How to Start an Ice Cream Soda Quilt

My Ice Cream Soda quilt is my favourite pattern - and yours! I've sold more of this quilt than any other of my designs combined. I made it at the very beginning of my EPP obsession, and learned so much through it, and since. It can be tricky to know how to begin a big project like this one. Or, perhaps you're like me and dive in without much thought and then hit unexpected snags along the way? Below, I'm laying out my favourite way to approach an EPP quilt for maximum enjoyment and progress. Read on to make the most of your Ice Cream Soda quilt!

two different ice cream soda quilts

1. Decide Your Ice Cream Soda Quilt's Purpose

We make quilts for all kinds of reasons - to learn a new skill, to enjoy creative escape, to keep our hands busy during a waiting or stressful season, to showcase some favourite fabric, or as a gift for a special occasion. Beginning a long term project like Ice Cream Soda quilt is a good chance to tune in to what you need your quilt to be in this season, no matter if it is a gift or a quilt to keep. In my experience, if I skip this question, I can find myself giving up part way through the quilt. It's either too boring or too demanding, and not what I need right now. 

Do you want Ice Cream Soda quilt to be undemanding and easy? Every so often, my brain needs a jigsaw puzzle or a paint-by-numbers or a needlepoint kit. You know the kind of experience I mean? Something that's meditative and calming and doesn't need me to make any decisions. Whenever I want a quilt to fulfill this purpose, I choose an easy 2 or 3 colour palette, and make a decision about placement, and then sew away without having to make any further choices! I like scrolling through Brittany's Instagram feed, or searching 3 colour palettes on Pinterest for inspiration. Or, I turn to my stash like I did here! Choosing a limited palette can also be a good option if you want to make your quilt quickly, as decision making takes time.

Do you want your Ice Cream Soda quilt to ENGAGE you? Want to master fussy cutting or colour choices? Want to work in a palette outside your comfort zone? Want to dig through your fun stash of novelty prints? Making a quilt for this reason is an opportunity to EMBRACE the decision making process and the time it takes. You're not in a rush, you're enjoying auditioning prints, you're tuning in to the way different blocks make you feel, and you're learning how to replicate your favourites. When I make a quilt like this, I just love using my scraps and stash, but you can also choose a favourite fabric collection as a compromise where the palette is chosen for you. There are less initial fabric decisions, but you still decide how to arrange the prints. 

My friend Rachel of Stitched in Color took 4 years to make her Ice Cream Soda quilt in breaks from her day job machine quilting, and on holidays. I highly recommend reading her article on choosing fabric for EPP which she wrote while making her Ice Cream Soda quilt and noticing how fabric play was so different with a quilt made in rounds. After many years, it's still my favourite guide for colour, contrast, and print!

scrappy ice cream soda quilt

2. Choose Your Ice Cream Soda Fabric

Ice Cream Soda is a great teacher of colour. In my first Ice Cream Soda quilt, after making several blocks, I quickly realised that making a block in rounds like this was very different to sewing single-shape scrappy quilts, or machine sewn half square triangles like I was used to. I was used to using big Anna Maria Horner florals, and the small triangle cut of them looked great in a scrappy sea, but in rounds, they looked a bit blaa, messy, and flat. That was when I first realised that I needed to buy fabrics like a collection of paints, rather than just my favourite beauties. 

If you're new to putting colours together this way, I highly recommend embracing Ice Cream Soda as a gentle teacher too. After each block, ask what you like or don't like, and either replicate it or adjust the kinds of fabrics you're using. If the collection you're using just isn't turning out the way you want, give yourself permission to bring in other prints. Likewise, regardless of how it looks, if you're not enjoying the process (maybe you've started fussy cutting and you realise you find it slow and tedious), tune in and experiment! Let go of any need for this quilt to turn out perfect. Use the approach, "Through this quilt I am going to grow in confidence with colour and placement" rather than "I need to understand colour and placement before I can start this quilt." 

