I absolutely love quilting. You can be so creative and imaginative when making quilts and there are so many techniques. I’m learning new ones all the time. Mostly, quilting is very time consuming and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be, you can make a basic quilt in next to no time with very few materials.
I’m going to be making a baby quilt today because it is far easier, you can use fun fabrics and designs, and it is much cheaper. A full size adult’s quilt generally costs four times the amount a baby’s quilt costs to make.
To make this basic quilt you need about 1.2 m of fabric for the quilt front. This needs to have some sort of design on such as patchwork or a picture so that when the quilt is completed it looks like you have either spent hours sewing patchwork or applique. You need about 1.2 m of fabric for the quilt back. This can either be plain or patterned. You will also need the same amount in wadding or batting, I use this either 100% cotton or 50% cotton and 50% bamboo (never a synthetic batting), a reel of cotton thread the same colour as your backing and a reel of top stitch thread. This can match or contrast with your quilt front. If you want you can use a different colour thread in the bobbin to either match or contrast with your backing fabric to create a different effect on the reverse.
I prewash my fabric and wadding so that it has shrunk as much as it’s going to and, hopefully, every time I wash my completed quilts, they come out the same. It takes out the uncertainty. However, if you choose not to do this, when you wash your finished quilt the fabrics and wadding will shrink at different rates creating a slight wrinkled, antique look which can be really effective. You just have to decide which look you want to go for.
All the quilts I make are made of natural fibres. I generally prefer to use natural materials anyway, but with baby quilts I never make an exception to this, it’s just not worth it. There are two reasons for this; firstly, natural fabrics feel nicer against the skin and are breathable. Secondly, and most importantly, synthetic fibres melt. You would be unlikely to find a fireman who wears synthetic underwear! Bamboo, wool and cotton will burn like any other fabric but slower and they won’t melt and weld themselves to your baby. They do cost slightly more, but not that much more.
The fabrics I have chosen are both cotton poplin which is good for quilting and not as expensive as actual quilting fabric. The fabric for the front has a patchwork design and the backing fabric is a dark green with small white spots. The wadding is made from unbleached cotton.
The first thing to do is sandwich the fabric and wadding together. My quilt back is slightly larger than the quilt front as I am going to use it to bind the quilt as well. You can pin them together but that takes time. I use a spray adhesive. I know this probably seems contradictory to my lecture just now, but this works fantastically well and can be re-positioned as many times as required and then it completely washes out. I tape my quilt back to the floor so that it is wrinkle free before spraying with adhesive and attaching the wadding and then the quilt front. I do spend quite a while smoothing out all the wrinkles – another reason I prefer baby quilts. Full sized quilts take ages to smooth out and I do not enjoy that!
Next, preferably with a walking foot attached to your machine, WALKING FOOT WILL FIT, BROTHER, JANOME, SINGER, TOYOTA DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES (The generic ones are incredibly inexpensive and they make life so much easier.) use a top stitch thread and a long, straight stitch. Normally, I use a thread which is a very similar colour to my fabric so that the quilting pattern can be seen but you’re not really aware of the thread itself, however, today I am using a bright pink to contrast with the fabric so that you can see it easily. Beginning at the centre of the quilt and working out, sew through your quilt sandwich following the outline of your design. So, if you had a picture of an elephant, sew around the edge of the elephant and it will begin to look like an applique. As my fabric is a patchwork design I am sewing along every ‘join’ so that it looks like patchwork with stitch in the ditch quilting. For longevity, your quilt needs as much quilting as possible with only small gaps between. Your wadding will have information with it suggesting the best spacing for that product. But always do more rather than less. Whatever stitching you do on the front will be reflected on the back. Oh yes, and if you are using a patchwork style fabric try to choose one with larger squares than I did because there was a lot of quilting in this one!
When you are happy with the front, trim and square the edges of the quilt front and wadding, BUT DO NOT TRIM THE BACK as this is going to form the binding.
Measure the excess backing fabric around the edge and trim to an equal distance all round. Mine is 3 cm.
Fold this in half. You can iron it if you wish. Then fold it over to the front, mitreing the corners, pin in place and top sew with cotton sewing thread and your walking foot if you have one. I actually didn’t have the right colour thread for this so used a cream thread instead which, hopefully, stands out slightly less than the bright pink quilting thread.
That’s it, you’re finished. A very basic, but lovely quilt.