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I had always wanted to learn how to make a patchwork quilt so last year my Sister-in-law and I enrolled in a class at a lovely shop not far from us, We had four lessons, one a week, and was taught how to cut out the fabrics with a rotary cutter which I had never used before and to piece the patchworks together on a sewing machine.
The type of quilt we were making was like a giant chequer board but with rectangles instead of squares. The rectangles were alternated into one patterned piece and one plain piece. All the plain pieces were of the one background colour which either co-ordinated or contrasted to your patterned pieces.
We picked the patterned fabrics first as you dont always know what colour you want to go with your patterns until you have them all together. I wanted to make the quilt for my youngest daughter for Christmas and she is into pinks, blacks and skulls. The lady who's shop we were having the lessons at didnt have any skull fabric so I searched on Ebay and found lots of it in the colours I wanted. I bought about 5 or 6 fat quarters of fabric with the skulls on. A fat quarter is a quarter of a metre of fabric but imagine the whole metre of cloth lying on a table and if you cut it across the centre one way then across the centre of the two pieces going the other way then you have a fat quarter. On Ebay you find them listed as FQ in the title.
I also found a few other nice prints to go with them like one with pink panther and one with little japenese girls on. Once I had these main pieces then I made up the rest with some cheaper prints like may be black and white flowers or pink and black stripes and so on. Once I had all the pieces together I decided to use plain white as my contrast colour for the plain background.
We had to cut the pieces of fabrics up into strips and then sew the strips together one patterend with one plain and so on and then use the rotary cutter to cut across this new piece of fabric we had made to make strips again this time they were stripey with the one rectange of pattern and one rectangle of plain. These strips were then sewn together the other way to form the quilt top.
It might sound confusing on paper but when you are doing it it is really easy way to do it and for someone who is beginning you can see your quilt taking shape so quickly that you keep your interest in the project.
Once I had made the quilt top I had to buy some backing material and wadding for the middle of the quilt sandwich. I bought some sheeting for my backing from Dunelm Mill as it was a good price.
The hardest bit of the quilt making for me was the laying out as where I was making a single bed quilt it wouldnt fit on the table so I had to lay it all out on the floor. You lay the backing down first then the wadding on top and then the quilt top of top of that and pin from the middle outwards making sure everything is flat and you are not getting any bumps in any of the layers.
Then you have to tack the layers together in a criss cross fashion to keep all the layers together while you are quilting. This takes quite along time to do as you need to do the rows of tacking not too far apart.
Once it is all tacked together you can start hand quilting. You could do it on the sewing machine and for a smaller quilt I would probably try this but for a big quilt you would have trouble getting the fabric to go through a machine unless you were lucky enough to have a long arm one.
The hand quilting is done with a nice strong thread, you can use top stitching thread or proper quilting thread or may be a nice variegated thread that would change colour as you sew. I used a white thread on mine and I quilted around the inside of all the patterend pieces with this white. Then I decided I wanted to embroider my daughters name on the white rectangles so I used a variegated metallic thread for this. It probably would have been easier to do the embroidery before I put the two pieces of fabric together but it was ok doing it the way I did.
Once it is all finished we had to cut up all the small strips of fabric we had left over into two inch by 7 inch strips and sew them into one long length. Then this was used to go round the edges of the quilt to hide all the edges and to finish it off.
I was very pleased with my finished product and so was my daughter when she got it for Christmas.
I decided after to make a quilt each for my Grandchildren too. I have one girl and three boys. For the girl it was easy to pick fabrics as she loves pink. I had a few bits left over from my daughters quilt so that was a start. For the boys I decided to make them quilts using really bright fabrics and as I was doing three of them it worked out cheaper as I could mix and match between them.
I didnt buy so much fabric off Ebay this time as it had worked out quite expensive the last time so just picked out a few special fabrics for each then used some from the shop for the rest. I used a different pattern for the pieces too using squares and rectangles together to make larger squares. It is quite hard to explain how to make up a pattern with out pictures but they looked nice when they were finished.
To save even more money I bought a couple of nice duvet covers in the charity shop which looked new and used the fabric for the backing of the four quilts.
