My Interleave quilts are pieced using a quilt-as-you-go technique in which thin strips of fabric are sewn to batting and backing. The interleave design results from cutting these strips from two panels of fabric and piecing alternate strips from each panel. In my quilts, some of the panels are pieced and some are photos printed on fabric. For added interest, I often shift my strips in a wave pattern. The result of this process is a complex-looking quilt that can be pieced quickly from thin strips sewn in straight lines.
Here is a quick tutorial on how I make a small Interleave quilt. I put this together for a 1-day workshop. We will be making a roughly 18 inch square interleave quilt with .5-inch stripes that can be used as a wall hanging, placemat, or pillow top. You can make a smaller sample if you prefer, but I would not suggest going any larger for the class project.
- 5 fat quarters (or larger) of cotton quilting fabric – Select 4 fabrics that go well together for the top, and 1 backing fabric that can be whatever you want. There should be some contrast between the 4 top fabrics – if they all blend together too much the interleave design won’t stand out. You should have enough left over from the top fabric fat quarters to make a binding. But you are welcome to provide extra fabric for a binding or to turn the finished quilt into a pillow. You will probably be doing the binding at home after the workshop.
- Gridded cutting mat, at least 18 inches long
- Ruler, at least 18 inches long (you need a ruler that will allow you to easily cut 18-in long and 1-in wide strips)
- Rotary cutter
- Ironing pad or towel
- Sewing machine and needles with a ¼ in. foot (if you have a ¼ in foot with a guide, even better!)
- Neutral cotton piecing thread (I recommend Aurifil 50/2 in grey, but whatever you like to piece with is fine)
- Pencil and pen
- Fat quarter of cotton/polyester fusible batting
- Fat quarter of quarter-inch grid cotton fabric — available at http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/2046219
- Instructions and templates
Select four fat quarters of four fabrics for the quilt top. They should be fabrics that go well together, but have some contrast between them.
Next elect the style of interleave you want to try. The most basic shape would be straight, with no shifting. If you follow the instructions below and do not shift your fabrics, the result will be something like what you see here to the right. If you want to try this, just join your pairs of fabric on one edge rather than making tubes and skip the part about templates and cutting open the tube.
In the instructions below I used a vase shape (shown here on the left) to shift my interleave design, but there are lots of other designs you might choose.
Below are example of the following shapes: sine wave, mirrored sine wave, skewed sine wave, hour glass, helix, and marquise. These shapes are all based on sine waves of differing frequencies and amplitudes. I generated them all using a computer program that I wrote. But once you have a feel for how this process works you can adapt these designs yourself without the aid of a computer.
Once you select the shape you want to use, you will need to create a paper template. I have prepared templates for the designs you see here. You can enlarge, reduce, or adapt them to suit your needs. This template is a PDF file designed to print on 11×17 paper.
The next step is to prepare the foundation for your quilt. Since this is a quilt-as-you-go technique, we will be layering the batting with a backing and a foundation. I like to use a fusible batt so I don’t have to baste it. I also find it makes things easier if you mark your foundation fabric with parallel lines. After marking several foundations by hand with pencil, I designed a grid fabric and had it printed at spoonflower.com on basic combed cotton. I know it is a little pricey for fabric you will never see in the finished piece, but it does save a lot of time and effort. If you would prefer, you can use any white or light-colored fabric and mark it with parallel lines, .5-inch apart.
After your foundation is prepared, follow the instructions below to cut your fabric and assemble your quilt.
You can achieve some interesting effects by starting with fabric panels that include interesting shapes. For example, you might cut your fabric into right triangles instead of strips, and interleave them without shifting.
You could use the same panels shown above, form them into tubes, cut them open on a curve, and produce one of the designs below, depending on the shape of the curve you use.
You might also start with panels that have three or more shapes and interleave them as shown on the right below.
I used this approach to make Interleave #1.
For Interleave #2 I assembled five diagonal strips on each panel. Instead of cutting 1-inch strips for interleaving, I used 1.5-inch strips so that they would end up 1-inch after accounting for seam allowances. In order to keep everything lined up nicely with proper spacing, I had to cut a .5-inch strip after cutting every 1.5-inch strip. These narrow strips are not actually used in the quilt, but they do make for some colorful ribbons. This approach requires more cutting, but a lot less sewing, so the quilt assembly goes faster.
Finally, interleaving large prints or photos printed on fabric, results in all sorts of interesting possibilities. Below are examples of using wavy striped fabric in Interleave #4, plaid fabric in Interleave #5, and photos printed on fabric in Interleave #6.
Have fun, and let me know how you use this technique!
February 17, 2014 Update!
I’ve been so excited to see the quilts created by some of my workshop participants as well as by a quilter in the San Francisco area, Monica Tong, who found my blog post and followed the instructions to make two quilts. Monica adapted the instructions to use three fabrics in each panel instead of two — which is exactly the idea.