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The Rescue Quilts – #1 – A Tumbler Quilt – the find and the pattern

The Rescue Quilt series is about finishing up quilt tops that were never completed and then remaking the pattern.  Sometimes I find easier / modern ways to make the quilt pattern, and sometimes I change up the pattern a bit to freshen things up.

Sometimes I will offer the quilt pattern to you free, sometimes it will be a paid pattern in my pattern shop.

The goal is to honor the quilt maker who made the quilt top by completing their project, to not waste good craftsmanship (usually done by hand), to ogle long ago yummy fabrics, and to breathe in a little old inspiration and make it new again.  You can view all parts of this series here.

Want to get started on finishing your own Rescue quilts?  Here are a few articles to get you started:

how to find them

how to clean them before working on them 

Why you should label your quilt.

Also, check out this pinterest board of “Inspiring Vintage Quilts”.

The Tumbler Quilt find

I got this one on Ebay.  I mentioned that I was in the process of acquiring this tumbler quilt here.  Well, when I got it, it was not the size that was described.  It was in fact drastically smaller.  Like a long skinny third of a quilt.  Even so, I loved it, and have thought long and hard about how I wanted to turn it into a quilt.  My idea is to use this piece as a center and then just add long strips of fabric on either side.  So it’s not going to be perfect, but it will have lots of negative space and I think it could be cool.  Well, we’ll see.

I’m still happy I purchased it.  The quilt top is in fact in perfect condition.

My own Tumbler quilt

I had many ideas for making my own version of the tumbler quilt.  I really would like to do something like this.

All the light colors are low volume fabrics of course.

However, my scrap baskets are wreaking havoc on my space and my mind, so I’m just going to do a good old fashioned tumbler quilt in a multitude of scrappy fabrics.

For a large throw quilt that will measure 60×72″, you will need 480 tumblers that measure 6.5″ tall and 3″ wide at the top.  You can use a dresden ruler to cut them or I have a template you can use here.  Just be sure that if you use my template it is printing out at the size I mentioned above.  If you are using the dresden ruler to cut your templates, make sure you are cutting on the 6.5″ line.

I have detailed how to use the dresden ruler here.

I’m so excited to get started on this quilt.  This quilt is going to use SO. MUCH. SCRAPS.

It takes a bit to get all these pieces cut from your scraps.  I recommend cutting all your pieces to 6.5″ and then lining up your ruler or template and cutting the sides of your tumbler.  I broke my cutting up into several stages and went through different scrap bins.

For layout of the large throw size tumbler quilt, you will lay your pieces in 40 tumblers across and 12 rows of tumblers.

So go and get everything on your design wall / floor / table / whatever you use and I’ll meet you back here to start piecing!  If you prefer a different size and more details on cutting, I’m selling the Scrappy Tumbler Quilt pattern in 6 different sizes.  Read more about the pattern here.

How to piece a tumbler quilt

Serious scrap busting is hard work!  I have found no wonderful easy way to get these tumblers together quickly other than row by row chain piecing.

I cannot get over how cool this quilt is looking on my design wall though.  I’m in love with it and cannot stop staring at it.  I’ve actually let mine set a few days just to stare.  In the picture below I’ve only got half of my tumblers on the wall.

In the next post of The Rescue Quilts we will hopefully see some finished quilt tops, both old and new.  Until then, have fun playing with your scrap fabrics.


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  1. I probably have about 50 quilts I’ve rescued. Only one has actually worn away in the wash. I love having them around and finish as many as I can, still have about 10 more to quilt. I love the vintage look so they are my heart’s delight. Glad you rescue them too.

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