Now since, I have started to make two double bed quilts for my two eldest children. This time I found some people on Ebay selling fabric scraps and remnants for much less and bought a load of them and just pot luck with what colours I got. I was lucky with what I got and one quilt is all autumn colours and the other is pinks and blues together. They have worked out so much cheaper than the other quilts. The first one I made cost me over £100 for everything, the next four cost about £40 each but these last two have worked out only £13 each for the tops so if you thinking of doing a quilt look out for scraps and remnants and then may be get a few nice bits to go with them.
I hope I have given you an insight into my experience. If you live in Kent, especialy near Medway then the shop I used for my fabrics and for the course is Hometown Fabrics in Rochester High Street, next door nearly to the Cathedral.
Patchwork is a fascinating hobby, it can be a very inexpensive hobby or on the other hand you can go to the other extreme and make it a very expensive hobby. I prefer to stay somewhere in the middle using new and recycled pieces of fabric working side by side to create plenty of interest.
If you are turning out a few drawers then that can be the ideal time to recycle some fabric, I know that many articles of cotton clothing have ended up being cut down and reused for patching.
But I feel that it is good to incorporate different types of fabric in a piece of work, fine woollen material works well beside cotton fibres and in general if the fabric looks good and works in well with the flow of the colour scheme then I will use it. There could be some who would say that makes life difficult when it comes to washing the finished article but on the whole I have found that as long as the fabric is washed in cool water it comes to no harm.
I love going to household auctions and jumble sales and these type of venues seem to throw up some interesting fabric that can set the creative juices flowing. Often a piece of patchwork can be inspired by colour, you start off using two or three random colours and before you know it you are eagerly dipping your hand into your scrap bag to find a piece of fabric that co-ordinates and that starts the whole ball rolling.
I enjoy random patchwork, I love to feel the texture of the different fabric and I never follow the rule book. In my eyes the piece of work is solely for my enjoyment and I want to maximise the pleasure by using my artistic license. Over the years I have even started to add fabric inserts from vintage greetings cards, pieces that have been cut from lavish head scarves, Victorian lace that has come from the auction houses, squares of damask table napkins or fabric that has come from favourite out of date clothing.
If you are a regular charity shop hunter then look out for the old embroidered tablecloths, the embroidered sections can make extremely interesting additions to any piece of work.
Some quilters love to work to a set pattern, take a look on the Internet and you will see some spectacular patchwork quilts, some of the old American patchwork is worked into wonderful patterns and the colours are really vibrant.
The style and the design can vary according to the region and one of the oldest pieces of quilted patchwork - dated 1708, sits on a bed at Levens Hall, Cumbria. This piece of patchwork was lavish, it was created from pieces of Indian chintz.
If you think about it there was much class distinction even in the world of patchwork, the wealthy had decorative quilts that were elaborately worked and these quilts were seen as befitting of their status. The working class poor had to make do and mend and patchwork was seen as a way of making do, cloth that still had life in it was never discarded, it was reworked into a bed cover.
In the past I have sold some of my quilts, some have been sold here in the UK and others have gone abroad, so I am no different to the women of yesteryear who in the 1920's and 1930's formed sewing circles to produce quilts to sell on to the wealthy in order to make ends meet.
The amount of equipment needed is minimal, you will need a good sharp pair of scissors, a card of sewing needles, some reels of thread and some oddments of fabric. The initial outlay is peanuts and that is why patchwork is such an attractive proposition. If you start a new hobby and spend hundreds of pounds on new equipment only to find that the hobby is not quite what you thought it was going to be then you have made a heavy financial loss but there is virtually next to no loss if you find that patchwork is not for you.
You need no special tuition, you can follow your instinct and you can let your creative juices run riot. I like to make it fun, if I feel that a pink square slots in between a blue and a yellow square and looks good then that is my decision, I am in charge of my own destiny !
My home has no craft room, I have to work in my lounge and that room is by no means very large. I work on my lap in the comfort of my armchair whilst I listen to the radio or the television.
It used to be fashionable to use paper piecings in between the layers - I will explain myself.
Once the square ( or shape) of fabric had been cut to the correct size it was then lined with a piece of paper, the paper stayed in place and when the backing was sewn onto the quilt that paper acted as a form of insulation. Years ago they used whatever paper was to hand so you can imagine there there have been some wonderful finds as the ancient quilts have been examined. Some have contained pieces of personal paperwork, there have been linings made from diary pages and old newspapers, I would have loved to have been there when the historian examined them.
