Almost as soon as I finished my baby bundle quilt back in January, we found out my mum would be spending a few days in hospital the following week. I wanted to surprise her with a happy, colourful, cosy quilt to take with her. We were living with her at the time so to keep it a secret I had to whip out the sewing machine every time she left the house and then quickly stash everything back away before she came home. (One of the few times I’ve regretted how heavy my machine is!) I only had about a week to get it done and she was home for most of that time so this quilt was cranked out quickly.
I’m no master sewer (pyjama cat was the first thing I sewed on a machine, the baby quilt was second). Seriously. If I can do this, you can do this. Probably better! I’ve included a glossary at the end of this post because I don’t want to scare anyone off quilting by using quilter code. So if anything confuses you, just keep reading (or click on the hyper link) and if you’re still confused at the end, ask me!
My need for speedy sewing was why I used a pre-cut layer cake for most of the squares (it was the etchings by moda collection), plus five extra fat quarters. I had intended for the next quilt after the baby quilt to be fancier (I really want to make a log cabin or farmer’s wife sampler quilt) but time was of the essence so I just kept the squares as they came. (The fat quarters were just quartered so they became the same size as the squares from the layer cake). Hence the slogan above: “Done is better than perfect.” (It’s actually a double slogan as the pictures for this post are totally imperfect but I finished this quilt about three months so so at this stage, done is better than perfect, right?) (slogan image from here)
To decide how I wanted the squares to go together, I just laid them all out on my bed, fiddled around with them until I was happy and then took a few pictures (with my ipad, hence the quality) so I could remember the layout. I then piled each row up into a stack and laid the stacks out in order. This made it easy to sew each row together, then sew the next row together and attach it to the first row, and so (sew!) on. As a reference I used my beloved autostitch to create a panorama that showed approximately (although not beautifully) how the whole quilt would look, so I could refer to it whenever I had a dither about which stack was which row and which end it needed to be sewn on. (I recommend this, by the way.)
This picture shows some of the “extra fat quarters” that weren’t part of the etchings pack – the red stripes, the cherries, the flowers in a blue grid (can’t find that one!) and those other flowers on a white background (just above the red stripes). I also bought extra of the grey floral – because it was my favourite. You can see I also used it for the binding.
I put my favourite fabric (paris!) in a prominent corner position:
Again, time was short so no step by step pictures of this quilt. It was pretty much just a bigger version of the baby quilt (simpler, in fact, since I didn’t add a border). I’m so glad I made the little quilt first though, since various stages of this (making the quilt sandwich, quilting, binding) were made arduous just by the size of it and I was glad that I wasn’t struggling to learn new techniques at the same time as wrestling this thing around.
I realised towards the end of my photo shoot that I hadn’t included anything that would give you a sense of scale, so hence this picture with my shoes in it.
In terms of size, I wanted something that would be perfect for a twin hospital bed, but also perfect for recuperating on the sofa at home. I didn’t want it to be too big and unwieldly to take to the hospital, but I also wanted a size that would still be good to have around after mum was better. I remembered my mum mentioning that this one woollen blanket she had was the perfect size for napping on the sofa, so I measured that. When I tried snuggling under it, though, I felt it was a little short so I added a bit of length to be long enough to tuck under cold feet. With all this in mind, and some re-jiggering once I laid out my squares, the size I ended up with was 150cm x 182cm. After three months of use, my mum reports this is perfect for illness and convalescence. But she would say that it’s perfect, she’s my mum!
I failed to get a very good picture of the backing, but it was all this white floral fabric. Although I loved the contrast stitching on the backing of the baby quilt, I felt this fabric was busy enough so did the quilting in white. If the fabric seems familiar, it’s because it used to be our duvet cover! It was a badly constructed Ikea cover (you know the ones with no buttons or poppers along the bottom that don’t keep their shape very well?) but we’d used it so much it was lovely and soft. I was going to buy fabric and make a backing in some co-ordinating fabric, buuut, by this point I’d bought lots of lovely fabric for two different quilts over the course of a fortnight, plus lots of batting and, to be honest, I decided I could not afford new fabric for backing. Plus… by this point I was pleased that by using half a king sized duvet, I wouldn’t have to do any extra sewing to piece the back together! I’m now eyeing all the double duvet covers we have (that we no longer use since we upgraded to king) for use as future quilt backs.
