QM Scrap Squad: Becky’s Mandarin Express

QM scrap squadB3 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin ExpressQuiltmaker’s Scrap Squad is a select group of eight QM readers. They take one pattern from each regular issue and make scrappy versions to inspire you.

QMMP 130600 cover 450 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express
The featured Scrap Squad quilt in Quiltmaker’s May/June issue is Mandarin Express, below.

QMMP 130600 ROBIN 450 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin ExpressIt was designed by Robin Waggoner from Spokane Valley, Washington. Robin and Sandy Odeen pieced it, and Robin quilted it. The batiks are from Hoffman California Fabrics.

becky QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Becky Ball

Today’s featured Scrap Squad quilt is by Becky Ball from Blue Springs, Missouri. She blogs at Becky’s Quilt Obsession. You’ll hear from Becky in her own words below.

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I love this design—Mandarin Express has a four-pointed star that uses the triangle-in-a-square block differently from what I’ve done before.

I fell in love with a group of fabrics that was available for a very short time. I was able to buy just two bundles. I have no business buying more reds, but I did. These were mostly fat quarters. I couldn’t use just the bundled fabrics, so I added leftovers from other red and black quilts I’ve made (see them here).

I love including even little bits of fabric from other quilts. I pulled 39 fabrics to begin the quilt, added more as I went along. This was a more controlled scrappy than I usually make.

IMG 2247 300x188 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

These reds were in the bundles I purchased.


IMG 2248 300x272 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express


Added these reds for texture.


IMG 2260 248x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express
Black on white prints…
IMG 2258 259x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Blacks…they were actually darker than they look here.


IMG 2257 300x225 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express
Reds on white – love the ants!

IMG 2261 300x225 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Mediums and textures…


IMG 2253 300x225 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Reds on black…


IMG 22631 300x196 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin ExpressAll 39 fabrics—there were several changes by the time I was finished.


I drafted the quilt in EQ7 to play with fabric placement and borders.

1st plan eq QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

1st plan EQ7 - some fabrics turned wrong


My final plan (tweaked many times during the process), looked really close to the final product.

plan 1 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Nearly final EQ7 plan

This pattern lends itself to making a lot of block components before ever starting the blocks. I began with star points. The first time I looked at the design wall I laughed at myself because I was putting them up the wrong way.

what kind of stars 197x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

What kind of stars?

I fussed with the center for the stars. The pattern uses the stitch-and-flip method.

I used templates and fussy cut the hearts out of one fat quarter I had. Then I decided to frame them with stripes. I tried the stripes I had chosen, then tried some red stripes I had, and finally headed for the fabric store.

I found this red and white stripe with tiny black stripes in the Bullwinkle collection. I starched it heavily and then cut it so the stripes angled out from the center block—leaving bias on the outside—so I handled the patches very carefully.



IMG 2306 292x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Red stripe center squares

IMG 2307 298x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Alternate centers - they died

I made some other centers using the same fabric as the star points on the center unit’s corners. Some of the other Scrap Squad members were doing this and I liked how theirs looked. I tried it on my design wall, and the block died. I did find another use for them later.

After making a gazillion Four Patches (I kept having to find and cut more black fabric) I was ready to make star blocks. I did develop a pressing plan since the centers made these blocks directional.

pressing plan QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

On to the setting squares, simple Shoo Fly blocks. I loved how the blocks in the original quilt “glowed” because of the yellow in the centers and around the stars. With my color palette, the best I could do was add some white. I tried several ways, and finally ended up doing two setting blocks—one for the outside rows and one for the inside of the top. I used stitch-and-flip on two corners of the side center pieces of the Shoo Fly and turned them into floating Sawtooth Stars, and used the rejected centers I’d made earlier.

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Floating Sawtooth star for edges of top

alternating block 2 final 298x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Center Shoo Fly block with reject square in a square








As I looked at my setting, I saw circles surrounding the side stars.

all blocks on wall 150x150 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

blocks on wall - no borders

I wanted to finish those circles, so I added a pieced border made of one-third of what would have been the next block. I added these pieces as I assembled the top.


top together with first border round 222x300 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Yes, I see the mistake.





I was glad I took time for a pressing plan, because the top went together easily after all the components were finished.

The final borders were easy. I had a long piece left over from cutting borders for another quilt, but it was only 8″ wide. I carefully cut it into 2″ strips and had enough for the black border—but not enough to miter corners.

The red border is a chuckle. I originally planned to use the red with black circles that inspired this quilt, but I hadn’t used any in the body of the quilt (just couldn’t cut it). I decided to continue with the batik I used in the setting blocks, a good choice.IMG 2403 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

I thought about how to quilt this a lot. I used spirals on the last quilt, but I just thought they would be great on this quilt, too, so that’s what I used. If I could quilt more things, feathers would have looked great, too. I had a red and black variegated Highlights thread for the top, with Glide red pre-wound in the bobbin.

I dreaded the binding longer than it actually took to do it. Another Scrap Squad member has a tutorial on “unstuffed piped binding” and I decided I was going to try it. I’ve had some pages of directions torn out of a magazine up on the wall for a long time, and kept avoiding it. Why?

I returned to the quilt store and bought more of that great stripe, and used it for the piping. I held my breath as I topstitched in the ditch with invisible thread and the same bobbin thread I used on the quilting. It turned out great on both sides.

It’s finished, I love it! Now if I can just keep my daughter from stealing it!

IMG 23951 QM Scrap Squad: Beckys Mandarin Express

Black and white and red all over - a cliché

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14 Responses to QM Scrap Squad: Becky’s Mandarin Express

  1. Pingback: Celebration Giveaway! | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  2. Jane says:

    this is just absolutely gorgeous!!!

  3. terri says:

    this quiltmin red,black,white is stunning, does not look like the same pattern as the one in other colors. A must make in those colors!

  4. Virginia Hanson says:

    These colors work together to make a very elegant quilt. Love the stripe in the first border. Would work well in many homes. Great choice.

  5. Claudia says:

    PS. You’v been playing in my stash. It’s written all over.

  6. Claudia says:

    I like it. I like it.

  7. Lyndas cabin says:

    You did an awesome job making the centre of the star glow just like the original inspiration. Well done!

  8. Shirley V D says:

    Wow, your quilt is beautiful! I love how the white makes the reds and blacks sing.

  9. Pat in Washington says:

    This is my fave! Love her red & white & black choices!

  10. Barb in MI says:

    Fabulous! Love your red-black-white version!

  11. Becky — as you know I love the reds in this quilt. And, now seeing it finished I love the reds, whites and blacks. Wonderful job. And, I think the spiral quilting looks great. I think feathers would have gotten lost on this top. Your interpretation is wonderful. But, I wished you’d shown a close up of your piped binding!

  12. Lynda Parker says:

    Beautiful! I always enjoy seeing a new take on a quilt pattern. Being able to make a design “my own” is one if the best parts of quilt making. It’s also fun to see and recognize pieces of fabric as ones I’ve had and used over the years in scrappy pieces like this.
    I’m inspired to plan a red, white an black project soon!

  13. linda-kaye says:

    Wow – this quilt really caught my eye! Especially since I’m trying to plan a red/black/white quilt for myself. I love reading how you came up with the final design. So inspirational – thanks!!!!

  14. Better and better. Sometimes I wonder why you think a particular pattern would make a good Scrap Squad target. You pick quilts that I just love the way they are. Then each Squad Member makes the quilt her way and it just gets better and better.

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