Quilting my very first quilt…..cont. from yesterday

In order to make a quilted blanket from my patchwork layer, I made a sandwich with the patchwork top layer, a layer of wadding and then the backing fabric which for this quilt was a neutral floral print. I was unsure what weight of wadding to use for this blanket but in the end I went with the medium wadding which was 4oz. The result was a thick spongy quilt which will make a good blanket for a baby to play on but may be too warm to get much use as a cover. In fact when I was finishing all the threads for this quilt, my legs were getting very warm.


My plan was to use my sewing machine to do the quilting and follow the lines of the patchwork squares to dreate a checkerboard quilting pattern. I will admit that I was very unsure about what I was doing for this part of the project. I read a few bits and pieces online and having recently purchase a new sewing machine complete with quilters pack, I knew that the pieces I needed to use were all in that box. In fact, this project was in no small part driven by the fact that I wanted to play with the cotents of the quilters pack.


I attached the walking foot to my machine and added the extension table. and then started sewing. I began with a line going across the quilt (it was a few inches shorter) somewhere near the middle. The three layers were held together by small dressmaking pins which with hindsight were insuuficient for the task. They kept working their way out and pinging onto the floor where they lay in wait for an unsuspecting de-shoed foot. If there are any secrets to doing this kind of machine quilting, I would love to know them. The final result that I obtained is picture below but that was after endless rounds of unpicking and resewing. I could not get these to be reliably straight. This did improve with time and in the end, with an increased stitch length I was able to get some good results.


Tip If you are going for a similar quilting pattern to the one that I have used here, keep all the layers of the fabric as taut as possible while you are sewing all of the parallel lines. If you don’t do that, when you come to doing the second set of lines, you will be creating small puckers/pleats at each layer of stitching where there is too much of the backing fabric because it has been allowed to puff out.

For this quilt, I decided not to use bias binding around the edge like so many of the quilts that I have seen online. I wanted a wider border so I made the piece of backing fabric much larger than the top and the wadding with the wadding a bit larger than the patchwork piece. Once all the wuilting was finished, I trimmed the wadding to size such that it extended 8 cm past the edge square minus seam allowance. I then folded the backing fabric over to cover the additional wadding and trimmed it so it had a 5/8″ seam allowance. I then pressed under 1/2″ and topstitched all the way arounf the border going through all the layers of the sandwich. The aspect of this wuilt that I am most unhappy with is the corners of the border. They are nowhere near as neat as I would have liked them to be. I did my best with them but the problem was that the quilting gathers in the backing fabric so that when you extend into an unquilted region, the grain lines are no longer anywhere near parallel with the patchwork squares. This makes a crisp mitred corner extremely difficult to acheive.


Overall, I am really happy with the final result of this project and it was very gratefully recieved. I am looking forward to making the next one 🙂



My Very First Quit…….top layer

Phew……making that quilt was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have a lot to write about this project so I have separated it into two posts. This is the quilt I started way back in February. In my head it seemed so straightforward and I was looking forward to an easy sewing project. It started off that way. The first thing I did was to cut out all my squares for the patchwork front of the quilt. I wanted all my squares to be 8cm x 8cm in the finished design so leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edge, I cut each square out to a size of 92mm x 92mm. This was the perfect size as I had bought a quarter metre of each fabric and therefore could get three squares across the width of the fabric I had bought…..just.

Cutting these out was not as easy as I thought it would be. Using scissors I couldn’t cut through more than 3 layers of fabric at a time. Any more than this and the fabric moved around A LOT. So, I used a cardboard template and drew round it with a washable pen onto the fabric folding it so that I could cut 3 out at a timeThis meant a lot of drawing round the template then cutting then drawing then cutting then drawing then cutting……….you get the idea. With hindsight, I could have made a paper pattern with a grid marked out on it and then I could have pinned it to the fabric and cut without all the drawing. It took ages and hurt my hands but I was glad when it was done.


