How to Make a Shadow-Box Quilt

    by Anne Baley

    About the Author

    Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.


    The Shadow Box quilt, otherwise known as the Attic Windows quilt, is a quilt of optical illusion. Made up of light and dark rectangles and triangles, these colored strips create a 3D effect of looking into a window with many window panes or into a shadow box filled with treasures. This quilt is ideal for showcasing a collection of unusual figural fabrics, or for decorating with appliqued shapes. While looking complicated, the Shadow Box is easy enough for a beginning-to-intermediate quilter to complete.

    Things You'll Need

    • 100 percent cotton fabric
    • Scissors
    • Sewing machine
    • Ruler
    • Pencil

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    Choose your fabrics with the 3D effect in mind. You will need light fabrics for the bottom row, dark fabrics for the side pieces and a variety of medium prints for the centers of the windows.

    Make the first block by cutting two squares with 1 7/8-inch sides, one from the light fabric and one from the dark. Pin them right on top of each other. Draw a line from one corner to the diagonal corner.

    Sew these two pieces of fabric by putting them on the sewing machine and sewing exactly 1/4 inch on one side of the line that you drew. Turn the pieces around and sew exactly 1/4 on the other side of the line. This will create a square sewn on top of a square, with two diagonal lines next to each other.

    Cut the sewn square along the pencil line. You will now have two triangle pieces sewn together, and another set exactly alike. Put one triangle set aside for the second quilt square, and open up the first set. Gently finger press the seam at the back toward the darker fabric. You now have one square that is made of two triangles, called a half-square triangle. This square will measure 1 1/2 inches.

    Cut one strip 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches long from the dark fabric, and cut another the same size from the light fabric. Cut a square 3 1/2 inches from your novelty fabric or featured print.

    Lay out the novelty print on the table, right side up. Lay the dark rectangle to the left of the print. Flip the rectangle to the right, laying it on top of the print. You will line up the top edge, bottom edge and left edge of the two pieces of fabric, and the dark fabric will be wrong side up. Pin these together and sew the long edge, using a 1/4 inch seam.

    Lay the half square triangle on the table so that the right side is up, the dark half is in the upper left and the light half is in the lower right. Lay the light strip next to the right half. Flip over the strip onto the half square triangle to pin, lining up the three edges. Sew together the short edge of the strip to the right edge of the half square. You now have a strip with a half square triangle sewn onto the left edge.

    Lay the print and strip section on the table, right side up. Lay the strip with half square triangle section on the bottom of the first section, right side down. Match up the bottom edge, as well as the right and left sides. Sew the bottom edges together, using a 1/4 inch seam.

    Turn over and press all seams towards the darker fabric. This has completed the first block in your quilt. Repeat the process as many times as it takes to make the quilt size that you want. Batt and quilt as desired.

    • For a shelf look, omit using novelty prints. Use a plain background fabric and applique shapes like teacups, books or figurines to make it look like a shadowbox shelf unit.
    • When laying out the final quilt design, make sure that all of the dark strips are on the left and all of the right strips are on the right, or the 3D effect won't work.