Thursday, November 13, 2014

Machine Pieced Cathedral Windows Block {a Tutorial}

I love cathedral window quilts but have always been intimidated by the sheer effort it takes to make one... all that pressing and sewing and pressing and pre-pressing, finally sewing, then hand stitching and... ugh!  It was too much.  So I wrote the pattern off as something I would always admire from afar but never actually be able to create.  Like a beautiful piece of jewelry locked behind a glass case.  Something you can see but never touch.

Fast forward to my local quilt guild meeting last month and a nifty little demo that our guest speaker showed us.  It was a true light bulb moment and I thought, "hey now! I could adapt that to make machine pieced cathedral windows!!"  That next weekend I sat down and figured out how I would do it, using a charm pack, and went for it.  I love the results and I want to share.  So I introduce to you my brand new, newly developed:


To make one block you'll need:

  • 1 -- 5 inch square (this will be your window)
  • 4 -- 2.5 inch squares (for your background)
    • I used two light and two dark to make it interesting.  This will create a four-patch effect behind your window

1. Start by folding your 5 inch square in half, WRONG sides together, as shown below.

2. Take one light square and one dark square and place them RIGHT sides facing in.  E.G. the blue fabric in this picture is pictured wrong side up and the white fabric is pictured right side up.  Line up the top and right sides of all three pieces and sew along the right side, as shown below.

3. Flip the piece over and again, line up one dark square and one light square in the opposite corner of your folded piece.  Sew along the right side of the blocks, as shown below.

If you open your piece up it should look sort of like these two pictures  A long rectangle pocket with two squares sewn to each end.

4.  Gently finger press the seams at each end open.  This will help with bulk and matching up the pieces later on.

5. Take both ends in towards each other and line up the center seams as best you can.   This is where having them finger pressed open will help.

6.  With the center seams lined up, place a finger in the pocket created by the pink fabric and gently straighten it out on the left side.  Line up the left most edges of all fabrics, as shown in the picture below.

7.   Place the block in your machine with the left-most side first.  The side you'll be sewing along should be all raw edges.  Sew along the edge, stopping when you reach the center seams.  Do NOT continue sewing the entire seam.

Lift up the top square and straighten out the pink fabric by placing a finger in the pocket created and gently pulling it towards you.  Line up the right and bottom edges and continue sewing down the seam.

Note that this will change how the fabric you've already sewn is laying.  See the third picture below for what I mean.

8.  Ready for the reveal?  Gently open your square up and admire your work.  Great job!

9. Carefully smooth out the seams and finger press the block.  Take the block to your ironing board and press all seams open.  Again, this helps with bulk and lining up your blocks later on when you're ready to piece your top together.

10.  Now you need to press your seams to create the curved cathedral windows.  Gently lift one of the edges of your pink fabric.  Carefully finger press it until you're happy with the shape you've created.  Press the edge with your iron, being careful not to get your fingers with the hot tip.  Continue around the block, I like to work clockwise, until all edges are pressed.

This will get easier the more blocks you do.  I found that using a slightly lower temperature on my iron still gave me a good press but wasn't as harsh on my fingers while I was working around one block.

11.  Choose and load your machine with the thread you wan to use for top-stitching the window.  Starting in one corner, back stitch and then continue along the curve.  When you reach the end of one side, simply lift your presser foot, pivot your project around and continue down the next side until all four sides have been completed.  This is shown in the third picture below.

When you're done, press each block again and admire your newest creation!

Finished Block.

See... That wasn't so hard!

A few hints:

  • You can change the size of your windows easily.  All you need is a square of fabric and four smaller squares equal to 1/4 of the original.
  • I really liked using fabric with lines for the window pieces of each block.  When you pull it over to create the curve the print of the fabric curves also, really highlighting the curve and the fabric.  

  • When lining up your blocks, the area circled below is what will be most visible in your finished block.  If you are using a fabric that has something you don't want to lose underneath the window, place it in that corner.

Thanks for playing along.  If you have questions please let me know.  I'd be happy to answer them.  And if you make anything out of these blocks I'd love to see it!

Good Luck and Happy Quilting!


  1. Awesome tutorial, Jen. Good instructions are very difficult to write (as anyone who has ever tried to read a user's manual will attest) and you did a great job.

  2. Good tutorial. May I make a suggestion: cut your little square a 1/4 larger, so you will have a seam allowance when joining them. But maybe I'm pointless. BTW, I just finished "my" version of "your" version of Orange Peels and I really love it. Thank again for your initial idea.

  3. Wow! that is not at all how I pictured this block's assembly! Thank you for explaining.

  4. Fantastic Jen! Looking forward to giving this a go!

  5. What a super tutorial! I'll have to try that :)

  6. Great tutorial! I've always loved that block too, but never attempted it. I may have to give your version a try. Thanks.

  7. Wow! What a cool idea! I might have to attempt some coasters to give this method a try. If I can wrap my head around that first box-sewing part, I think I'd be golden. Thank you for the tutorial (and the tip to find it on IG!).


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