My quilts starts life as four central squares, I love to work in three inch squares, the finished effect is pleasing. I prefer not to work to a uniform fabric pattern, this encourages colour exploration and you soon get used to harmonising the colours.
I only ever hand stitch my quilts, I see them as a complete labour of love and some of the quilts have taken many, many hours to work. The larger quilts can take months to complete but even when you have assembled the face of the quilt you still have the backing to stitch on.
If you want to you can use a lightweight wadding in between the face of the quilt and the backing, if you choose to do this you will have a heavy but warm winter cover for your bed.
If you feel daunted at the thought of constructing a full size quilt or you feel it is far too big a project to take on for a first time venture then kick off by making a patchwork miniature, maybe a purse or a key fob. This will be a taster for you as well as being a challenge and you will soon know if patchwork is for you.
You can buy ready made patchwork templates but I prefer to cut my own, all you need is a sheet of card and a tape measure. The size and shape that you want to work with is in your hands but remember it could be easier to start off with simple shapes to begin with.
Just a half an hours drive away from us we have a little shop that would be paradise for many patchworkers, they stock the bolts of printed cotton fabric that has become so popular but that fabric works out on average about £10 a metre. In my opinion that would make the hobby an expensive game.
Going back to the year 2000, many groups and communities enjoyed creating a special Millennium quilt to commemorate the year 2000. I know that our local Women's Institute exhibited the quilt that they had made in the local library and it was stunning.
If I had to pick one of the most unusual quilts that I have ever encountered then I would have to say that it would be the Yo-yo quilt ( otherwise known as the Suffolk Puff quilt).
This pattern is quite bizarre yet intriguing, the quilt consists of hand shirred circles that are joined together at the edges, Yo-yo quilts are more often than not really colourful and as the name intimates they are meant to be fun.
During the 1920's the women used to carry fabric, needle and thread in their pockets and in spare moments they would sew a Yo-yo circle to add to their ever growing quilt.
Vintage patchwork quilts are highly desirable and the original Victorian patchwork quilts can command high prices. I can see the attraction of owning a Victorian quilt but they are above and beyond what I am willing to pay.
A patchwork quilt can be a very personal thing to own and if you make one yourself then you can make sure that it is as personal as you want it to be.
Just imagine a quilt that contains fabric that is full of good memories, instead of parting with clothing that has been outgrown use it to work with and make your family an heirloom quilt.
If you are expecting a baby then a patchworker cot or pram quilt looks lovely, plus they don't take very long to make. If you are interested in learning more about the hobby then there are plenty of books in the local libraries and they cost nothing to borrow.
Patchwork is a relaxing but productive hobby and I have always enjoyed sitting quilting.
Patchwork and quilting might have been, in the past, a way of using scraps and reusing old items of clothing to make useful items, but today, this has become a very popular craft. The fascination with taking a few pieces of fabric, cutting them up, and resewing them into blocks and patterns has become very popular, with several magazines available, all containing patterns and ideas for your next project; and a network of local quilting groups, where you can share your time and ability with other like-minded individuals. Competition is high, and prizes are too at some of the quilting competitions, with worldwide interest, especially from the USA. The resulting wallhangings, quilts and small projects are eye-catching, and can be as traditional or as individual as you want them to be - mine are all as bright as I can make them, and contrast with the traditional furniture.
