January 23, 2011

Cathedral Window Tutorial Part 1

Cathedral Windows

To make the background for my cathedral window quilt, I machine sew each one of the units. I am terrible at folding, allergic to irons, and despise pins. In this method of Cathedral Window Quilt making, I try to avoid them all.

I start by prewashing my Kona cotton. I have made a wall hanging before and I didn't want to deal with uneven stretching and shrinking- not that I have had a problem with Kona! I like to play it safe. You can start with a 10.5 inch square. I did this to minimize the fabric waste of my Kona cotton. Four of these squares uses all the fabric up to the selvage edge. You can start with whatever fabric square size you want.

Starting Fabric Square ----Resulting Unit Made (inches)






I prefer the bigger since I can finish quicker. I am making an 80 by 80 inch quilt for our full bed and that will take 256 units, 16 by 16 units. I believe with the overlapping units, 225, it will take 481 window of fabric. (?) I am looking at my fabric in different piles of production and don't know how much Kona Snow I bought. (I think it may be anywhere from 12 to 15 yards.) [Oops By working backwards, it was 12 yards and, unless I buy more background fabric, my quilt will be at most 65 inches square.] The good part is I can always increase the size to whatever I want by adding more blocks at anytime. You can easily make a twenty inch pillow with 16 of these. You will need about 1 and 1/4 yards of solid and some favorite fabric scraps. No batting is used in this type of quilt.

Cut out 10.5 inch squares. Precision is important, as inaccuracies will increase and snowball at each step.

Fold in half, sew with a 1/4 inch seam from the cut edge to the folded edge. Backstitch at least three stitches at the folded edge.

Chain-stitch these to save thread, cut apart, and repeat with the other side.

Now open seams on either side and pin matching the seams together.

Sew a quarter inch seam along this unfinished edge and leave an opening. Backstitch at the beginning, end and at the opening. This opening will never be closed so I backstitch it too and it doesn't unravel when turning it inside out.

With a pile of these made, prepare them to be turned inside out. Trim each corner of your new square, without cutting your stitches, to about a 45 degree angle. I sometime take more like I did here and it doesn't seem to matter that much.

Turn inside out, using a tool to turn the corners out neatly with nice points. I use the Little Turning Tool. The backstitching will help you not poke a hole in the corner. Finger press all the seams open. (Work the seams with your fingers and crease the edges.) Kona is wonderful since it holds this temporary pressing. This is the most time consuming part of the process, but it is a mindless activity that I do watching my favorite whatever on the TV.

Take the pile and press them flat. I use a lot of steam. The sides are bias edges so you have to be careful to not distort them.

Now fold these corners to the center and press them down. Use steam with the pressing if you would like.

I measure the finished unit to make sure it measures 5 inches square and has good right angles like this:

You're done with one unit! Make sure these finish as squares. When you sew them together you won't have those pesky holes at the corners.

Now we need to sew the units together and add fabric. This is where most recent tutorials become the same. for machine sewing or by hand. I'll show you my no pin method in Part 2! Let me know if you have any questions so far.

Part 2 can be found here!


  1. Will be watching for part 2! This is on my "going-to-make-someday" list.

  2. I always wondered how these quilts were made. Part Two will be interesting. I have no idea how you are going to add fabric.

  3. Oh, so it begins! Lovely so far! Thanks for doing this!

  4. Lookin' good. Great, clear instructions. I especially love this warning: "as inaccuracies will increase and snowball at each step."

  5. excellent tutorial! Very clear and you make it seem so simple!

  6. Thank you! Love these and needed lots of help to get it right.

  7. Excellent tutorial, thank you, I am doing this right now...

  8. My Grandmother made a Cathedral Window quilt that I inherited and I wanted to make some shams to match. Thanks for the tutorial, I couldn't remember how to make them. She showed me many years ago and I just needed a refresher.


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