Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pineapple Log Cabin Block 36 FINISHED! Tweaking My Design in EQ8 For a Custom Fit to My Bed

You guys, I am ON FIRE!  Not only did I venture out in a monsoon to restock my home with groceries yesterday, but I also got caught up with all of the laundry, reviewed a couple of tricky passages in the Brahms, and stayed up past midnight to finish one more pineapple log cabin block.  BEHOLD:

Pineapple Log Cabin Block 36 (out of 42?)
Here are the answers to the most common questions I've been getting about this project:
  1. I am paper piecing the blocks using a free foundation pattern that I downloaded from Fons & Porter here, but after taping just one block together I took it to my local FedEx shop and printed single page copies on their large format printer.
  2. The blocks finish at approximately 17 3/4".
  3. The fabric strips are cut at 1 1/2" wide since I'm paper piecing, but the finished width of the strips is 3/4"
  4. Each block contains 97 pieces, and each block is taking me roughly SIX hours to piece.
  5. I'm making this for my California King bed that measures 72" wide by 84" long.  
If you google something like "standard quilt sizes" or "Cal King quilt dimensions," you can find a whole slew of handy little charts telling you exactly what size to make your quilt.  But as an interior designer who specializes in high end custom work, I am begging you to never, ever decide what size to make your quilt based on somebody else's chart or pattern instructions.  Whenever I design custom bedding for my clients, I always measure the client's actual bed to determine sizes.  Mattresses come in such a variety of depths these days, and if you're going to all of the trouble to pay for -- or spending all of the TIME to make -- why would you want to pay for custom without getting a custom fit?  

So the Fons & Porter pattern calls for 16 blocks in a 4 x 4 layout to recreate this antique quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center  which measures approximately 74" x 76" (Imagine that -- antique quiltmakers weren't perfect, either!):  

Original Antique Quilt, 74" x 76", Sixteen Blocks Measuring 17 3/4"
Ah, sixteen blocks -- I could have been finished with this quilt SO LONG AGO!  But I want to put this on the California King bed in my master bedroom, so I knew I needed a lot more blocks than 16.

My original plan was to make 36 blocks for a 6 x 6 layout that would give me a quilt top measuring 106.5" x 106.5", and that would be perfect, right?  No sashing or borders required, and it would look pretty much like this EQ7 rendition that I made after completing the first block:

EQ7 Rendition of 36 Blocks, Set 6 x 6, with Coral 1/4" Binding
By the way, I made that rendition by importing a cropped photo of my first finished pineapple block into my EQ7 software, setting up a new quilt with a 6 x 6 horizontal layout, and just pasting copies of that same block into every square.  It only took me a few minutes, and it was a great way to make sure I liked what I was doing with my color and value placement early on in the piecing process.  Since this quilt is super scrappy and every block is unique, there will be a lot more variation in the finished quilt.  You can see that in this photo from the last time I had some of my actual completed quilt blocks up on my design wall:

Actual Completed Pineapple Blocks On My Design Wall
I love using EQ this way, as a "Virtual Design Wall."  See how well my computer rendering "predicted" what a bunch of these blocks would look like together?  I love, love, LOVE my EQ8 software (I updated to the newest version while this project was in progress) and it was worth every penny.  Seriously -- I have spent more on fabric to make one quilt than the cost of this design software, and has paid for itself many times over by preventing me from making a whole quilt and not realizing that it isn't working out the way I want until ALL of the blocks have been made.  The newest version, EQ8, is even more user friendly than previous versions, and my "sneak peak" technique is just the tip of the iceberg for what you can do with it.

Seriously, if you buy EQ8 and you can't figure out how to use it, please reach out to me and I would love to help you.  I'd consider it my way to "pay it forward" for all of the times that more experienced quilters have reached out to me when I needed help.   You can take all the design classes in the world and read every book out there about color theory, but the easiest and most foolproof way to ensure you're making a quilt that YOU will love is to try out different color combinations on your computer screen ahead of time and make sure what you see on your computer monitor matches the beautiful vision you have in your mind.

Okay, so back to my pineapple log cabin quilt.  Yes, I love how 36 blocks looks laid out in a straight 6 x 6 setting with no borders, but will it be big enough for my bed?

I found this chart at, and it's a great reference for anytime you're making a quilt that is NOT for one specific bed -- like a quilt for a raffle, a quilt for a show or craft fair, or a surprise gift for a faraway friend whose mattress cannot be measured ahead of time.  According to this chart, my quilt only needs to be 102" x 106" to fit a California King mattress.  36 blocks that finish at 17 3/4" in a 6 x 6 layout would give me a quilt top that measures 106.5" x 106.5", and that would be perfect, right?  

