January 12, 2009

Make Your First Quilt

I went to bed the other night after my first quilting post all worried because I hadn't said anything about types of fabric. (I am not neurotic, I don't care what you say.)


When you are choosing fabrics to quilt with you want to consider the weight of the fabric, the washability, and the amount of stretch it has. You don't want to quilt with upholstery-weight fabric, leather, tulle or any other thin material. You want machine-washable fabric. You also don't want anything stretchy. Look for "calicos" or quilter's cottons. There will be an entire section at Jo-Ann's - and your local quilting store will have hundreds of delicious bolts of cotton to choose from. Am I the only one who can get lost in the rows of bolts at the store? For hours?


TIP:

Do not go into the quilt store and leave your spouse in the car. Do not say, "Let me run in for a quick second. I'll be right back." Because you will not be right back. You will be sucked into the quilt store vortex for at least an hour. Prep him with a meal and a magazine, at least. Also, go in as prepared as possible; make a list of the yardage and supplies you need and taking your pattern with you, if you have one.


If you already have a hunk of fabric that you've inherited from your Great Aunt (or you cheated and bought fabric before you had project to work on - we all do that) and you've already assembled your tools... then, why not start with something very simple?


TRY:
Find some fabric scraps. Cut your fabric(s) into squares. Cut all of your squares the exact same size (maybe 6"x6"). For your first time, you might make only 9 squares and lay them on your table like this:

x x x


x x x


x x x


Note: You are looking at the "right sides" of your fabric if the print is facing upward, which is the best way to organize your squares on the floor. The "wrong side" is the back of the fabric.


Think about your squares as rows:

row 1 x x x


row 2 x x x


row 3 x x x


Begin to sew (using a straight stitch on your sewing machine) the left-most square in row 1 to the middle square in row 1. You want to sew RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER so that the seam you make is to the back of your fabric front. Then sew that pair (again, right sides together) to the right-most square in row 1. You now have one row of squares! Go, You!


row 1 xxx


row 2 x x x


row 3 x x x


Move on to row 2 and follow the same steps, sewing the squares in row 2 together (right sides) until you have a second row. Then, do row 3.


row 1 xxx


row 2 xxx


row 3 xxx



Now, sew row 1 to row 2 (you may need to use straight pins to keep this in place - pull them out just before your sewing machine foot goes over them), also RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. When you are finished, it will look like this:


row 1 xxx
row 2 xxx

row 3 xxx


Next, sew row 3 into place (right sides together).


row 1 xxx
row 2 xxx
row 3 xxx


Iron your big chunk of squares so that all of the seams are flat.


TIP:


Once you are quilting and not practicing, you will want to iron as you finish each row. Really. Now, I didn't iron mine - ever - until I started using patterns. It really does make a difference in how manageable your squares are to put together and how easy it is to trim up (see below). Lulu irons her fabric before she cuts it. I don't go that far, but it's all up to you. You may find the fabric easier to control that way.


Now you need to "trim up" or "square up" your big chunk. Lay it on your cutting mat and, using your acrylic ruler as a guide, trim off any edges that stick out or make your edge not straight, on each of the four sides.


So. You just made an itty-bitty quilt top! If you cut your squares large enough, you may have just started a doll quilt! If you want to finish what you've started, find a scrap of quilter's batting or an old polyester or cotton blanket and cut it to the same size as your quilt top using your rotary cutter. You can do this by laying your quilt top on top of the batting. Lay both on top of your mat, place your acrylic ruler on top and trim, using your rotary cutter. While the two layers are still there and all squared up, pin them together with a few straight pins.


Now you need to quilt the thing. Depending on how thick your batting/old blanket is, you may be able to run the entire thing through your sewing machine, using a walking foot. (Ask your quilt store ladies about this wonderful foot.) Since this is your practice chunk of squares, you can just zip a few straight stitch lines and make a grid on top. Or, you can hoop your chunk and handstitch your spouse's name into each square. Or, you can tie knots at the corners of each square with thread or floss. However you decide to do it, you need to quilt something on top in order to hold the two layers together. If you don't hold them together, they will bunch and disappoint you in the washing machine. Trust me. The general rule of thumb is that you need to quilt no more than 6" apart.




To finish the quilt, find some more scrap fabric and trim it into strips that are each 2 1/2" wide. Then follow Heather Bailey's super easy directions on quilt binding to bind your quilt. The Thimbleberries book I recommended yesterday also has a VERY good section on quilt binding. Quilt binding is my favorite part; I love handstitching.


Once your binding is in place, throw your doll quilt into the wash machine on cold/cold. Then into the dryer. Yes, it will shrink just a bit, but you will be left with puckery, quilty goodness.


More to come.

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