Let me start by saying my twin sister Paula really does love my quilts. She even has her eye on one in particular that I haven't been able to part with yet.
Now, having said that she doesn't mind telling me she just does not share my affinity for cutting up lots of fabric into tiny pieces and then sewing it back together.
I always tell her that's precisely the fun of it-and of course the beauty of it too.
The fat quarters below are from the fabulous Lotus Collection by Amy Butler. Fat quarters are equivalent to 18 x 22-inch cuts of fabric.
I don't know about you but I love to see fat quarters all stacked up like this. Brand new fabric is so crisp and fresh looking.
Just like scrapbooking, many quilt companies offer kits which include the pattern and all the necessary fabric to complete the quilt. Quilt kits are good for beginners too because all the fabric comes pre-selected for you.
This is my first-ever quilt from a kit. I picked it up at The Pine Needle, which features wonderful on-line shopping for quilts and related projects.
The quilt pattern I used is called Cheaper By the Dozen by Legacy. While the pattern was included in the quilt kit, the pattern is also available separately.
The Cheaper By the Dozen quilt requires 12-fabric choices. The project is actually just a series of identically-sized rectangles cut from the various fabric selections.
The rectangles arranged in the photo below will appear in this order within the quilt blocks.
When you're working with multiple fabric patterns, it's a good idea to have a swatch key to help you keep up with what you're assembling. The Cheaper by the Dozen pattern includes a blank swatch key form and you just staple a small sample of each fabric right onto the sheet.
Be sure to make a copy of the blank sheet that comes with the pattern before adhering your samples. This way you'll have the original sheet that you can use if you decide to make the project again.
Your fabric key will help you keep up with the order in which you will sew each piece of fabric to the next.
In this case, sew the three rectangles on the top row together, then you sew the three rectangles on the second row together.
When you sew these two completed rows together this will create your first BLOCK as in the photo below.
Thanks to my smiling block-handler.
Repeat the same process with the next two rows of rectangles to create BLOCK #2. Ultimately you'll end up with 12-blocks, that will then be sewn together to create one very large square.
To make this 12-block square even larger, I added 8-inch wide fabric strips to each side. This is now the quilt TOP, which is similar to a queen size sheet.
Thanks to my two helpers here.
Imagine the unfinished quilt is a sandwich in which there are three main parts.
The TOP, which resembles a large sheet as in the photo above. Next there's the BATTING, which is the middle cotton layer which ultimately helps add thickness, and finally, there's the BACKING which makes up the last layer and is similar to another large sheet slightly larger than the top.
When choosing your backing you may want to choose a lighter fabric than your top, so your decorative quilting stitches will be more visible when the project is completed.
Quilting is the process of putting these three main pieces (top, batting and backing) together using decorative stitching. Many people do this by hand, which can be very time consuming. Others use their regular sewing machines, which can be difficult for larger quilts if your machine has a narrow throat.
There are also many quilters who use long arm quilting machines. The long arm quilt machines, like the one in the photo below have a very deep machine throat with ample space for the three layers of the quilt project to be rolled up and then easily glided during the quilting process.
I would never be able to successfully roll up this large quilt under my own standard-size sewing machine.
Nearly all of my quilts have been professionally stitched by my good friend Joni Baumli who uses the most awesome long arm quilting machine. She owns a successful quilting business called Threadplay here in Illinois.
Joni's quilting machine is pretty fabulous and I dare say that Joni's quilting skills and quest perfection rival no other in the region.
Joni's long-arm quilter is linked to a computer program called the Statler Stitcher which is truly technology at it's finest. After a decorative design is selected (she owns thousands) the design is loaded into her computer which is linked to the long-arm quilting machine.
The Statler Stitcher relays the decorative pattern directly to the long arm quilting machine and the needle is guided by these instructions. The photo below shows the paisley pattern as it appears on her computer screen.
Because the computer guides the long arm, every design stitched is consistent and flawless throughout the project.
It's also pretty cool to watch the long-arm in operation.
Take a look at the decorative stitches from the back of the quilt. This is why you want to be careful about your fabric selection for the back. You definitely want these beautiful stitches to be clearly visible and not lost in a fabric choice that is too busy or too dark.
Once this part of the quilting process is finished on Joni's end, the quilt is back in my lap to complete the remaining steps. On this project I opted for a scalloped edge which is pretty much my standard application.
I use a piece of mylar which I pre-cut into a scallop shape to mark the straight edge of the quilt with a cutting guide.
It does take some extra effort to scallop the quilt edge, but I think the end result is always a wonderful finishing touch.
After tracing the scallop border with a chalk marker, I simply cut along the marked line to create the scalloped edge.
Remember, if your quilt has a scalloped edge you really need to use a continuous bias binding. The pieces for this kind of binding are cut on the "bias" of the fabric versus the horizontal or vertical grain of the fabric.
This ultimately gives the binding a crucial stretchiness and flexibility which is needed to curve over the scalloped edge of the quilt easily.
For a link to easy instructions on making continuous bias binding click here.
Once you make your binding it will take quite a few straight pins to attach it to a scalloped edge. It's actually better to use too many pins than not enough to ensure that the binding is lined up perfectly with the scalloped edge and there are no gaps or puckers.
Notice how the binding curves and stretches over the scalloped edge in the photo below? Regular binding will not curve this easily over a scallop.
I always sew my binding to the top side of the quilt first. Once I've attached the binding all the way around the scalloped quilt edge, I remove all pins and fold the binding over and onto the backside of the quilt.
At this point, iron the binding neatly around the scallop. After ironing, pin once again to temporarily secure the open end so that you can hand stitch it to the backing side of the quilt.
My apologies to the wonderful quilting purists out there, but this is the only part of my quilting process that involves any actual stitching by hand.
After the hand-stitching, I typically go over the entire scalloped edge with the steam iron once again to give the border a nice neat, crisp look. I love how these scallops look.
I want to thank my friend and "quilting goddess", Joni Baumli who always helps my projects come to life with her skillful attention to detail and perfection. She really makes all the difference in the final presentation of my quilts.
I can't do what she does and I really admire her abilities. It's also a pleasure to showcase her wonderful talents here and share pictures of her fantastic long-arm machine.
Feel free to drop Joni a line and let her know what you think of her beautiful work. You can see more of her influence on my quilting projects if you click here.
Also, if you have a project you'd like quilted, you can e-mail Joni at Jonibaumli@aol.com. She has many out-of-state clients and believe me, her work is always exquisite.
Meanwhile, many of you have asked about how I light my crafting projects when photographing them. You can see my specialized lighting studio in the photo below.
OK, so it's not really a special lighting studio but my living room works just fine because of the large windows and abundance of natural light.
As you can see, there are quite a few steps in a quilt project. I think it's well worth it in the end, especially when you're left with a finished project you're pleased with.
I hope you're inspired to try your hand at making your own quilt and here's hoping it's picture perfect-from start to finish.