Pieces of me: Quilting 101

 

 

 

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.

So this Christmas I decided that I would give my boyfriend a quilt with scraps from all of my sewing projects from this year. He helps me take pictures and has been so supportive that I really wanted to give him something special.

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Joe’s Christmas present

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.

 

Planning: I have never made a quilt without doing some math. What I normally do is come up with a design then I head to my computer and make a quick sketch using the chart feature in Microsoft word. A few things that I consider when I’m in my planning process are how big do I want my squares, how wide and long do I want my overall quilt and a special design.

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    This is my planning from Joe’s quilt. I counted how many red and white squares I would need, and also how many of each would go across the 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.

batting

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!

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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.

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Notice that the rows are sewn together in groups of 3.
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Now I’ve taken the groups of 3 and made it into 2 groups of 6 and the last two rows are by themselves.
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Next I connected the bottom 2 rows.
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Now the quilt top is complete!

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.

7. Sewing the batting and backside: Every time I’ve made a quilt, I’ve always had to cut my back piece to make it fit perfectly. I used about 5 yards of solid black quilting fabric. On a flat surface (preferably a table) lay your back piece completely flat. Be sure to smooth out any wrinkles. Next lay down your batting piece. Do not cut your batting piece until the very end. Then lay your quilt top on top of your batting. With each layer you should continue to smooth out the wrinkles. As you smooth out wrinkles be sure to pin every square and corner of the quilt to ensure that everything will stay in place.

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.*

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In the hole of the sewing machine is a neatly rolled up side of the quilt. This side is already finished. You’ll want to keep rolling as you continue top stitching each row.

9. Binding your quilt: This is the probably the most challenging part, but with practice and trial and error it’s gotten easier. Once the topstitching is completed, lay your quilt out flat again. Some quilters will choose to using bias tape, and I’ve done this too. My preferred method is using the back piece as my binding. In my opinion it’s much easier and manageable than bias tape. Cut your batting down to one inch around the entire border. The batting should be one inch bigger than your quilt top. img_4676

Now, cut your backside piece using your seam gauge and a marking pen. Measure and  cut your back piece 1 1/2 inches from the edge of your batting.

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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.

Using your blind hem foot, you can sew along the edge of your bias tape/binding. Keep your quilt on a flat surface as you sew to avoid stretching and shifting of the binding.

 

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