Friday, November 14, 2014

Notes from a novice quilter

Last month, I finished up my first twin-sized quilt! Here it is in all its wonky glory:

Scrap quilt

This is a scrap quilt in the truest sense of the word. Honest-to-goodness scraps, recycled -- some old shirts of Douglas' and my dad's, an old pillowcase, sewing project scraps, etc. It was backed with an old sheet. The only thing I paid for was the batting, which I think was about six bucks at Walmart.

This was a "learn by experience" project for me, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. I'm quite comfortable in the realm of garment sewing, but quilting is a whole different world. I had to Google a lot of things as I went along. :) I'm writing down some things I learned, for any other complete novices out there reading this. (And if you are more experienced and see a correction or addition that needs to be made to my list, please let me know in the comments!)
  • Use a rotary cutter as much as possible. Don't cut out your squares or shapes by hand if you can use a rotary cutter instead!
  • When you are piecing your quilt top, set your stitch length a little smaller. I set mine at 2.
  • Utilize chain piecing.
  • No need to press seams open. Press them to one side or the other.
  • I hand-basted this quilt together using a plain ol' needle and thread, because I was using what I had, but it was fairly time-consuming and cumbersome. Next time I would probably spring for some basting spray -- I haven't used any before, but I'm guessing it would be easier and faster.
  • When quilting with my walking foot, I set my stitch length a bit longer, at 3.
  • I decided to "stitch in the ditch" because I thought that it would be easy. Nope. It's actually pretty tricky!
  • I used this method to machine bind my quilt. It was adequate, but there were some spots on the back that didn't get "caught" by the stitching. Perhaps I should have pinned more. I wonder if using basting tape would help? I just couldn't face all that hand-stitching!
  • Last but not least... quilting takes a long time. It is a big project. Only embark on a quilt if you love the fabrics and design (even though I usually love scrap quilts, I am pretty "meh" about this one).
Right now, the quilt is on Edmund's bed, as he really needed a warm quilt! It's serving its purpose. I told the kids they can drag it around, make tents with it, etc. I don't mind if it gets dirty and well-used. Now that I've got a little experience under my belt, I have some more ideas and plan to make two more twin-sized quilts for the big kids. Looking forward to learning more as I go along!


  1. hooray!!! I think you are so smart in your approach. Quilting is a background project for me - I usually have one quilt on the go and I've found I much more enjoy handquilting with perle cotton than I do bunching it in under the walking foot or doing traditional handquilting with tiny needles and stitches. I have (on Ben's quilt) mixed machine quilting with some rows of handquilting - that was a nice balance.

    I baste my quilts by masking taping the layers to the floor and then safety-pinning through all three layers. I have thought about using basting spray, though.

    I love binding my quilts! I always handstitch the binding to the back - I pick out a good movie or two and wait until the kids are in bed. Also fun to do on a long car trip. I have made many many bound potholders over the years for my etsy shop, and these mini-quilts are really good practice for working with binding (I usually make my own and I don't cut on the bias) and mitered corners.

    Best wishes on your quilting journey!! I'm always happy to talk quilting if you wish.

  2. Thanks, Margo! I think we're on the save wave-length when it comes to quilting. It seems like I'm always "re-pinning" your pins to my "quilting inspiration" board on Pinterest. :) I really like the scrappy look of your hotpads.

    Good tips. I re-made my daughter's "lovey" quilt, which was completely falling apart, and handstitched the binding. It wasn't TOO bad... ;-)

  3. I have some true shirt scraps almost just like these, already cut and waiting for something grand to happen to them. Maybe this winter? Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Yes! Go for it! Can't wait to see something grand! :)

  4. Laura, your 'wonky' quilt is very special...all the love and memories tied up in the shirts and fabric scraps...makes me sentimental :) Also, the flat cap is really sharp, and it makes me feel like Edmund is a little man already...time goes WAY too fast! I love the photo - you are an excellent photographer. I see you changed blog you laid the original Quietude format to rest :( Sending hugs and love in Jesus to you, dear friend.

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline! Yes, Edmund is so grown up, it boggles my mind too. Thanks for letting me know about the blog format; it was just a little something my husband had changed but the graphics weren't showing up! It's a testament to how behind I am that I didn't even notice... lol. I talked to my "tech support" and he quickly fixed the problem.

  5. I am thinking that it's time I got a rotary cutter, as my so-called measured pieces often don't end up being the same size. I make do, but it would be nice to have at least some uniformity to depend on. :D

  6. Yes -- if you can make your pieces as uniform as possible, it makes for less stress when piecing, that's for sure!

  7. Have you heard of the board basting method? It is an easy, quick and perfect way to sandwich your quilt. On a table, seated on a chair; no more crawling over the floor with feelings of your back and knees being broken. In just a few hours it will be ready for quilting!
    It's my personal favorite way of basting a quilt and I have helped many quilters out. Once you have done it that way you can learn it to others and spread the method :>)
    Videos can be found on youtube.
    Good luck and enjoy!


  8. You might check out the Quilt in a Day shows on Youtube. I use safety pins to put my quilts together. Then remove them as I go along. I have also been known to HAND TIE a quilt such as the one you made. I have made a quilt out of old jeans that my husband and sons wore out. It was very bulky so would have been hard to quilt. I used light weight red yarn to tie it in each seam section. Then cut the ties to about an inch long. That quilt has been through 2 sons and 4 grandchildren now and is still being used. It is much loved. I am sure your quilt will be much loved too.

  9. I have just finished my first quilt and gave it to my sister-in-law (see link below). I did a 6 week course and watched one of the free online courses by Craftsy which I found more useful than the course I attended. Since then I have purchased several courses from Craftsy when they are discounted as they are so good. YouTube was ver useful for instructions on the binding. I now on to my next three quilts. Yours looks great, well done.

  10. I use safety pins to baste my quilt - even when I'm planning on hand quilting it. Lots of people love the basting spray because it is so fast, but it's nasty stuff and frankly, after trying it once I never used it again. It smells (and is) very toxic, and the overspray gets everywhere.

    Your first quilt is lovely! Wishing you joy with your new hobby.

  11. I've heard a lot of horror stories about basting spray but basting pins are awesome!! They are basically bent safety pins and work wonderfully and muchicj faster than basting!