Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Math Hurts My Brain!

Several have asked how I created the recent Quilt of Valor with the Navy Military Seal/Emblem panel without using a specific pattern.

A work in progress
I tweaked various quilts seen on Pinterest to fit my mental design. After pondering for several weeks how to explain my crazy method ~ because math hurts my brain ~ I will attempt the explanation! Please feel free to ask a question, or to contact me, if something isn’t clear.

Let me begin with the caveat that each Military panel square may will measure differently. There are differences between the branches of service. I’ve done the Marine and the Army, and they both differ from the other, and now the Navy also has its own dimensions!

First, measure the “pretty” part of the panel you’re working with to get an overall size. (Write down the measurements somewhere for reference later.) You’ll notice it’s probably not square! However, once it’s all done no one will know but you!

(I usually “burn 10” when measuring something, then subtract 10. It’s just something I learned from my husband when doing construction!)
"Burning 10"

It’s difficult to see the slight (but important) difference on the vertical measurement! Bottom line, it is wider than taller.
"Burning Ten"

The largest side is what you need to work with in determining the size of blocks needed.

*How to square up/equal the panel will come later – after making the immediate surrounding blocks!

Remember I “burn” 10 inches. You’ll see in the picture above ~ from narrow red to narrow red across (of the original panel) ~ the sewn panel is 16.5” wide. So, the two blocks on each of the four panel sides must be AT LEAST – finished – 8.25” – and a bit more is a good thing!

With that in my head, because so far, my brain isn’t hurting, I knew the blocks had to be at least 8.25 inches square (finished!) and 8.5” (finished!) would be fabulous.

I saw this “sold” quilt on Ebay that I really liked. But, I’d never tried braids before.


However, I thought the “burst” effect radiating from the center panel in this Quilt of Valor would be stunning. After searching Pinterest I believe Moda provided the best instructions in creating the braids. In their pdf document, you’ll find the basics:

but I quickly realized their 2 ½ x 2 ½ inch beginning square wouldn’t be big enough, and that’s not what the Ebay quilt had in it’s beginning square.

Knowing I needed at least an 8.25 (finished) block, I guesstimated the beginning square should be close to half the block size - a 4” square (finished). That’s what it looks like in the picture anyway, just a tad shy of half.

Once that was settled, I went back and followed Moda’s instructions for the braiding. Again, following the picture found on Ebay, three braids per side of burst – total 6 different colors used per block.

Uh Oh.

I’ve got a corner triangle thingy to figure out…

I took a scrap of fabric (leftovers from a previous quilt backing) and cut it into a square way bigger (eye-balled) than needed. I cut that square into two triangles. I baste-stitched the triangles on each side of the braid, pressed as usual, then squared up the block to be at least 8.50 (finished 8.25) or 9.00 (finished 8.50).

And now wait for it … this is the magical “formula” … rip out the basting stitches, removing the triangles from the braids, and carefully press flat as not to stretch the bias. Measure your triangle to determine what size of square you need to make the “real” triangles! Tah Dah!

My head still doesn’t hurt!

*After you have four pairs of “bursts” made and starched/pressed very well/flat (one set for each side of the panel), it’s time to figure out what to add to the panel to make it match.

This Navy panel was itty bitty wider than taller. Yet it must be square to make the blocks work properly!

You’ll notice at the top of the panel I used a tan “border” a touch bigger than the side “borders”. Over all, I don’t think it’s noticeable. It is what it is.

I worked the sides first, then added the top & bottom, cutting the strips a bit wider than what would be needed. For me, it’s easier to trim off a little at a time, all the way around, to match the set of star burst pairs.

Once you’ve stitched that first set of top/bottom and sides of star bursts pairs all the way around the panel, you’ll be set to finish out the quilt with the same blocks!

If all this is as clear as mud, please let me know!

Happy creating something without a pattern! ;) 


  1. Thanks Lanetta! I think your instructions are as clear as any other quilt pattern I've used! Most of it makes perfect sense to me, some things will be more clear when I actually do them and can see it but I seem to be that way with most patterns. Apparently my brain learns better by doing than by reading! Val

    1. You're welcome, Val!
      Please, let me know when you've created this design!

  2. Hi Lanetta,
    Your quilt is gorgeous! Thank you for the instructions, I'm just a little fuzzy on one thing - could you explain a little more what you mean by "burn 10 when measuring then subtract 10?
    Thanks Lanetta,

    1. Patti,

      Thank you!

      I went back and added the caption "Burning 10" to the two pictures where I used the yard stick, (I love pictures) hoping it will help show what I was doing!

      Because I do use the household yard stick for the initial measurement on the center panel, my pitiful yard stick end does not have nice sharp points at the end.

      So, I skip over - as my husband has taught me - to the 10" mark on the yard stick. And, he constantly reminds me to subtract the 10" from my number!

      If you have a ruler that the beginning is perfect, by all means, use it at the "0" mark!

      I hope this clarifies rather than muddy the situation further!

      Feel free to write again!

  3. thanks for sharing the pattern ! We'll put that to good use.


Thanks for commenting, it makes my day!

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