Tag Archives: quilts

Secret birthday project #1: The Test Card quilt

26 Feb

We spent a lovely day at my parents yesterday, and I got to give dad his birthday presents.

Last year I asked dad for his old work shirts, to make him a quilt. It was just before his birthday and I hadn’t finished my first quilt yet, so I knew I wouldn’t get it done in time. I stuck them in the bottom of the airing cupboard and almost forgot they were there.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago, when my quilting bug struck again, and I found them while digging through fabric for my Village Cricket quilt (for some reason, quilts have to have names in this house).

It seemed rather self indulgent to be making a quilt for me, when I still hadn’t started dad’s so I bit the bullet.

Once I’d cut up the shirts into usable fabric pieces I thought might work together I laid them out, thinking they could be a Log Cabin design (not all of these are his shirts btw).


But I wanted to make a ‘man’ quilt, and this arrangement seemed too fiddly and fussy for dad.

Instead, I settled on a plan of 7in wide squares and rectangles, in a random layout. To break it up a bit I made some 7in square(ish) blocks out of swatches from Deckchair Stripes.

This is what they looked like, nested in the gingham bag they came in. Love it!


I bought a whole pack for £15, which I thought was a bargain for 60 strips, and used about a fifth of them, settling on blues, with a few bright colours.


They’re all named after sports. Darts was my favourite.

A lot of the swatches were wonky, so I did some evening up, being very fussy about squaring off the shapes.


Which left me with this little pretty pile.


Then I sewed them into threes.


And cut them into squares.


The blocks took an afternoon, but were perfect for the bright zings of colour the quilt needed, among the grey, black and dark red check of dad’s shirts.


Then I laid it out, and pieced it in a couple of evenings. And here it is. (Well, the top anyway)

I’ve not finished the quilting yet (luckily, dad is the patient type). I’m using bright blue embroidery thread (DMC 995), again, to add a flash of colour.

It reminded me of the BBC Test Card (although when I looked it up, I thought, not so much actually).

The quilt is backed with a soft flannel sheet so it’s ultra snuggly, and once again, the wadding is good old Bamboo Blend.

He seemed to like it. Yay!

Quilting, the easy way. Part One.

9 Feb


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).


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.



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.


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.


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!