Watch how to quilt the clamshell pattern (video & written instructions)

Every quilter is familiar with the various square and triangle quilt patterns. With these techniques, everything gets sewn together neatly and has perfectly straight lines… but what if you want something different? What if you want something with a few more curves?
Then the clamshell pattern is for you! The clamshell technique is a bit more challenging than your average quilt pattern, but it is definitely worth a try. The little clamshells look almost like balloons floating across your quilt top, making for a lovely, circus-like finished product!
You can use all of the colors and patterns you want for this pattern – the only limit is your imagination. This article will tell you several different ways to make your clamshells, but it will be up to you to find the best way to sew them all together!
Watch the clamshell technique video tutorial by Latifah Saafir Studios:
Paper for printing/tracing the clamshell pattern or a die cut with the clamshell shape
Fabric in various patterns for clamshells
Large piece of fabric for foundation (optional)
Sewing machine/sewing needle
Scissors/rotary cutter
Printer (optional)
Pro tip: The clamshells for this quilt are a bit oddly shaped, and are not really made to fit together perfectly. So, expect a bit of overlap when you are piecing your quilt, and plan your seams accordingly.
Written Instructions
1. There are many variations on the clamshell technique, but they all begin with a clamshell pattern. You can download a .PDF version of the clamshell pattern for free at and print it out using your home printer, or you can buy a package of them at a crafts store. You can also use a die cut to get the shape, or you could simply just draw it yourself!
2. Next, place your printed (or drawn) pattern on top of the fabric you would like to use for your first clamshell. Trace an outline around it that leaves ¼ inch of excess space around all of the edges, as shown.
3. Now, this is where the techniques begin to diverge. If you are using paper that will disintegrate when you wash the finished quilt top for the first time, then you can use the paper piecing method. Leave the paper pattern on top of the fabric you just cut out (you can put a pin or a dab of fabric glue on it to hold it in place if desired), and begin to fold the excess material back in on itself to baste the edges. Depending on your preference, you can either glue the fabric down for this step, or you can sew a seam around the edges.
If you aren’t using wash-away paper, then you can remove the paper before sewing, as long as you maintain the same shape.
4. Whichever method you choose, repeat it for the rest of the clamshells you will need for your quilt.
5. This next step is optional. If you decided to go the glue route for the individual clamshells, you can keep going with it when it comes to putting the quilt together. Simply use a few dots of glue to affix your clamshells to your foundation fabric in the pattern that you want to use.
6. If you don’t want to use glue, you can simply pin the clamshells together in the order that you want.
7. The last step for both methods is to sew the clamshells together. You can use a sewing machine for this, or you can do it by hand. It is up to you. Molly Flanders warns that the machine sewing is a bit unruly, though, so be sure to go slow!
Once all of your clamshells are sewn together, trim off the excess from your foundation piece (if using one) to make your quilt into a square, then you are finished! Keep in mind, though, that you can arrange your clamshells in any pattern you want; it doesn’t have to be just row upon row of clamshells. You can also make shapes and patterns with them, as seen on the Badskirt blog.
As always, the pattern is up to you. No matter what you choose to do, you will end up with a beautiful clamshell quilt!

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