Low Volume Quilting Tips
Everyone should try a bit of low volume quilting. It’s a fun and easy way to try some new fabrics. Below are some low volume quilting tips I tried with great success with. The patterns can be as simple or intricate as you want. Just think of low volume fabrics as your neutral background. Mix them all together and start making your blocks. You’ll love the distinctive look of these fabrics against your more colorful design prints.
This quilting adventure all started with about 15 yards of low volume fabric in curated fat quarter bundles. The total mix consisted of about 40 different low volume fabrics. Since I hadn’t ever used low volume fabrics, I decided to start small and make baby quilts. It was also a perfect way to try multiple low volume quilting techniques without using all my new fabric in just a couple quilts.
Pretty Little Pink Squares
My first low volume quilting tip is a simple, yet sweet baby quilt with bits of intermingled pink prints among the low volume 2½” fabric squares. It’s an easy, quick project that requires no matching seams. First you sew each row together in long strips. Then when you join the strips, every other one is offset by a half-size square. This way none of the blocks requires matching seams. Next time you need a quick quilt, try this method and you’ll be finished in no time!
A Soft Blue Rag Quilt
The next low volume quilting tip is focuses on a soft blue baby rag quilt. With a blue flannel backing, the rag edges wash out beautifully and so fuzzy. You can make this quilt using just 5” squares. Mix up your low volume fabrics with four or five different pale blue prints for a good balance. With the large variety of prints, there’s lots to see in this quilt. The rag-cut blue flannel edges highlighted the pale blue prints wonderfully across the quilt top. The special finishing touch to this quilt are the rosette corner blocks in the border. Such a simple technique that adds a great distinctive look.
After two quilts designed with very subtle fabrics, I needed more color. Back to the 2½” squares, wonky corners were added in bolder colors. This low volume quilting tip is a combination of 9-patch and 36-patch blocks. Wonky corners are added sporadically throughout the pre-assembled blocks. Then a few wonky stars are put in to showcase some very bold, bright pink batiks. Though a bit fussier to assemble, I am very pleased with the results.
A Bit More Modern
Quilt number four starts with more 2½” squares. This low volume quilting tip also focuses on the smaller squares that blend so well. Their size helps to create an all-over background without any single fabric dominating the design. Using a 36-patch block, an assortment of 4 – 7 pieced bright colored batik squares are added in random patterns. While each block has multiple batik fabrics, they are grouped into color families. This way the blocks become very distinctive on their own and mix well when combined in a group.
Modern Low Volume Quilting with Batiks
What to Do with The Rest
Bold contrasts are my favorite to quilt with. Given all the remaining bits of low volume fabric still in the pile, I really want to add a punch of bright, bold color. Most of the low volume fabrics remaining are cut to 2 ½” strips. That means making up some 9-patch blocks with the low volume and adding some bright batik blocks sporadically throughout the quilt top.
Improv Batik Squares
My favorite go-to is batiks. With a stash of beautiful batiks always ready and waiting, this project begins with some 6” – 8” pieced batik blocks. These sizes fit well with the 9-patch low volume blocks that will be made next. Plus, there is also some room for a bit more improv piecing.
First, each batik block is randomly pieced from the center to build a square or rectangle. A bit like piecing a log cabin, narrow strips are added to the outer edges. Many of the narrow strips used in these blocks are pieced from smaller scraps. This way, many more fabrics can be included which adds some very interesting bursts of color. Also notice that not every strip is perfectly even. There is a lot of improvisational piecing creating slight diagonal angles rather than a perfect square. This is such a great way to use all those random scraps that don’t quite fit anywhere else.
9-Patch Blocks with a Twist
Once satisfied with your pile of bright blocks, it’s time to begin the low volume 9-patch blocks. Adding some colorful variations adds so much more interest to this type of pattern. Cut some 2 ½” batik squares to be added to you 9-patch blocks. Decide if you want lots of color across your quilt top, or just a few sporadic squares. Make at least three times as many low volume 9-patch blocks as you have batik blocks. This will give the low volume background more area than the bright blocks. The batik blocks should be the highlight, so they stand out against the larger area of low volume and not take over the whole quilt top.
Notice in the photo, I took it a step further. Rather than just a square of batik, I used a mini 4-patch of 1” squares. Piecing alternating batik and low volume squares adds a bit of color variation. There are so many options, be sure to try your favorite piecing methods to change things up.
Add Even More Interest
To keep the design moving, try some blocks using only 1” squares. Here the batiks alternate with tiny low volume squares in a 36-patch block. It’s a fun way to mix in some colors and add extra interest into the background. I like adding plenty of color but still want to keep the low volume background. This block mixes both fabrics equally and adds interest while not competing with the larger batik blocks that are the star of the show.
Since I will probably never make a postage stamp quilt, this is as close as I’ll come. It’s a fun way to try a block that I might otherwise never make for an entire quilt. I love the look, but all that cutting and sewing of tiny pieces is over overwhelming to me.
Putting It All Together
The blocks are assembled, and the layout will be fun. There are so many possibilities that this quilt will take a bit more time to finalize.
There are a couple assembly options. First, creating uniform sized blocks that can be pieced by rows is an easy solution. My instincts lean more towards working from the center out. Not unlike how the individual batik blocks were made. Starting with 2 or 3 blocks in the middle allows opportunities to add lots of interest as the quilt is built outward.
Perhaps instead of consistent blocks, long narrow strips in either a rail fence or log cabin style might work well putting all the pieces together. It will definitely allow for a lot more creative freedom and some extra color in the mix. There will probably be a bit of wonky, whimsy for fun, too. I’m already getting excited to start.
Low Volume Quilting Tips
The biggest advantage to low volume quilting is what a fabulous background these fabrics make. Their subtle colors and patterns blend so well and create an intriguing look to any quilt. I’ve never been a fan of white fabric backgrounds because I love to work with lots of color and patterns. Low volume fabrics give me the contrast I want, yet also provide some great design elements, too.
Try a bit of low volume quilting with a couple tips mentioned above. Low volume fabrics offer a lot of diversity. Whether you’re adding a subtle bit of color throughout your quilt top or taking it all the way to the extreme with bright, bold contrasts, you’ll enjoy the endeavor.