Sunday, August 21, 2016

Star Light, Star Dark QAL: What Is Alternate Gridwork?

Welcome to Post 7 of the Star Light, Star Dark Quilt-A-Long! Today, we're taking a closer look at one mysterious element of modern quilting: alternate gridwork. Let's delve in!

June 26 - October 4, 2016

All info here!

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First, a preface: everyone has a different definition of what a modern quilt is, and I think that's fantastic. Alternate gridwork is currently part of the Modern Quilt Guild's definition of modern quilting, and I think rightfully so (this doesn't mean a quilt that is modern *has* to have alternate gridwork, though!). I've said it before, and I'll say it again (my humble opinion): alternate gridwork is one of the easiest and clearest ways to modernize a traditional quilt design.

Alternate gridwork (or alternative gridwork - same thing) is a nontraditional quilt layout. Traditionally, quilts are pieced with blocks, in rows and columns. Here's an example of a traditional block layout, like a 3x3 piece of graph paper:

Here's one example of a quilt without a grid (alternate gridwork). Can you tell how I pieced it? No. It has a structure but no clear layout.

 Rainbow Wave (original design; for my niece) 

It's true that the Star Light, Star Dark quilt is laid out in a traditional grid. Can you see it? 2 large blocks across, 3 down. It makes for a nice lap-sized quilt. However...

This quilt allows for many different layout options! You can sew the large piece to the Large Star either on the top and the bottom. You can make 1 or 2 Small Stars. You can place the smaller fabric (below: stars) either on top or below it. That's why I'm describing the SLSD quilt with alternate gridwork in mind; you can alternate the way the blocks look.

One example: the stars have the potential to be offset (like my quilt). Some of the stars float a little higher than others due to the placement of the long strips of fabric. Below, the light blue Small Star is higher than the two dark blue Small Stars.

Here's a look at the differences between my two quilt tops. I purposefully switched the placement of the Small Stars and the long fabric strips (below or above the Large Star)!


Here are two more examples from the QAL, used with permission. I hope they inspire you to play with your layout and consider all options before piecing your top together! The options are truly endless.

Elizabeth (@elizabethkray) is considering this unique layout: switching the placement of the small stars and panels. How unexpected and luminous this quilt will be! I can't wait to see what she chooses.

Yvonne (@quiltingjetgirl) placed the small star panels on top or below the large stars, rather than to the side. How beautiful! It looks like the small ones are shooting stars, zooming from one end of the quilt to the other.

  • To read more of the technical aspects of alternate gridwork, visit the Modern Quilt Guild's post (complete with interactive graphics). This article is by Heather Grant, who also lectures on the topic. I truly appreciate the educational value of the post!

Alright, that's it for this week! Next week I'll provide instructions for putting the top together, and then we'll have even more time set aside before the quilting suggestions post. If you're ahead of the game, feel free to put together your top (some of you have already) and start quilting! Remember, we'd love to see what you're working on - post a picture to the Progress Linky Party and check out all those who have already!

Quilt-A-Long Schedule
August 22: What Is Alternate Gridwork? <<<you are here!
August 29: Piecing the Top Together
September 12: Quilting Suggestions
September 19 - October 3: Final Linky Party - Link up your Finished Quilt - Prizes Up for Grabs!
October 4: Winners announced


  1. I really love how easy it is to alternate the layout of our final blocks, Jess. It is a great introduction to alternate grid work!

  2. I was thinking moving around the star placement also, similar to Elizabeth's. And I really like her color combination, the corals and blues are nice. Everyone's are so colorful! Thanks for lesson on alternate grid work!

  3. This is why it is a good idea not to finish each block and go on to the next, unless you have a firm decision on placement
    It is best to have all of the sections prepared and then try different arrangements to find the one that makes you happy.
    (I did have to unsew just one section)
    I like all of the examples above!

  4. What a wealth of information. Thank you so much. I am kinda new to modern quilting (have mostly done traditional style). Well, only been quilting for just over 2 years total. Your posts are colorful + informative= excellent. Now that is what better blogging is all about. I have my lap size quilted, and started the binding yesterday.


Let's start a conversation! I love comments and I'd be happy to reply to all who have an email address accessible. Thanks for commenting!


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