Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Well now.  I made a patchy-work quilt!  It's not a traditional one, with fantastically precise geometry, but kind of a wildly modern one of mismatched and layered patches.  Gee's Bend is not where I live, obviously. 

In the process, I've learned quite a lot.   

Firstly, I love fabric.  I love pattern.  I love color.  Really, I do!  No matter that I strive to have 100% black and monochrome wardrobe.  What is available to you now at any well-stocked fabric store is amazing, and these designers always release collections that work so eccentrically well together.  This was a collection of fat quarters I had picked up here and there for the past year, almost always heavily discounted as last year's pattern collection.  Liberty, Westminster Fabrics, Rowan, Amy Butler.  I went for blues-greens-yellows in various electric shades and amassed enough to start thinking about a project that would take up more fabric than a tote bag.  Originally, I had no real desire to quilt, as it seemed like a process that would be taking me down quite the rabbit hole.  Whatever, I did it anyway.  It's not like I'm going to be sitting by the fire and hand-stitching this.

The original pile of scraps

I chose a pattern for the quilt top in Amy Butler's In Stitches book and roughly followed it.  She called for bigger chunks of fabric; I pieced together fat quarter pieces until I got the patch dimensions right, sometimes sewing together several lengths of scraps to get where I needed to.

Stitched-together quilt top

I don't have a long-arm sewing machine, so I figured a full-sized quilt top would be easiest to deal with since feeding the entire quilt through the tiny gap allowance on my Singer was anxiety-inducing.

Rather weirdly, in the Amy Butler pattern, she has you sew the quilt top pieces onto muslin backing.   From everything else I read about quilts, I found nothing about doing that technique, and I just sewed the quilt top together.  That ended up being the easiest step.

Once I had that done, I found 4.5 meters of fantastically contrasting fabric for the backing- a geometric print in similar blue-greens from Westminster called "Summer Tweed", and some lightweight cotton-poly blend quilt batting.  Or wadding, as they call it in the UK.  

So the basic quilting 101 theory is this (in case you are a complete amateur like me):  you need to make a sandwich with the backing, the batting and the quilt top.  You pin it all together (or you can sew about a thousand tailor's tacks to hold it together).  Preferably with safety pins if you choose to pin.  I did not.  Feeding a quilt with a hundred pins holding it together through the machine led to blood.  It was mine.  I pricked my hands constantly before I wised up to why the instructions specified safety pins at this point.    

et voila!  a finished quilt

 With your layers sandwiched together, you sew around all your patches.  Once it's secured, you can figure out your quilting lines- the decorative stitching on top that will secure the batting in place so you don't end up with it bunched up in every corner, and to add interest to the quilt top.

This was the hardest part for me.    There was much rolling and turning and pushing and pulling to get all the quilt lines down.  I tried to start in the centre and work my way out, and just did alternating sections of vertical and horizontal stripes either 1" or 2" apart.  This step took days, and a few days more of the quilt being in time-out as I learned to walk away.

My biggest problem was the thread.  I chose, after much deliberation, a light weight cream thread in 100% poly.  At first, I thought an acid lime green would be just wonderful, but after realizing my quilting lines might be quite imperfect, I decided to go with the subtle.


I had so many problems with this thread and tension.  It was maddening.  Next time, I'll choose a thicker thread.  Almost every time I stopped the machine, or even paused, the thread would manage to wind around the bottom bobbin and I'd have to stop, clip the threads, untangle and re-thread every single time.  It just wasn't right.  I also ended up ripping back quite a lot once it was done to fix spots where the tension was wonky enough to make it look sloppy.

The other thing I really struggled with was the bias tape.  I hate picky-picky work like that (I normally just go out and BUY the stuff, pre-folded), but I used the leftover meterage from the quilt back to tie the edges together with homemade bias tape.  It went...a bit sloppy.  I had to go around the entire quilt a second time as the front and back of the tape ended up not always keenly matching up.

So yes, this did cause me a bit of pain and suffering.  No, it's not quite big enough to cover a queen-sized bed, and it won't be winning any prizes at the county fair, unless the county population is exactly 1.  But look- it's all my favorite scraps of fabric, all haphazardly stitched together in a nice summer-weight blanket.  It's functional, I swear it!  I don't know if I'm jumping on the quilting bandwagon any time soon, but it was a really nice way to teach myself and understand the technique, and a good excuse to start hoarding more fabric scraps.

I love it despite its imperfections.


  1. If I was at the county fair, you'd get a HUGE blue ribbon! PRETTY...useful...and adding even more color to your flat!

  2. I second that blue ribbon! Thank you for the visual of your folding the quilt with hundreds of pins, cursing and bleeding. (I know you were cursing, lol) It was very true to life. I'm pretty sure I've been there before, and it's nice not to be alone in my inept sewing ways. The resulting quilt looks quite serviceable, so I believe you reached your goal. Love it! Miss you and hope you had a Happy Easter!

  3. This quilt is lovely! I really like all the colours.
    Great job!