Making a quilt can seem a bit intimidating and if you're like most creative types it's been on your bucket list for awhile. If you've already got your machine (or access to one) and the motivation to start this may be the best kind of quilt to take on. Large squares arranged in rows and columns is about as no fuss as it gets. I recently made this quilt for my brother and sister-in-law's wedding and took step-by-step photos to share how I put it together.
I'd say choosing fabrics for your quilt can make all the difference between a beautiful quilt that feels like you (or someone you're gifting it to) and something kind of blah. For this quilt I chose prints in their wedding colors so my palette was yellow and grey with black and white added for interest. I was lucky to have a few of the prints on hand and then searched local stores to match the rest. I like ordering fabric online but usually only if I've already seen it in person. It's amazing how different something can look once you hold it in your hands after seeing it on a screen.
Having a limited color palette can help you create a stronger design but some of my favorite quilts are also busy and bold. I decided to go with modern geometric elements and mixed in some floral prints but only chose bold designs instead of soft, muted prints to stay consistent. I also mixed in a few smaller prints (one of the darker yellows has a tiny pattern on it) and two solids to break up the noise a bit.
I tend to always buy Kona cotton solids (JoAnn's, Hancocks, Hobby Lobby) but like to look for special prints that can both stand on their own and work well with others. I sometimes find them at bigger chain stores but it's usually worth finding a locally owned quilting store for those extra special prints. I bought the fabric that looks like the inside of a security envelope in Denver and can't wait to go back for more.
Designer fabrics are more expensive and if you have to order it you also have shipping costs so sometimes I just include one or two designer prints and then fill things in with a more generic print and some solids. On the other hand, some of my favorite finished quilts are made entirely of solids. It all depends on your budget and for whom you're making your quilt.
Deciding on how large you want to make your quilt depends on what you intend to use it for as well as how much fabric you want to wrestle with on your machine. I like this size for it's intended purpose and it's about as big as I can get one using the tools and floor space I have available. This quilt is large enough to lay across a queen sized bed folded in half near the bottom as well as big enough for two to snuggle under on the couch watching a movie and measures about 70" x 81". I've recently found a handy quilting chart for deciding measurements on Quilting Board via Pinterest.
1. To make a similar patchwork quilt measuring about 70" x 81" you'll need the following: 6-8 coordinating cotton fabrics measuring about 1/2 yard each, queen-sized batting (I used organic cotton in a low pile), a full-sized flat sheet in a solid color (thrifting one in good shape can save some money), 2 yards of fabric for the binding (I used leftover scraps for mine and sewed them together but you'll need about 2 yards if you're making your own), all-purpose cotton thread in white, sewing machine, shears, straight pins, cutting mat, acrylic ruler, rotary cutter, iron, and ironing board.
2. Wash, dry, and iron (if wrinkled) your fabrics before cutting to avoid shrinkage later. Cut 12" x 12" squares as precisely as you can. This will give you a better chance at having your corners meet up later. Cut 4-6 squares of each fabric depending on how much of that print you'd like to include. Repeat until you have all of the squares you need for the size quilt you'd like to make.
3. Once you have all of your squares cut out laying them in organized piles can help with pulling prints for your design. 4. On a clean floor or large table, lay out your design one row at a time. Step back every now and then to see the big picture. In the photo above I had two yellow prints next to each other that look the same from a distance that I could've changed out. Keeping similar colors separated will keep your quilt design more balanced. I also tried to spread out the dark prints so they didn't all end up on one end. My rule was to not use two of the same prints in the same row or column if I could help it and to not have two of the same next to each other. Following so many rules can get you great results but sometimes you just have to toss the rules and enjoy the process.
Once you've settled on a layout take a photo for reference in case you have to move your workspace before you get to the next step.
5. Next I sewed my columns together. I started in the top left corner and folded the top print onto the print below it making sure the right sides were facing each other and the edges matched up. 6. I pinned it and then stuck the second on top of the third and pinned, etc. Do this until each of your columns is pinned.
