It's a very gratifying kind of piece to make, as it looks a hell of a lot harder than it really is. What you see when you first look at it, if you don't know the trick, is just how many individual pieces of fabric there are. Even in the little piece shown above, there are 15 little (1 1/2", 1" cut) squares in each row and column making, what, 225 pieces total. But! you do not have to cut out and sew together 225 pieces in order to make an Around the World.
Here's the trick. (I will illustrate with images from the very finest quilt design software application available, the name of which is “MicroSoft Excel.” Ask for it at your quilt shop!)
1. Once you've chosen your sequence of fabrics -- at least seven, in a clear progression from light to dark color values, is best -- cut long strips of each of them.
2. Sew the strips together, in sequence.
3. Cut new strips, perpendicular to the original ones, out of the units you made in step two. Make them the same width as you cut the original strips in step one.
4. Then, piece these new strips back together, offsetting them by one fabric width each time.
Voila! There's a little more too it, of course, but you get the basic idea.
I've only made two true Around the Worlds, the one above – it was a gift for my mother, which is the very definition of "coals to Newcastle" -- and this one, which you've seen before.
Then there's also a few that have played with the Around the World idea, like this one from 2000:
Or these two, from 2006. These are called Partway Around the World I & II; one hangs at our house, and the other belongs to friends in England. So, the name is a kind of double-meaning sorta dealie.
Incidentally, although all of these I've shown are wall hangings, it's possible to make very large quilts with the same method. You just either a) make your strips wider, b) use more fabrics, or c) repeat your sequence of fabrics two or three or four times. It looks great, but I've never done it myself.
OK, I’m out of here. Thanks for reading.