Measuring Mattress Depth is Crucial to a Good Fit
--But, no.  My mattress is 72" wide by 84" long, and those dimensions are pretty standard for a California King.  However, "standard" mattress depth is around 9-10", but I have an extra-deep pillow top mattress on my bed that is 16" thick.  I want the finished quilt to completely cover the mattress on all three sides of the bed, so I have to take my extra deep mattress into consideration.  

What's more, as anyone who has ever made a quilt knows, the quilt top is going to draw up and get smaller during the quilting process (by about 5-10%, depending on how densely I quilt it), and then I may get a little more shrinkage in the final wash as well, depending on what kind of batting I end up using.  Remember I told you that it takes me 6 hours to make just one of these blocks.  Imagine going to all of this work only to put the finished quilt on my bed and discover that it is too small?!

So, how DO I know how big to make my quilt?  Here's my Magic Math:
  • Mattress Width = 72".  Mattress Length = 84".  Mattress DEPTH = 16".
  • Mattress Width 72" + 2(Mattress Depth 16") = Minimum Finished Width 104"
  • Mattress Length 84" + Mattress Depth 16" = Minimum Finished Length 100"
At this point, it seems like my original plan of 36 blocks will work just fine, right?  That would result in a quilt top measuring 106.5" x 106.5".  But I haven't factored in ANY shrinkage from quilting and laundering.  Even if I was using all prewashed fabrics, a polyester batting with minimal or no shrinkage, and I was planning to do minimal quilting such as a very loose all over meander, I'd still want to factor in at least 5% shrinkage.  Here's how to determine what size the quilt top needs to be PRIOR to quilting in order for the finished quilt to come out the desired size AFTER quilting if we estimate 5% shrinkage:
  • Minimum Finished Width 104" ÷ .95 = 109.5" Minimum Width Before Quilting
  • Minimum Finished Length 100" ÷ .95 = 105.25" Minimum Length Before Quilting
However, I am NOT planning to use an all polyester batting with zero shrinkage, and I am probably going to do a moderately heavy amount of quilting rather than a loose, open meander.  I consulted with veteran longarm quilters in a couple of quilters' groups that I belong to, and the consensus seems to be that 10% shrinkage is the safest margin to allow for most longarm quilted quilts.  So now, let's do that math again to see how big my quilt top should be before quilting in order to finish the size I want it to be on my bed:
  • Minimum Finished Width 104" ÷ .90 = 115.5" Minimum Width Before Quilting
  • Minimum Finished Length 100" ÷ .90 = 111" Minimum Length Before Quilting
With 10% shrinkage factored in, my 36 block quilt top can be expected to finish up at just 95 3/4" x 95 3/4" when all is said and done.  That means I have about 4 1/2" of mattress exposed beyond the edges of my quilt on all three sides of my bed.  Boo, hiss!

So then I thought I'd make another row of blocks to cover the width, and just scoot the quilt down a few inches at the top.  But that doesn't sit right with me, either, because why am I bothering to make a custom quilt that isn't a custom fit to my bed?  This is where the large size of the blocks complicates design options.  Really, adding another row of 17 3/4" blocks is adding too much width to the sides, and it does nothing to give me the few extra inches I'd like at the foot of the bed.  Back to EQ8 to explore my options!  

Playing With Borders In EQ8 Software
My first idea was to add three 3/4" borders and a 3/4" pieced sashing between the blocks that would blend into the adjacent neutral, blue, or green fabrics, but when I previewed that in my software I didn't love my quilt as much anymore.

First Idea: Pieced Sashing and Plain, Skinny Borders.  Yuck.  Rejected!
There are advantages to this setting.  For one thing, it eliminates the need burning, passionate desire I have to try to match up all of those seams where my blocks come together.  But I am a glutton for punishment, and I want to pin all those little seams and make myself crazy matching them up.  That's just who I am.  Also, the plain, skinny borders would be a quick and easy fix, but they just look so juvenile and plain, no matter which fabrics I "painted" them.  So I scrapped the sashing (so much easier to do in the computer by clicking "no sashing" rather than ripping out all of those stitches in real life!) and tried some other options.  I have not reached a firm decision, but here are the top contenders at this point:

OPTION ONE: 6" of Piano Key Border for a Quilt Top Measuring 119" x 119"
OPTION TWO: Same as Option One, But Without the Coral Inner Border
OPTION THREE: Same as One and Two, But More Light Neutrals in the Outer Border, Plus Corner Blocks
OPTION FOUR: Same Cute Corner Blocks, But Now With Flying Geese Border
When I started writing this post, I thought I had this narrowed down to either Option Three or Option Four.  I can print foundation paper piecing patterns for the flying geese border right from EQ8 so although it will take a lot of TIME to piece the geese, I won't have any problem piecing them accurately, even if they work out to crazy sizes that are not rotary-cutting-friendly.  I think the scale might be too large, though, and I'm not sure I want to introduce a new element (geese) in the border.  For Option Three, I'd just be piecing together a border from my leftover strips and they'd be the same size as the strips in the pineapple blocks.  But is that too boring? 

