IdeasTap Magazine, February 2015. Original article.
How to make a quilt
A quilt may look complicated but it isn’t actually that hard to make. Just follow our step-by-step explanations, and you can turn your favourite pieces of fabric into a memory-filled showpiece.
The best thing about making a quilt is that you can use fabric from old clothes, curtains, table cloths – whatever you have sitting around. How about a quilt made from all your old T-shirts from university? I raided my mother’s closets for fabric for my little quilt, meaning each patch represents a little story in my family. Or maybe you could make a quilt for a friend whose child has outgrown their baby clothes?
It’s surprisingly easy to make a quilt, even if you’re not all that crafty. It requires a little patience as you measure out each patch and sew them together, but isn’t there something almost meditative about making something with your hands? Whether it’s sewing, baking or gardening, these sorts of tasks will let your mind rest a little, and tap into an age-old custom to make something solid. Back in the day, people would quilt in part because it was a way to use up fabric scraps too small to use for anything else, but nowadays it takes on a new function. Rather than hoarding boxes of old clothes, a quilt can be a great way to keep hold of bits of fabric to trigger memories.
Scrap fabric pieces, plus one large piece for the back
Measuring tape or ruler
Scissors, pencil, pins
1. Collect lots of pieces of scrap fabric. Make sure they are clean, and iron if wrinkly – this makes it much easier to measure the patches and sew them together.
2. Using a measuring tape or ruler, measure out each square into the size you want them, and cut out the patches. My squares were 8 centimetres in length and width, but for a full-size quilt I would double it. Then, using the ruler and a pencil, mark off each patch on the back, indicating where the seam should go. This will be about one centimetre in from the edge, on every side. This is a little time-consuming, but if you want clean corners you need to be exact.
3. Lay out all the patches on a flat surface and arrange into a design you like. Then it’s time to start sewing. Starting with the bottom row, sew each individual patch together to make a long row. [Photo 3 / 4] The pencil marks on the back of the patches will show you where to sew. At all times, make sure to sew on the backs of the patches, keeping the “good” sides of each patch facing each other – that way they will all face the same way once you’re done.
4. Once you have a row of patches, iron to lie flat and set it aside while you sew the rest of the strips. Then, get a big piece of fabric that’s large enough to cover the whole back of your quilt. You’ll want to make sure there’s plenty of slack around the sides, as the patchwork can go a little crooked as you work, especially if not all the patches are made from the same type of material. If you’re careful with the measurements, this won’t show much in the final piece – quilting is forgiving that way!
5. Starting from the bottom of the quilt, take the first strip and place it on the backing, face up. Then take the second strip and place it on top of the first strip, face down. Then sew the strips so they’re stuck – both to each other as well as the backing material. [Photo 5 / 6] Keep going until you’ve sewed down all the strips. If you want a cosier quilt, you can add a layer of wadding between the backing material and the patches.
6. At this point you can make your patchwork into anything you want – I made a cushion from mine as it was quite small. But it’s even simpler to make a wall-hanging or bedspread: just fold the backing material over to hide the raw edges of the patches, and sew it in place. Then step back and admire your handiwork.