Spinning Top Pillow + 8 tips for accurate strip piecing

This Spinning Top pillow is fast becoming one of my favourites, I think it might actually become part of our couch arrangement.

The Spinning Top is a quick, modern big block quilt pattern suitable for beginners and more experienced quilters alike. It's a simple geometric pattern that packs a lot of visual punch. It's the first pattern in the Bar Quilt series and is available in my pattern shop.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts

Even the cat approves :-)

Colour choices

I love the bright and cheerful look of that pink, mustard and blue colour combination. I have been trying to remember how I came up with it, but I can't quite remember. It might have been something I originally tried out on the computer. I started by putting it together from my Kona colour card, using Valentine, Candy Pink, Grellow, Lake and Celestial, and then went searching through my fabric stash and local quilt shop for prints to match those colours.

What I ended up with were two pinks from the Create line by Kristy Lea for Riley Blake, a mustard Quilter's Combination print from Stof, light blue Breeze by Zen Chic for Moda, and a dark blue print with budgies from the Promenade collection by Figo Fabrics.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts


I decided on a simple 2" crosshatch for the pillow. The white thread blends in with both the background and the strips, so it's just a lovely bit of added texture without distracting from the main design.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts

Pillow size

The pillow top actually ends up at 21" x 21", which worked well for me because I like using 1/2" seams to put pillows together. The zipper takes a 1/2" as well, so I just continue with it all around. I feel like it is still quite puffy enough for my taste, even with a standard 20" pillow form inside, but if you like your pillows to look more stuffed, just trim the top down to 20" x 20" after you've quilted it.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts

Strip piecing

Now, because the strips for the pillow are quite narrow, accurate piecing is really important. We had a few discussions in the tester group as some of the pillows ended up a little bit smaller than they should have. Frequent trimming of the blocks helped, but I thought I'd put together a quick list of some strip piecing tips to help you make the pillow (or generally improve your strip-piecing game)**.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts

8 tips for accurate strip piecing

  1. Make sure you press your fabric before cutting. I don't prewash my fabric, but even so I press it first when it comes off the bolt to make sure its not distorted from being rolled on the bolt.
  2. Make sure you have a sharp blade in your rotary cutter. A sharp cutter will improve your cutting accuracy, and that in turn will make it easier to sew accurately, too.
  3. Use good quality quilting rulers. If you have a no-name brand, checking to make sure the markings are accurate is always a good idea.
  4. And in the same vein, if your ruler has thick lines, make sure you know where along the line you need to place your fabric's edge.
  5. Use a scant 1/4 inch when sewing. What this means is that you want to sew your seam just a needle's width smaller than an actual 1/4". This is especially important when you press your seams to the side. The reason is that when you fold the fabric over to open it up and press, the top fabric actually folds up first, and then over the stitches and back. So the scant 1/4" accounts for that little bit of extra fabric needed to go up and over. 
  6. Check your 1/4" foot (if you have one) to see where exactly you need to line up your fabric. Or maybe you need to move the needle a smidgen to one side.
  7. Generally, pressing seams open can help if you tend to end up with pieces that are smaller than they should be. I prefer pressing seams open because it also reduces bulk. 
  8. If you are pressing to the side, you'll want to fold up and finger press the seam first, and then press it with the iron. You can move the iron along the seam, but make sure not to use the iron to push the fabric over the seam. This can distort it.

spinning top big block geometric quilt pattern by penny spool quilts

** Don't worry if you're new to quilting and your seams are not quite as accurate yet. While accuracy is important to ensure the pillow finishes at the size that's specified in the pattern, it won't come out wrong if some of your seams are maybe a hair too wide or narrow. You may just have to trim your blocks as you go along, to make sure the pieces are always squared up before you attach the next piece. And if you end up with a pillow top that is a lot smaller than it should be, just add wider borders to make up for lost fabric.

The Spinning Top pattern is available in my shop.

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