The popularity of the traditional ‘Attic Window’ quilt block seems to have waned in recent years and although there are some newer and more modern geometric variations, these are missing the three dimensional quality that made the block so interesting.
The traditional block is designed to give the impression of looking through a window either from the inside looking out, (at a night sky for example) or from the outside looking in (at a cat in a room beyond for example). Here is a picture of a page in Ursula Reikes’ book showing a school of clown fish behind the nine Attic Window blocks of her quilt. You could also have single objects appearing to sit on the ‘shelves’, like a variety of seashells or toy boats and so on…
I thought it might be fun to try an Attic Windows block using the English Paper Piecing technique. The best thing about this technique is how easy it to put together; there is no need to worry about mitred corners or adding half square triangles at the corners as machine quilters seem to have to do.
You need only three paper pieces for your Attic Window block. You can draw your own template, or find one online. It should look like this one and it can be any size that suits your pattern:
Some time ago I started collecting some ‘ocean’ fabrics of my own, because I loved the idea of looking into an aquarium and seeing fish or seahorses or mermaids.
I discovered some Makower fabric that gave what I was looking for: Mermaids for my feature fabric
and some clams, shells, waves and seaweed for the complementary fabrics. You do need to have light and dark toned fabrics to accentuate the depth of your ‘window’.
I began with the large square which would hold each of my mermaids and began to cut out a set of nine mermaids, one for each block in my quilt.
You can use a see-through acrylic template or one with an empty centre, like the one on the right here, to allow you to centre your square over the part of the fabric that you want to showcase. This is called Fussy Cutting. I cut out the squares adding an extra half inch to each side, which will be needed to fold under my paper piece.
Once these were done, I cut out fabric for the two edges of the window, one light (for the base) and one darker (for the side), remembering to add the half inch of extra fabric to fold under. Then I wrapped them around each of the shapes and tacked them into place. This was the result:
You will notice that in Ursula Reikes’ picture, at the beginning of this post, there is a white frame (called sashing) around each block which further emphasises the window effect. And, if you look at my photo of the paper template I used, above, you will see open strips on the inside where the wood of my desk shows through. You can add strips of dark fabric here too, as a sort of inner frame, which will have a similar effect of creating depth.
So that’s it really. Now all you have to do is sew the bits together and make as many as you want in the size that you want. I have an idea that this block would make a wonderful ‘I Spy’ travel quilt for a child, with a different set of objects fussy cut and inserted into each window. Here is my finished block, which is 6 inches square (or 15 cms) The tacking, or basting stitches as they are called, and the papers they hold in place, can be removed as soon as you have sewn the block to another one, or added sashing or a border.
Till next time…..