Machine quilting this thing was long, tiring work. I used transparent thread on the top of the baby quilt (with red in the bobbin) and it was perfect for that but it was quite difficult to work with, so for this I decided just to use white. It’s for my mum and I knew the handmade-ness and imperfection of it would make it more appealing to her so it didn’t have to look professional. If I ever make a bigger quilt, I think I’ll hand tuft it. I love the way it looks and I like the idea of finishing it slowly in front of the television one winter. Plus, like I said, quilting this on the machine was hard on my hands, my back, my eyes and my patience!
On both quilts I finished the binding by hand after realising that in the amount of time I’d spent researching how to bind well with the machine I could have finished it by hand. Turns out that was one of my favourite parts of quilting. It’s simple enough to do and it’s so pure- just you, a needle and thread and the final step of a handmade gift made with love for a baby you can’t wait to meet or your adored mother. So don’t be scared of hand stitching! It’s easy to hide all your mistakes and it will make you feel like an invincible seamstress! (but do get a thimble of some sort, or you’ll feel like an invincible seamstress with a sore finger).
So there you have it, my second quilt. The fabrics don’t all match and the backing doesn’t really fit the front. It’s not fancy and it’s not perfect. But my mum loves it and I love knowing I made it for her.
A quick quilting glossary:
(Because quilting is full of unintelligible language, which makes the whole thing seem much more complex and impossible than it really is.) Seriously, if I can do it, you can do it! You really can! Remember – done is better than perfect.
“layer cake’”– Fabric companies make ranges of co-ordinating fabrics designed for quilting. You can then buy a selecltion of the whole range in either a “charm pack” (small squares), a “jelly roll” (strips) or a “layer cake” (10 inch squares) – like a sample pack. They look like this.
“fat quarter” – a quarter yard cut of fabric, but cut in a way to keep the proportions useful (ie. you cut the yard into four squarish quarters rather than four long thin ones). I have no idea why they have these silly names.
“quilting” – Although quilt making in general is called quilting, it also refers to the way you attach your three layers together. You can do it by hand either by hand tying or sewing by hand, or machine quilting like I did here. There are lots of tutorials out there , but here’s one thing to know- they all recommend a walking foot, but I didn’t have one and couldn’t afford one so I didn’t use one on either quilt and it was fine! I just started in the centre, went outwards in all four directions first (to stabilise things) and then systematically worked down every line to get a grid. On this quilt I “stitched in the ditch” (that means along the seams) on the blocks first and then filled in the middle of each square. I kept the lines as straight as possible by cutting a piece of card that marked the distance to the nearest seam and using that as a guide as I sewed.
The most important thing here is to just go for it. Trust me, you won’t ruin all your hard work. I know how it is! You get to this point and you’re so in love with your nearly finished quilt that you’re worried you’re going to ruin it all on this step. You won’t. You can unpick a line of quilting easily and invisibly. Just do it.
“making the quilt sandwich” – When you lay out the three layers (backing, batting, quilt top) to get them ready for quilting. You then “baste” them together with spray, tacking stitches or curved safety pins. I use curved safety pins. Here’s a good tutorial.
“binding” – The strip of fabric around the edge (on this quilt it’s grey with pinky red flowers). Here’s a good tutorial on how to make it and attach it but the best tutorial I found for joining the ends together invisibly at the end was here. Here’s a machine binding tutorial, which I haven’t used. It looks good enough but I just love how magic hand binding looks because you can’t see the stitching!
PS. One last thing! I’ve had an instagram account for ages but decided to use it this weekend to document what was going on – putting on my painting outfit, painting a chest of drawers and photographing the quilt. I’m still not sure if I’ll use it a lot but I’m annabelvita if you’d like to be friends over there!