21 August 2010

Learning To Quilt

A while back I posted my intentions to make my first ever patchwork quilt out of a plethora of floral Liberty print fabrics that I had managed to get my hands on.  As my first ever patchwork quilt (let alone my first large hand-sewn project) it was quite the daunting task.  Having not had any experience in making a quilt, or indeed any real hands-on experience with a completed patchwork quilt in general it was a process of discovery.  However having seen a number of stunning quilts at the Quilts Exhibition at the V&A, I really wanted to give it a go.

For an introduction to the process of patchwork quilting I browsed Linda Seward's invaluable work The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Applique.  The book has guides for both hand sewing and machine work, covering everything from drafting patterns to getting creative with quilting stitch designs.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in getting into patchwork quilting, as it covers all the basics, as well as some rather more creative topics for the more confident quilter. 

My first task was drafting up my patchwork pattern.  Whilst it sounds like quite a basic task, it was not simply the decision of block sizes and configurations.  More importantly you have make decisions with regards to the fabric you are using.  Different print sizes, designs and colours all had to be taken into account, and I tried to figure out what would look good together, and in what size block.

I ended up drawing up a plan for a relatively basic design, incorporating blocks using small, medium and large sized prints, as well as a number of the same prints in varying colours.  Whilst I wanted to have some sense of coherence and pattern, I think one of the charms about patchwork quilts is the somewhat haphazard nature of certain designs.  I wanted something more crazy than conservative.

However, seeing as it is my first quilt, much of the process has actually just been guesswork and experimentation...

The first step was to measure out the patchwork block on the reverse side of the fabric, including a seam allowance.  Cutting out a card template and using a quilting ruler helped to mark out accurate sized blocks.  A slightly more generous seam allowance was important given that I was hand sewing.

The first pieces I cut out where the for the basic frame.  You may actually recognize the purple print fabric from a certain collaboration with Nike (I still want a pair of Liberty print Nike Dunks in man sizes so that I can wear them).

The design quickly came together (actually it took quite a long time, but saying quicker gives a better flow to the visual story).  To be honest I was still figuring out where to place everything at this point in the process.

Measuring and cutting out the patchwork pieces was probably the lengthiest part of the procedure thus far.  I used rotary cutters and a quilting ruler, instead of tailoring scissors, as it was a far quicker and more accurate process given all the straight lines and edges.

I started by sewing pieces across by row.  It was easier to then sew those completed rows together, rather than working from a small square and working outwards.  Sewing pieces was relatively simple, the only really tricky part was marking sure I was properly matching up the seams.  Just a few millimeters off and it soon adds up to quite a drastic change in size! 

Lots of tea, pins and my finger getting repeatedly pricked were involved (I think I should probably invest in a thimble, but if I do I want to make sure it is a pretty one).  As you can see I have yet to press out the seams on the reverse.  By pressing them all in the same direction it allows for a smoother finish and better gripping to the padding.

This is the patchwork as it currently stands.  I still have quite a bit of work to do for the border, which will involve more fabric, more blocks, and hopefully some appliqué work.  Please do excuse the slightly uneven sizing of the patchwork in these photographs, as the seams still need to be pressed it looks slightly askew in places.

Once the patchwork is complete, the hard part of the process really begins - cutting and hand sewing the padding and backing layers to the patchwork layer to make the actual quilt!

Currently playing: There Will Be Tears - Mr Hudson 



  1. Oh, goodness..you did amazing..I feel for you and all the hard work..especially, the finger pricks. I watched Jennifer's body again last night..and fell in love with a crochetted hat that Amanda wore in the lib. Well, I'm trying to make one. Hopefully, it'll turn out.

  2. I so love the steps you showed about making a quilt.

  3. You really made the colors pop. The way you used them in the pattern.

  4. I admire you even more now DK!
    The fabric is quite Liberty-esque!
    Enjoy your weekend dear

  5. Love it! My grandmother quilts, but her patterns tend to be much more subdued.


  6. Oh wow, I love what you've done so far! Talk about dedication. I've always wanted to make my own quilt, but I honestly don't know if I have the patience ;-) Gorgeous patterns you picked by the way. Always did have a weakness for Liberty prints!

  7. My mom used to quilt and would spend weeks on it. The first week was like a huge math equation. I'm so glad to read you are doing this. It looks great!

  8. Wow, great job! Those would make great, personal gifts!

  9. What an amazing job! Seriously the most gorgeous quilt I've seen and it;s not even complete. I think I might make a quilt over Christmas when I have time but I really doubt it will be as nice as yours. The Liberty fabric works so well

  10. great job. love the colors you are using.

  11. WOW, what an amazing work you're doing!!! Love it.


  12. That is SO awesome. I have always wanted to learn how to quilt!

  13. I'm very impressed with you, dear! That is an absolutely gorgeous quilt, and I applaud your effort to learn how to make it :) The color palette is stunning too, dear.

  14. What a fabulous thing to do DK! Can't wait to see this finished! You are very talented!

  15. love your blog so much and love this post

  16. That is very impressive. I love it. I've always thought it would be awesome to make a quilt.

  17. I know I've already said this on Twitter, but I love this project of yours :)