A few years ago I took a quilting class at Joann Fabrics and it opened my eyes to some mysticism about the art of quilting. I even made a really pretty quilt at the end of the 4 sessions. In my sewing life, I think that I’ve made at least 4 quilts. And with each one I learn a little bit more and I improve my skills.
I used a little bit of everything -from dresses, shirts and even some of my Etsy products. His favorite colors are black, red and blue so I made sure that I used that color palette to make his quilt. Here are some essential tips and tricks to help you make your next quilt.
- Example: For Joe’s quilt I used a 6×24 inch quilting ruler. So I made each square 6 inches all around which made cutting so much easier.
- Depending on the purpose of the quilt you’ll need to decide the size. For his quilt the squares (not connected) were 6 inches. Once I connected them, the squares would become 5 3/4 inches. His quilt is 12 squares across so the finished top would be 5 3/4 inches x 12 squares =69 inches across. It was 14 rows down. 5 3/4 inches x 14 squares =80 1/2 inches down.
2. Special design/pattern: Once you have figured out your math, now you can figure out what sort of pattern or special design that you will like to make. In his quilt, I decided to make all of the squares (with the exception of the “J”) black and white. I did throw in a few hints of other neutrals. The “J” I knew I wanted to make red, but again, I added in the buffalo for a personal touch.
3. Batting & Backside: Now that you’ve figured out your design and how big you will like your quilt, you need to select batting and the fabric for the backside of your quilt. Some may call this the “sandwich method.” Most people choose a complementing color or pattern for the backside. I have a personal preference for natural cotton batting. It’s more durable than polyester batting and it will wash better in the long run. I used the twin size. You’ll want to grab batting that is slightly bigger than your quilt top. You find the dimensions on the front of the pack.
4. Cutting squares: I used to think this was a daunting task until my Joann’s class and realized how easy it actually is. First you’ll want to count how many squares you’ll need for each pattern or color choice. Then using your quilting ruler and cutting mat, line up the lines on the ruler with the mat (see below) and cut you’ll be able to cut squares evenly and quickly every single time!
5. Fussy cutting: The art of strategic cutting to make sure a specific pattern or part of the fabric is cut into a square that will fit into the quilt. I chose to do this for the plaid pieces so that the stripes and bars would be symmetrical in each square.
6. Sewing the squares and rows: Should be easy right? Actually, there’s an art to that too! Of course you’ll want to go row by row, but the rule of thumb is to use a 1/4 inch seam allowance around the entire quilt. I was taught that you should sew your rows by 3. This helps eliminate the anxiety of adding rows and rows of squares and possibly running out of room at your sewing table. However, technically I believe this helps to stabilize the rows and squares better by sewing them in groups. Below I illustrate how to sew your quilt in groups until it gradually becomes one large quilt top.
7. Ironing: You should always iron row-by-row. As you iron you should iron all of your seam allowances in the same direction on each row. I was taught that it’s not necessary to press your seams open. The horizontal rows should be ironed up or down, but remain consistent throughout the quilt.
8. Topstitch: When top stitching you will want to start in the middle of your quilt to stabilize it. Then you want to work your way down each panel horizontally or vertically. In order to maintain control of your quilt and avoid shifting, I recommend rolling the sewn together parts of your quilt as you work to have adequate room to sew the entire quilt top. See below:
*You may also “stitch in the ditch” which is the technique of stitching directly into the seam lines of your quilt. It may take longer, but it’s completely up to the quilter.*
Take your binding and fold it once on it’s self. Then take it again and fold it once over the batting. Now it the binding should look like the picture on the right. Iron and begin pinning down all sides of your quilt.
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