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Make a Quilt With Us

08 January 2015 08:00

Welcome to a new year on the blog!  How's your new year going?  Did you make any resolutions?  Are you still keeping them?

I'm not a great fan of New Year's Resolutions.  It seems to me that it is too easy to add more and more to the list, so you're just setting yourself up to fail - and then feel bad.  However, there is something about a new year that makes you feel like a new beginning.  So I thought I'd try something new (well, newish) and invite you to join me.

I'm going to make a quilt, or at least, a quilted wall hanging.  I'd love it if you were to join in and sew along with me - keep me company.  And we can encourage each other to keep going!

Patchwork and quilting seem made to go together.  Years ago, people made patchwork quilts out of old scraps of fabric, often using the good bits of otherwise worn-out clothes, as well as leftovers from dress-making.  Some people still make their patchwork projects like that.  But many people buy new fabrics for their projects.  You can have great fun choosing co-ordinating fabrics, or designing your own.

Which design?

But first you need to decide on the project.  There are so many lovely designs to choose from, we're spoilt for choice.  I want to make a quilt for a bed, but that might be a bit too ambitious at the moment.  I've only tackled small quilting projects so far.  So then I thought it would be good to make a wall-hanging to put in my workshop.  I was still spoilt for choice until I saw this quilt:

Isn't it georgeous?  But probably too difficult for this project!  I love the rainbow, so I looked for other rainbow designs.  I found these:

I thought that would make a perfect design - several 'place mats' joined into a quilt, with each 'mat' a different colour.  I could use lots of different designs and show off some of the work produced by 'our' designers.  It would also lend itself easily to different sizes of design, for you to join in.  I started working out sizes and so on, and started to make one block.  I soon decided that it was going to be too complicated as a first sew-along on the blog.  Back to square one!

I saw another quilt a while ago with a sort of rainbow theme.  I thought I'd pinned it, but couldn't find it!  However, I did find this one, from Stitched in Color: 

This might work with a rainbow theme, or we could stick with the random approach.  It's a much more straight-forward design for sharing.  So that's going to be our sew-along project.

By hand or by machine?

Patchwork can, of course, be done by hand.  The traditional method, sometimes called English Paper Piecing, uses paper shapes, covered in fabric.  The shapes, frequently hexagons, are stitched together.  It's good for doing in front of the TV, or taking out to do on holiday, or waiting for appointments, but it takes a long time for anything very big.  A design using straight-edged pieces can be pieced perfectly well by machine and is much quicker!  So we will be using our machines.  If you don't use a machine but still want to join in, you can stitch the seams by hand.  I was involved in a patchwork day at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010.  We made quilts for Project Linus, stitching squares together with running stitch or backhand - no machines in sight!  (Did any of you see the Patchwork Quilt exhibition at the V & A in 2010?  The patchwork day was held during that exhibition.  We got a bit of time off to see the exhibition, which was very inspiring.)

We will make the quilt in blocks.  I'm going to use Imperial measurements (inches) because my quilting ruler is marked in inches.  If you want to use centimetres, work out an alternative size for each measurement (the length and width of each strip and the seam allowance of  ¼".)  Each completed block measures 10½" x 7½".  I'm going to use six blocks, two across and three down.  If you want to make a small quilt (e.g. a mini wall-hanging or a placemat) just make one block.  For a bigger quilt, make more blocks, or add an extra strip or two to each block.  I'll leave you to do the maths!

Colour scheme

The great thing about this pattern is that you can easily make it any size and any colour you want.  Use up your scraps, or find / design patterns in colours to match your colour-scheme.  I'm going for the rainbow effect, so each block will be one or two colours.  If you want a more random effect, as in the photo, then use a mixture of colours.  Or just use shades of one colour.  It's up to you.  Part of each strip will be coloured, the rest will be plain.  I'm using white for the plain part, because I have lots of narrow strips of white, but you don't have to use white.  Here's a quilt with a grey background:


How much fabric?

Each strip is 2" wide - 1½" plus 2 seam allowances of  ¼" each.  The total length of each strip is 8½".  ( 7½" plus 4 seam allowances.) This will be made up of varying lengths of your printed fabric and plain.  Assuming roughly half of each is used, you will need a total length of 30"x 2" wide in plain and the same in patterned for each block.  If you're buying or ordering fabric, a swatch (20 sq cm) will just about give you this length - but that may dictate the length of some of your patterned pieces, so, if you're fussy about the lengths, buy a bit extra, just to be sure.  You will obviously need to multiply that quantity by the number of blocks you plan to make, and add extra for the border.  For a rainbow quilt (or even a random one), it will look good to have a plain border in a colour you haven't really used in the quilt.  Or you can join legths of some of the fabrics you've used to make the border.  I'm not going to plan my border yet.  I think I'll see what the finished quilt looks like before I decide.  If you want to buy fabric now, you will need a strip (it can have joins) which is a little longer than the 4 sides of your quilt and twice as wide as you want the border to be, plus seam allowances.  A small quilt will probably want a narrow border (½" to 1"), whilst a larger quilt will look better with a wider border.  Look at other quilts to see how wide their borders are.  You will also need fabric for the back of the quilt.  The dimensions will depend on the size of quilt you make; you need the back to be the same size as the front.  I'll talk about backing fabrics later.

I have started a Pinterest board called Quilts, which has images of quilts (you'd never have guessed that, would you?) plus tutorials and tips.  Lots of inspiration!

What now?

First decide which pattern you're going to use and how big your quilt will be.  Then find your fabric!  Get out your scraps, look through your stash, go shopping (we have almost 300 designs in our Market Place now, quite a few of which are co-ordinating) or start designing!

We have a design competition running at the moment, so the next couple of Thursday blogs will be devoted to that.  We will start making our quilt on January 29th, so you have plenty of time to find your fabric.

It would be good to know if you're joining in, or even just following along, so please let me know below.  Thanks.