Thursday, 27 June 2013

A patchwork quilt perfect to picnic on.

Having had a frankly vicious clear out of my wardrobe recently I had a red corduroy skirt and a very cute red white and blue dress that really were past their best. No chance on eBay and just rude to give to charity shops. Only one thing to do and that was to chop them up and attempt to make a patchwork quilt which would be large enough to cuddle under in the winter but small enough to lug around for a picnic blanket. I do like a multi-purpose project.

Through trial and error I finally think I may have some handy hints on the whole patchwork quilt thing that may not be 'correct' but I find have resulted in a reasonably competent result fairly quickly. So here goes.


Fabric scissors
Sewing machine
Padding or batting

Top Tip: I like to use old blankets for the padding. Cheaper than proper batting and stops the blankets going into landfill. Just run them through the washing machine to get rid of any moth or other nasties. 

Method - Time taken: It depends on the size but I reckon that it was about a 20 hour job spread over a number of evenings.

1. Decide how big you want your squares. To state the bloomin' obvious the larger the square the faster the project. I went for 21x21cm. Cut out your template. (Although there are 'proper' papers out there I always end up using paper swiped from my printer.)

2. Start cutting squares of fabric. Put a good film on the TV as this can get tedious.

Top Tip: Don't be tempted to cut more than one patch at a time. I find that one always ends up wonky.

3. Take your padding and lay it out on the floor  "What?" I hear you say! "Bit early for all that, isn't it?" The one thing that was driving me mad in the past was laying out the squares on the carpet to play with layout and then messing it all up as I forget what when where. SO! Lay out your padding and start playing with how you want it to look. When you are happy with it all pin the squares to the padding so that you don't lose the pattern if you can't do the whole lot in one sitting.

 This also means that you can fold the whole lot up and put it away. If like me you don't have enough fabric so need to hunt down a few more bits you can see where the gaps are and can come back to it later.

4. Squares all laid out. (I did a few mini squares to add some variation and use up some tiny bits of fabric.) Time to start stitching. This is the tricky part as the goal is to make it all match up like this:

This is the one part that even really experienced quilters (and I am really, really not including myself there) find a pain so give yourself a break and don't get too cross if it doesn't quite work every single time.

Top Tip: Put a bit of masking tape on your sewing machine to help you keep the same distance on every single square.

5. Once all the squares are nicely ironed strips pin two strips together face to face and sew together. Iron and keep adding strips.

6. Top of the quilt is done. Have a cuppa and congratulate yourself.

7. Pin the patchwork to the padding and trim the padding to fit it. (I suggest going over the edges by an inch at this stage.) Then spread out the bottom fabric and put it on top of the patchwork with the right sides together. Keep spreading and fiddling until it is all smooth and straight.

8  Pin like crazy. The more pins you use the less likelihood of slippage. It is worth pinning the three layers of fabric like this:

It is a pain to do but it stops slippage. (You can buy a walking foot for your sewing machine to help solve this problem but at £30 they are expensive unless you plan to make a lot of quilts.)

Sew the three layers together around around the outside. Leave an good sized hole in one of the sides to turn the whole lot inside out.

Top Tip: Ensure you have loads of cotton on your bobbin. Few things are more annoying than getting to the end of a seam and discovering that it is only half done because the cotton has run out.

9. Now cut away the excess padding as close to the seams as you can while leaving enough to hold it in place. Small scissors make this easier. Snip all three layers diagonally across the corners close to the seam to help the corners look pointy.

10. Turn it inside out and press the edges with a hot iron with plenty of steam. The aim is to get the edges to look neat and flat.

11. Sew up the hole in the side.

12. You are done! If you want to add some quilty definition you can. I machine sewed around the smaller blocks in the middle to pick out the pattern a little.

Top Tip: If the bottom fabric is a different colour to the top use a different coloured thread in the bobbin so that the stitching is more discreet.

Have a picnic in the park. Or if the weather isn't going your way have an indoor picnic. I would seriously recommend an indoor picnic. It feels like being a child again with a tent made out of blankets.

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