Make A Handmade Quilt

Learn how easy it is to make a handmade quilt in your own creative pattern.

In order to create a patchwork quilt, you first must decide what size bed the quilt will be placed on. After determining the bed-size, decide on a color scheme. If the color scheme is designed to match a particular room color, your best bet is to visit the fabric store for appropriate fabrics. If the quilt is an anything-goes quilt, the fabric can be old clothing, bedding, curtains and pajamas.

Figure out the bed size you want, then determine how many inches you would like the quilt to fall below the top of the mattress. As a rule of thumb, I use the flat sheet of a twin bed for a quilt size that accommodates that size bed. The same for full, queen, and king. In fact, the flat sheet is an excellent backing for the quilt.

For a baby quilt, I measure the crib mattress and add enough material to ensure the blanket is at least one foot wider than the mattress, in it's finished state. Likewise, when making a baby quilt, I make smaller squares, usually around 3-4 inches, as opposed to the 6-8" squares used on a larger quilt.

Hint: all fabrics should be the same type of material. For example: if using flannel, all pieces should be flannel fabric or something comparable. In other words, polyester fabric should not be used in a quilt that also has denim squares. The denim will not give or stretch, while the polyester will. When in doubt, ask the clerk at the fabric store.

Choose the color scheme, then pattern a design. For a colorful quilt, I suggest cotton fabrics in small flowers, or calico, as well as several plain colors. The most beautiful quilts created by my hand had both gingham-checks-and calico, with solid blocks as well.

I suggest creating a pattern on a sheet of notebook paper and coloring the squares accordingly. After you have found the design that suits your tastes, purchase the fabric. All fabric should be washed before cutting into squares. Prior washing ensures the material will not shrink again and pull apart seams.

Before cutting the fabric, make sure to measure the width of the sheet and determined how many squares-at whatever size needed-can be placed across the sheet. Calculate at least three to four additional squares for the width, as the seams will take up a portion of the material. Depending on how deep your seams are, you may want to add more squares. I suggest at least 1/4 to ½ inch seams.

Lay out the squares, overlapping each side, to get an idea of how many squares you will actually need for the first row. Once you know how many squares you need, there is nothing to stop you from finalizing the design or pattern. Names or initials can be laid out as part of the quilt, or, if you prefer, a zigzag or geometric design.

Cut out a cardboard square to use as a pattern. The square can be whatever size you desire, but remember, the smaller it is, the harder it will be to sew. I use a pen to actually trace the square over and over again on the material, cutting out on the lines. If you're handy with a ruler, that works well, also.

Use zigzag shears to cut the fabric. The zigzag helps the fabric from fraying along the edges.

Using your notebook design, count how many squares of each color are needed, and cut them out. Then, before starting to sew, lay them out on the sheet and make sure your design is correct. If possible, stack each row, starting at the left and moving toward the right. Each row of squares can then be stacked on top of one another, as long as you keep them in order. After each row, add a blank sheet of paper and put a designated number on each, before stacking it on the new row.

You should have a finished product of stacks. The first thing on the stack will be a sheet of paper with the number one on it. Following the number there should be X-amount of squares, then a sheet of paper with the number 2 on it, and so on and so on. Each stack of squares should be separated by sheets of paper with consecutive numbers. At the end of the last row, place a sheet of paper with the word "end" on it. That way, you will hopefully never get confused.

Normally, I use white thread, as I use many calico and gingham prints which have a lot of white in the fabric. If you are using darker colors, use darker thread. Thread should be polyester or cotton. Polyester thread will have more give to it.

In the beginning, I suggest pinning the first two squares on the right side before sewing. After sewing a straight line with 1/4 to ½ inch margins, cut the thread. Each square should be sewn with both a forward and a reverse action along the same line for strength.

Seams will always be sewn on the right hand side of the square, allowing the row to dangle down the left side, or open side of the sewing machine as it gets longer. When one row of squares are attached to one another, lay them back in their place and begin another row. When all the rows of squares are sewn together, you may begin sewing the strips of squares together. Again, pin the sides together before sewing. This not only keeps the material from slipping, but it allows you to have your hands free to help feed the material into the machine slowly. Never rush a sewing machine.

When all the stripes are combined, the top half of the quilt will be finished. Scrutinize it. If any squares are out of place, now is the time to correct it.

Finally, lay the flat sheet on the floor, and put the quilted sheet over it, with the correct side down. In other words, both good sides of the quilt will be facing one another. The quilting or batting will be placed over the quilted material, and all three sheets will be pinned together along the edges. Several pins placed at strategic places will hold the middle of the quilt from shifting and causing trouble as you sew.

Leave at least two to three feet on one end of the quilt open. This will be the place in which you turn the quilt right side out. Once you finish sewing, be careful to take all pins out before turning the quilt. Once it's been turned, lay it out flat and see if all edges are even. If you need to make changes at this point, go back one step and make them.

Pin the opening and hand sew it shut. Then, using a yarn needle and appropriately colored yarn or embroidery thread, slip in and out where each square meets, or at designated intervals to keep the batting from shifting and slipping to one end. Each yarn tie should be knotted, leaving about 1 inch of yarn/thread sticking up.

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