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 Quilting Techniques : Setting Quilt Blocks

Setting simply refers to the method by which blocks are arranged to create the quilt's top layer. Although projects created by new quilters more often than not involve a simple horizontal layout where blocks are positioned straight across in repeating rows, there are more options when setting quilts.

There are four basic setting options; horizontal, vertical, on point and medallion. Each is covered in this guide.

Horizontal Setting

A horizontal setting can either involve blocks set next to each other, left to right, or the combination of blocks and sashing. There are benefits to both choices, as each creates a unique effect.

Horizontal setting without sashing can lend basic blocks an entirely different feel. Whether using a simple Nine Patch or something more involved, such as a Milky Way block, setting blocks horizontally without sashing creates a very distinct visual effect. The absence of sashing removes obstacles that would prevent the eye from following the block's "movement".

Sashing may be used between blocks as well as rows in a horizontal setting. It acts as a frame when used in this manner. This is especially desirable in a sampler quilt, for example. Sashing can also be used to simplify the horizontal setting of blocks that are not the same size. Because sashing can be as wide or narrow as desired, it is easy to standardize the size of odd blocks.

Vertical Setting

Some blocks lend themselves more easily to vertical setting, however. As the name implies, blocks are set top to bottom, rather than left to right. Flying Geese, for example, can be used in this manner and is complimented by the use of vertical sashing.

On-Point Setting

One setting that tends to make even seasoned quilters uneasy is "on-point". This setting refers to any quilt whose blocks are set on the diagonal. Some blocks are naturally constructed on the diagonal, but any block can just as easily be set diagonally to add more visual interest.

Now, the greatest obstacle for most quilters when it comes to on-point settings is the use of triangles around the edge and in the corners. These setting triangles are necessary to even out the quilt's edges, but there is a specific technique involved in joining them with diagonally set blocks. For best results when creating an on-point setting, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, the most important measurement in this case is not a block's width, but its diagonal measurement. This is the distance from one corner of a block to another. This information is necessary to determine the number of blocks needed for a quilt as well as the dimensions of edge and corner setting triangles. This value can be determined by measuring from one corner to the opposite and rounding to the nearest eighth of an inch, or by multiplying the finished block size by 1.414 and rounding that number to the nearest eighth of an inch.

Secondly, a triangle's bias edges should never go along the outer edge of the quilt in an on-point setting. This is important to avoid stretched fabric and an unruly layout. For best results, edge setting triangles should be cut from quartered squares and corner setting triangles should be cut from halved squares.

Assembling an on-point setting also differs from techniques used for other settings. In this case, assembly moves diagonally, from the top left corner down to the bottom right corner. The corner setting triangles are then added after these diagonal rows have been assembled.

Medallion Setting

A medallion setting involves either a center motif or block(s) surrounded by multiple blocks or borders. There is a great deal of freedom in this setting, as the center could be anything from a Mariner's Compass to an intricate appliqué design. A cluster of basic blocks may even be used. No matter the components, a medallion setting showcases this center design, framing it with plain blocks or flattering borders.

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