17 June 2014

Birth of a quilt

Fabric is so beautiful to me and some of the bundles in my stash so hard to find that the thought of cutting in to them is really difficult sometimes. I need to remind myself with each new project that those lovely pieces of cloth, so pretty all stacked on top of each other in their coordinated glory, can be turned into something else that is not only beautiful but useful and that can be enjoyed by others too. Even having written that, I will struggle to let this quilt go. It is wonky and imperfect, but it has a piece of me in it. How fitting then that something I love should go to someone I love.
Like any mother showing her newborn off for the first time, if any unflattering comments are made, I will cut you.
This is a birthday gift for my one year old nephew. It took longer than I thought it would to make. Knowing what I know now about quilting, finishing it a little over a week past his birthday is really not too bad at all. There were moments when its completion seemed so far from reach and then all of a sudden, it was done. I am sure many of you experienced quilters will be able to relate to that feeling of satisfaction when the binding is on. 

Here it is, back when it was a just a twinkle in its mother's eye:
It slowly grew square by square, strip by strip, panel by panel.

Into this.
I have made just one other quilt before, but I didn't sew through the layers with that one (I'm not sure that even counts as quilting then?). Both were fairly simple patterns, but this one took so much longer to assemble. There's quite a process: Working out the size of the squares to determine the best scale of the plus signs on the finished cot quilt, deciding which colours and patterns looked best where for balance, basting, stitching and making and adding the binding.

Of course, no project of mine ever seems to run smooth. I used a grey pure cotton fabric that, while beautifully soft, frayed instantly once cut and continued to fray when handled too much. It surprised me given it was found with the other quilting fabrics in Spotlight. It was mixed with very lightweight gingham and heavier fabrics like suede alongside regular quilting cottons so the differences in weight resulted in some obviously wonky squares.

Being the awesome mathematician that I am, my calculations resulted in, shall we say, an unconventionally sized quilt. The quilt top ended up being wider than the width of my backing fabric. There are many ways to solve that problem, the obvious one being to cut down the top which would make the squares on the edge of the quilt noticeably smaller than the others. Cry you a river, I know, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I made the edging wider on the back. Because I didn't want machine stitching showing through on the front of the quilt (can you tell I had a clear vision of how I wanted the finished quilt to look?), I ended up hand binding the edging.

Bamboo wadding is really lovely to sew through even with a regular sewing machine foot. I didn't even think to change the needle at the quilting stage and had no problems whatsoever. I topstitched around the edges of each plus sign with the stitch length on 3 and it produced some really lovely outlines on the back.
I am also really happy with the edging I used. It is black with tiny off-white dots in an arched pattern. It's striking yet does not overwhelm so that the plus signs remain the focal point of the quilt.

Thank you Leonie and Helen (you need a blog so I can link to you) for your words of encouragement and advice throughout my project (smooch). It looks like a walking foot and some decent quilting pins will be high on my wishlist as my standard pins were inadequate and I ended up dispensing with them completely in frustration. I started quilting from the centre and worked my way to the outside, smoothing the layers out with my hands as I went. I read somewhere online after I had finished that it is not recommended to start quilting in the middle. With not using pins, it seemed a good place to start for me! At any rate, I've learnt my lesson; basting is important if you want minimal puckering.

Now I am looking at my fabric stash in a completely different light and seeing endless possibilities. I have started a Pinterest page for inspiration and it is likely to be my fastest growing album because there are just so many amazing quilts out there. I can fully appreciate the work that goes into highly complex patterns but for now, I think I will stick to making simple geometric shapes and blocks. I quite like the modern vibe they create. What are your favourite quilt patterns?

Quilt details:
Finished size: 118x135cm/46.5x53"
Edging: 6cm/2.5" Kona Bay Fabrics: Exotic Garden Dots
Backing: Grey shot cotton (Spotlight)
Bamboo wadding (Spotlight)
Squares: 10cm/4"
Orange triangle, light blue spots and stripes quilting fabrics (Spotlight)
Gingham, suede, dark blue polka dots and stripes, Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets and Sarah Jane Pirates fabric from my stash
Seam allowances: 5mm/1/4"

Joining in with Leonie's link-up this week. Come over and see a really sweet 5th birthday card invitation and other lovely makings.


  1. Oh wow! Just stunning. Love all the colours, you have done an amazing job. I can't wait till I finish my first quilt, although I am along way a way just yet xo

  2. You should be proud Leanne - you tried, you learned and you conquered a lot! Not that it always feels that way but you just wait till the next one! And it looks great! Well done you and what a lucky nephew. So feel you on cutting into beautiful fabric... so hard! it's so nice to sit and stare and stroke them isn't it? Looking forward to seeing your quilt history and makings grow - the learning never stops I reckon... I learned one or two valuable things in my most recent one! Hoorah for you - I think it looks great (not just saying that because I don't want you to cut me ;) ) Oh and funny... the ones I've quilted myself have been basted to death but I always started in the middle none-the-less... Makes sense to my brain - best I go look that up! High fives for you! xx

  3. Lovely- and now you've got the bug! :D

  4. Wonderful! Welcome to quilting, it's SO much fun.

  5. This is lovely. Well done you.

  6. I'm a great starter... but never have the patience to finish things! Your effort here is very inspiring Leanne :) Not sure I would have the stamina... love your work xx

  7. Well done Leanne, my quilts don't look nearly as flash as that! And I've only machine quilted a couple, I tell myself that I like to hand quilt!

  8. It's really great Leanne!! I am sure that your nephew will love using it and it will become a family heirloom I expect! The orange fabric with the circles of dots is my favourite, but they all look really good together, and so nice for a boy too. I would have thought that starting the quilting in the middle would have been a good thing so that you could keep it smooth as you worked out towards the edges, shows what I know! xx

  9. Gorgeous! I love the colours/fabrics you've used.

  10. Its brilliant. I love it. So good. The colours are awesome.

  11. The colours you've used are just so great! One of my favourite combinations. Well done!

  12. I can feel the effort and love and care you have put into this from your words. This is sure to be a treasured and loved "snuggler" as we call them around here.... And those colours! Striking yet understated at the same time, so wonderful. So glad you shared it with us. Xx

  13. And what a handsome baby it is! Great work!