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Broken Herringbone QAL

The famed Molli Sparkles is hosting the Molli Sparkles Broken Herringbone QAL (MSBHQAL for short..er), and he asked me to write a bit about the inspiration for the block and give some tips and tricks to share with you all. Of course I’m happy to oblige!

Violet Craft’s booth at Quilt Market – Picture by ImAGingerMonkey


The initial inspiration for the block came from a quilt in Violet Craft‘s booth at Quilt Market 2012, made to mimic the design of one of her Madrona Road fabrics. The quilt pattern was not available at the time (it is available now, here!), but I fell in love, HARD. I was in a block swap, and wanted to create a block reminiscent of the fabric and quilt, so I decided to give it a shot.

This is the first tester block I made. You may notice that I didn’t line up the center triangle, and it left me with these little itty bitty bits on the bottom corners. When I posted the shot to my group, one of my hive mates said that she would prefer that the blocks didn’t have those. So in subsequent blocks, I lined up that center triangle which alleviated those itty bitty bits.

Other than that, the block design didn’t change much from the original design. I’ve seen comments that the block construction is “clever”, but I assure you it was all serendipity and a desire to be thrifty with my fabric. I wanted to use the remnants since my first strips were so long, and I noticed that with the way they were cut, they nicely fit later in the block. It was a happy find, but definitely not pre-conceived!



Quilt and photograph by Marianne (Adventurous Quilter)

I’ve thought a bit about how to tessellate this block (have the pattern repeat seamlessly) and it seems like there are two ways you could go about it. The first is to start with longer strip sets (WOF), and just keep throwing more strip sets to the end. This will lead to a long row of broken herringbone. I believe that is what Marianne did here.


If you are still interested in making the herringbone as blocks, it looks like a block that is 12.5″ x ~14.75″ will give you the length-wise repeat. (Rotated to fit in the blog better.)


 If you want longer or shorter blocks, you want to trim based on right-most corner of the strip sets on the left (strip sets on the top in this rotated version). Any of the dotted lines shown above are where you could consider a seam line for your block for a repeat.



Because you are matching a lot of points, I’d suggest not cropping to exact block measurements, but rather measure .25″ out from where you want the blocks to meet. For instance, you need .25″ above the top triangle, and .25″ below the rightmost corner of the left strip set to make them line up correctly when they’re sewn together. The seam line is shown as a dotted line above.


For a width-wise repeat, you can move a row of blocks up or down so they line up to the row next to them, or extend the right side of the block by another ~ 1″, making it 13.5″ wide, but the triangle in the center is 1″ off center.

Color Variations


When I designed this block, it was for a block swap. Each person asked for two or three colors + sashing color, and they received one block with those colors. Because of that constraint, all the blocks I’ve created with the pattern were created with that in mind. It wasn’t until Molli’s rainbow quilt version that I realized that there are obviously more options!

With thin sashing (.5″ in these examples) or using the tessellation approach above, the blocks work together to create a cohesive design, as opposed to feeling like stand-alone sections. When the blocks read together, there’s some fun things you can do with color and contrast to bring out different shapes within the pattern. I made a couple of mockups that play with that correlation and carry the color through neighboring blocks to show some of the variations possible with the block.



The first follows the colors vertically throughout each block. This gives the illusion of a continuing herringbone without having to worry so much about lining things up.


The second uses similar colors between blocks, which brings out the chevron shape of the block. This looks a bit like trees, or overlapping geese.


The third would be even more apparent if you uses the tessellation approach, but by carrying the color throughout strip sets across blocks, you can see a zig-zag pattern emerge. This almost looks like choppy water.

There are tons of other possibilities as well! Shapes are created by areas of lower contrast, and edges defined by areas of higher contrast. Keeping that in mind, you can play with color placement and color contrast to create different shapes within the pattern, as well as rotate the blocks to get even more looks!

Here is the link to a .pdf file that contains just the herringbone outlines, which you can print out and use to color in your own design ideas!

I look forward to seeing what everyone does, and I hope this gives you some food for thought!



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