Rainbows from the Heart – free Tutorial

Rainbows from the Heart

As promised (though a little late) here is the second charity quilt tutorial – Rainbows from the Heart.  I made two of this quilt and one was sent to Japan via Quilter’s Newsletter and the other will be given to the lady in my guild who requested kid-size quilts for a local charity…err, as soon as it is finished.  The top is complete but the quilting is not complete.

Rainbow from the heart free quilt tutorial

This is more of a tutorial than a pattern because there are a lot of variables left up to you – but don’t be scared!  It is super easy.  After I figured out what I was doing with top 1 the second was easy and except for the applique the second top was complete in a little over an hour.  Then the applique was easily accomplished during family tv time.  As usual it is the quilting part that runs me over.  But I digress.


  1. Background fabric for the sky – a piece of fabric that is approximately the same size as your desired finish size.
  2. 3 rainbow-stripe fabrics – you will need to determine how wide you would like your stripes to be and how long you want your rainbow to be.  I cut my fabric 5 inches wide selvage to selvage and then pieced strips together end-to-end to get the length that I wanted.
  3. heart fabric – I chose red satin and my piece was about 18 inches square
  4. Freezer paper & scissors to cut it with
  5. A washable glue stick
  6. A marking device – I used a chalk pencil but anything that will wash/rinse out is fine.  You should test it on your fabric before marking on your quilt, just in case.  The marks should be hidden by the seam but you know that Murphy’s law thing comes up when you least expect it.
  7. Backing fabric and batting- the total piece should be 3-5 inches larger than your background fabric on all sides to allow for quilting
  8. binding fabric – mine required about half a yard but your amount will depend on the size of your quilt.
  9. thread that matches the color of your heart fabric
  10. The usual tools – sewing machine, fabric scissors, sewing machine, neutral thread for piecing, a thread you like for quilting, pins, 6×24 inch ruler, cutting mat, rotary cutter, etc.

Step 1) Press and starch your background fabric and lay it out flat.  I have an island that I set mine out on though some of it hangs off the side.

Step 2) Determine the desired (approximate) length of your rainbow.  If you have to piece two or more fabric stripes together to get your desired length that is ok.  Press the seams open.  Then sew your middle stripe to one of your outside stripes, right sides together, along the long length.  Press the seam open.  Sew your other outside strip to the new unit, right sides together, along the long length.  Press the seam open and don’t be afraid to use plenty of starch.  With your ruler and rotary cutter make a nice straight cut across both ends of the rainbow so you don’t have any unevenness at the end.

Step 3) Arrange your rainbow on your background fabric in the position you want it to appear when the quilt is complete, like so:

It is ok if the rainbow is too long.  We’ll cut that off later.  But it can’t be too short.  If it is shorter than you want it add more length to your stripes.

Step 4) Fold a large piece of freezer paper in half and cut a heart out of it.  When I was in elementary school I remember a teacher telling us to use our thumb as a guide – hold the paper in your non-dominant hand with your thumb on top.  Angle your thumb on the paper and cut around it.  Of course your thumb is small and you will have to eyeball it but cut yourself a good-sized heart and adjust it until you are happy with the shape.  Be aware that you will be appliqueing the heart so you don’t want the dip at the top to be too deep or the point at the bottom to be harshly sharp.  Now you can audition your heart shape on the rainbow like this:

Note that I liked it coming in from the corner, but there is no reason you can’t have it coming in straight from a side, top, bottom, or at a really steep angle. If you are happy with the position and size, it is time for the scary part: the cutting.

Step 5) Pin your stripe down the middle with a couple of pins.  You don’t want it shifting around but you don’t want to go nuts with pins either because they can interfere with your ruler.  Put your paper heart aside and get out your ruler.  You are going to draw your cutting lines first – you will cut on either side of the rainbow, extended all of the way to the opposite edge.  Starting at the top of the rainbow, place the long edge of your ruler along one of the outermost stripes, measuring out into the blue 1/4 inch.  Mark a line at this measurement, all of the way from this corner to the other.  There will be a point where the rainbow has stopped but you just use your ruler to extend the line you  have already been drawing, being careful to keep the line straight.  Repeat on the other side of the rainbow.

