My Basic Quilt
Since I am going to be using up scraps this month, I thought I would start by showing my basic technique for a quilt. Think of it as the “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” of my repertoire. That way, when I take off with creative riffs of scrap-using, you will know where I started from.
When I first started quilting, my mom gave me a little leaflet on quilt-as-you-go log cabin blocks. I loved the neat crisp look. Lucie the Happy Quilter has a great tutorial on that method here, and I could have used the extra help back then. I made a lot of these blocks, but I just never could get them joined properly.
So I moved on to making crib quilts that were just one giant (dare I say “Texas-sized”?) block. Crib size (36″ by 45″) is about the largest size I can handle easily on my machine. I use a walking foot to help move all the layers through with even tension.
I like this method for quick, utilitarian quilts. Here’s how it saves time for me:
- less fabric prep – I don’t wash the fabric ahead of time – the sizing gives it more body while I’m working on it
- less pressing
- less obsessing over lining up corners
- no separate basting step
Here is the backing fabric for my sample quilt. I like a busy fabric so any little stitching irregularities aren’t as obvious, and I choose coordinating fabrics for the front.
First, open up the batting and let it relax its fold lines. The batting will be handled more than in a traditional method, so it needs to be of good quality. I’ve tried several different kinds, and my favorite to date is Warm and Natural.
I used to mark a grid of sewing lines on the batting with a light-colored permanent marker, but I just learned a short cut from an interview that Anna Brauer gave in Quilting Arts –
Choose a piece of backing fabric and iron it. Then fold the backing fabric in half with right sides together, and press the fold. Lay the folded backing fabric on top of the batting across the middle, pin, and use the fabric fold as a guideline for a stitching line across the middle of the batting. Use a thread color that will show up easily.
Then you can flip the backing fabric open and smooth it out against the batting. Then flip the backing and batting over, and pin them together with safety pins out at the very edge- I use just four on each side. The batting will cling pretty well to the backing fabric, but you want to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not puckering.
You will start in the center of the quilt. I usually use a fairly big panel of a fabric I really love. Placing it is the trickiest part of the whole quilt – but it’s not that bad. Again, you press your panel in half, and place the crease against the stitching line. Measure from each side of the panel to the edge of the batting – you want equal distances on each side.
Once you are happy with the placement, open up the center panel and pin it in place. Then line up a strip of fabric right side down on top of the center panel, with the two edges lined up. Pin in place and then bring the whole thing to the sewing machine, and sew through the fabric strip, center panel, batting, and backing all at once.
When the strip is sewn, flip it open. You can press if you want (if you’re using polyester batting, BE CAREFUL – the iron will melt it), but I usually don’t.
Just repeat these steps over and over as desired.
Okay, at this point it’s pretty cute, but if we continue along these lines it will end up looking very very predictable. So this is where the fun starts. I start putting together scraps into all kinds of blocks, sew the blocks together, and handle the whole section the same as if it was just one strip of fabric. At this point, it is not “quilt-as-you-go,” it is more just “baste-as-you go.”
Here’s what it looks like with the scrappy blocks added around the center.
I only need to add a few more sections, do some free motion quilting all over, bind the edges, and it will be done!
I’m going to have to read this a few times to wrap my brain around it. Gran’s patiently been teaching me how to piece, but so far all I’ve worked up to is some nine-patch tied to a polar fleece backing. I love quilts. I just to get brave enough to try one for realz. I love your log cabin blocks. So pretty.
Yeah, it sounds a lot harder to do than it actually is. If you decide to try it, practice first on a small log cabin square (that you could make into a pillow or something) to get the concept. Compared to lots of quilt patterns, this is really basic and easy – essentially “place, stitch a straight line, turn, and repeat.”
I still need to practice a lot with traditional pieced patterns, but this is my go-to method for charity quilts.
You do a quilt, and I’ll do your paper floor!
Wanted to say Hello. Your post was the inspiration to make a baby quilt by using a fabric of printed patchwork and add just one border and quilt it by machine. This was a very quick finish.
I enjoy reading your posts! Greetings from Vienna, Austria!
Yay! Thank you! I love reading your posts too!
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I’m glad you linked back to this, because I missed it when it was new! I’ve never understood how quilt-as-you-go could possibly work, but your explanation is really clear. I might try that for my next quilt.
I had a question, too – you mentioned in tonight’s post that you fuse your backing and batting. Is that a normal step that I missed since I taught myself quilting by guesswork, or a special trick of yours? Do you use normal web fuse stuff? (I’m sure I could just google it, but I’m curious to know your opinion.)
Normally I just use regular batting – I think that piece I used was fusible, but I just had it from a stack of stuff my mom gave me. Also, in that post I had written a hint to get a placement line by folding the backing in half, then stitching along that line through the middle of the batting – I just did that on my last little lap quilt, with cheap batting, and it did not work well. The batting kind of spread out around the tight stitching. Maybe if I had used a stretch stitch. Anyway I think I will go back to my previous method which was just marking a few guidelines with a marker. I am not very precise.
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