Passacaglia header

I have been hugely enjoying seeing the craze for Passacaglia patchwork designs via Instagram and Flickr, based on the wonderful kaleidoscopic designs of Willyne Hammerstein in Millefiori Quilts (1 & 2). Liberty lawn fabrics are particularly suited, it seems to me, to this kind of work – especially using fussy cutting (where you select particular sections of the fabric to cut out and piece together) to make the most of the those gorgeous Liberty motifs. I wanted to share this with you, so I asked one of my favourite Liberty-fanatic Instagrammers, Dittany M (who also blogs at Blue Moth) to put together some hints and tips on how to create these beautiful effects. Here are Dittany’s thoughts – thanks so much to her for her beautiful work!

Photo 1

I really wasn’t going to attempt the Passacaglia.  I had Willyne Hammerstein’s book, and I was enjoying seeing other Passacaglias on blogs and Instagram, but it wasn’t for me.  Then a friend sent me some paper pieces.  I’d just finished an English Paper Piecing (EPP) project and some others were just starting – so I joined in.   And it’s fun.

Why Liberty?

No contest.  Liberty lawns are deliciously light and great for EPP.  The designs are gorgeous and very varied – they are detailed and very well printed.  Every piece is a tiny work of art.  Perfect.

Photo 2

Fussy cutting

The original quilt in the book is not fussy-cut but it’s so interesting to use this technique for part of your Passacaglia.  Accuracy is most important where your pieces will be right next to each other in the middle of the rosette, and for this you will find templates helpful.  You can make your own like this:

  • Draw round your EPP shape on a piece of stiff card. 

Photo 3

  • Add ¼ inch
  • Cut out the middle and round the edge.

Selecting fabrics

You are going to need mid-scale fabrics for fussy cutting.  Use your templates to explore the fabric.

Photo 4

With any luck you will be able to use more than one element of the design in different parts of your Passacaglia, and you don’t have to fussy-cut every single piece. You can still use your favourite “ditsies” to add contrast.  Add some solids in too – unless you are going for a really busy look.   And it doesn’t matter if the design element seems a little too big – sometimes these give the best result when they are joined together.

Photo 7

Using the template

When you have found the area of the pattern you want, make sure you have enough fabric to cut the number of pieces you need.  It is most annoying to find you cannot cut 10 pentagons for the third row but you have already cut 9.  Of course you can alternate fabrics or different areas of the same fabric.

Use a pencil to mark the template in a couple of places, the edge of a leaf, or the end of a petal for example.

Photo 5


This will help you to line up each piece in the same way.

When basting your pieces, you should be able to position them accurately if your template and your cutting were accurate.  It helps that you can see the design on the back of the fabric.

Photo 6


I tend to use glue but thread basting is fine too.  It’s a good idea to cut and baste all the shapes of one design in one session, so you can compare them before they are sewn in.

For this blog post, Ali sent me some gorgeous Liberty Lawns including favourites Lodden, Mabelle and Growing Fonder.

Photo 8

 The whole Passacaglia quilt is a bit of a commitment.  But you don’t need to do the whole thing.  You can do a half, or a table mat, or a single rosette. If the quilt police knock on the door, you don’t have to let them in.
Photo 9

Thanks again to Dittany!

If you are interested in having a go at this glorious take on paper piecing, why not take advantage of my special voucher code and buy some Liberty Lawn from Very Berry Fabrics. There’s 10% off with the code PASSACAGLIA until midnight (GMT) on Saturday 19 September. Enjoy!

16 thoughts on “

  1. La Passacaglia…..what a clever lady Willyne Hammerstein is?It has been such a miserable, wet afternoon, so sat listening to radio, making templates, and choosing fabrics, difficult one, as I have drawers of liberty bits. No intention of making full quilt, but give me another 10 years!

    1. Hi Terri.. Passacaglia is the name of the quilt pattern in Willyne Hammerstein’s book, Millefiori Quilts 1. I think it might be a tribute to the work of English quilter (and writer) Lucy Boston who created the famous quilt ‘Patchwork of the Crosses’ – one of her paper-pieced quilts is called La Passacaglia (but that’s just a guess on my part because I don’t have the Millefiori book!).

  2. Thank you for the terrific tutorial, the inspiration, and the resources. I must now wait patiently for my fabric bundle to cross the ocean and land on my doorstep!

  3. I had never heard of Passacaglia quilts before reading this – they are so beautiful! I shan’t be attempting one as I don’t have the patience to even start thiking about planning one!

  4. O my goodness!! I never knew what fussy cutting really was and now I know. I think this is something I would love to do .Must say have often looked at parts of a fabric pattern and thought how lovely it is and what could I do with it.Haven’t fully digested your post yet, will sit and enjoy it later when less rushed, just had to let you know I am already hooked, thank you so much.

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