions


I made Pick-up Sticks for my friend and colleague, Justin, who recently went through a break up after a long term relationship. I’ve been promising him a quilt for a long time, so this seems like the right time to keep my word and finish one for him. It was hard to decide what to make because he has a big personality and is full of life. I wanted something modern, playful, bright, but still somehow representing his journey.

He seems to like it! 

I know there are lots of iterations of quilts with thin strips but I didn’t have a pattern and pretty much made it up as I went along. I love how it turned out and will definitely make this quilt again! So, if you have better ideas on how to do this please let me know. Here is how I did it to make a 58″ x 72″ lap quilt:

First, collect and prepare your fabric.  I collected 20 grey FQs of varying shades and patterns and cut them into 15″ squares. I then randomly sliced them, on different angles and at different points, so I had 40 pieces. Keep the two halves of each piece together, especially if you are using any one background fabric more than once. Next, cut approximately 80 strips of fabric 1″ x 18″. FQs work great for this step too. I liked the idea of using one fabric line in multiple colors (to control the craziness) so I used Moda Concrete. I mixed them up and put them in a basket so I could pick randomly as I sewed. 

Now you get to sew! With right sides together, sew a strip down the edge of where you cut your fabric in half. Iron it open and then sew the other half of your background fabric to the other side of the yellow strip. 

At this point you should have 20 odd shaped rectangles with a colored strip running through them. Don’t worry about aligning the edges as you will trim them later. Now comes the scary part. 

Slice all 20 squares on another angle, intersecting with your first colored strip. I personally try to keep rotary cutters and scissors away from sewn blocks, but in this case it is a must! Then, randomly pick another colored strip, and sew it along your cut edge. Iron it with the seam towards your new color. 

You would think you could just sew the other half on to your block, but it isn’t that simple. What I found worked the best was pinning the two halves together, aligning the colored strips, and nudging it until it looks to be aligned when you turn it over. Pin the fabric at a 1/4″, acting as though the pin were a seam. If you turn over the top piece and it does not look to line up, nudge it and try again. Only when you are happy with how the colored strips line up should you pin the rest for stability and sew your seam with a 1/4″ seam allowance. 

Next you slice another direction. It can intersect one or both of the strips you have already sewn, or be on another part of your square. Repeat the method above for sewing, aligning and then sewing your block. I did a mix of blocks with either 3, 4 or 5 strips. You can add as many or as few as you would like to get your desired effect. 

Once satisfied with your block, trim the edges so your block is 15″ square. Depending on the placement of your strips, you will have to trim some more than others. After completing this step you will have 20 finished blocks. 

You know the rest. First arrange your blocks in a pattern that you find pleasing. I did five rows of four blocks each. I tried to have equal color distribution of the strips throughout the quilt, and made sure the two fabrics I used twice weren’t near each other. I paid a little attention also to keeping bolder background prints spaced out, and that the strips went in different directions. From there, stitch your blocks into rows and your rows into a quilt top. Square it up, iron it well, and quilt and bind as desired.

I had a lot of fun making Pick-up Sticks and hope it brings Justin love and happiness. Now I am going to make one for me!

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