Friday, April 30, 2010

An Adventure in Sewing; or My First Quilt

Sewing and I don't get along. I enjoy the act of sewing for the most part, but I don't usually take on large projects. Give me a tiny project, like a wrist cuff, an altar cloth or a drawstring pouch and I'll jump all over that. Plushies and I will never get along. I just can't get the hang of joints.

When I use patterns, I cut them out haphazardly, pin them to the fabric with as few pins as possible and very rarely pin the fabric together before sewing seams. When it comes to projects that require structure and following the rules, I get impatient and grouchy. A few years back I made costumes for my husband, his best friend and I for the renaissance faire. I made theirs from my head, no patterns, and they turned out pretty well. My costume was made using a store bought gypsy pattern, and halfway through making the corset, which I followed the pattern to a T for, I realized the back was way shorter than the front. I swore off patterns (and clothing really) after that.

So, a week ago when I decided to make a quilt to use as a picnic blanket, I was probably delusional. Quilting typically requires patience. Lots of patience. It requires fancy tools like a large self healing mat, a rotary cutter, plastic t-squares and all sorts of doodads. I was just interested in using up an accumulation of fat quarters I had, not spending a mint on tools, so I just started cutting out squares with my big shears in my typical slapdash fashion:

Yes, I have a craftroom. But I like sewing in the dining room. No idea why.

Would you like to know how I made them all the same size, without a rotary tool, mat or square? I didn't, really. I took each fat quarter and folded it into fourths. I cut a quarter of the fat quarter out and put the other 3/4 of it back in my stash. I then took that chunk of fabric and cut it into 4 pieces. I repeated this for each fat quarter. Very exact of me, huh?

From there I started creating rows of squares at random, pulling from any old pile and sewing them into rows of 10. I was only fussy that I not put two of the same pattern into a row. From there, I took my rows and laid them out to make sure no two squares of the same pattern would be beside each other when I created my quilt. This took a bit of flipping and flopping, but I got it and sewed all of my rows together.

Here you can see that corners touching was ok for two squares with the same pattern. You can also see that slapdash cutting gets you rows that don't line up properly. But I think that's more fun!

I realized that quilts have batting, and that I was not in possession of any, so I did have to run to the store yesterday to grab some. I went with unbleached, needle felted wool. It's thin, but oh so warm and soft! I got it on sale too, $5.99 a yard as opposed to $16.99 a yard! I came home and laid it out on the floor with my backing.

I lined the edges of the backing with the edges of the batting and then ever so carefully laid my quilt top on them. After pinning all three together, I took my big shears and cut around the edge of the top, again, a very exact method of doing this.

Not too shabby!

To anchor the three layers together, I opted for a straight forward stitch along the seams that connected my original rows with clear polyester thread. No crazy free form quilting for me, my machine is far too small for me to have pulled that off.

After that was done, it was time to bind up the edges of the quilt. I knew I was in the home stretch after 6 hours of work (not at once!) and could taste success! The first three edges went together like a dream, the bias tape fit perfectly and there were no snags. The final edge however... ugh. I spent twice as much time ripping the bind off than I had spent sewing the other three edges on after my machine decided it was an appropriate time to bird nest worse than it ever has before. After fighting with the tension settings and ripping out the seam, I was able to finish my quilt.

Several hours of cutting and sewing later, I'm finished. The quilt is approximately 4 feet x 4 feet and I'm happy with it. If I ever decided to make another quilt, I still won't buy those fancy doodads. My quilt may not be perfectly square, but it's full of character and will be perfect for sitting at the park on the days I'm not working.

Yes, in the midst of this sewing adventure I found a part time job serving up coffee. Not a bad idea for a coffee junkie like myself.


  1. Fantastic :) love it!! and thanks for the reminder lol i have squares all ready cut up sitting in my fabric box which have been there for 2 years or so and now i have my new sewing machine (small and lightweight, a christmas pressie) thats another project to do x

  2. Congratulations on the job and on this quilt! It is beautiful. I've always wanted to make a quilt and you are inspiring me to give it a shot.

  3. That's looks fantastic! I have still yet to conquer my fear of quilting!

  4. I love it and now feel inspired to take the plunge after reading your post. Im not good with patterns... i just dont get them:O)Have lots of left over fabrics that wont do my minis and have been wanting to make a quilt for yonks but had no idea how....

  5. Oh you are a woman after my own heart! I have put off making a quilt because I don't have a rotary cutter and I have a small machine. No more excuses now, as I love your quilt! Yes! It's not like pioneer women had all those things. Heck, they didn't even have machines. Thank you. Gosh, I love your blog. :)

  6. That's a gorgeous quilt. It reminds me of one my grandmother mad for me when I was little. And makes me think that I want to find that quilt. I think the small errors make it more interesting and endearing. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. It's beautiful!
    I only made one tiny quilts once for my daugther's doll... didn't turn that good!

  8. Its beautiful :) I remember my first quilt. I learned not to put red by green or it ends up looking like christmas. Now add orange, black, okay you get the idea. I LOVE quilting but havent done it in some time. I have a new baby nephew coming soon so I will have to make a baby quilt and knit some stockings. <3

  9. I am like you when it comes to sewing.. this is beautiful and I think it would look wonderful not only as a picnic rug but displayed proudly as quilt on the bed :-D perfect!

  10. Gorgeous! I love the colors and the fact that the squares don't all line up. And congrats on the job!!

  11. You've been busy!! Gods, I would never ever be able to make something so beautiful with a sewing machine! My two brain cells are messed up just by watching the process! You really made a great job, the matching colors, everything looks perfect!


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