A little while ago I made a king-size quilt to give to my sister and her husband as their wedding present. This is the third large quilt I’ve made since being taught by my Mother-in-Law, a master quilt maker, about six years ago. Still, it was a new adventure for me, because it was the first time I had designed a quilt myself, and the first time that I had used some of my own hand-printed fabric in such a large project.
I thought I’d show you how I went about designing and making this quilt. I am by no means an expert, and sometimes I will skim over details, so if you want any further info about any of the steps please feel free to ask me in the comments!
Step 1: Planning
There are lots of quilt patterns out there – so many that it can be overwhelming for a beginner. For the first two quilts I made, I had used patchwork quilting patterns with lots of fiddly intermingling squares and triangles. This time I wanted to create a simpler design using larger pieces which would really showcase the fabrics. I was also conscious that I only had a few weeks to work on my quilt (during after-work hours) so I didn’t have much time to spend cutting and sewing tiny squares. In my opinion, simpler designs can sometimes be more effective than complex ones, especially when the piece is to be given to someone as a gift.
I drew up my quilt design, guessing at the measurements a bit in order to end up with two large panels of the same size (mine was 1.84m x 1.9m). I then designated each piece of the design to a specific fabric, trying to do this in a relatively symmetrical way so as to pull my design together. I started in the centre and worked my way out, noting a colour and pattern code for each different fabric. I then made a list of the different fabrics, and wrote down the measurements of each cut piece included in the design (for the fabrics I hadn’t bought yet, I just wrote an idea, like ‘dark blue’ or ‘striped’). I used these measurements to determine how much of each fabric I would need to buy.
Step 2: Choosing & Sourcing Fabrics
My sister is a fan of clean, simple design, so I knew I didn’t want to make this quilt too ‘busy’ or include too many patterned fabrics. I also wanted to emphasize the patterned fabrics I did use by framing them with plain fabrics in complimentary shades of blue and grey.
For the front side, I chose some beautiful screen-printed fabrics from Leslie Keating of maze and vale. What drew me to these fabrics was that they are printed by hand with gorgeous nature-inspired patterns, and that Leslie uses eco-friendly inks and delicious natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp and linen. I matched these with a blue pebble striped cotton from this Etsy shop, and some plain blue and grey quilting-weight cottons.
On the other side of the quilt, I used a piece of my own hand-printed fantail fabric which I shared here a while ago. I cut it into three long panels to act as the central section of the quilt, to be framed by the plainer fabrics.
Once I had a design for my quilt and had sourced my fabrics, it was time to cut the pieces of fabric so they were ready for sewing. I double-checked my measurements, making sure that I had allowed 1cm on either side of each join for the seam. I drew little diagrams of the best way to cut each piece of fabric so that I would have less wasted fabric and it would take less time. Then I laid out my fabric on a large cutting mat and used a rotary cutter and a good ruler to cut the pieces to the desired size. As I finished cutting each lot, I wrote the size of each set on a little scrap of paper and pinned it to the pieces so I could easily establish which pieces were which later on. The most important thing to remember when cutting pieces for quilting is to make sure they are square. If your edges aren’t square, they won’t meet up properly with other pieces and you’ll make things a lot harder on yourself.
Step 4: Sewing the panels together
Before I started sewing, I laid out my pieces on the floor, using my pattern as a guide, to make sure I had all of the pieces (and to check that they looked as good together in real life as they did in my head!).
I sewed the fabric pieces into blocks, which then became long strips, finally morphing into two large king-sized quilt pieces. I ironed the seams flat as I went along to help keep the fabrics flat for sewing.
Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow – I’ll show you how I sandwiched and sewed my quilt panels together!