Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to make a simple patchwork quilt

This is an older post I thought some of you might like to see again, since I've updated it with the completed second quilt for S, plus a few other tips I've picked up along the way.

A few days before L's first birthday, I decided to make her a quilt as her present. I'm spontaneous like that.

Problem was, I'd never made one before and I'm not the world's greatest seamstress.

I searched You Tube for simple tutorials but couldn't find what I was looking for. In the end I just decided to have a crack at it, under the tutelage of my friend and craft buddy, Hannah.

This is what I created:

Finding the fabric for this quilt was the first step and I was lucky. One of the home decor shops in Hamilton was having a closing down sale so I was able to purchase a designer fabric sample book for just $30.

I removed all the fabric samples from the book and laid them out on the floor to get an idea of which colours looked good together. I moved to the side any fabrics I didn't want to use, until I was only left with the ones you see above.

What I should have done next is wash all the fabric. I've learned the hard way that fabric shrinks after washing, so some of my squares have pulled apart and required stitching back together.

I didn't know how big the quilt was going to be, it really depended on how much fabric I had. I just made it as big as I could, which turned out to fit perfectly in L's cot. Happy coincidence.

Now, I don't have any fancy quilting tools, so to cut the fabric into squares I simply used a 10cm x 10cm ceramic tile as a stencil and drew around it with a pen onto the reverse side of my cloth. Then I cut around the lines with sewing scissors to get as many blocks as possible from my fabric samples.

The next step was fun. I laid all the squares out on a white sheet on the floor, moving them around until I had the design I wanted.

Then I started at the bottom right-hand corner and wrote the code A1 on the back of it, then A2 on the one just left of it and B1 on the one just above it. All the blocks got a number that would tell me where in the quilt they were meant to go. I was so glad for this code later, as bits of cloth often got muddled up while I was sewing.

To get started I laid A1 on top of B1, right-sides together, pinned them and then stitched along one edge, leaving a 10mm seam. (I think a 15mm seam would make a more solidly constructed quilt, but I didn't have enough fabric for that.)

When opened up, the sewn-together blocks look like this:

Next I sewed C1 to D1, then E1 to F1, etc, and then all of the pairs from column one together in one long line.

I started on the next column, A2 to B2, C2 to D2, etc, and once that whole column was sewn together, I sewed it to column one, right sides together again. First though, I ironed all the seems flat on both columns, so they wouldn't twist and bunch when sewed to each other.

Slowly the quilt came together, pair by pair, column by column, until all the blocks were sewn together.

For backing, I cut up an old white sheet to the size of the block-work quilt, and pinned it right-side together on top of the quilt.

To pad the quilt, I cut up an old duvet inner that was basically just batting. I pinned it on top of the white sheet, and then sewed around the whole lot 15mm in, leaving a little gap at one corner so I could turn the whole quilt right-side out. I hand-stitched that little hole once the quilt was the right way.

Then I sewed around the whole quilt again, but this time one block in. I did this so the quilt would lay flat and all the edges would stay where they're meant to.

I love this quilt so much. Every time I tuck L into bed I feel a sense of satisfaction that I actually made it.

When I was pregnant with baby number two, I sewed another quilt. At the time I didn't know whether I was having a girl or boy, so was lucky S turned out to be a girl as the quilt is very girly. I made it using all the pinky-red fabrics from the fabric sample book.

For this quilt, I modified how I sewed the blocks together. Instead of sewing one whole row to another, I sewed two blocks to two blocks, so that I could always centre them neatly around one middle point.

This technique helped all my blocks line up a lot better than when I sewed a completed strip to a completed strip like with the first quilt.

This quilt took a lot longer to sew than the first one, because my sewing machine was broken so I hand-stitched the whole thing. To get my 10mm seam, I measured with a ruler and drew a line where I need to sew.

In the picture below, I'm measuring a white border to go around the whole quilt, as I didn't have quite enough red fabric to fit the cot. You can see in the picture I'm marking 10mm to show me where to stitch.

I actually really like the look of the white border, so this turned out to be a happy fix I chose.

Here's a picture of my trusty tile, back in action for the second quilt.

One of the things I like best about these projects is that, apart from buying the sample book, I've been able to make these quilts with things I already had in the house and wasn't using. Frugal culture!

L was really interested in what I was sewing, and I like that she's seen me make something from scratch. At least she knows we can make things - they don't all have to come from the store in plastic packaging.

Here's the finished red quilt, and the beautiful S I sewed it for.

What crafty projects have you been working on lately?


  1. Love it Emma. Nice work. I have been thinking of making a quilt so this is really helpful. Merry Christmas. Have a great break. Jodie.

  2. love it! you must have a lot of patience doing the 2nd one by hand! well done :) i am busy busy busy trying to make all our of our gifts this year for our family :) happy christmas!

  3. Hey Gina, I saw one of the toys you made Liam for Christmas and it was sooooo cool. I would never have guessed it was homemade. You have skills!

  4. They are very lovely. I think you may have just inspired me to get a quilt I started awhile back finished. It is my first quilt I started for my daughter and as I am a very basic sewer I sort of gave up on it.

  5. So glad you posted this Emma, I'd love to make one before the baby arrives! I'm wondering if I can find a fabric sample book for sale somewhere!!! Your quilts are lovely :-) Jo

  6. Really lovely Emma! You've inspired me as well to start looking around my place for fabric remnants...

  7. Gorgeous quilt Emma! You were so clever to find that sample book! Thanks for posting this again, its made me realise that quilting isn't so difficult and mysterious, maybe one day I will give it a go too.


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