By Lish Dorset
Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to try quilting but thought it would be too hard. (Okay, I can’t really can’t see you on the internet, but I’ll bet there are some of you raising your hand.) I felt the very same way not too long ago. My mom started quilting when I was in high school, after she found a stack of unfinished blocks my great-grandmother started in the 1930s. I was impressed with the colors she chose and how easy it seemed to put together the quilt tops. I tried to teach myself, but to little success, until I took a basic quilting class and found out that once you know the basics, quilting is pretty easy.
In addition to learning more about what quilting is all about, we’ll make a simple patchwork block to help get you started.
What makes up a quilt? There are so many different ways to put a quilt top together. Depending on the type of pattern you choose, your quilt will involve different components. With almost any quilt, there’s a top, batting in the middle, and a piece of backing fabric, all sandwiched together.
These are just a few of the common ingredients you’ll see in a simple quilt design:
The focus of a quilt is the blocks. They can take on many different shapes, sizes, and designs. Blocks can be as simple as a large square of fabric or intricately pieced with numerous fabrics. The number of blocks you need for a quilt depends on the finished size you are trying to achieve.
Surrounding the block are sashing strips. They can frame in the block.
- Corner Stones
Usually small in size, the corner stones help pull together sashing strips and your blocks.
Quilts usually include an inner and outer border. The inner border is usually skinnier than the outer border as it’s helping to finish the quilt and it’s where your eye falls as you look at it.
Materials and Commonly Used Tools
2 fat quarters of fabric
Rotary cutter a 60mm blade is perfect for just about any quilting project.
Self-healing mat Cut out your pieces on this mat. Just remember, never iron on top of this type of surface!
Rulers From rectangles to triangles, there are a variety of useful shapes and sizes for quilt projects.
Pins or binding clips
Types of blocks: The great thing about quilting is that there’s always a new block for you to perfect. Take a look at McCall’s Quilting for a great list of quilting blocks.
Rotary Cutting: Rotary cutters helps ensure straight, crisp lines for your quilt top pieces. I had no idea that 30 years ago, rotary tools weren’t available to quilters!
The lines and inch marks on your ruler will help you achieve a straight cut. Always make sure to line up your ruler to one of the inch marks on your mat and make sure the bottom of your fabric is square with the blocks on your ruler. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to cut.
Piecing vs. Quilting: When we say piecing, we mean sewing all of our cut pieces into our quilt top design block by block, row by row. Quilting is the thread design — either planned out or free form — that we sew onto the quilt top to bring all of the quilt layers together. Some people love just to piece the quilt top and send it to a quilter for the final steps — and some people have entire businesses built on providing the final step in quilt making. If you find you only like to piece quilt tops together, contact your local quilt or fabric shop for a recommendation on area quilters.
Directions: Patchwork Block
Start by selecting two pieces of fabric you’d like for your block.
Step 1: Cut 1 length of fabric 5″ x 11″. Turn the fabric clockwise and place your ruler down so that you’re ready to cut a 5″ x 5″ block. Make your second cut to produce your block. Repeat so that you have 4 blocks, 2 each of the same fabric.
Step 2: Place the right sides of 2 different fabrics together. Sew the blocks together down the right side of the fabric with a 1/4″ seam. Repeat for the remaining 2 blocks.
Step 3: Open up your 2 blocks and place them right-side down on your ironing board. Press the seam of the lighter of your 2 fabrics to the darker of your fabrics. Repeat for the other block set.
Step 4: Once you’ve done that, place the two block sets together, right sides together. Line up your seams in the middle. You should feel the pressed seams sandwiching together. If you can feel that, you should have a joined center once you’re done sewing. Again, sew down the right side of your block sets with a 1/4″ seam.
Open the two sets of blocks and press the seam to one side of your stitching. Turn the block and press all over.
That’s it! You’ve made your very first quilt block! Now, make a bunch more and think about how they might look as one big quilt top.
About the Author:
Lish Dorset loves to craft and inspire others around her craft, too (including her cat Ronnie). She’s a staff writer for CRAFT and a lover of Maker Faire. A lifelong Michigan resident, Lish is a part of Handmade Detroit, a DIY gang that’s been hosting the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, Michigan’s first indie craft fair, since 2006. While she loves all crafting mediums, she spends most of her time sewing, quilting, and finding ways to involve a glass of wine in her projects.