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You guys, the Churn Dash quilt pattern is everything. Each time I work on a Churn Dash quilt, I think, “Yes. Yes. This is why I quilt!”
There’s something about the history and the simplicity and the tons-and-tons of variations and modernizations that really make the Churn Dash quilt block the complete package of all that quilting should be. So, indulge me in this little “Ode to the Churn Dash Quilt” and I’ll reward you with some great tips, and favorite variations at the end, deal?
Here’s how the Churn Dash quilt will renew your love for quilting, in five parts.
But first, if you're itch'n to make a church dash quilt lickety split, check out these patterns. Some of them are originally traditional in style, but with a minimal color palette and modern/solid fabric, any of them could be transformed into a chic modern design.
Above photo cred: Amy Smart, Dairy of a Quilter
You love quilting because it’s simple.
Whenever you started quilting, whether it was earlier or later in your life, you probably fell in love with the accessibility of the methodical, repetitive work of making quilt blocks. Being part of the nine-patch quilt block family, the Churn Dash quilt totally taps into this warm-fuzzy-familiar place for me.
The Churn Dash quilt was one of the first patterns many young girls learned in the 1800s because it’s straight-up triangles, rectangles, and squares. The basic Churn Dash quilt block can be divided into 9 equal square units: the four corners are half square triangles, with each unit in between split into contrast-colored rectangles. The block in the center is a solid square. This pattern is seen most commonly with two, highly-contrasting fabrics. However, you can see from some of the quilt examples that the inner square can be different from the background fabric to create a completely different look.
Above photo cred: Caroline, Sew Can She
You love quilting because it’s not simple.
Yes, the basic Churn Dash block is simple, methodical, and really accessible to new quilters. But the Churn Dash pattern has a ton of really beautiful, complex variations. There’s 3-fabric variations (Mosaic, Dragon’s Head), placement-swapping (Greek Cross), using four squares instead of two rectangles (Prairie Queen), or even an uneven 9-patch variation (Monkey Wrench).
You can adapt the Churn Dash to your own difficulty level, and your own style, making this quilt pattern a quilter’s dream.
Above photo cred: Katherine Lowe, @mintlane
The process of making the Bulldog Churn Dash quilt in Katherine's words: This was a totally serendipitous mini quilt. I got these cute little bulldogs for no project in particular, and they happened to end up stacked next to a few of the Cotton + Steel Sprinkles. (Sewing inspiration always strikes when fabric gets unintentionally moved around in my sewing room!) After studying the bulldog print a little more, I realized that this little guy had several different poses – perfect for fussy cutting. I once heard someone describe quilters as the long-haul truckers of the sewing world, and that (accurate description) always tickled me.
Starting and finishing quilts is always so satisfying, but my interest always seems to sag a bit in the middle. I am currently in the middle of several long-haul projects right now and feeling a little ambivalent. After spotting a color and print combo, I just started cutting and making. I am always drawn to simple shapes, and my first instinct was a simple log cabin. However, I decided this print needed a little bit more, and I quickly settled on the churn dash block. This was exactly the little creative break I needed. I like to imagine the churn dash frames as little pieces of washi tape, and the C+S colors give it a nice pop. The teal block is my favorite--I just can't get over that cute little dog looking up. This now hangs in my hallway and makes me smile several times a day.
You love quilting because it’s part of our past.
And now, we’re getting into the history of the Churn Dash quilt. You knew this was coming. The Churn Dash quilt pattern dates all the way back to 1849. What was happening in 1849? A lot of Americans were preparing to travel West, embarking on the huge adventure of making a new life for themselves on the other side of the country.
A really important part of this was comfort and warmth (duh!) so on average, each family member would have three quilts or blankets. That’s a lot of sewing. So many women and their daughters sewed their hearts out in preparation for travel, and while they created new patterns, they looked to their surroundings for names. That’s how the Churn Dash quilt was born.
The triangle and rectangle perimeter of the Churn Dash pattern resembled the block of the butter churn, with the center block being the stick, or “dash” of the churn. The Churn Dash name meant something to the sewer, as it was such an important part of their daily life – a life that was about to drastically change.
Above photo cred: Alexia Abegg
You love quilting because it’s part of our present.
I know that when I’m quilting, I feel like I’m putting a piece of my present life into each quilt, just like homesteaders were doing in the 1800s. Everyone does this. That’s why the Churn Dash pattern actually has a ton of different names and variations. You’ll see this pattern referred to as the broken plate, the fisherman’s reel, hens and chickens, the picture frame… so many different references to different lives in different places.
What would you call the Churn Dash pattern? Quilt block patterns both unify us as quilters across many cultures, but also set us apart as we give them our own spin, and our own name. It’s something I really cherish about quilting. As for me, I might call it Scrap’s bone! (For new readers, my cute lil pup's name is Scrappy.)
Above photo cred: Charla McCrory, @csmez
You love quilting because it’s everything.
I do, too. And the Churn Dash quilt pattern really delivers.
As promised, I want to share a tip for Churn Dash quilting with you: When quilting the Churn Dash blocks, stitch in the ditch, baby. It’s a minimal route to take, but it keeps it really soft and smooshy, and it really works with this particular pattern. Plus, you have to love the effort-to-result ratio here. The Churn Dash pattern is a great example of less work with a great finished product.
Check out this FREE Churn Dash pattern by Robert Kaufman. Now I want your names and variations of the Churn Dash pattern! Lay ‘em on me in a comment down below!
Above photo cred: Mary Fons, Paper Girl - so funny and good and awesome, just like Mary 🙂