Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prairie Points Part 3 – Distributing them evenly

Prairie points 1

This is the third installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.


This part of the series will look at two ways to distribute your points evenly along the edge of your quilt.



1. Decide if you will sew them on before or after the quilt is quilted

You can sew the prairie points to the quilt top before sandwiching the quilt, or after you have sandwiched and quilted it. I usually do it before.  As you’ll see in part 4 of this tutorial series, you need to leave at least an inch of unquilted space on the outside of your quilt so you can finish the back properly.  I find that having the prairie points in the way in place first is a good reminder not to quilt there. I can go back and add quilting later if I want that space filled.  I just need to think ahead so I have a plan to make all the quilting, before and after, work well together.

Adding the points early also reduces the risk that I will accidentally sew the backing and batting to the quilt top along the edges when I’m attaching the points.  Yes, I will eventually want the back and batting sewn to the rest, just not until I’m good and ready, with those points tucked as they need to be! Part 4 of this series will cover that.

If you do attach the points after quilting (you might have to choose this option if you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter – check with your quilter) you can still attach them just as I will show in this tutorial.  Just remember to leave some unquilted space (or ask your longarm quilter to do so), and remember to fold the batting and backing out of the way of the seam as you sew the points on.  Don’t trim the batting or backing yet!

OK, now that you have decided, either move along to distributing your points, or go quilt your quilt then come back to distribute your points

2. Lay out and distribute the points evenly


Whether you use method 1 or 2 below, you’ll lay your points on top of the quilt, with the points pointing towards the quilt.

Method 1:  Eyeball it. Really, just distribute your points along the edge, covering the entire edge of the quilt, so that they look about evenly spaced.  Done!


This works well along a short length, with not too many prairie points.  Right now I’m contemplating adding points to a quilt that measures about 100” on each side.  That’s going to be harder to “eyeball” without a lot of redistributing and fussing.  If I space them too close when I start at one end, I’ll fall short at the other end and have to go back and nudge everything over a little.  If I nudge everything over too much, there will be more crowding at the other end…


So, I’ll be using Method 2, which involves more deliberate planning.

Method 2:  You can measure the spacing as you lay down your points.  There will still be a little bit of nudging happening, but it will be planned nudging with much less guesswork.

Remember X, that you measured in part 1 to help you figure out how many prairie points you would need?  That’s the amount of space each point except the very last one will take up along the edge of the quilt.  The very last one takes up as much space as the length of its long side. 


You can lay out your points by measuring the distance X as you lay them down. Continuing with my example from part 1, you can see I’ve measured X=2 1/4” in the pictures below. I keep moving the ruler over to measure where to place the next point.

distribute 1distribute 3distribute 4

Well, how awkward.  I fell short at the end. Why? Remember that I rounded the number of points to a whole number, because I won’t be using just a fraction of a point.  That’s why things aren’t fitting exactly now.


If I had rounded up to 6 points instead, it still wouldn’t fit exactly.  The last point would have stuck out past the end of the quilt edge, like you see above.

Don’t panic!  I’ll just spread the points out just a little, by nudging a few points by about 1/8” to spread them just a bit more and eat up the extra space, making up the difference.  That small shift won’t be obvious to the eye.  If the last point extended too far I’d nudge the points closer together to squeeze them into the available space.

As I said about method 1, it’s easy to nudge here and there by eye when you’re working with a small number of points.  If you’re dealing with larger numbers, you can figure out ahead of time how many points you’ll need to nudge, and just add the nudge when you’re measuring and laying down points from the start.

If you want the math explained, scroll to the bottom of this post.  Otherwise just plug numbers in. (To review from part 1, S = long side of finished point, L = unfinished length of quilt edge, n = total number of points)

length to make up = L – 1/2”– S –[(n-1) x X]

Dividing that extra length by 1/8” tells us how many points you have to nudge over 1/8” more than the rest to collectively fill that space.

Number of nudges = length to make up / 0.125

Going back to my earlier example (S=3, L=13, X = 2.25, n=5) this is what the math looks like, again remembering to use the proper math order of operations:

length to make up = 13 – 1/2 – 3 – [(5-1) x 2.25]

length to make up = 9.5 – (4 x 2.25)

length to make up = 9.5 – 9

length to make up = 0.5

Number of nudges = 0.5/0.125 = 4

This means that for 4 of the points, I’ll add a 1/8” nudge while measuring X to place my points.  In this case that will be 2 1/4” plus 1/8” which is 2 3/8”.

distribute 5distribute 6

Ta da!  Now everything ends up just where it should be.  Again, I could have done this by eyeballing, since my example used just 5 points.  If I were trying to distribute 39 points along a 90”-long side of a queen size quilt, doing the math and measuring would save a lot of fiddling! I’d know to space most 2.25”, but increase that space by 1/8” for 8 of the points.

One last little math bit:  if you get a negative number for the length to make up, that means you have to squeeze your points closer instead of spreading them out.  In that case you should subtract 1/8” from X as many times as necessary instead of adding it on.


Pin and sew points in place

Now that the points are beautifully laid out, don’t forget to pin them securely in place so nothing slips out of place when you take everything to the sewing machine.

Sewing points on

Sew everything in place with a 1/4” seam allowance.  Backstitch about 1/2” at the beginning and end of the seam to secure the seam. Backstitching is shown in red in the diagram above.

Now repeat all that for the next side.  The points will butt up at the corners:


Once points are sewn to all sides and the quilt is quilted you’ll need to trim the batting and backing. Things will be easier in part 4 if you don’t trim things flush with the quilt top.  Part 4 of this Prairie Point Series will explain how to trim and how to sew the backing to the prairie points to finish the edge.


For more information about prairie points,check out the rest of the Prairie Point tutorial series:


For those of you who care, here’s where the formula came from.

length to make up = L – 1/2” – S –[(n-1) x X]

That 1/2” you’re subtracting has to do with seam allowances. Since we are working with the finished point size S, we want to be calculating with the finished length (L – 1/2”) of the quilt edge as well.

n is the number of prairie points you need to distribute. X is the amount of space you have to allot for each prairie point except the last. You can see in the diagram below that for the very last triangle added we have to account for the whole length S of the triangle base.

spacing calculation 2

So the formula takes the finished length of the side (L – 1/2) and takes away the space S covered by the last, whole prairie point as well as all the spaces X taken up by the remaining (n-1) prairie points. What remains is the extra length that is left without prairie points. 


  1. You make this very easy to understand Joanne! THANK YOU for putting all the work into this tutorial!

  2. What a great tutorial. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog from F/B. I Am Going To Have FUN finishing a quilt using your method

  3. This is the part where I struggled on my quilt. Great tutorial Joanne.


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