When I first made this quilt, I was the first one. Now there are over 10,000 photos in the #icecreamsodaquilt hastag to inspire you! Scroll through, and find what you like and don't like. Find quilters that are using prints you already have in a way you like. Or, if the designers and prints are new to you, ask the quilters what the designer is. Chances are, even if the designs are out of print, that designer still has similar colours and styles available today. 

Another option for inspiration is finding quilters or other artists that have a signature palette and bring together prints from that. For my blue and green quilt below, I bought a fat quarter bundle of Then Came June's Revive palette, and then used it to draw in other prints from my stash. 

using a bundle as the basis for your Ice Cream Soda Quilt

3. Decide on Your Construction Method

After years of making EPP blocks I've discovered I actually prefer making quilts ‘round at a time’ rather than ‘block at a time’. Read my explanation of both methods and decide which one suits you!

Block at a time. Most people make Ice Cream Soda quilt and lots of other EPP quilts this way. You choose all the fabric for a whole block, cut and baste it, then stitch it, then repeat the process. In reality, many people probably prepare several blocks at once, so that they can be sewn over a period of time before you have to bring out your stash again. (I do actually recommend this for the block at a time method!) As you make progress in this method, you can develop little routines that help you make progress, like basting a good amount of blocks to stitch on the weekend, and then having them available to stitch through the week. 

This is a great method if:

  • you like to have a block completely finished and added to the pile as you go.
  • you're experimenting with colour and fabric and want to learn as you go.
  • you've chosen a limited palette but only want to cut and baste in batches rather than all at the start.

Round at a time. This has become my new favourite. My biggest anxiety while making blocks is balance. I don't like getting to the end and discovering that it's too yellow, or that I keep reaching for the same print for the outside round, or that it's too busy and I should have used more basics. For some reason, this is the big thing that weighs on me while making block based quilts. You can avoid this outcome by checking in as you go, but I've found making ALL the inside stars, then choosing the prints for all the kites and laying it all out on my dining table completely dissipates any worry about balance. I repeat the process for the crowns after that. When I make a quilt this way, I put all the prepped parts of a block in a ziplock bag so it's just as portable as the alternative.

This is a good option for you if:

  • you have limited decision making resources. You only need 3 decision making sessions rather than several.
  • you like to be able to see how the whole quilt is coming together at once. 
  • you are using a fabric collection and want to make sure you have a good spread of prints across the quilt.
auditioning rounds for Ice Cream Soda Quilt

I have loved making my Ice Cream Soda quilts, and I sincerely want you to also! I hope these tips enable you to have a quilt-making experience, and a finished quilt that suits YOU - your season, your routines, your personality and preferences, your needs and desires. This quilt is yours, for you!

Want to make an Ice Cream Soda quilt together?

Join me and hundreds of other quilters as we make an Ice Cream Soda quilt just for the joy of it. Click below to learn more!


  • Tales of Cloth

    Hi Sue,
    Thanks so much for your comment on our recent blog post! Unfortunately, the inability to see more posts on the Ice Cream Soda hashtag is a glitch in Instagram. However, we’ve discovered a little bit of a work around. If you view the link on your mobile device, you can see more. Hope that helps!

  • Kimberly

    I may be the odd quilter out. I’m doing the BOM to teach myself, at 63, some semblance of discipline and consistency in my quilting. Since going back to the full-time work world in 2016, I’ve not finished a single project! It’s not a lack of time, it’s just that I’ve got so many quilts I want to make, no single project gets enough attention. Here’s hoping. I’m going with a blue, white and silver theme to not get too lost in color choices. Away we go!

  • Dorothy

    I’ve admired this quilt for a long time and ordered the papers for the bigger blocks. I have several bundles of Liberty of London fabrics with coordinating plain lawn fabrics that I hope to use. I think I am more comfortable completing a block at a time vs rounds. I’m so excited to get started. Thank you for this Sew Along.

  • Sue

    I am new to instagram. When I click on your link, it only shows me a few pictures. Says “top picks” at the top. How do I see more pictures?

  • Carolanne Edkins

    Thank you so much for providing this opportunity and challenge. I am normally a ‘lone wolf’ in my quilting life, so joining this group is a challenge in itself. It will provide me with the discipline I need. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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