June: Denyse Schmidt – Big Cross Block

In 1998 Martha Steward used the adjective “modern” to describe Denyse Schmidt’s quilts and her modern approach to quilting helped inspired a new generation of quilters which infused the quilting community with a wonderful vibrant energy.

With a background in graphic design and an eye for color, Schmidt brought contemporary flair to traditional quilting designs, reinterpreting and updating them through clever use of improvisation, negative space, alternate gridwork, asymmetry and scale.  Techniques that helped define the modern quilting design aesthetic as it grew into its own and which now seem so familiar. 

She exhibits a broad range of styles in her body of work, which includes quilt designs created using everything from the simplest strip piecing to complex Hawaiian appliqué, but most often a strong geometric motif is present.

“Drunk Love in a Log Cabin” 
is an early Denyse Schmidt design.
“4 Crosses” by Denyse Schmidt

This month’s block “Big Cross” combines two of Schmidt’s familiar motifs, log cabin piecing and improvisational crosses.  Constructed like a wonky nine-patch to form the cross shapes, it is well suited to everything from scraps and improv design to precision piecing and a planned fabric and color palette. 

Big Cross Block

The following instructions are for a 12” finished block, but the technique is easily adaptable to any size you want to make.

 Fabric Requirements

  • 6” x 24″ piece for the four Background patches
  • Assortment of at least 12 fabrics in 1″-1.5” wide strips to make the five log cabin-style Cross patches

Helpful Tools 

  • 12.5” Square template
  • Add-a-Quarter Ruler
  • Washable gluestick

Step 1: Design the Nine-Patch Pattern

  • Use a 12” square of paper or scrap fabric to arrange the shapes and sizes of the nine pattern pieces that form the cross and background patches. Add slight angles to the cuts to create an improvisational style.
  • Label each pattern piece by Rows/Columns 1A through C3.

NOTE:  The pattern pieces do not include the 1/4” seam allowance.  

Step 2: Construct Row 1 

Piece Cross Patch 1B

  • Piece the middle “Cross” patch 1B, using any strip piecing method you choose.
  • Add pieces until the patch size a bit larger than you need. 

NOTE: Use your pattern piece1B plus add the 1/4” seam allowance on each side to determine the size. 

  • Pin or adhere pattern piece 1B to patch.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowances and trim to size.

Cut Background patches 1A & 1C

  • Pin or adhere pattern pieces to the background fabric.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowances and trim to size.

Arrange patches 1A, 1B & 1C to create Row 1. 

Row 1 patches
  • Sew 1A to1B then 1B to 1C.
  • Press seams to left.
Completed Row 1

Step 3: Construct Row 3

  • Repeat Step 2 instructions substituting pattern pieces 3A, 3B & 3C.
Completed Row 3

Step 4: Construct Row 2

  • Audition strips that will be adjacent to other Cross patches to ensure a pleasing color distribution. 
  • Piece three Cross patches 2A, 2B & 2C using any strip piecing method you choose. 
  • Add pieces until the patch size a bit larger than you need.

NOTE: Use your pattern pieces 2A, 2B & 2C plus add the 1/4” seam allowance on each side to determine the sizes. 

Row 2 patches
  • Pin pattern pieces 2A, 2B & 2C to the corresponding patches.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowance and trim each patch to size
  • Piece together patches 2A, 2B & 2C.
  • Press seams to right.
Completed Row 2

Step 5: Complete Block

  • Arrange Rows 1, 2 & 3 in proper order.
  • Sew Row 1 to Row 2 and Row 2 to Row 3.
  • Press seams & trim to 12.5” square.
Finished Block

And here is a very scrappy variation of Big Cross block.