Step 6) Carefully cut along the two lines.  You can use a rotary cutter if you like but I just used scissors.  You will end up with three pieces of blue, one with your rainbow pinned to it:

Err, please excuse the messy backgrounds.  Ha ha!  Don’t unpin your rainbow just yet.

Step 7) Time to square up the upper corner.  Using the blue fabric that you are still pinned to as a guide, cut away the excess rainbow from the upper corner.

Step 7)  Now.  We need to replace the blue fabric from the middle piece with your rainbow.  To do that, we are going to piece the rainbow to the middle blue piece – but only to the part sticking out from under the rainbow.  The area that is covered up by the rainbow (the rainbow is pinned to it) right now will be discarded for some other purpose.  First line up your ruler with the end of your rainbow and draw a line.  Cut on that line.  Unpin your rainbow and discard that blue piece.  The remaining blue piece will be about 1/2 an inch wider than your rainbow.  Trim it back 1/4 inch on each side, then sew the end of the rainbow to it, right sides together.    Press towards the blue.

You now have three main pieces – a background piece above the rainbow; a rainbow with blue background at one end; and another solid background piece below the rainbow.

Step 8) Sew the upper background piece to the rainbow stripe, right sides together.  Then sew the lower background piece to the rainbow stripe, right sides together.  Woo!  The top is done.  Now you just have to add the heart.

Step 9) First use a dry iron to adhere your freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric you will be cutting your heart from.  If you are using satin, cut around your heart with a 1/2 inch to 1 inch seam allowance.  This is important because it is more prone to ravel than cotton.  If your fabric is cotton you can use a smaller seam allowance of 1/2 an inch.

Step 10) Get out your glue stick.  Starting at a curve, apply glue along the edge of the fabric.  Then gently turn the fabric over the edge of the paper (using the paper as a template) and stick it down.  If it doesn’t stick well you can add more glue directly on the freezer paper.  Work your way around the heart, glueing the fabric onto your paper template all of the way around.  At the point of the heart you will want to fold it, sort of like wrapping the corner of a present.  At the top of the heart you will need to clip the fabric right at the dip, but be careful not to clip past the paper.

In the picture below you can see that I clipped at the top of the heart and folded at the bottom.

You can also see that it looks a bit wavy.  That did not turn out to be a problem for me but if you like you can try ironing or extra glue to beat it into submission.

Step 11) Position your heart on your rainbow.  Use a few pins to anchor it in place.  Using a thread that matches the color of your heart as closely as possible, applique the heart to the quilt top.  The paper will now be trapped between the quilt top and the heart.  That is ok, we can fix that!  Turn your quilt top over so that the wrong side is facing up.  Pinch the fabric over top of the heart so that you can cut a little slit in the fabric.  You only want to slit one layer of fabric. By pinching the fabric you both lift the extra layer of fabric away from the heart and you will be able to feel if you have any other layers caught between your fingers.  Very carefully make a small snip, then insert your scissors in the snip to make a slit large enough to reach inside.  IMPORTANT: your slit should be near the center of the heart, away from the edges.  Then carefully reach inside the slit, loosen the paper and pull it out.  If the paper tears that is no big deal.  We are done with it.  You can be a good little quilter and whip stitch the slit closed but I have to confess I just left it as it was.  Another option is to clip away the background fabric leaving a seam allowance – but I felt the satin really needed the stability of the background fabric to prevent distortion.

Ta-dah!  You’ve got yourself a rainbow from the heart.  Enjoy!

This entry was posted in Charity quilts, Free Stuff, Quilting for Charity, technique, Tutorial. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Rainbows from the Heart – free Tutorial

  1. Susan says:

    Very comprehensive tutorial, thank you.

  2. Holly says:

    Found you through WhipUp.net. What a great quilt design! Thanks for the tutorial. I may try this one. :)

  3. Pingback: Tutorial: Rainbow and Heart quilt for kids · Quilting | CraftGossip.com

  4. I love your quilt, so fun for kids. I shared with Craft Gossip readers here, http://quilting.craftgossip.com/?p=10110

    Scarlett Burroughs
    Quilting Editor, Craft Gossip

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