1: Press, stack, trim
Once you choose your fat quarters, press them well and stack them in piles with a variety of values and scales in each pile. This is important – don’t stack two of the same fat quarter in the same stack. In fact, it can be great if they are all different – but don’t get too hung up on that – just use a good variety.
3: Make the first cut and sew
Work with one fabric stack at a time. Cut the first FQ stack into several strips of varying widths. If you like more structure, you can do as I did and choose to make just four cuts. Simply make them unequal in size, but not less than a couple of inches (unless you really want to make tiny strips - then, by all means, make tiny strips. It’ll look like this:
When that’s done, shuffle the strips and sew them back together, and press the seams all in one direction.
Once all of the stacks have been cut and resewn, shuffle them into new stacks, mixing up the fabrics. Stack the sets together again, and trim again if needed. The strips should be vertical so that when you cut them again, you cut across the strips, like THIS:
Repeat steps two and three -- cut, shuffle and sew your new stacks. When you're done, each block should look like this (ish):
Borders not only enhance the overall look of your quilt; they can also help you square up a top that’s a bit wonky. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of adding borders to square up your quilt top, ensuring a professional finish that you'll be proud of. Using this method instead of the “sew and chop” method of adding borders can help ensure that you don’t have “ruffly” borders – you know the ones – they’ve got more ruffles than a potato chip. They have more flounces than a quinceanera gown. More wrinkles than granny’s face… you get the idea. They don’t lay flat and they don’t quilt up nice and square. But you can prevent that.
Measure and Cut the Borders:
Start by measuring the sides of your quilt top accurately. Press your quilt top well and lay it out flat. You can either measure once through the center of the quilt, or, for more accuracy, measure in three places and take an average. Since I hate math, I use the once through the middle measurement, and it works fine for me. Once you have the measurements, cut the borders to match the measurements of the quilt.
Attach the Borders:
Start by attaching the side borders first. Place one border strip on the right side of the quilt top, aligning the raw edges. Pin the border in place at the beginning, middle, and end and then ease in any fullness Repeat the same process for the left side of the quilt top. Sew borders using a quarter-inch seam allowance. Press the seams to one side.
Once the side borders are attached, measure the width of your quilt top, including the newly attached side borders. Cut two border strips to this length and sew them to the top and bottom of your quilt top using the same method as before.
Adding borders to square up your quilt top is the final step before moving on to quilting and binding. Taking the time to accurately measure, cut, and sew the borders will result in a square, flat top that will be much easier to quilt. Your longarmer will thank you!
You’ve finished your quilt top. You’re so proud of how it turned out. All your quilty friends are oohing and ahhing when you take the top to show and tell. Then, inevitably, someone asks, “How do you plan to quilt it?”
“Well,” you say. “Umm, I’m hoping my quilter will have some ideas.”
Well, your quilter does have some ideas, and I’ll share them with you here. This post will consider edge to edge, or allover, designs. We’ll talk about custom quilting in another post. Consider these three things when choosing a design, and you won't go wrong.
1. How will the quilt be used?
As you consider quilting designs, it’s important to think about how you plan to use the quilt. Will it go on your guest bed where it’ll be infrequently used and washed, or will it go to a toddler who will drag it around on the floor? Will your daughter-in-law let the dog use it for a bed? (That’s a discussion for another post!)
A quilt that will be lightly used can be quilted a bit less densely, but if you’re going to give it to a toddler (or a dog), you might want to consider more dense quilting to increase the quilt’s durability. Other than those few considerations, density is really a matter of preference.
Let me take a moment here to dispel a myth that a lot of my clients believe — that dense quilting will make the quilt stiff. Unless you’re practically embroidering the entire top, this just isn’t the case. I’ve quilted lines as close as quarter to half inch apart, and the quilt is still snuggly, especially after it’s been washed. So if you like the look of dense quilting, don’t be afraid to use it!
2. Who will be using the quilt?
You’ll also want to consider the recipient here. Does she love dogs? Is he into baby goats? Choose a design that acknowledges the recipient’s interests, and they will love the quilt all the more. There are digital designs for every occasion and interest -- in 2020, for example, someone created a toilet paper digital design. Yep. You read that right. But I'll pay you not to make me use that on a quilt!
3. What's the style of the quilt?
I typically look at the fabrics in the quilt for design ideas. Does it have lots of flowers? Novelty motifs? Animals? We can usually find a digital edge to edge design that will enhance and unify the theme of the top.
But, you ask, what if I used all solids and blenders and there are no fabric motifs? In that case, you’ll look at the shapes in your quilt. If there are lots of straight lines, choose something swirly or organic to soften them and add interest and movement. If there are lots of curves in the top, consider some straight lines for contrast.
Contrast is key to adding interest, so consider using it in the quilting to add another element of interest to your already beautiful quilt top.
One final thought to consider -- what is the style of the room the quilt will live in? Modern? Then you'll want to consider straight-line quilting. Bohemian? Consider florals. If the room is traditional and sophisticated, we can find designs to match that tone.
If you have any more questions about quilting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at www.studiobquilt.com
There is something so beautiful about a vintage quilt, with their mismatched fabrics and crooked seams and puckers. I’m working on a few this week, and I’ll admit, these quilts are not easy to longarm. They aren’t square, and some of the seams have come apart. They require a lot of fussing to get everything fixed just so you can get them on the frame – and that’s before you deal with all the puckers and the tucks and the blocks that won’t lay flat.
But the women who pieced these tops didn’t have rotary cutters and acrylic rulers for accurate cuts. They had cardboard templates, pencils, and sewing shears – if they were lucky. They didn’t have lines of high quality quilting cottons in coordinating shades and patterns. They had old shirts, sheets and flour sacks that stretched and shrank in odd ways. Frequently, these vintage tops were pieced by hand, but even when done with the machine, they were a lot of work without all the gadgets we now have in our sewing rooms. And for all that, our foremothers still managed to make beautiful quilts to keep their loved ones warm and to beautify their homes. And some of them got tucked into boxes and trunks and old suitcases, only to be resurrected by a daughter or granddaughter a generation later.
So when a vintage quilt top comes into my shop, I’m grateful, even though they take so much extra work to prep and quilt. I’m grateful because their makers took the time to create them, and in doing so they paved the way for us to be able to create also. They passed on to us not only their love of quilting, but their willingness to take the time to create things. We learned from our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers the importance of stopping our chores and our social obligations long enough to make something beautiful and useful. And I’m grateful for the stories these old quilts tell, of harder times and of making do with less, of using and reusing, and of not giving up just because things are hard to do.
But I’m also really, really grateful for rotary cutters, acrylic templates, and high quality quilting cottons!