For a link to the FREE Retro Plaid quilt pattern, scroll to the bottom of this post. The SQ quilt pattern library includes other similar designs that come in lots of different sizes. The following patterns are not free, but if you need a pattern for a size other than throw, I encourage you to check them out!
What's the Difference Between Tartan and Plaid?
Before naming this quilt Retro Plaid, I first called it Tiny Tartan (something you should know about me – I LOVE alliteration. It makes my heart skip a beat! If Suzanne Summers wasn’t already taken, I would seriously consider a legal change.)
As this Tiny Tartan quilt pattern ruminated and simmered in my brain, a baby quilt concept began to form. Maybe it was that I had just finished reading about Scottish clansmen in Outlander or maybe I was trying to expand my pattern-naming vocabulary, but I really latched onto this one.
Just before going public with the idea, however, I had a mini panic attack...what if this pattern technically wasn’t tartan...but just plain ‘ol plaid?? Oh dear. The truth was coming out. I was acting too fancy for my midwest britches and I didn’t 100% know what made a tartan a “tartan” and what made a plaid a “plaid.”
This was too big of a deal for me to get it wrong. Future quilts were depending on it!
Off to the intro-net!
“Dear Google, what is the difference between Tartan and Plaid?” And oye! You would not believe the amount of contradictory information out there related to this question. At one point I was on a Scottish website about to buy a purple kilt before I realized, “Scrappy doesn’t even like purple!” aaaack!
Eventually I found an interview with Ralph Lauren (the Tartan Tycoon, the Plaid Potentate himself!) about this controversial question. He made lots of points on the subject, however I really couldn’t tell you if they were good points or not because at some point he mentioned geometry and I was like, “Hell NO! I’m out.”
Basically, before the geometry part he said that all plaids and tartans are comprised of stripes that meet at a 90-degree angle. With tartans, the pattern on the stripes running vertically is exactly duplicated on the horizontal axis too...so the matching pattern on both sides will create a grid.
He then said this kernel of mystery, “All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartan.”
- Whaaaat?? So thanks for nothing, Ralph. I still wasn’t 100% sure about my quilt, so I tabled the sketch and moved on.
THEN I saw these fabrics….ooooohhhhh aaahhhhhhh…. and I was like, forget that tartan baby! We are going to make this HUGE and RETRO!
I never did conclude the difference between plaid and tartan, so if you know, please tell me. In the meantime, I better stick to Mr. Lauren’s words and call everything plaid...because not all plaids are tartan.
The math on this quilt took me a bit of time to initially figure out, but that's not totally surprising after hearing my response to geometry. At one point I even tried to use the Pythagorean Theorem! haha oh funny times. Yes, so that obviously failed.
But once the numbers were reached, it all fell into place much quicker than I anticipated. I made this cute little video (with the help of my long-limbed husband) to show how quick and simple the process of sewing this quilt is.
It's not sped up at all! It really only takes 5 seconds to make! 😉
Essentially, this design is four triangles built up by sewing strips of fabric to each straight edge. In the end the four units created are sewn together with white sashing as seen in the video above. Eazy Peezy!
Since the quilt top did sew together so much faster than I thought, I had some extra time on my hands – so I spent it wisely by photographing myself jumping from higher and higher locations in my house while holding this quilt. Just figuring out the timer on my camera took about 20 minutes, so I'd say that was an hour VERY well spent.
Retro Plaid Quilt Tips
Before sending you off to create your own Retro Plaid quilt, I will leave you with one important tip. Actually...I take that back, here's two important tips that will save you from frustration during the sewing process:
- To create the four base triangles you start with a square and slice it in half from corner to corner diagonally – creating a bias edge. A bias edge is super stretchy and easy to warp out of shape because fabric is made from threads criss-crossing each other vertically and horizontally. By slicing those threads on a 45-degree angle, it cuts through the fabric grain and causes those threads to be less secure.
The point to saying all of that is that the triangles that will act as the base to the four units creating the Retro Plaid pattern have bias edges and need to be handled with care so as not to stretch and warp them – thus warping the entire quilt. New quilters, don't be scared! As long as you are not tugging and pulling the bias edges you will be fine. Also, always pin fabric together so it doesn't stretch while being pulled through the sewing machine.
- Do not trim the final sashing (the final two pieces that connect the four units – see video) until the ENTIRE quit is sewn together. I mention this in the pattern, but it's important enough that I want to mention it again. If you square up the edges of the sashing before the two halves of the quilt are sewn together, you will trim too much and one whole side of the quilt will be smaller than the other.
Here is the link to the FREE Retro Plaid PDF download. If you are on Instagram, use the hashtag #RetroPlaidQuilt so we can all see your beautiful creation! Enjoy!
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