Original Lay Out
Original Lay Out

Next, I laid out my design and played with it until I was happy. I started in the centre and worked my way out radially. I didn’t have a plan and the beginning and in the end I didn’t quite have enough of anything to make it completely symmetrical unless I put three turquoise squares next to each other at either end. It doesn’t look great so I moved a few things around to make it less symmetrical but at least it doesn’t have three of any pattern together.

With the design in hand I gathered the squares in rows and ironed them before sewing them together in rows so that I had 11 strips of what looked like very decorative toilet paper….  In order to minimise the bulk at the points where 4 squares meet, the seamm allowances on the even numbered rows were pressed in the opposite direction to the odd-numbered rows before they were sewn together in order to give the top half of my quilt. This looked so much better than when the squares were just laid out next to each other.



The problem with the way I cut out the squares became apparent when it came to sewing the pieces together. With two very geometric prints, the seams needed to align with the pattern so that my elephants didn’t look like they were marching along under the influence. wpid-20140702_101137.jpgThis meant a new cardboard pattern to draw around on each and every square so that the patterns were as straight as possible on the final patchwork and a lot of careful pinning to make sure each seam was where I wanted it even though the edges of the seam allowance didn’t match up.


It is difficult to tell from the picture above but the cardboard isn’t square on the piece of fabric. The extended process was irritating but made the completion of sewing the pieces together all the more satisfying.

20140219_095302The finished patchwork draped over my sewing machine

More on the quilting of this later….




My Very First Quilt

Having reached an age where everyone I know is getting married and starting to think about babies, I am excited about the prospect of all the homemade gifts I can make. With a new arrival expected at the beginning of April, I have decided that my sewing project for this month will be a quilted baby blanket. Unfortunately, said bundle of joy is of unknown gender so when picking the fabrics, I was very conscious of avoiding anything pink or blue, featuring flowers or cars or trains or frills. I also wanted something that looked coordinated but not monochrome. After much deliberation in my local branch of fabricland, I chose three cotton fabrics purchasing a quarter meter of each.

My favourite is this gorgeous elephant print:


I love the fact that it is whisical yet still quite geometric in design. I loved this so much that I ended up building up my fabric selection around it. To accompany this I chose a larger scale bird print and a turqoise geometric design.

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The turquoise of the geometric design really brings out the pattern in the bird print and both work well with the neutral design and palette of the gorgeous little elephants. Now all I have to do is do these lovely fabrics justice as I sew them together………Watch this space.

Counting Sheep……..

Somewhat scarred by my attempts at a sorbetto I decided to go back to something simple. Before my sorbetto campaign, I bought some soft blue fabric with a sheep pattern on it that I planned to use for some pyjama bottoms. These were to be based on some pyjamas that I had but had come to a weary end. Hoever, I did not buy enough fabric not realising how much fabric is need for the crotch region. I am still stunned by how complex garment construction is and how take for granted it is as well. I decided to use this fabric to make some snuggly pillowcases for camping.


I didn’t really bother with a pattern for these pillowcases but as it turned out, when I cut it in half it was the perfect size allowing for a 5/8″ seam alowance. I judged this by comparing it to an existing pillowcase. In order to have this project contain some new skill to practice, I decided to use french seams for the construction. This project also provide some more practice at controlling the sewing machine and keeping the lines straight.

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There isn’t much more to say about this project other than the French seams were a success and I plan to use this extremely neat technique in future makes and the big kid in me is insiting on using this pillowcase tonight 🙂

A Failed Sorbetto

At this point I will point out that my failure is by no means the fault of the pattern. As a project this fulfilled many of the objectives that I had when I embarked upon making this top. Having downloaded the pattern, I traced the pattern pieces onto paper without sticking them together first. The main reason for this was that I had printed it out double-sided at work and then snatched it out the printer and into my handbag before anyone could see it………not easy to disguise dressmaking patterns as chemistry.

