A dressmaker’s first quilt

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really fancied quilting. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve actively shied away from it in the past. Too cutesy, too expensive, too time consuming… for lots of reasons, it hasn’t appealed.

But clearly lockdown is doing strange things to me, because I’ve gone and made a quilt.

So how did this strange thing happen?

For some time, bright, colourful, modern quilts had been creeping into my consciousness. It’s inevitable when you follow enough dressmakers on Instagram. It slowly dawned on me that perhaps some quilts were actually quite nice. Or even, perhaps, beautiful?

And then Laura made a Looper Quilt. This simple looking, rainbow themed quilt, really appealed to me. And so boredom and lockdown combined to have me buy the pattern and start researching fabric.

Selecting fabrics was thoroughly enjoyable. I knew I wanted a darker background (pale colours and a house with a black and white cat in it not being the best mix!) so chose a star print from Ruby Star Society. Picking colours for the rainbow strips was then simply a case of selecting coordinating fabrics in the colours of the little stars; Philippa at Fabricate Mirfield was kind enough to send me some samples so I could pick the ones I wanted. I selected a different Ruby Star Society print for the quilt backing and ordered a suitably large bundle of stuff!

Then it came to wadding. I was totally lost! Thankfully, Laura is lovely and let me know what she’d used for her quilt so I was able to order to same one. I’m really pleased with it: the weight and feel is perfect.

Totally ignoring the pattern’s recommendations for beginners, I chose to make the mid size quilt. The recommendation is to make the baby quilt size if you’ve not quilted before, and I understand where this is coming from BUT I’m still pleased that I ignored it because I wouldn’t have ended up with a quilt that I’d use.

Printing and assembling the quilt pattern was an absolute doddle, compared with tiling most dress patterns! There are very few pieces as you’re cutting the same shapes from different fabrics, depending on the design you pick. As I’d not quilted before, I went with the selected loop design for the 60″ x 60″ size I was making, but the pattern encourages you to design your own quilt using the pieces available. It even has colouring templates to help you plan out your design and use of colours, which I thought was a great idea.

One thing I found really annoying though was the pattern’s recommendations for fabric requirements. I ended up with a LOT too much fabric, particularly of the backing fabric. And at the price of Ruby Star Society cottons, that wasn’t something I was best pleased about. It has put me off doing this again, because although the pattern comes with a method for you to work out how much fabric you need depending on your chosen design, I now don’t trust it. I guess that if I decided to make another quilt, I could lay out the fabric size on the floor and work it out for myself, but that sounds like a lot of work!

One advantage of using this pattern is that it comes with a code to get you access to a really good sew along. This was really helpful as a first time quilter and I really appreciated the support.

I thoroughly enjoyed the process of pieceing the top together. I’ve heard people saying it’s hard to stick to the small seam allowances, but I found it perfectly achievable. Maybe my love of topstitching is finally paying off?I also found it a very speedy process, possibly because these are relatively big blocks.

But then it came to the quilting. Oh. My. GOD. Do people really do this for fun??

The first problem was attaching all the layers smoothly. Getting three layers of fabric to lay quietly whilst you pin them together with safety pins is clearly a feat I am not capable of! I struggled to find a big enough bit of floor, I failed utterly to get the cat to keep off it and frankly, in a locked down household with two children, the cat was the least of my worries!! After a certain amount of unpinning and repinning, I decided it was good enough and moved on.

I was thrown for a while by how to select a quilting design. I kind of expected the pattern to tell you what to do, but it didn’t at all. I searched the #looperquilt on Instagram and peered at the pictures, trying to see how others had done it. There were a lot of grid designs, with many going over the whole quilt. Others followed the curve of the stripes and then used a grid over the background, and a few followed the curve shape across the whole quilt. I thought that looked best, so went for it.

I quilted the stripes themselves OK, although even working from the centre out, this involved a lot of fabric wrestling. It took me a couple of short sessions to get all the stripes done, which was actually a good sized task for the time slots I’ve had available of late.

