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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I Make a Quilt All By Myself


This blog can be for my fiber buddies..... about quilting this time.

When most folks made a quilt in the old days, they hand pieced it all, then stretched it on a frame in a quilting bee...  many hands would help quilt it together.  I don't know that many quilters with that much time to help me do that. 

In more modern times, a quilter will sew together blocks into a big panel called a "top" and then ship it off to a "longarmer" person to sandwich it with batting and backing, loading it onto a huge machine, and do some computerized or freehand designs on it through all three layers.  Then it is shipped back to the owner to add a binding around the edges.  I did it... once... and it's easy, but expensive. Usually $200-400 depending on size.  This is a longarm machine, which can cost upwards of $30,000 for a good computerized one----

Sooooo I have found ways to make my own quilts, of my own blocks created with batting and backing, made in sections. Then I found ways to join them up into large king size quilts!  It's known as "Quilt As You Go" and there are a couple ways to do it.  I have tried several ways now and enjoy each one. 

Here is one I chose to do with "sashing" strips 
spanning between the quilted blocks to join them together.

I am calling it my Front Porch Cuddle Quilt.
(I started this quilt in March while down in Florida visiting Mom) 

I started out with these little bundles of fabrics I found on sale.  You know me, always looking for a bargain!  I had a couple gift cards to use up, and got enough of these to start to make a quilt.  They are bundles of "fat quarters" which means each piece is a quarter of a yard of fabric.  18" x 22" 

I like starting with bundles like this because the fabrics are coordinated to blend and harmonize and are all in the same color scheme.  I took apart the bundles and separated a few prints that I didn't care for. 

I looked through scads of pattern books, magazines and YouTube videos for a pattern I wanted to make into a quilt.  I chose this one:

Next step is to unfold each piece and iron it flat with a little bit of starch. 
That makes is easier to cut and sew with less fraying.

While down in Florida, I had a few days to do some sewing.  Mom said she would like to help! I started cutting out each 9" inch square to sew into the half square triangles. 

(take note... I said NINE inch square.... 
 which will result later in a big BOO BOO)

Once I had the main seams sewn and cut into parts, then Mom took over with the tiny little iron to make the seams flat.  The little iron was a gift from my friend who taught me how to quilt, Paula Stuplich.  It is so handy for tiny seams, and you are not messing with a big huge iron and burning your fingertips trying to get these tiny seams pressed open.  Mom had so much fun doing them!

I set up my sewing machine in the livingroom and started piecing those smaller squares into the bigger blocks.  Each one was 14 inches across.  (take note of that --14 inches!) 

 I finished up about half of the total blocks needed for a king sized quilt.  
(21 out of 42 blocks) 

That was all the time I had to complete while down in Florida.  When I got home, I started to work on the second half of the blocks.  But..... this time I only started with an EIGHT inch square!  (remember that NINE I told you about before?) ACK!!! I forgot for some dumb reason and started with 8" squares to cut up.   The second half of the finished blocks came out to only TWELVE inches across, not FOURTEEN like the first half of the blocks.  DANGNABBIT!!

Lesson Learned:  Always cut out ALL of your pieces at once, and then you never forget or run into this problem. (or write it down !!!)

Well, I thought I could add a once inch strip all around the smaller blocks to bring them from 12 up to 14 inches.  But when I put them side by side, it looked "dumb" to me... kinda uneven, whonky and irritating to my eyes.  Probably nobody else would have cared, but I did.  And it was for me.

I laid out all of the smaller pieces with the one inch borders on them out on the bed.  Now I have only 21 of these. Hmmmmm  I laid them 4 wide by 5 down. Tossed the one I liked the least to the side. Then I stretched them out a bit and added coordinating leafy printed "sashing" to lay out between the rows to make spacing to add to the width and length of the quilt.  Yes, I liked that!  

**and I set aside the other 21 larger blocks to make another quilt next**

This part takes a bit of planning.  I cut backing fabric squares of 16 inches wide and also 15.5 inches squares of batting. I use good cotton batting called Warm and Natural, not poly fiberfill. Costs more but worth it in quality, longer lasting, and nicer to work with. 

I temporarily laid them out on the bed to arrange them and mark each block with row number and letter to know their exact spot on the finished quilt.   I won't show you that, so you can be WOW'd by the finished quilt instead! LOL 

Now I take my "sandwich" of block, batting and backing and do some fancy 
free motion quilting stitches through all three layers. This is the FUN part! 

On my sewing machine, I drop the feed dogs, add a teflon slider sheet 
and use a big open toe hopping foot to do the fancy stitching.  
It's all from my own mind and hands--- nothing is computerized. 

Once all the blocks have been quilt stitched through the three sandwiched layers, now I get to start joining them up into the final quilt!  I sew a piece of the leafy printed sashing to one side of the front block edge, and then butt up the blocks together and sew the backing fabric seam.

I smooth it out flat and then fold over the piece of sashing.
Carefully pinning the folded edge of sashing into place.
 I do a fine row of careful stitching along the edge
to keep it all in place. Then I do some fancy stitching on the sashing too. 

Adding block by block, I make four vertical rows of five of each of the quilt pieces.  Once I have four strips of five blocks each, now it's time to start joining the vertical strips together.

It gets a bit awkward to maneuver the big sections of quilt around, so I use cheap plastic shower curtain clips to roll up the excess quilt out of the way.  What a great way to get the section of the quilt needing stitching into the machine, without having the rest of it dragging along.  I saw that hint on a PBS show called Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting.  I watch it along with Sewing With Nancy every morning at 9 am on channel 38-2.  It's my "quilting time" !

Remember, all of this is done on my little home sewing machine.  I am not sending it out to a fancy longarmer to do it for me.  I feel creative and happy that I am doing the quilt totally by myself. After each sashing piece is in place, I also do some fancy swirling long stitches up and down each section.

I still wanted it large enough to fit on a king sized bed.  I added a border around all four sides of about 12 inches wide. That added an extra two feet to the length and width of the finished quilt. Here is it just laid out to see how it will look.  I like it! 

 I attached that in the same way, and did some fancy mitered corners too. 
The final step was to add the binding around all the edges, 
and my personal tag to one corner.

A mere 2 months later, 
 here is the FINISHED QUILT! 

 It fits well on our king sized bed...
but we have a nice handmade quilt that I normally keep on it. 

I decided to use it as a Front Porch Cuddle Quilt! 

 The dogs approve too! 

Now... Please, before you suddenly start emailing me and asking me to "whip you up a quilt" please please know I am only making quilts as gifts for family at this time. The costs of quilt fabric alone, not to mention the batting, thread, tools and sewing machine costs is VERY high.  Quality fabrics and batting and good thread can run in the $200-300 range for a quilt, not even accounting for my time and effort. 

Here is a great blog post about the REAL cost of making quilts 
if you are interested: 
(link posted with permission of author Jennifer Moore) 


  1. Such a beautiful Quilt. My wife made me one a few years ago before she died. I cherish it. I have one from my mother and one from my grandmother that has names sewed into it of all the quilting ladies who made it.
    Chili Bob

  2. It's beautiful and in my favorite colors too. lol

  3. Beautiful quilt. I got the quilting bug a couple years ago and at first made baby quilts. This year I finished a king size quilt for our travel trailer but sent it out to a longarmer. I may try QAG for my next large quilt seeing how nice yours turned out.

  4. Good morning...... Enjoy reading your blog very much, from remodeling your home
    your RV or travels, all of it. Just wish you posted more often ! 😊


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