Now, though, looking at the design renderings again, I find myself drawn to Option Two again, for its simplicity.  Does that one do the best job of preserving the fresh, modern graphic appeal the blocks had without borders?  My brain hurts, and it's time to walk away from the computer!! 

Yeah, so much for another "quick" blog post after breakfast.  Hah!  If you have ideas or opinions about the borders for my pineapple log cabin quilt, please share in the comments.  Thanks!

I'm linking up with:

       Let’s Bee Social at

·       Midweek Makers at

·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at

·       WIPs With Friends at


time4stitchn said...

Wow what awesome blocks. I don't think I have seen them so big. Excellent!
As for your borders, I like # three with the 2 color borders of the darks along with the square in a square corners. (I personally think the flying geese are out of proportion.) Did you look at the piano key border option in just blues and greens and no backgrounds?

I envy your creative talents using EQ. It makes design a whole new concept. I keep fighting the the price tag.


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I like option one and two. I always make my quilts bigger than the charts say for a queen size - I have a deep mattress and I like lots of overhang - my hubby tends to grab the covers and I have to grab back so I want a lot of quilt to deal with. I usually aim for 104 x 104 and with shrink up I know it will be down to 100 x 100 or 96 x 98 shrinkage is never the same and a couple even though I thought would be large enough ended up being almost too small.
Love this quilt you are doing .

cocoya said...

thank you for post reply


Ramona said...

This quilt is going to be stunning. I have been so intrigued by this quilt since I first saw it. I like option 2the best. My eye isn’t pulled away from the gorgeous pineapple blocks with this option. The other borders pull my eye to the borders instead of staying on the blocks. I know you are excited to have this quilt top near completion.

shoshu said...

my eye keeps coming back to option 2, just this week it took me much longer to decide which quilting design to use on my project that it did to actually quilt it!!!! but i'm glad i waited until i was honestly happy with my choice. good luck!!!

Frog Quilter said...

Option three sings to me. Love your blocks and color selection.

Marty S said...

I was wondering the same thing as Debbie---blue and green piano keys.

Janice Holton said...

Before I tell you my personal opinion, let me just say that your pineapple blocks are the star of the show. They are fantastic! Any one of the borders that you showed will work great. I'm going to throw a wrench in the works and say that I like the flying geese border the best. I can't give you a good "design theory" reason why, it just appeals to me. Totally personal preference; however, that doesn't mean I dislike the others. They all look great! Ha! Ha! How's that for no help at all? :) So go with your gut and the one that grabs you most.

Preeti said...

I have not seen patchwork more precise than yours. Looks like you are a scientist working with a microscope. By comparison, I feel like I am chasing fabric scraps around my house and sewing with eyes half closed. Opinions? I do not have any - I am sure that whatever you choose, it will with a the precision of a hawk and the ferocity of a tigress!!!

The Colorful Fabriholic said...

Your pineapple blocks are lovely! I definitely prefer option 2 for the border because it doesn't draw attention away from the pineapple blocks. Thanks for the info on calculating sizes to accommodate shrinkage - very helpful.

SJSM said...

You put so much thought into your creations. Color theory is something I struggle to get right. I am getting better but still make a lot of "oops, why did I do that". With that being said I like number 2 best. It is a safe choice. Option one keeps me intrigued when I think of the overhang and seeing the coral border from the side. I think it would draw the eye to that color throughout the quilt. One does want the eye to travel through the colors, right? If so, option one does that better.

I can’t wait for o see which version you choose. Or you may come up with a completely different idea as you ponder.

Karen in Breezy Point said...

You must be thrilled to be so close to the end--it's going to be beautiful!! Options one and two are my favorites!

KaHolly said...

I’m absolutely blown away by your quilt and your plans. I vote for #2, too! I look forward to seeing a picture of it on your bed, totally finished, in all it’s glory. Thanks for the encouragement to use EQ! I’m not very tech savvy, so I’ve avoided the temptation.

chrisknits said...

I love 2, but wasn't it a wise woman who told me to go with the option I wanted to? Hmm, who could that have been? LOL!

Lynette said...

Some of these options are really cool, but - YES!!!! - I am completely, fabulously, in love with the partial-block scalloped-edge design you landed on. It's clean, modern, perfect in every way.

Mormor said...

What a gorgeous quilt! No matter which one you choose it will be just beautiful. I like option 2 and 4 best. I think #3 detracts away from your beautiful piecing by being irregularly spaced. Number 2 blends very well with what you have done and frames your pinapples, does not detract, but keeps interest. Number 4, however adds an interesting element, is evenly spaced and compliments your pineapples, too.