Learning to Quilt

Posted on February 20, 2012 by knittingpatterns4you | 0 Comments

My main reason for signing up for a formal quilting class was to be able to learn the basics more quickly. Learning from tutorials and videos online is an awesome choice, but there's no comparing that to having an expert on hand to ask random questions in real time as they come up!

The first class session was yesterday, and I feel like what I learned during those five hours is already worth the cost of the class. These are basic, almost-silly things that I would never even have thought to ask!

Things like:

  • When sewing small pieces of fabric together, there's no need to pin them first. What a huge time-saver! It literally never occurred to me that this would be not only an option but the standard way to do it. I've literally pinned every seam I've ever sewn until yesterday morning.
  • The foot on the sewing machine is 1/4 inches wide, so if you line up the edge of the fabric to the edge of the foot, you've got a 1/4 inch seam. What the what?? This shocked me like you wouldn't believe. How have I been sewing for 20+ years without knowing this??? Note to my Grandma: This would have been handy to mention.
  • For piecing quilt tops, the color of thread doesn't matter because it's not going to show up. Most quilts are sewn with either beige or pale gray thread. While I hadn't actually ever thought about this before, I was surprised by the answer!
  • When cutting full-width fabric into strips, it's faster and neater to keep the fabric folded in half and cut through both layers at once. I cut two yards of my background fabric into strips in under 10 minutes this way. Again, there's no way I would have come up with that method on my own, especially not on my first project.

This class is all about quilting non-perfect versions of traditional quilt blocks, so I thought that would be perfect for me because it would be less stressful that making my first quilt in a more traditional pattern. The class works off the book Block Party - The Modern Quilting Bee, which shows you how to make "wonky" versions of many traditional blocks.

In the first class our teacher, Andrea, had us work up four different blocks from the book to figure out which we wanted to use for our full quilt. Here are the blocks I made:

First up is a wonky nine patch, made with two contrasting-yet-coordinating fabrics to make inverse versions of the pattern. This block is really fun to cut but not very fun to assemble, because there's no creativity in picking which piece goes with which. I had a hard time sewing the more angled seam (the vertical one on the left in the picture) and had to mark the seam line on the first one . . . but on the second block I did a much better job. Seeing the difference between the two was very confidence-boosting! I'll be turning these blocks into potholders shortly, using some sushi fabric for the backs. Stay tuned on that one ;o)

Next up was this wonky log cabin, which was pretty fun to do. On the first blocks I used only my own fabric (two fat quarters), but for this one I raided the scraps pile that Andrea provided to find more options. I am pretty happy with the way it came out, but to me it still reads very "traditional" even though it has no right angles. Not really my taste. This one will also become a potholder I think.

For the next one, I needed a bunch of solid fabric and the only color I had was a dark forest green, so my palette changed drastically:

This is a "wonky stripes" block and was the one we actually had a finished quilt to reference. I'm surprised by how much I actually LIKE this block considering it's not at all my usual color palette. A few of the other students commented on this one, too, so I think somehow I ended up hitting the "sweet spot" of combining fabrics on this one. No idea how that happened, believe me! Again, will become a potholder.

Last but not least is a "wonky grecian square":

I definitely did NOT do as good a job on this one, mainly because the polka-dot fabric is way too wide. By this point I think I was a bit tired of making practice blocks and wanted to go out into the store to gather fabrics for my real project, so I think I rushed through this one . . .  I may come back to this design in the future, because I love all the different ways you can put these blocks together to completely different effects.

So anyway, onto the main event: my quilt!

Like I mentioned in the last post, I was inspired to quilt mainly because I so love Minty's gray-and-pink quilt. When it came time to pick out fabrics, the first thing I asked Andrea was whether she had any fabric that had dachshunds on it, because I'd seen so many with cats that I thought there must be some. It turned out there was literally ONE print with dachshunds on it, and it looks like this:


If I had custom-designed this print to go with my gray-and-pink quilt idea, I don't think I could have come up with a more perfect print. By the way, the print is "Best in Show" by Timeless Treasures. I knew I had to have it, and I started building the palette around it.

I am planning a queen-size quilt (I'm not one to start small!) done in the stacking coins block (which of course is none of the above practice blocks). Here's what the book's quilt looks like:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="426" caption="Image by Alissa, book author"][/caption]

Minty's was a sort of blown-up version of stacking coins, but mine will be a more scrappy version with smaller panels of each fabric. Here's a sketch of what I have planned:

As you can see, there will be 4 columns of stacks, each with 4 blocks on it. So each block will be 20" x 25", to yield a finished quilt about 80" x 100". I may have bitten off too much for a first quilt, but only time will tell . . .

Oh and here's all the fabrics on my ironing board, ready for their debut:

This picture's a bit too yellow due to the light in my "kitchen" . . . imagine all of that being a cooler tone.

The solid charcoal is the background color, and I've bought 1/4 to 1/2 yards of 7 fabrics for the coins. I then also raided the scraps pile and grabbed extra pink and beige pieces to make the quilt scrappier. I got a ton of the doggie print and will use that both on the front in coins as well as the center of the back, putting leftovers of the other fabrics on either side to make it wide enough. I'll break down all the fabrics in a later post.

Right now I have to run to an appointment, so I'll leave you with the bit of the first block that I got finished last night:

I think I like it!

What do you think?


Posted in quilting, Sewing

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