Mini Quilt of the Month, June: The Rainbow Quilt

If you have ever been to Purl Soho in New York City you have probably noticed how much we love to arrange things in rainbow order. Our yarns are stacked in their cubbies with oranges next to reds next to pinks next to purples and our solid fabrics are arranged along a giant wall sized rainbow spectrum. So as we were brainstorming about our Mini Quilt series we knew that one of the projects would have to reflect our rainbow obsession.

In case you haven't heard, every month this year we are presenting a mini quilt project. These small projects are the perfect way to learn a new skill and make something beautiful in the process. To see all of our Mini Quilts, please click here. This month's offering, the Rainbow Quilt, is more about celebrating and exploring color rather than learning a new technique. It's very simple to put together and would be a perfect first quilting project.

As we were thinking about how to design a rainbow inspired quilt we were drawn to the work of the painter Ellsworth Kelly. His stunning use of color and clean shapes helped inspire our eventual design. (Click here to see an example of Kelly's rainbow reminiscent paintings.)

The resulting quilt is one of our very favorite mini quilt projects to date. The colors quite simply glow against the white background fabric, and its happy colors and simple design make us smile each time we see it! It would look stunning as wall hanging or scaled up as a baby or even adult sized quilt.


1/4-yard each of 10 solid fabrics along a rainbow spectrum. We used (shown above from the top down). . .

  • Robert Kaufman's Essex, Hot Pink
  • Robert Kaufman's Kona Cotton, in Tomato, Coral, School Bus, Buttercup, Corn Yellow, Honeydew, Kiwi, Sour Apple, and Emerald.

Fabric for the background, backing and binding

You will also need . . .


All seam allowances are 1/4-inch in this project unless otherwise noted.



Cut a strip 2-inches wide by 25-inches long from each of the colored fabrics.

From the white fabric cut:

  • 9- 1 1/2-inch by 25-inch strips
  • 2- 2 1/2-inch by 24-inch strips
  • 2- 2 1/2-inch by 28 1/2-inch strips
  • You will also need three 2 1/4 x 42-inch strips pieced together for the binding

Note: When cutting simple rectangular shapes for patterns such as this, straight, clean cuts are key. The best way to make these cuts is with a rotary cutter and a non-slip quilting ruler on a self-healing cutting mat. If you have limited experience using a rotary cutter, I recommend visiting our Rotary Cutting Tutorial.


Arrange the colored strips in a pleasing rainbow order. Make sure to keep them in this order as you piece the top.

Sew a long side of the first colored strip to a long side of the thin white strips.

Press these pieces flat with the seam allowance towards the colored fabric.

Piece the second colored strip to the raw edge of the white strip . Again press the seam allowance towards the colored fabric.

Piece one of the thin white strips to the raw edge of the second colored strip in the same manner.

Piece all of the colored strips in this manner, keeping them in the proper order and sewing a thin white strip in between each one. There is no thin white strip before colored piece #1 or after colored piece #10.

Once you have all the rainbow strips sewn together trim the resulting piece to be 24-inches square by cutting roughly a 1/2-inch off of the top and bottom.  Do not trim the sides, the pieces should already be 24-inches wide.

Sew the 2 1/2 x 24-inch white strips to the top and bottom of the piece and press the seam allowance to the colored side.

Sew the 28 1/2-inch strips to the left and right sides of the piece. Press the seam allowances towards the colored fabrics.

The quilt top is done.


Cut a 32-inch square piece of the white fabric and lay it out smoothly on a flat surface. Using masking tape tape the edges down so the piece is perfectly flat and taut. This is the quilt backing.

Cut a 32-inch square from the batting and lay it smoothly down on top of the backing.

Lay the quilt top right side up on top of the backing and batting. Make sure all three layers are flat and smooth. This is your quilt sandwich.

Using bent arm safety pins baste the three layers together by pinning all across the quilt top with the pins being roughly 4-inches from one another. Remove the tape before you start quilting.


You can quilt your piece in any manner that you like as long as the quilting stitches are no more than 8-inches apart from one another. Below is how we quilted ours:

Using your machine's walking foot quilt "in the ditch" just on barely on the white side of the seams in the pattern shown above going up and down each colored strip in a continuous line.

The back will look like this.


Bind the quilt piecing together the remaining white strips. If you haven't bound a quilt before please visit the binding instructions from our January Mini Quilt of the Month: Courthouse Steps at this link. This quilt (and all quilts!) can be bound in exactly the same manner. Once you get to the story, scroll down near the end to the sections called "Prepare the Binding" and "Bind the Quilt".

12 Responses to Mini Quilt of the Month, June: The Rainbow Quilt

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  1. michelle says:

    Your store has the best designs, always.

  2. Bren says:

    What a fun project! I have everything I need to make one! Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. kimbowest says:

    featured this on my blog today!

  4. Lila says:

    I love this series, and especially this particular quilt. I wonder if you would consider giving instructions for converting the mini-quilts into throw pillows? It seems like the size should make this fairly easy and practical. Thanks!

  5. purl bee says:

    Hi Lila-

    This is a great idea and we'll keep it under advisement. In the meantime if you'd like to give it a try yourself here is a pattern for an overlap closure pillow that would be easy to adapt for one of these quilts. And just as a tip, you don't have to bind the quilt before you sew it.

    Thanks for the suggestion!- Molly

  6. Lila says:

    Thanks, Molly! So I guess I would basically do all of these steps but the binding, and use maybe a 30″ square pillow form? I'm excited to give it a shot!

  7. purl bee says:

    Sounds good Lila- we'd love to see it when it's done! Thanks- Molly

  8. Claire from HandmadebyClaireBear says:

    I love this quilt and I have written about it on my blog
    thanks for posting,

  9. Diane says:

    I love this quilt, but cannot print off the directions-anyone know why or where I
    can find directions to make it? Or how I can get it to print?

  10. purl bee says:

    Hi Diane-

    Printing from our site can be a little tricky! We're working on it but in the meantime we suggest that you copy the text and photos (make sure not to copy the text from the side bar) and then paste that into a Word or Text doc and print from there.

    Thanks for writing in and please let us know if you have any more questions!


  11. Maria says:

    I'm a beginner in sewing…Could you please tell me how could I adjust the pattern to make a 1.4m x 2.4m quilt for my son?Basically, how much colored fabric would I need to buy?

  12. Maria says:

    I'm a beginner in sewing…Could you please tell me how could I adjust the pattern to make a 1.4m x 2.4m quilt for my son?Basically, how much colored fabric would I need to buy?

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