The Art of Darkness

Quilting: Patchwork

January 28th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Trick or Treat QuiltI suppose, since I blather on about quilting so much, that it might be nice to actually talk about how to do it for a change.

Quilting strikes many as too daunting a task to attempt; something that requires arcane knowledge and maybe a long apprenticeship. Nah. If you can sew two pieces of fabric together, you can quilt.

A quilt is just a fabric sandwich: A top layer of fabric (which is often made of pieces sewn together); a middle layer of batting; and a bottom layer of fabric. The three layers are held together by stitching. That’s it.

The stitching can be highly decorative–indeed, there are many gorgeous quilts where the top is just plain fabric and the stitching is the star–but it can also be nothing more than straight stitches used to tack the three layers together.

Patchwork is a good place to start: There are many easy patterns, you can play with loads of color combinations, and if you have a lot of scrap fabric left from other projects you might be able to use some of it.

I’m not going to go into great detail about calculating yardage, color combinations, or anything else; there are a zillion books and Websites out there that do it better than I ever could. All I want to do is try to wrap your head around the idea that making a quilt is totally within your grasp.

A couple of suggestions to get you started:

  • Start small, so you don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. Make one block and turn it into a throw pillow, or use it as a motif on a vest or jacket.

  • Stick with squares or triangles in the beginning. Curves and trapezoids are a lot fussier and can lead to swear words.

  • Unless you’re an experienced seamstress/tailor, start out with tightly-woven fairly lightweight cotton or cotton-rich fabric (often marked “calico” or “quilter’s cotton”). It’s much easier to handle than other weights and blends. Also be sure to wash and iron all the fabric before cutting; otherwise it may shrink unevenly or bleed, leading to more swear words.

If you’d like to try something a little more ambitious than a single square, consider a set of placemats, a wall hanging, or a baby quilt. There’s a nice patchwork placemat tutorial here, and any set of blocks can be adapted for a wall hanging.

When you’re finally ready to jump into a full-sized quilt, check out Crazy Mom Quilts’ quilt-a-long, a series of single-block tutorials with lots of pictures.

There’s a wealth of fabric colors and patterns available, so you can make your quilts as gloomy as you like. The one above is “Trick or Treat,” a baby quilt I made using Halloween-themed fabrics (buy them on clearance after Halloween and stash ’em until you need ’em). Here are a couple of other quilts, October Stars and Danse Macabre, that use a darker palette.

There’s a nice little capsule history of patchwork quilting here, for further reading.

So what are you waiting for? Dig out that cute skull-print fabric you weren’t sure what to do with and start quilting!

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Kitten Herder Says:

    Beginners would be better off steering clear of triangles too. I still won’t revisit that nightmare.

    Squares and rectangles are the easiest. “Rail fence” is a good and flexible design. For something that seems really complicated, but isn’t, try Bargello patterns.

  2. Cobwebs Says:

    Well, triangles are fairly easy if you sew them together into squares. But yes, if you’ve got oddly-angled triangles, they’re a beast.

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