This approach was fairly successful and I cut all the pieces out of my fabric without any problems. The instructions were clear and easy to follow even for a complete rookie like me. I particularly liked the explanatory information accompanying some of the steps. In particular, stay-stitching is something that I haven’t come across before and is the kind of think I would perhaps be tempted to skip not really seeing the point but by including a reason for the instruction, the people at collette patterns succeeded in convincing me it was necessary. I made the darts and pressed them into place very neatly and was very pleased with myself although it was at this point that I started to question my choice of fabric. The mystery fabric was very easy to handle which meant I could concentrate on using the machine and keeping my seams straight but it was very stiff and when I made the darts they kind of kept their shape without any support in a manner that comically reminded me of the bras favoured by Madonna in the 80s. Hmmm…….

Again the pleat was fairly easy to do given the nature of the fabric and I constructed the pleat and stitched the front and back together without much difficulty (although the seams were in place interesting shapes). I couldn’t seem to get neat small stitches no matter what I did. The fabric scooted through the machine apparently unchecked giving long wonky stitches. On further investigation I found that my machine opened in a way I had not anticipated and revealed this dial.

pressure dial

The foot pressure is ADJUSTABLE!! and set to the lowest setting so the fabric was not held by the machine. After sorting this out the fabric moved much more steadily and I redid all my seams. How conscientious am I.

Now to the next new element – bias binding. As something else previously unknown to me I read through the instructions for this several times before I proceeded. The instructions for this element were so clear and easy to follow that I have kept this page in my sewing machine case for future perusal next time I need to use this. Unfortunately, no amount of detail and assistance in the instructions could make up for my inability to control the fabric on curves. I cannot tell you how many times I unpicked this binding but I will reveal what was left at the end (it’s still pretty bad). I know I should have practice controlling my machine before I started this sewing project but I’ve never been very good at drilling the basics. Learning scales on the clarinet for exams was such a painful experience it was almost enough to put me off music forever.


I would have unpicked these seams again but at this point I tried the garment on and decided there was no need as it will never be seen in public. The stiffness of the fabric meant in hung like a lampshade around me. This fabric has no drape at all. In addition to this, I am quite tall (6 ft) and had I hemmed this top it would have been a cropped lampshade revealing more of my untoned stomach than I am willing to let anyone see.


So lessons learnt during this make:

  1. Consider lengthening makes in future
  2. Foot pressure must not be too low
  3. Stay-stitching is important
  4. Think about drapiness of fabric needed for project at point of purchase
  5. Bias binding is not scary but I need to practice

I will definately make this pattern again in the future but I will use a much more drapey fabric.

Planning a Sorbetto

This is my next make. Spurred on by my success with the hessian bag I decided to try a Sorbetto by Collette for my next sewing challenge. There were a number of reasons for this decision not least the number of gorgeous sorbettos that are all over the internet.

I wanted something simple that would not be so difficult that I never finished it but I wanted to challenge myself at the same time.

The Sorbetto has bust darts:


A pleat:


Curved lines that need to be stitched AND binding (something that I have only read about and never seen up close):


It doesn’t have sleeves, gathers, “easing-in” (not really sure how this works) or a zipper.

So some new challenges but there are no elements that are too scary. The other brilliant thing about this make is that the pattern is available as a free download and can be made with a relatively small amount of fabric. While my sewing is still as dodgy as it is, I don’t want to spend a fortune on fabric and patterns and haberdashery just to turn it all into a mangled mess.

So now I have a pattern, I need some fabric, some thread and some of this mysterious bias stuff.

I bought some fabric (pictured above) from the ‘Fancy Silk Store’ in Birmingham. I pass this shop regularly travelling to work but never while its open and as I live in Bristol it is a bit far for making a special journey. I was early heading home for once and I nipped in and in about 5 seconds saw this, decided it was light and fresh and summery so I would have some of it for my sorbetto. As I writing this post retrospectively, I can tell you that this was not the correct fabric choice but more on that later.