I love quilts. I was smitten from the first time I read Jane Brocket‘s, The Gentle Art of Domesticity.
Trouble is, making a quilt can seem like a pretty big deal. So I managed to take three years to complete the first one.
My second (kingsize) quilt is currently hibernating – it’s so big it’s tricky to find the space to work on it. But, hey, why finish a project when you can start another? You know what I’m talking about.
(I wish I could be faithful to my projects like Jen, but honestly, it’s never going to happen.)
The team at The Knitter recently gave our ops ed Helen a couple of Moda charm packs for her birthday. I had the lovely task of choosing them in Country Threads – and it gave me the quilting bug again.
So I spent a free morning turning this pile of fabric…
…into this lovely neat pile of 5 inch squares (that’s 12.5cm, if you’re a metric kind of guy/gal/whatever).
I ironed each piece of fabric and then cut them out with my rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler. (You can get these cheaply on ebay).
Later, my folks Storm to the (amazing) M Shed, so I spent the afternoon laying out all the lovely squares (just 192 of them).
SIZING YOUR QUILT
You can guestimate the size of your quilt by putting down a diagonal spread of squares, as tall and wide as you think the quilt will probably be. In this case my diagonal was 14 x 10, but after a while I realised I’d got more squares than would fit, so I pulled out some of the squares near the edges at random, and eventually filled a space 16 x 12 squares.
COLOUR AND PATTERN – SINGLES
For a simple, patchwork quilt, first, place squares you only have one or two of. Some of my singles (from an Etchings by Moda charm pack) were quite dark reds and greys, so I tried to spread them out evenly across my rough grid, along with the pale teals that were dotted through the pack as well.
There were a lot of lighter creamy squares from the charm pack, so they were laid out next.
COLOUR AND PATTERN – MULTIPLE PIECES
The main job, was then working with the squares that came from fat quarters and half metres of fabric. A fat quarter will yield 16 x 5in squares, and a half metre double that, so you need to make sure these are evenly placed to avoid ‘pools’ of colour.
The trick is to get all your singles down, and then put down the largest quantity of the strongest colour or pattern you have available next. So if you have 24 cream squares and 16 red squares, put down the red ones first, as they’ll catch your eye most.
Work through your fabric supply in this order, laying down singles, then large quantities of strong colours/patterns, large colours of neutrals, smaller quantities of strong colours and then finally smaller quantities of neutrals.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
Not all my original planned fabrics made it in. I had about another 50 squares in two fabrics which were gorgeous, but didn’t look quite right, and there was another fabric in my first pile for this project that I didn’t even cut up.
It may seem a shame to cut squares you then don’t use, but there’s always another quilt to be made, so they’ll get used up eventually. Better to hang fire on a fabric that doesn’t quite work, than ruin the overall effect.
I ended up with a colour scheme of dark red, cream, pale teal and grey which I absolutely love, and is a bit more stylish than my first two attempts.
I don’t have a craft room or a studio, and I also have a kid who loves nothing better than to ‘get involved’ with my projects. But I also know that, after a whole day working on a quilt, I’ll probably not feel like sewing that evening as well…
So how to keep everything in order until the sewing machine comes out?
First I drew a layout plan.
And then folded an A4 sheet of paper in half for each of my 12 columns of squares.
On the front, I put the number of the column and a rough description of the top square in the pile.
On the back, I put the number of the column and a rough description of the bottom square in the pile.
One column was the same at both ends, so I described the 2nd square from the top as well.
Then I placed all the squares from each column inside (in order, piled on top of each other) and fastened the sides of each folder paper with masking tape.
Now I can sew as much or as little as I fancy, and know that all my pieces are not going to get jumbled up.
A few other quilting tips I’ve picked up on my short but sweet quilting journey…
(1) Take pictures of your layout as you go. This is my first properly ‘random’ layout, with no plan at the beginning. Taking pictures makes it easier to spot when a square is in the ‘wrong’ place, rather than just by eye.
(2) Look at your quilt ‘upside down’. If it’s going on a bed or your lap, you’ll be looking at it from this end just as often. Does it still work?
(3) Do your layout on a cotton sheet or blanket. The pieces stick to the fabric, so they won’t fly around the room at the slightest breeze (although, do yourself a favour and keep the door shut).
(4) Plan your quilt in daylight if you possibly can. Subtleties of colour are lost in artificial light, so daylight may not be so forgiving of your mixing and matching!
Oooo, here’s one I made earlier (OK, the only one actually…)
OK, enough quilting! I’m off to knit a sleeve (in the round, no shaping, easy!), and watch a cheesy film. Night!