I don't know why, but I've always been totally intimidated by quilters. I mean, I'm a mad sewer and seamstress extraordinaire if I do say so myself, but there is something about the little intricacies of bits and pieces of quilting fabric. This goes here, this goes there, wait, what do I do with this piece? And how do I make it match up with that one?! I signed up for a quilting class recently and I am super excited to take it. But in the meantime...
One of my best friends is having a baby. I really wanted to make her new little addition a special baby blanket. One that was almost Charlie Brown-ish. (think Linus' security blanket that he takes everywhere) I wanted it to be that special. I knew I didn't want to crochet it, and I knew that I wanted it to be warm and cushiony so that she could lay him on it on the floor if she wanted to. I had some great leftover linen from making her a baby sling, so I looked around for other complementary fabric that I could match with it; and as not to overwhelm myself, I figured, how hard could a bunch of squares be? Also, with it only being a baby blanket, the size wouldn't be overwhelming either. Here's what went down:
I used a CD case as a template for my squares, which are actually more rectangular, because of the CD case shape, but it worked perfect. I cut out 36 total, from 4 different fabrics. My quilt would be 6x6 blocks. I then laid them on the living room floor so I could arrange them the way I wanted to. Keeping aware of the seam lines, I knew I would lose quite a bit of fabric, so make sure when you estimate a good size for yourself, you remember that you will lose inches when sewing. Arrange your blocks in whatever pattern appeals to you.
Start with the first row and sew all the pieces together, the way they're set up on the floor. I laid each one back down on the ground after sewing so that I wouldn't get backwards with my pattern. It's easy to do, trust me. Better being overly cautious than having to grab your seam ripper. Once you finish that row, lay it back on the ground in the right pattern and move on to the next row. Finish each row the same. Now moving back to the first line, iron the seams down in one direction. This will make it easier to sew together. Make sure that each rows' seams all lie in the same direction. Now it's time to join the rows together. Start with rows 1 and 2. Sew together in the direction that your ironed seams will lay flat. Continue with the rest of your rows. At this point, I like to iron down the new longer seams and stitch them flat. It will make it easier to stitch in the ditch later on. It does for me anyway. But remember, this is my first quilt, and I'm only relaying what works best for me.
Have a piece of fleece or cotton batting handy that is slightly larger than your sewn quilt blocks. Lay your quilt on the fleece right side up and pin each square in the center to the material. This helps hold your cloth in place so that it doesn't shift or stretch too much, though it still might do so. That's why you want your fleece to be bigger than your quilt blocks. It doesn't matter what you use for batting, as long as it's breathable, washable, and thick enough to give you the cushion you want. You won't be able to see it in your finished quilt. Take the whole thing back to your machine, or if you're hand sewing, work where you're comfortable, and start sewing in the ditch. Just follow each seam line with your needle, creating the raised quilt affect. I'm sure this has a technical name, but I don't know what it is. I make up my own words anyway. :) Stitch around the whole outside of the quilt as well, with about 1/4 inch of allowance, attaching the edges to the fleece.
Take the time now to clip any loose strings so that you are not overwhelmed in the end. Lay your quilt down (right side up) on a larger solid piece of fabric, preferably similar to that of your top for washing convenience. The edges of your bottom piece should extend 2 inches from your quilt blocks. I used a solid dark brown to match my quilt. I'll just use the word brown to talk about that piece of fabric. Using your pins, fold the edge of the brown fabric inward to match the edge of the quilt. Do this all the way around. Coming back to the beginning, remove your pins one at a time, and fold the brown fabric inward again, this time overlapping your quilt. Pin it down again. Repeat this step all the way around, turning in the corners if you like before folding in. Sew down your edging in whatever way you like. You can use any fancy stitch that appeals to you, or just straight stitch it all the way around. I used a double straight stitch close to the inner edges.
If you like, you can stitch in the ditch again, or you can do what I did, which is just to thread a needle with embroidery thread and stitch down from the top and up through the bottom in a few corner blocks and then tie the edges of the thread together in a double knot. This helps to hold the quilt together to keep it from bunching. If you're really crafty, you can embroider something bigger in the quilt as a whole, or use your machine to freehand stitch it in curves and angles or other fun shapes.
All done! This makes a great new baby gift. It could also be a great seasonal gift if you used fabrics to match holidays and such. Or even a family heirloom using special garments that mean something to those you love! Be creative and use your heart and imagination! Happy sewing!
Update: I took that quilting class and I am definitely hooked! As far as technique goes, my "just winging it" version was very similar to what was instructed in the class. However, the binding instructions were totally different. While it was great to learn a new skill, I think I'll stick with my way for now! I can't wait to make more!
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