OMG I’m actually making a quilt

I’ll spare you the lengthy foreword and just say that I decided that a new baby in the family needs something in her life that isn’t pink, and I wanted to finally get around to making a quilt, so a happy serendipity has occurred. Here’s what I’m up to, with the very generous help of a very accomplished friend who has the years of experience in sewing that I lack, but aim to accumulate. Here’s the process so far.

Day 0

The fabrics I chose

  • Decide on pattern: 3-colour rail fence pattern with equal-width strips, each block to be a 6″ finished square
  • Purchase 0.5 metre each of the yellow, green, and blue cotton cloth used in the quilt top (45″ width), as well as a spool of white polyester thread
    • This works out to 42 squares of the size and pattern I decided on
    • When laid out in a 5×8 grid, this works out to 30″ x 40″, and a 2″ border makes it just shy of a standard crib quilt size (36″ x 52″)
    • I didn’t plan this out at all when I bought the cloth, so I guess this is very lucky! Would have been better if they were all actually the same width since I got one more full 2.5″ wide strip from one colour than I did the other two

Hours spent: about 0.5 hour browsing, cutting, and buying fabric; countless hours casually browsing quilting sites to find a pattern that’s easy enough for a beginner but not so simple as to bore me silly

Money spent: ~ $14

Day 1

Pieced strips waiting to be ironed

  • Partially disassemble, clean, oil, and re-clean sewing machine
  • Quickly sketch out intended pattern on graph paper to keep on target
  • Iron all fabric to be used
  • With self-healing mat, clear ruler, and rotary cutter, cut off frayed edge of fabric from one side and square the remainder
    • When cutting, lean heavily on the ruler and cut firmly away from body (rotary cutters are nothing to mess with)
    • Always replace guard on the cutter before stepping away from the table
    • Remember to periodically re-tighten the nut that is the only thing holding the extremely sharp, dangerous blade to the handle, because apparently cutter manufacturers think that’s an acceptable risk to introduce to the process
    • Nothing can possibly go wrong here
  • Cut 2.5″ wide strips of each fabric using this strip piecing technique
  • Line up two strips at the inner edge of the selvage, pin, and sew together with a 0.25″ seam allowance
    • Always piece with right sides of fabric together
  • Press all seams flat (no steam), either opening them to either side or pressing both toward the darker fabric
    • See here for discussion of the differences
    • Use your non-ironing hand to pull the fabric taut to make sure the seam opens as much as it can
  • Line up the remaining strips with one of the two joined strips, and repeat the pinning, sewing, and pressing process
  • Cut 6.5″ squares out of the pressed tricolour strip

Hours spent: 4, some of which included cutting help from my quilting buddy/mentor

Day 1.5

  • Acquire 2 metres of 45″ cotton for backing and 1 metre 60″ polyester fleece for batting

Hours spent: about 0.5 hour at the actual store, leaving out the errands surrounding the trip.

Money spent: ~$16, not including gas.

Day 2

The “quilt sandwich” before pinning

  •  Lay out squares as intended, then pin then in pairs to be pieced together (using the usual 0.25″ seam allowance)
  • Work on joining together all the squares in a row first, opening (or pressing flat) and ironing the seams as before
  • When all rows are joined, join the rows together in pairs, using pins to keep the seams aligned
    • Feel free to keep one layer tauter than the other when sewing if this means it’ll help seams line up
    • Press open the seams joining rows together to help reduce overall bulk
    • Work from the outside in — last seam should be joining the two halves of the quilt top together
  • Give the entire quilt top back a good pressing to keep the seams flat
  • If trimming the edges of the quilt top for evenness instead of marking it, do so now
  • Lay backing on table or floor (right side down), centre fleece on top of that, and centre quilt top (right side up) on fleece
  • Use basting pins to pin all three layers together, one pin in each square, as well as several pins around the edge of the quilt
  • Use a bright, contrasting thread to make four basting lines starting from the centre and radiating outwards
    • Starting from the centre reduces the risk of unmanageable puckering
    • This will be pulled out later, so make sure it’s an easily seen and the longest stitch length on the machine (or do by hand)
  • Use topstitching thread to quilt the layers together, in this case with the stitch-in-the-ditch technique

Hours spent: 5.5, some of which included ironing and pinning help from my quilting buddy

Day 3

  • Finish quilting the sandwich
  • If using marking to even the edges of the quilt top, do it now
  • For a “self binding quilt” border with the maximum possible width with least possible waste:
    • Measure excess backing to find side with narrowest measurement between quilt top and edge of backing
      • The narrowest border in this case is 5″, so trim all backing fabric to 5″
    • Take 0.5″ (or 0.25″) off the above measurement (you will fold the raw edge in by this much and press it), then divide the result by 2 to get what the batting width should be trimmed to
      • In this case, 5 inches – 0.5 inch = 4.5 inches, divided in half = 2.25 inches for the batting width
    • Carefully fold backing away from batting and trim batting to appropriate width

Hours spent: 3.5 or so

Day 4

  • Press the entire quilt top and back using a not-too-hot iron (avoid melting batting)
  • Press 0.5″ hem (wrong sides together) inward all around edge of backing
  • Fold backing in half so that the hem edge is just inside the marked line around the edge of the quilt top, then press fold
  • Pin edge in place, starting from the middle of the edge and working outwards (stop about 5″ from corner)
  • Stitch binding down, stopping 5″ from corners
  • Create a mitred corner
  • Carefully look over front and back of quilt for loose ends and trim/restitch as needed
  • Toss the entire thing into the laundry

Hours spent: 5 or so — my mother insisted on showing me how to do mitred corners, and there was a language barrier, not to mention my sewing machine had started acting up again. I was pulling out more threads than I cared for, and eventually put the whole damn thing away for several months.

Now to just label the quilt and (finally) send it off to the recipient.

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