Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to Start Quilting

By Brandi M. Seals

Quilting is a new hobby for me. I started getting into it about six months ago. I have one quilt under my belt and I am currently working on a second. Many people seem to think that making a quilt should take forever, but it really does not have to. They key to making a quilt is to know how to execute the pattern you picked and to make sure you have the time to do it.

Picking a Pattern
First, start by picking a quilt pattern. Plenty of patterns are available online for free; simply use a search engine and type in free quilt patterns. If this is your first quilt, I suggest finding something easy. Maybe the quilt has just one or two shapes to it and it seems easy to put together.

Next make sure the pattern you have selected is for the size of quilt you want to make. You do not want to end up with a twin size quilt for your queen sized bed. The following is a list of bed sizes and their typical measurements*:
Twin 39" x 74"
Twin Extra Long 39" x 80"
Full 54" x 74"
Queen 60" x 80"
Olympic Queen 66" x 80"
King 76" x 80"
California King 72" x 84"
*These measurements are only for the flat top surface of the mattress. It does not take into account the drop of the mattress.

If your pattern is not quite the right size, keep in mind that you could alter its dimensions, add extra rows of squares or otherwise change the original pattern to suit your needs.

Cutting the Fabric
After picking out your material wash it, dry it and iron it flat. Then you can begin cutting the shapes you want. I like to use a ruler to get straight lines, a self-healing mat to cut on, and a rotary cutter. Cut out everything you will need and keep the different pieces separated. Keep in mind that the pieces should have an extra 1/4" of material on each side to allow for sewing. Some patterns take this into account and provide the exact measurements, other do not. For example, a quilt with 8" squares would require 81/2" squares to be cut out so that the finished sewn square would be 8".

Assembling the Quilt
The assembly will vary from quilt to quilt. Some have strips of material that needs to be sewn together first, others are built around a center design. Follow the directions that came with your quilt pattern.

Picking the Batting
Your quilt will need some sort of filler. Choose from natural batting or synthetic batting. Batting comes in different thicknesses. The thicker it is, the warmer it will be. I prefer to choose the thinnest batting available. Light weight quilts can be warmed up with extra layers, but if your quilt ends up being too warm for you, you will never use it.

Sewing on the Backing
Take the finished top layer of your quilt and lie it face up. Then place the quilt backing face down on the top layer. Next place batting on top, making sure it is evenly distributed. Pin all layers together. You will sew around the entire quilt leaving an opening several inches long so that you can pull the quilt through and it will have the right sides on the outside. Try to make sure the opening is not at one of the corners. It will be harder to hand sew it shut if the opening is along a corner.

Finishing the Quilt
You can either tie the quilt layers together or quilt them by hand or on a sewing machine. I have never tied the layers together, but I hear it is pretty easy to do. Just lay the quilt flat and starting from the center, begin to using yarn to tie the layers together. Be sure to keep the layers even or you will end up with weird creases in the fabric.

Hand quilting is very time consuming and requires the use of a frame to keep the quilt layers flat and even.

When quilting by machine, first lay out the quilt and beginning from the center, begin pinning together the layers using safety pins. Sew the quilt following the patterns within it or using a template to achieve a quilting pattern you prefer. Be sure to change the sewing needle often so that the points remain sharp. You will want to use a clear thread similar to fishing line for the top and use a colored thread that matches your backing in the bobbin.

Now your quilt is done. It was not as hard as you thought and not nearly as time consuming. The real key is just starting small. It is going to take forever if you try something way above your skill level. So start small and work your way up to those intricate quilts that you love.

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