Patchwork – A First Try (Part Two)

For Part One of this article, please see:

This is part Two of my discussion about patchwork quilting.

In Part One of this article, I talked briefly about the templates that I am using for my quilt.  Since writing part one, I have done a bit of research on the internet, particularly on local Ebay.  I find there is a wide range of templates available.  Some are paper, others plastic or perspex.  The range of shapes that are available is considerable.  While I personally prefer the metal templates that I have made, I saw none that were made of metal that can be readily purchased.

I have just a couple of thoughts to offer on templates.  The first is that the smaller the shapes that you use to create your quilt, the more sewing you are going to do, the more opportunities there will be for errors to creep in and the more time you are going to take, before you achieve a result.  I reckon it is better to start out as I have, with a simple and basic quilt that is basically simple squares of 8 1/2″.  Even at that size, I still needed ninety squares which took a considerable time to cut out.  The second point, related to the first, concerns shapes.  DSCF0934Making a quilt of ninety squares is wonderful practice for doing straight seams with a consistent seam allowance.  But it is far simpler than the technical skills required to accurately sew a quilt that is made up of small pieces and complex shapes.  If you are a novice stitcher like me, you are far more likely to enjoy making a quilt, if you keep it simple and can get it completed in a reasonable time frame.  Leave the more complex challenges for a subsequent project, when you will have the experience of one or two basic quilts to build upon.  DSCF0938And finally, it is very important that any template that you use is accurate and that you cut out your pieces carefully and accurately.  It is difficult enough to sew together a large number of accurately made squares, such that they will line up closely and look pleasing.  If your shapes aren’t accurate to begin with, it’s impossible.


The style and appearance of your finished quilt will obviously be influenced by the type and quantity of material that you have available.  Many people actually purchase completely new materials to make a quilt.  These can be obtained already colour coordinated and plans are available to ensure that the finished product will conform to a predictable result with no nasty surprises.  For me, this would defeat the entire point of making a quilt …. namely, to create something beautiful and useful from entirely recycled materials.  It does take a lot of time to make a quilt and I imagine that many people can’t afford to spend their limited recreation time in foraging through scrap materials, cutting out shapes and planning a suitable layout.  However, the alternative is to purchase off-the-shelf materials or even pre-cut shapes and simply assemble them.  The cost of creating a quilt in this way is substantial.  Just the batting (the material that is sandwiched inside the quilt) can cost more than a complete doona (quilt or comforter) that you can buy at the supermarket!

Many people become quite dedicated to the hobby of quilting.  Many of them produce work of outstanding quality and remarkable beauty.  I can well understand that a significant cost for materials is small change, compared with the effort and skill that goes into these beautiful quilts.  For me though, this wasn’t what I had in mind.  I just wanted to recreate a quilt of the kind I remembered from my childhood, made form recycled materials and planned from the ground up, in house.

That sort of leads us back to this business of planning.  Fact is, you can’t just cut out a heap of squares from random fabric, sew them together into something that looks like it will be large enough and expect it to have a pleasing appearance.  You might be lucky, of course.  But in all probability, you won’t.  Imagine a quilt where all of the darker colours were concentrated on one side and all of the lighter ones were on the other ….. or one where all of the patterned squares were grouped together at one end and all of the plain ones at the opposite end.  And you need to know before you begin, how large the quilt needs to be and how many of the various shapes will be required to make up a quilt of the required size.

It doesn’t require calculus and rocket science but it does need a bit of foresight.  Two simple strategies seemed to work for me.  I firstly decided roughly what I imagined would look OK and settled on a random patchwork, overlain with a single coloured rectangle that would trace out the top of the bed. DSCF0967 I calculated the size of the quilt that was needed, just by measuring the bed, allowing an overhang of two squares (17″) at the sides and foot.  I drew up a paper plan and I referred to this at each stage of the construction.

DSCF0964Secondly, as I indicated in part one, I laid out the squares of each new row on the floor, beside the already completed section of the quilt.  My partner and I experimented with different colours and patterns in different locations until we had a result that we were happy with.  And we knew what the finished result would look like, before things were sewn together.

Each square was then sewn into a row, in the same order as they had been laid out on the floor.  I first sewed a 1/4″ seam on my little Singer 99K and when I was happy that I had the alignment just right, I overlocked (serged) the seams.



The completed row was then attached to the previous completed rows.  It is absolutely essential that the rows are carefully pinned together, to ensure that the squares line up correctly, before the work is presented to the sewing machine.  If the squares aren’t aligned properly, the work will look awful and unpicking an entire row takes a very long time.  I KNOW 🙂

Finally, when I had the whole of the top completed, we checked it out for size and appearance on the bed.  We are pleased with the result so far.  It now remains to add an innards (we are planning to use an old blanket, rather than proprietary batting) and a bottom which will be made from a large flannelette sheet.myroom  This next step will be a major challenge, requiring that each layer of the quilt is laid flat against its neighbor, that the whole thing is pinned together and that it stays that way during sewing.  I have ordered a ‘walking foot’ attachment for my machine, in the hope that it will improve the odds of getting a satisfactory result.

Thanks for reading.  Please check back for Part 3.

Bye for now,

Andrew  2015-01-30


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Thank you, Andrew.


1 thought on “Patchwork – A First Try (Part Two)

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