7. Take your first column and stitch together the pinned edges. Be sure to stitch about 1/4" away from the edge so you don't have fraying. Being as consistent at this as possible will also help ensure your corners meet up when you quilt it all together. 8. Trim your loose threads and then iron your column flat with the seams facing the same direction. Repeat with each column.
9. Next you're going to stitch your columns to each other by placing the first one on top of the second one with right sides facing each other. Make sure to match them up from the center in case your corners aren't perfect (mine weren't) and be sure your long edges are lined up. Pin all the way down your long edge. 10. Stitch all the way down the long edge, trim loose threads, and then fold open and iron long seam to one side. This is how your corners may or may not meet up. This is one of my better corners and you can see it's a smidgen off. I tell myself they add charm. Ha! Repeat until you've finished your quilt top.
11. Place your quilt backing down with the right side facing the floor and spread it out. I tape my corners to the wood floor but it's not a big deal if you have carpet and can't. Just be sure to get the wrinkles flattened out. Then lay your batting down on top of it with a corner and two sides lining up. Finally, spread out your quilt top on top facing you. Match up the same corner and two sides and then smooth it out. Trim off the excess backing and batting. 12. Starting from the center, pin your three layers together once at each corner. I pinned mine in the center as well. This will help your quilt stay in place while you stitch it together.
13. I stitched on either side of my seam for this quilt because I wanted it to have some sort of interesting pattern on the back but I still needed to finish it on a deadline. Since it was close to a queen sized quilt I rolled it up from one side to the center and carefully tucked the rolled side through the elbow of my machine, if you will. Then I stitched down both sides of a seam and unrolled and stitched the next long seam, etc. Once I reached the edge I flipped the quilt 180 degrees, rolled the other side, and stitched my way out again. Once I had the vertical seams stitched I started on the horizontal seams. When I knew a particularly mis-matched corner was coming up I just subtlely moved my stitches out a bit. 14. This is what my backside looked like. I used a soft vintage sheet in a plain white in case the happy couple ever just want a more simple bed.
15. Next you'll create your binding if you aren't using something premade. There are a few ways to make your own binding and a few different ways to bind. For this quilt I accidentally made an extra column of squares so I just cut my binding out of that (plus some). I cut 2.5" strips and stitched them together until I had enough to go around the perimeter of my quilt. 16. To join them together I placed one end of one strip vertically and one end of another strip horizontally as shown in this step so that they made a right angle. Then I pinned them.
17. Next I stitched from where they met in the top corner down to the bottom and trimmed my excess corner. 18. Then I folded it flat and ironed the seam down. Stitching it this way will keep it from bunching at the seam when folded over a few times. Repeat until you have one long strip that will fit all the way around your quilt and then a few inches more.
Once you've added your binding, trim all of your loose thread and throw it in the wash. I wash mine in cold water and toss them in the dryer on medium heat to get a bit of that wrinkled look along the seams. Hanging your quilts to dry will allow them to last longer as there's less wear and tear on the fabric but we usually only do that with antique quilts at our house.
Once you've tackled your first quilt you'll realize you're in for it! There's something so satisfying and special about finishing something of this scale and knowing it'll be enjoyed for years to come by yourself or someone you care about.
If you need a little color inspiration you can peruse my Quilts Make My Heart Beat Fast board on Pinterest. Here's another beautiful quilt that Elise recently finished. I love the color palette so much! Here's one of our favorite things to do with quilts. Here are a few quilts I've made for friends and family.
I've got another hexagon quilt about halfway finished for a new mama and then it's Sebastian's turn to get a quilt before I make another one for Ruby. Living in a colder climate totally justifies our need for a million quilts in the winter, right? Right. Also, if you are in the market for a sturdy but affordable machine, I just bought a basic Janome on sale at Hancock's this summer for $90. Janome parts are made of metal so they're bound to last forever. So far I love mine. Best of luck!