Friday, September 14, 2012

Quilting Bee!

Right now, I'm working on a custom quilt order for a little guy from a pretty cool family. I thought I'd share some quilting tips and the progress as it goes along. I have a ton of open orders with my Etsy shop, so I obviously have to keep working on them and doing the quilt a little each day. Right now, I'm working on 2 quilt blocks per day. It will have a total of 20 blocks, so the quilt front should be complete in 10 days. 

Annnnnyway, have you ever made a quilt? You should! They are great and relatively simple, and you have a really special keepsake around forever. 

So, let's talk about this quilt. It is made of primary colors, and I'm constructing a 20 blocks framed in solid colors. If you want to make a quilt, you have to do math. Sorry, English majors. That's just the way it is... but I'll tell you a secret... GRAPH PAPER!  

I knew this quilt needed to measure 48 x 60 inches. So, I printed out a sheet of graph paper from the web and literally counted the blocks. I also made marks at 12 inch increments. This naturally divided the quilt into 20 blocks. I then decided that I would use black 1 inch binding around the edge. I colored 1 inch around the edge black. Next, I chose to make the solid color frames on each of the blocks 2 inches wide. Because the blocks that are on the outer edges of the quilt will have the black binding on top of them, the frames appear smaller on the outside edges. I started to color the frames. I knew I didn't want black frames touching the outside edge, so I strategically placed them. Otherwise, I chose the color pattern "somewhat" randomly.

Now, I can clearly see the white inside of my block frames. I divided it into fourths. This made 4 inch squares. I decided not to preselect every fabric for the inside squares, though. So, that's how I came up with the basic quilt plan.

I purchased this fun fabric selection from Joann's, 21 fat quarters, and it will be enough to construct the front and back of the quilt. I also purchased 2 packages of black quilt binding, which are 3 yards each. The perimeter of my quilt is 6 yards (which I figured out by doing a lot of math in my head), so it should be just right. 

Next up - CUTTING. Okay, so I refined my picture a little more and added some more information. When you cut pieces for a quilt, you have to remember to add 1/4 inch to each edge, in order to be able to sew the pieces together and have them come out the size you want them to be. This took my quilt squares from being 4 x 4 inches to becoming 4.5 x 4.5 inches. Make sense? I then decided to do two strips on the sides of each block, which should measure 8.5 x 2.5 inches, and two long strips at the top and bottom of each block, measuring 12.5 x 2.5 inches. You with me? I started writing down the number of each that I needed to cut in each color.

I like to make templates to use for cutting. I find it makes the process MUCH quicker. I used some cardstock and cut out each of the sizes I'd need to use. I stacked up my fabrics and used a rotary cutter to cut through about 6 layers at a time. I think the whole process took me about an hour. No biggie!

Once all my fabrics were cut, it was time to start sewing! I referred to my graph paper guide, and figured out the four color blocks that would make up the top row. I first just laid out the blocks.

Next, I selected the squares that I wanted to use inside each block. 

Selecting two of the 4.5 inch squares at a time, I placed them right sides together. As you can see, I stacked them so that I could easily see my next set of 2. 

To the sewing machine! This is one of the VERY BEST QUILTING TIPS I'VE EVER LEARNED!!! PAY ATTENTION!!! Sew a straight line down the edges of your quilt squares, but don't stop! Grab your next set of squares and keep going! There will be a short line of thread connecting all the squares at the end. 

See? I have this long line of sewn-together quilt squares. This makes the entire process MUCH faster than stopping and starting every time you sew two blocks together. 

Simply snip the connecting threads and open up the pieces. Now, lay the 2 sewn-together squares right sides together with their companion pieces. Repeat the process. 

Now you have a string of blocks! Snip 'em apart!

Using the same technique, sew on the sides of your quilt blocks.

Repeat the process one more time to sew on the top and bottom. One quilt square, COMPLETE!

Finally, I referred back to my original plan and sewed together the entire row. No problemo!

Press all your seams open with a hot iron, and get to work on your next row. The quilt top will be complete in no time!


  1. The math of making a quilt is what makes me nervous!!!! I should get my engineer husband to figure it out for me!

  2. hahah! :) Use the graph paper. It makes it SOOOO much easier.