Then it was time for the backing. About 2/3 of the way through the first line of quilting, I’d realised why the clever, experienced people in my phone had not continued the stripe curves across the rest of the quilt. It is an absolute sodding nightmare to follow an even curve whilst dealing with that quantity of fabric! I worked out that it was significantly easier if I marked the stitch line out in chalk one row at a time, and my Chaco chalk liners came in brilliantly, allowing me to measure my required distance around the curves well. I relied on my walking foot to keep the distance equal for the rest.

After several stress inducing, physically exhausting sessions, I had very sore wrists (random but true) and a quilted quilt. All that remained was the hand stitching. And this part, I thoroughly enjoyed. I followed the same blog that Laura signposted to get the mitred corners right, attached the binding on one side with my machine and then settled down for a couple of thoroughly enjoyable, meditative hand stitching sessions on the settee.

hand quilting in front of the TV

I finished this off whilst taking part in the daily Zoom calls for the Sewing Weekender, which seemed strangely appropriate. It means this quilt has many memories already and marks a particular point in my life.

Finishing touches at the Sewing Weekender Online

So, if you’ve got this far, well done, I’ve rambled even more than usual. I absolutely love my finished quilt. It currently has pride of place on the arm of the settee in the lounge, and the entire household is under no illusion about how I would react were it to be discovered on the floor, used in den building, provided to the cat for comfort, or found to have crumbs on it! Both children have tried to appropriate it for their own use, but unusually, I have remained firm: this is all mine.

I mean, I can’t give it to one of them when I’m highly unlikely to make another one for the other child, can I? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Becca xx

15 thoughts on “A dressmaker’s first quilt

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  1. It’s beautiful. I know what you mean about the draw of making quilts as a dressmaker. I’ve made two, one from fabric offcuts, the other from a couple of fat quater packs I won in the Sew Up North raffle a few years ago. That one I decided to freemotion quilt. It took months and months, as I couldn’t stand doing more than a couple of hours at a time. Just been considering making another one.

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  2. This looks incredible Becca, well done. I’ve always been a bit put off even trying a quilt as I did a handmade patchwork one at uni!! It literally took years!! ๐Ÿ˜‚ This looks so modern an fresh. Properly lovely

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  3. I’m hoping on the quilt train too – i wonder how long it will taje fir me to step on the break; it sounds exhausting! This is a super useful post Becca, ta! Your finished quilt is superb; totally right you should keep it for yourself!

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    1. Ooh, canโ€™t wait to see: have you got a pattern in mind or are you being more freestyle? Iโ€™ll admit to having seen Harry Potter quilt blocks on Instagram and being tempted for the kids, before deciding it would take me so long theyโ€™d have moved on before I finished!

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  4. Well done Becca, I really enjoy the patchwork bit of it and consequently have about 8 finished tops but can’t be doing with wrangling all that fabric to quilt them. I’m thinking of sending them all to a longarm service. I would be keeping that for myself too.

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    1. Iโ€™m glad itโ€™s not just me! I was doing the top thinking, why does making a quilt seem to take people so long, this is great, but then got to the quilting ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ I quite like the idea of building up a load of tops and then shipping them off in bulk for quilting!

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  5. It looks amazing! I think making quilts is a bit like having babies. After a couple of years you start to forget the pain and think about making another. I’ve got a quilt on the go at the moment as a background project. It’s been 8 months so far but I’m quite happy for it to take as long as it takes! They do tend to last longer than clothes so it’s time well spent ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. a gorgeous bright quilt. Loved reading your first quilting experience ^^ I do a bit of clothes making but really started out as a patchworker. I love the prepping and piecing of fabrics but always dread the quilting part because of the having to wrestle bulk through neck of machine. Just in case you’re tempted to make another quilt, there a method called QAYG (Quilt as you go). I suggest you check it out ^^

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