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Transparent Squares Quilt Block Tutorial

If you are new to transparency in quilting or need a refresher, this is a simple practice block to make to play around with fabric choices and the effects of transparency.
Transparent Squares Quilt Block

I posted a video on IGTV that explains the very basics of transparency in quilting. A short simplified version of what I shared is that transparency is the ability to see through layer(s) of an object. It can be real or implied. So in quilting, you can use fabric color choices to make implied transparency.

The most basic way to achieve transparency, in my opinion, is to choose dark, medium and light values of one color. Understanding color structure is important, but being a master of it is not required to play around with transparency. For example, if a grey fabric has a lot of cool color blue undertones, then you have to be cognizant of how that specific fabric color plays with other colors. Also, it’s important to realize that while many colors are available in fabrics, it’s not infinite. So, do the best that you can with what you’ve got!

For the transparent squares quilt block, two squares slightly overlap. Where the overlap occurs, there is an implied transparency effect. Choose a dark value fabric for the top square, a light value fabric for the bottom square, and fabric that you feel is a blend of the two for the medium value square. A simple version would be to use black as the dark value, white as the light value and grey as the medium value. The sample in this tutorial uses dark pink, medium pink and light pink with a white background. The unfinished block size is 6 ½” x 6 ½”.

Fabric requirements:
(1) 2 ½” square dark value fabric
(1) 2 ½” x 4 ½” rectangle dark value fabric
(1) 2 ½” square medium value fabric
(1) 2 ½” square light value fabric
(1) 2 ½” x 4 ½” rectangle light value fabric
(2) 2 ½” squares background fabric

Layout the pieces according to the picture below.

Using a ¼” seam allowance, sew together the rectangle and square from row 1, all three squares from row 2, and the square and rectangle from row 3. Press. See picture below.

Sew rows 1 and 2 together. Press. Sew row 3 to the bottom. Press.

You have created transparency using fabric!

You can add a small border around the block if you like, as I did with the small black, grey and white version pictured here.

You can make additional blocks and start to play with multiple colors. In the picture below, you’ll see that when the blue and yellow bars cross, the resulting intersection makes green.

If you’re looking to try a quilt pattern that uses simple transparency effect, I have two recently published patterns. The first is available to members of The Modern Quilt Guild and is called Signal Quilt – it’s pictured below. Where the long and short bars meet there’s an intersection of transparency.
Signal Quilt designed and pieced by Jessica Plunkett. Photo: Leah Muse Photography. Used with permission from The Modern Quilt Guild. The pattern is available to members of the MQG.

The second one is in issue 34 of Make Modern Magazine and is called Altered State Quilt – it’s pictured below. Where the squares intersect, there is transparency.
Altered State Quilt designed and pieced by Jessica Plunkett. Photo: Jessica Plunkett. The pattern is currently available in issue 34 of Make Modern Magazine.

In both examples, I decided as the artist and designer to create the implied transparency. It adds a different dimension to both quilts!

If you make a transparent squares quilt block, I’d love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @maeberrysquare and use #transparentsquaresblock.


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