Monday, March 26, 2007

Start Quilting: Choosing a Design and Buying Supplies

Earlier this month when I updated the progress of my sushi/dim sum quilt, I mentioned that I would give pointers on how to get started quilting. And on a dreary day like today, there's nothing more comforting than snuggling under a homemade quilt. Now, I'm not very good with a sewing machine. I assume that if you have one, you don't need this lesson anyway. I like using up fabric scraps from various projects or pants that I've hemmed through the years. Or I get inspired by a particular button or fabric. Or I want to try a new design. This primer is geared at those who want to try their hand at making a quilt but don't want to invest in a bunch of supplies. After I hook you in, maybe you'll be so addicted you'll cruise online fabric sites and buy pretty ribbon just because like I do. :P First off, you'll need to select a design and figure out what size you want for your quilt. I would suggest a crib size which is 45 inches wide and 60 inches long. That's big enough to serve as a decent lap quilt, but still small enough that the project will be manageable. My apple tree quilt is crib size. I've slept under it many times. Kept it on my lap when I'm reading. Taken it on road trips. It's a good, useful size. For this quilt I had 10 appliqued blocks of apple trees, and 10 plain pink blocks. The apple tree and little houses were appliqued, which if you decide to do so, will be the most time intensive part. And trust me, by the time you get to the end, 10 blocks of appliques is more than enough. I also think making the applique every other block emphasizes it more. You can search online for lots of quilt applique designs or create your own like my cousins did or modify an existing one like lil' sis did. One of my readers asked for tips for a baby quilt and I suggested using baby clothes, appliques of booties or mittens, or silkscreening photos onto fabric. To learn how to keep the appliques in place, go here for Primrose Design's tutorial on the blanket stitch, or peruse any of her other stitches. To figure out how much fabric you'll need, this online quilt yardage calculator is the handiest tool. Each block is 8 inches square (add 1/2 inch margin on each side, so you'd want to cut 9 inch blocks. That means on the quilt calculator punch in 9 inches as the finished dimension (because the site figures in 1/4 inch margins) times 10 blocks to figure out how much fabric to buy for the plain blocks. I always add an extra 1/4 yard or so just in case since it's better to have extra fabric than not enough.) So that leaves you 10 blocks to work with if you want some kind of special block.

The lavender gingham sashing is 8 inches by 2 inches (again cut 9 by 3). Cut 49 of those.

Lavender terrier corner blocks were 2 by 2 (cut 3 by 3). Cut 30 blocks.

Then I had a border of 2 inch wide strips of each of the gingham and lavender terrier fabrics. Umm, you'll have to figure out the math of how much fabric for that.

And then you'll need about 2 yards for the back of the quilt. I would suggest choosing flannel because it's so cozy.

You don't have to applique, of course. My sushi/dim sum quilt is just fabric blocks that I'm piecing together. Because I'm alternating the printed fabrics with a neutral color, the sushi and dim sum prints stand out more. Plus, I didn't have very much of the sushi and dim sum prints left so I had to get creative.

For more ideas on how you can get creative by using simple blocks or strips, I really love the use of color in Yarnstorm's quilts.

And if you like piecing together blocks and using up scraps, you can try your hand at making a log cabin quilt. This quilt was made using fabric scraps from photo albums that I covered.

There are so many possible designs really. This apple tree block was initially inspired by the little blue apple buttons.
And this was my rudimentary sketch. So we're not exactly talking rocket science here.
After you've figured out your design and how much fabric you'll need, it's time to buy supplies. I get most of my supplies from Joann. The cotton quilting fabrics are generally priced between $2.99-$4.99 per yard. For a crib-size quilt, you'll usually need less than a yard anyway, and about 2 yards for the back. Click on their online flyers and there's usually a 40% to 50% off coupon or shop when there's a sale. Wal-Mart also sells fabrics, and often has a $1 per yard clearance corner. Another alternative is your local thrift store. I bought these fabrics for about 60 cents a yard.
All fabrics should be pre-washed before you start cutting them. You don't want your quilt to shrink after all your hard work because you forgot to pre-wash!
For basic sewing supplies though, I think Wal-Mart is the cheapest option. You can find sewing kits with a variety of thread colors, needles, and threaders for 88 cents. Look in the embroidery aisle, which is sometimes not the same aisle as sewing supplies. The same kit in the sewing supplies aisle is $1.52. Target sells the same thing for $2.99.
You'll also need a ruler, a pen or pencil to mark where to cut, some pins (I prefer these flat flower pins because they're longer and the flat head keeps fabric from bunching when you pin strips together. The pins should be about $1.something.), an embroidery hoop if you plan to applique (This will cost around 50 cents at Wal-Mart), a pair of sharp fabric scissors, and a big spool of neutral thread.
I don't buy expensive embroidery thread. I just double up the amount of thread I put on the needle to make it thicker. So spend as little or as much as you want for this.
And you'll need to buy batting. On the left is cotton batting, which is dense, natural, needs to be pre-washed for shrinkage, and is pricier than polyester. Use your 50% off Joann's coupon for the batting. On the right is polyester, which is lighter, fluffier (This is the 1/4 inch thickness, you can get them even thicker.), doesn't shrink in the wash, and is relatively cheap. A crib-size polyester batting is $2.99 at Wal-Mart. Both types of batting are also sold by the yard at Joann's.
OK, that should be enough to get you started. Supplies should cost less than $10 if you're very frugal.
Next lesson:


  1. Geez...I learning something new :)

  2. Tigerfish,
    So are you gonna get the quilting bug too? :)

  3. You can make all these and sell them for USD200!!! (as a baby crib bedding set - crib bumper, quilt cover and bed sheet)

  4. Yich,
    How much do you think I can charge if I add gold thread to it? ;)

  5. oh no!


  6. Tania,
    That's OK. There shouldn't be too much shrinkage with the cotton quilting fabrics.

  7. I've done a super easy quilt in the past - but nothing as beautiful or elaborate as yours...I need to start sewing again! Been distracted with this blogging thing!

  8. Jaden,
    I'm sure your quilt was lovely too! But yeah, blogging can be very distracting. And you put much more effort into yours than I do!


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