How to Do Clam Shell Quilts


The clamshell quilt was a favorite of patchwork quilters in the 1920s and 1930s. The pattern is achieved by appliquéing overlapping circles of fabric to a square of solid colored fabric. The clamshell quilt is traditionally composed of scrap fabrics, which can be resourcefully cut in a circular pattern. Old clothing and linens or new fabric can be used with this pattern, but all fabrics should be 100 percent cotton for a uniform and sturdy quilt.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard
  • Compass
  • Scissors
  • Fabric pen
  • 3-yards of scrap cotton or new fabrics
  • 2 yards solid colored cotton fabric
  • Ruler
  • Straight pins
  • 2 yards muslin fabric
  • 2 yards quilt backing
  • Draw a 4-inch diameter circle on the cardboard with the compass and a pencil for a template. Trace around the template with the fabric pencil and cut out the circle, leaving a 1/4-inch edge past the pencil line. Repeat to create 50 circles Cut a 12-inch square of solid colored fabric.

  • Pin one scrap circle to the center top of the solid square, even with the top edge of the square, with the straight pins. Thread the needle with 24 inches of thread.

  • Turn the edge of the top half of the circle under with the needle at the pencil line, starting at the center right side of the circle, securing the edge to the solid square with small stitches and making sure the pencil line is not visable.

  • Pin another circle to the solid square, positioned to the right of the appliquéd circle half, making sure the appliquéd edges of the circles are touching but not overlapping. Repeat to cover the top of the square with three appliquéd circles.

  • Pin the next row of circles below the first, positioning the tops of the circles halfway down from the tops of the top row of circles, staggered so the center tops of the second row of circles are even with the center sides of the first row.

  • Appliqué the second row of circles in place. Repeat to create a third row of appliquéd circles.

  • Trim all fabric circles to meet the edges of the 12-inch solid square. Create as many clamshell 12-inch squares as desired for the quilt size needed.

  • Sew the squares together with a 1/4-inch seam. Cut muslin backing and quilt batting to match the size of the clamshell quilt top. Layer the backing, batting and quilt top on a flat surface and sew through all three layers around the clamshell shape.

  • Cut a long 2-inch wide strip of muslin fabric for the quilt binding and stitch it to the edges of the quilt with a 1/4-inch seam. Fold the binding over 1/2-inch twice and hand stitch it to the back of the quilt.

Related Searches


  • "Quilting for Dummies"; Cheryl Fall; 2006
  • "Kaffe Fassett's Museum Quilts"; Kaffe Fassett; 2005
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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