Some people walk into their local newsagents and look up at the top shelf whilst pretending to scratch their heads. Some people leave the house before dawn, opening the fridge door furtively to retrieve their collections of wriggling bait. Some people inject, some people people smoke. I collect fabric. Not from people's washing lines - I am not that bad. Not yet. From my favourite web site - well one of them anyway. www.sunflowerfabrics.com From fabric shops in town, anywhere I can get that rush. I feel it in between my fingers and stroke the surface. At the moment it has to be cotton, but I may have to go on to silks and velvets - who knows where this craving could lead. During the whole of 2001 I have been adding to my stash (a collection of fabric destined to sit in the back of a wardrobe) gradually, until suddenly it seems to have started breeding - that can be the only explanation surely. All I have made so far this year is a gym bag. And that was as a last minute panic, because I couldn't get the Barbie pink one from Clarks. Patchwork is one of my great loves. I love the sensuality of fabric. The colours, the feel of it. Patchwork is an ideal hobby for those who long to be creative but don't think they can draw. For the record I think everyone can draw - although some are going to be better than others. What a shame that creativity is leached away during our childhoods so we end up thinking that it is only other people who can do that sort of stuff. Nonsense. Draw for yourself and just take pleasure in the feel of the pencil as you make marks on the paper. All you need is a needle, some thread, some fabric, a pair of very sharp scissors (and don't ever use them for paper! - paper blunts scissors for fabric after one cut) and some ideas. You can get inspiration for patchwork f
rom anywhere. One obvious place to start is by laying different pieces of fabric together and seeing if you like the way they look. I would advise using a geometric design to start with - you will find starting with a simple pattern of squares the same size easiest while you learn how to sew them together in a way that suits you. Americans stitch patchwork by hand differently from us (in the UK). In the UK you would tack a piece if fabric around a card template and then over sew different patches with the right sides together. The American way is to simply plave the fabric right sides together and stitch it. Choose whichever method you like - or use mine - using a sewing machine. I have made patchwork both by hand and by machine, and prefer using a machine. Not being of the school that thinks that using a dishwasher is wrong because it makes people lazy, rather that dishwashers enable me to do more of the things I like and stop my feet itching every time I plunge my hands into a bowl of soapy water, I will use any and every device that makes my life easier. Using a sewing machine to construct your patchwork means that you can go from an idea to cutting out your pieces and producing a finished item in a few hours. It can be deeply satisfying to make something that no one else will have. My gym bag was an instant hit, combining "barbie" pink fabrics from my stash with my daughters name embroidered in backstitch using pink wool on a felt background. I then stitched the felt to the outside of the bag and stitched the inside and the outside together (both made of strips of fabric sewn together). Because the bag is not a commercially produced one, it is easily recognisable to my daughter who is in reception at the moment, and easy for her to find in a crowded cloakroom. A search on Google.com will lead you to many patchwork sites, and you can find a lot of books onl
ine and in highstreet stores, although online is probably your best bet. I tend to use www.amazon.co.uk for books on patchwork, and have picked up some great books from Just Books, a highstreet discount bookseller. You may find that artists with a decorative style such as Gustav Klimt will inspire you to produce quilt designs. Here are a few of my favourite books on patchwork: Kaleidescopes & Quilts - this book by Paula Nadelstern is one of the most beautiful I have seen. The quilt photographed for the front cover - Up Close And far Away - reminds me strongly of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt - one of my favourite paintings. ISBN 1-57120-018-5 Patchwork Portfolio - this contains 162 designs by Jinny Beyer, a prominent American quilt designer, and gives the traditional block a twist by using paisley patterned fabrics, and concentrating on contrast and pattern. ISBN 0-939009-46-3 Designing Tesselations - another great book by Jinny Beyer, this reveals the secrets of symmetry, and gives clear instructions and advice on how to create quilts by focusing on geometry and symmetry. ISBN 0-8092-2866-1 Repeat Patterns - this is a wonderful book by Peter Phillips and Gillian Bunce. This book reveals how many historical fabrics are constructed, using mathematical analysis. ISBN 0-500-27687-0 Quilts - an beautiful and informative huge book by Dennis Duke and Deborah Harding. This books travels through the history of patchwork and is packed with incredible examples of quilts both "ancient" and modern. ISBN 3-89508-224-4 All the above books were bought online from www.amazon.co.uk, except for Repeat Patterns, which was bought in Waterstones, and Quilts, which was bought from Just Books for practically nothing. I also use a piece of software called Electric Quilt. For those of us who like to design ourselves, this software is
great - you can make up your own design from scratch, by drawing blocks yourself, or by combining blocks from the block library. A block is a bit like a repeat in a patterned fabric - it is made up of a number of pieces of fabric, and can be repeated to make the whole quilt design. One of the best features of Electric Quilt is that you can see what your design will look like before you make it, and there is a facility to scan in your own fabrics and use them in your designs. When you have decided on your design, you can even print out templates to use for making you patchwork pieces, and calculate the amount of fabric you will need to make your quilt. For suppliers online see www.electricquilt.com. I tend to make my own designs up, using art books and books on quilt design and repeat patterns to give me inspiration, as well as simply choosing fabrics that go well together and working from there. I get a parcel of fabric sent to me every month from www.sunflowerfabrics.com as I am a member of the fabric Club. This is a great way to build up your stash and the fabrics are top quality cotton. Go on then - get yer own stash.