Friday, October 29, 2010

Tutorial for Baby Quilt with Scraps

We have a few babies coming our way in the next year or so.  My daughter was home sick with a fever and laying in bed, so I couldn't weave.  So, I decided that I would take my bags of scraps leftover from sewing dresses for her and myself and see what I could pull together for a quilt.  I can never throw away all those scraps, I even have trouble throwing away the little pieces, so I have bags of scraps sitting around.

I do have a confession to make.  I hate making "traditional" quilts.  I don't have the patience to make all those beautiful patterns match and it frustrates me to have to be very exacting with both cutting and sewing.  Instead, after seeing Gee's (hard G) Bend quilts made by the ladies of that area of Alabama, I knew that I finally met a quilt that I would be happy sewing.  Please have a look at these quilts.  They are lovely works of art that have a very modern feel.  So, here is my very modest nod to their work.

I tried to pull things in a flower theme and as you can see I have lots of flowers and pinks and some greens mixed in.  My daughter is still in her pink phase.  I then just cut these random pieces into the biggest squares and rectangles that I could manage.
For this task, I have found a rotary cutter and big clear quilting ruler to be the best.  After lots of cutting I ended up with a much smaller pile of scraps.  Although I did still pull out some of the bigger pieces to save...maybe I will use them later for something else?

I then started laying out the scraps and working with them until I had the quilt about the size I wanted.  I layed the scraps out on a baby quilt that was made for me as an infant, so it gave me a good idea of the size that I could pull together.  Then I rolled up the quilt and carried it into my sewing room.

 I started piecing in the middle and worked my way out, ironing each piece as I went.  So, in about 6 or 7 hours I had the top to the quilt put together.  I then had to buy some fabric for the backing and the binding.  I was hoping to use commercial binding, but I didn't find anything, but I did find some fabric that I can use later to make my daughter a dress.  I decided to use a soft cotton flannel for the backing.  I then laid out the quilt top on the dining room table, laid cotton batting on top of that, and then layed the backing fabric which I had washed and dried already on the top.  I then cut around the batting and backing fabric leaving quite a bit of excess to allow for "pulling in" when I quilt it.

On one of my first quilts I did not leave enough excess batting and backing fabric and had to end up piecing more backing fabric to finish.  So, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH EXTRA BACKING FABRIC!

Next, I safety pin the sandwiches together all over the quilt, 6-8 inches apart.

Next I machine quilt it.  Because I am not very adept at machine quilting, I use the "stitch in the ditch" method where I stitch in the joint between two fabrics.  I use a straight stitch set at 2.5 mm.  I have to admit that sometimes I wavered a bit out of the ditch.  If the fabrics were light, it didn't make too much of a difference, but if the fabric were darker, it showed.

My solution was to use a different stitch for some of the squares where my stitching wasn't great.  I have a hand quilt stitch on my machine and you can see the results below.  So for some of the blocks, I used this stitch to quilt.  As a result, different blocks are quilted differently.

You have to be careful quilting the blocks and make sure to check your backing fabric periodically to make sure that it is not getting shifted, pleated accidently, or caught some other way.  I make sure I smooth out the fabrics before I quilt a given block.

After all the quilting is done, I lay the quilt back out on a big table and cut the excess backing and batting off.  Now it is time to bind the quilt.  I cut my own bias 3 inches wide on the diagonal (45 degrees).  I then sewed the pieces together to end up with one long strip.  I ironed the strip and folded it in half and then began to sew it on the quilt.  I started toward the end of one side and left about two inches of the end unsewn.

I stitched it 5/8" from the edge.  When I got to a corner, I sewed 5/8" from the edge and backstitched.  I then folded the bias away from the quilt to make a triangle as shown below.


Next, I folded the bias down along the next side and hand creased it and pinned it.  I started sewing just to the edge of the triangle underneath.  You will need to feel it with your hand and just miss the underlying triangle of bias.  This takes a bit of practice.

After sewing the four sides with their associated corners like this, I made it back to the start. 

I cut off the corners of the ends as I show above, and then fold it inside and stitch it down.  Unfortunately, I sewed the finish edge facing me.  So, I had to rip out the stitches and put the finished edge on the bottom so as I turned the bias and stitched it to the backing, the finished edge would face outward.  Thank goodness for my mom's old awl; it works really well at pulling out stitches, especially when using strong quilting thread.

 Finally, I hand rolled the bias over and stitched it by hand with doubled quilting thread so it would be really strong.  I left the 5/8" or more of the backing and batting rather than trimming it.  I had to roll the thicknesses over to the back, but the result is a padded binding that looks like a cross between a binding and piping, which I really love.  It is a bit harder to work with on the corners though.

On the corners, I trimmed off the corner of backing and batting fabric, then I sewed one side down.  Next fold the other side down and work with it until it lays flat and sew it down.  You should have a miter on the front of the quilt and a fold on the back as shown below.  It takes a bit of practice to get this and it is a bit frustrating.  I definitely find this the hardest part of sewing the quilt together.

Now, you have a completed baby quilt.  Something your children will treasure.  My daughter is using my baby quilt  made in the early 60's and my son has a large blue jean quilt that he loves that my mother and I made together.  I also have a quilt that I cherish that my neighbor sewed from clothes that my sister and my friend's daughters wore sewn in a Dresden Plate pattern that I really love and cherish.  It is from the early 70's and we still use it today.

My only issue with the quick quilt is that until I photographed it I was really happy with it.  After photographing it, I noticed that it was quite unbalanced on one side as you can see below.  There is a very dark strip to the left that throws the whole quilt off.  If this was an art piece, I would fix it, but on the bed or in the crib it doesn't show like it does when it is hanging, so I am going to leave it, but I will definitely check the quilt top more carefully for balance when I make another one.

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