Friday, August 10, 2007

Lessons in Quilting

Over the past fifteen years I have made at least a dozen quilts. I don't consider myself an expert quilter, but I am fairly good. I have just completed my first quilt-as-you-go project and thought I would pass on to you what I have learned.

Quilting as you go is an exciting option. Your initial discovery, like mine, is likely to be that the the loft of the batting creates an interesting variability, resulting in blocks that are significantly different sizes. These however may be paired, sewn together to make adorable throw pillows.

As usual methods of "squaring up blocks" will be impossible, you will also have the opportunity to develop completely new methods of sizing the blocks. You want to produce blocks that are consistent in size, and whose backing extends out further than the block.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to ensure that the block stays square with respect to the backing. Some of your blocks are likely to go askew. Examine the photo below. The right side of the block has been folded over so that you can see that the top of the block extends beyond the backing.

These blocks also make excellent throw pillows.

Since the loft of the backing will be making your block come out smaller than anticipated, it will be tempting to sew with very scant seams. I recommend against this however as the seams may pull a part.

Blocks with this feature do not make good throw pillows. If you are growing low on fabric and patience, you may wish to zigzag, using so called "invisible" thread over some of the weak seams.

When you sew the blocks together requires two seams, the second of which is tricky. See, you have to sew through all the layers and as far as I can figure out, you need to sew it from the back of the quilt. Of course most people will be looking at the top of the quilt. You should therefore attempt to "stitch in the ditch," meaning that you should stitch in the same place as the joining seam on the front. This will be difficult since you cannot see that seam and will have to do it by feel. Just remember though, if the line of sewing must show, it will look reasonably okay if you simply keep the seam line straight. You may need to click on the photo below to see exactly what I mean.

As with any quilt, it is important to trim your blocks to the same size and make consistent seams. Doing this results in a quilt that lays perfectly flat, always an indication of a well-made quilt.


  1. So, it sounds like you hand-sew, which is really impressive. Growing up in a quilting house, I know how much time that takes. Just as a side question, have you ever watched Fons & Porter on PBS? I have a DVR here, so I always record all their episodes for my mom. I don't really "get" sewing besides understanding the love that goes into it, but she really gets into learning all their new techniques and stuff.

  2. I have hand-sewn a lot of quilts, but this one is definitely a machine quilt.


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