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Fabric Board

When a bobbin is just a pawn…

by Sue Astroth on December 9th, 2011

Chess set by Sue Astroth

I was recently looking through, okay drooling over, one of our latest books,Sweetwater’s Simple Home. I do so love the “simple” style! And talk about project lust! I’ve already added  2 quilts, a hamper, and a tie pillow to my “make next” list.

I was in serious need of a gift to make and thought this book might be the place to find one. The checkerboard project reminded me of a chess set I saw that used various-sized salt and pepper shakers as playing pieces.  I loved how it was an out of the ordinary gift made with ordinary objects.  I decided to make something similar, but with a sewing twist.

Simple Home checkerboard

Checkerboard from "Sweetwater's Simple Home"

After several early mornings in the studio (and a few afternoons too), here is what I came up with. I have to say I am really pleased with the way it turned out. Here is a breakdown of the chess pieces….

Kings and Queens
These are made from large spools, 3/4″ wood squares, and extra large thimbles. The queens are made from the same materials, but with smaller spools and thimbles.

King and Queen

This piece was made with a small vintage spool and a wooden thread spool adapter (by Nifty Notions), topped with a large snap.


Cute chubby spools, scissors from small sewing kits (spray-painted black to look like the old Wiss pair I learned to sew with), and a small touch of ribbon make up this piece.


Made from bobbins and 1″ square blocks.


My all time favorite!  I made these using a small wooden egg stand and a large red felted bead/ball.  Some yellow pearl cotton, scrap of green felt and single gold/silver headed pins were perfect to make it look like a miniature version of the familiar tomato pin cushion.  Hint – these alone would make some wonderful secret Santa gifts or tree ornaments for this year…just sayin’!


After painting my assortment of wooden spools, I realized that they needed a little something more. From my scrapbook stash, I pulled out some Cosmo Cricket scrapbook paper, which matched the fabrics perfectly. A few strips and squares gave the pieces a more finished look. The gold and silver spray paint was a great way to help identify the pieces for the two players.

My chess board is made up of 2.5” inch squares, a little smaller than the original Sweetwater one, as they were a better fit for the game pieces. I used double-faced flannel for batting to keep the “board” as thin as possible.

Moda Fabric chess board

A big thank you goes out to Prym for supplying most all the notions, to Moda for the wonderful Cosmo Cricket fabric, and to my coworker, Ruthmary Schauer for her fabulous quilting.  I couldn’t have done it without you!