I Spy Quilt

Have you ever played the “I Spy” game? Did you play it as a child? Well, I was in the dark until I came across a quilt named I Spy. The more I looked at it, I realized it was a great teaching opportunity and at the same time a fun game!   “I spy something Red” or “I spy a bird”. The other person has to find that item.

ispy-finished-close-300k I started saving 10″ squares of child fabrics and storing them away for ‘whenever’.  Almost forgetting about them until our first grandchild was announced.

So, what design to use? There are a lot of I Spy designs. I considered simply sewing all the squares together with no sashing or alternate I Spy fabric with blocks of a solid color. When I saw this design I really liked it. (edit: I found the original design photo)

The sashing is only on two sides and the direction changes with each row and within the rows. (don’t worry, I’ll explain later.)

ispy-finished-full-142kTo help with teaching, I wanted to include words around the border that give hints for what to Spy.  I read an article from Sharon Fry about 10 years ago (in a magazine-remember them?). She had an great idea for writing words on strips for fabric. She used freezer paper to stablize the fabric.

Each I Spy fabric is cut 4.75″ x 4.75″. They are sewn onto long strips of white fabric cut at 1.75″ wide.


Cut the blocks apart, iron them open and stack them up.ispy-blocks-sashing2-cut-94kispy-blocks-sashing3-stacked-70kThen sew another side with sashing. Each block has sashing on only two sides.

ispy-blocks-sashing4-2sides-99kAt this point the blocks are 5.5″.


When you make the rows, each row will have blocks with sashing on the left or the right. In my quilt, the first row was a Left Row.  I made a drawing so you can visualize the movement. Then within the row, the blocks alternate too.

Row 1 is a Left row. The first block has sashing on the left & upper side, the next block on the left & lower side, etc. The next row is a Right row with blocks that have the sashing on the right & upper side, then on the right & lower side.  A total of 7 rows across by 8 rows down.


For the outside border with the words, I was concerned that if I made one long strip, I might not fit all the words or my spacing could get wonky.  So I decided to cut the strips into 5.5″ x 1.75″ pieces, which matched the seams of the blocks. I stabilized the strips by ironing them onto freezer paper. After writing the words, I ironed the heck out of them to set the ink. Sewed the short strips together, match up the seams to the blocks and attached the worded border. There are 95 words!

ipy-top-with-letters-150kWith the outer lettered boarder attached, the quilt top was now 41.5 across x 47 down.

For the binding, I found a great cheater binding tutorial at: http://www.made-by-rae.com/2010/10/rae-pretends-she-can-quilt-and-shares-a-quick-quilting-tutorial/  The only thing I did different was I starched & ironed the backing.

I loved how this turned out and I’m hoping “Little D” loves it too.

25 thoughts on “I Spy Quilt

  1. Pingback: To-Do Tuesday 111 Weekly Progress Update | Quilting is in my Blood

  2. Your I spy quilt is so cute! I made one for each of my first grandchildren, but yours is so much nicer! I have two new grandbabies.. I may just have to try your pattern! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Did you stitch in the ditch to quilt it? It’s hard to see exactly what you did. I would like to not quilt in the blocks so that the stitching does not interfere with the images those little eyes are searching for. Any suggestions would be helpful. My top is complete and as soon as I find border and backing fabric I will be ready to quilt.

      • Finished my I Spy quilt for my grandchildren in time for Christmas. It was a lot of work sitting in the ditch for all of those blocks but once I got into the rhythm it was OK. Used a sheet for the backing and cut the binding on the bias. My my granddaughter who just turned two is loving it and it’s a great thing to keep her occupied on these winter days! Thank you for posting this, as I have been looking for an I spy pattern that I liked for quite some time now. Happy new year! Sent from my iPhone


      • Did you get the photos I sent? Not sure if I did that correctly.

        On Sun, Dec 27, 2020 at 1:55 PM MangoBeans’ Blog wrote:

        > Wendy Kelly Buddenbaum commented: “So glad to hear that you finished in > time! Happy New Year to you too.” >

  4. Do you think this quilt pattern could be done with a variety of different colored sashing? I wanted to use primary colors but not sure if it would have the same effect?

  5. It’s 2019 and I’m happy to say I came across your quilt/instructions now! I’m a new quilter, so I wanted to start with something small. This is the cutest quilt ever!! I have two grandkids and I believe they are both going to love these! I have the top done on the first one, just have to add batting and back. I am saving this for future use! Thank you SO much… you did a beautiful job on yours!!

  6. Question some of these blocks get turned, won’t the print be upside down? just checking.

    • Hi, thank you for your question! You will have 4 stacks of blocks. Look at the photo that has Row 1 and Row 2 drawn on top of it. The first row has sashing placed in two areas. One sashing on the upper left side (left side of block and across the top) and sashing on the lower left (left side and across the bottom). The second row has two sashings also. Sashing on the upper right (top and across the right side) and lower right (right side and across the bottom.

      There are several fabric designs that really don’t have an up or down, so they could go in either row. They could fill in if I ended up with too many lefts or rights. Lay out the rows on a table before you sew them to get what works and is pleasing to your eye. Sometimes I’d move a block because it put two bold colors, but had another area that looked dull. Or when two airplanes were next to each other.

      Have fun, and remember the child will never notice a mistake. She or he will only remember the fun they had playing the game.

  7. Thank you so much for these instructions. A daughter’s MIL saw a quilt in this pattern and wants me to make it, only, I couldn’t figure out how to go about putting it together. Your article was an answer to a puzzle! Thanks heaps.

      • Thank you. The grandchild is 8 mths old now, but the mother in law babysits her 2 days a week, so making her a quilt is my way to say thanks. We live too far away to be useful for babysitting 😊

  8. I am almost finished with mine but it’s too late for the hints on front. I am considering typing the hints on a T-shirt transfer and ironing them on a square in the back corner.

  9. Hi, thanks for your question. In all there were over a hundred words. I sat with the unfinished quilt and started to write what I saw in the squares. I used all the animal names in the quilt. Like monkey, fox, elephant, dog. All the objects, like jet, ball, cupcake, Saturn. All the colors, red, blue, green, etc. Then, shapes, like triangle, circle. Have fun finding all the things to spy in your quilt!

  10. I’d like to know the words you used … I love how this turned out and really like the idea to add words in the border

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