I set myself a challenge and a question: To finish a quilt in a week; and to find out what size quilt top I can make using a pack of fat quarters? That’s a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question. So, my ‘piece of string’ comprised two identical packs of six fat quarters, that’s the equivalent of six half metres/yards. To make the most of the fabric quantity and to reduce time spent cutting and piecing I choose to repeat a block with very few seams.
There is a short version of this post: I did finish the quilt in just one week; and the 12 fat quarters made a quilt top measuring 57″ by 47″. The End.
There is a long version of this post – including the story of how I made the quilt, lessons learned along the way and a few tips besides (I’ve hi-lighted these in red):
At this point I should make clear that the fabrics in these fat quarter packs were not-the-best-quality cottons and had been cut from the roll in rather a haphazard manner, presenting me with a few issues: like trying to find the straight grain to use as the cutting edge and discovering that the blue border fabric was so badly cut that I couldn’t get all the strips needed without sewing some off-cut lengths together (but this is patchwork so patching together bits of fabric goes with the territory, right?).
Cutting: From the three feature prints (the ones with dinosaurs) I cut a total of twenty 7½” squares – 7 blue, 7 orange and 6 white. I then cut 2″ strips from the three border fabrics. These strips were then cut to provide four strips to border each square – two 7½” long, two 10½” long. Any left over strip pieces I put to one side with the remaining feature print fabrics.
Piecing: this simple block lent itself well to chain piecing. I decided to use the same colour border around each feature square – blue around orange, green around white and orange around blue. I then arranged the blocks in colour order, row by row. I did consider arranging them in a random pattern (if you can arrange random?) but decided that as the prints were all quite busy it would be more restful to the eye to have a regular pattern running across the quilt top.
Design decision: I felt there was enough fabric left to make a piano key border but hesitated to have that butt up against the blocks – too busy looking again. A quick search through my stash and I found some strips of red backing fabric cut from the excess edge of a quilt sandwich. Enough to cut 1¼” strips to make a narrow border. This kinda skewed my experiment as I added a little extra fabric (6¼” width of fabric in total) to the original twelve fat quarters but I’d argue for creative licence…
Cutting and Piecing the piano key border: as lots of my off-cuts were 2″ wide I set about cutting the remaining fat quarter fabrics into 2″ strips and then cut all these down to rectangles measuring 2″ x 3½”. This was a bit chancy, I didn’t attempt to calculate the area of remaining fabric, instead trusting to a rough eyeballing and hopeful thoughts along the lines of ‘well, it’ll cobble together somehow’! Then began a bit of fun chain piecing, first sewing a chain of two rectangles then a chain of four and so on until they were long enough to fit the edges of the quilt top. I found that 34-35 rectangles were required for each of the long sides of the quilt top and 32 rectangles for the top and bottom edges. OK, I have to admit that I would have been better off doing some math here rather than eyeballing – the finished quilt has slightly wavy edges indicating that the borders are not quite the correct length! But it was late in the evening, too late for my brain to do math and too late to be drinking coffee so I took a chance, pinning outwards from the midpoint of each carefully pressed piano key border along the edge of the quilt top.
Quilt sandwich: The quilt top measured roughly 57″ x 47″. I pieced the backing from a 3m length of Makower’s Spraytime (blue 2800). The centre section measured 40″ by 52″ and I added a twelve inch strip to each long edge giving two horizontal seams across the back of the quilt about 8″ from the top and bottom edges of the quilt. (I try NOT to have seams running down or across the centre of the backing as I read somewhere that if a quilt is folded in half for any length of time these seams come under a lot of strain and are likely to break). I used Quilters Dream Poly wadding and pinned the three layers together.
Quilting: I would have liked to use a royal blue thread for quilting but not finding any in my thread box I settled for a variegated 40wt Aurifil thread. For piecing I use a fine 60wt YLI thread. Being a conscientious stitcher I changed the machine needle to a quilting 90 and also swapped to an open toe applique foot so I could get a good view of the needle as it dropped into the fabric (my machine has IDT so no need for a walking foot). If you have a machine with IDT don’t do as I did and forget to re-engage it once the foot had been changed – yep! I did all the quilting without the aid of the IDT! No wonder I had a few issues with puckering – I did keep the quilt monster at bay though! To stabilize the layers I quilted in the ditch between each block and around the inner seam of the red border. Then I stitched tramlines down and across the centres of the blocks.
Binding: I used more of the red fabric to make the double binding. Usually I cut 2¼” strips but this time I wanted to try sewing the binding entirely by machine following Allison Harris’ tutorial . I followed her instructions, cutting and joining 2½” strips. Having stitched the binding to the front of the quilt, I flipped it over and folded the binding beyond the seam line on the back.
The trick with stitching binding like this is to make sure the line of stitches that come through on the front stay on the quilt top and don’t catch the binding, I was glad of the wider binding strip to give enough clearance to the original seam.
Even so I did catch the binding a few times. I decided not to unpick as starting and finishing little stretches of stitching might look at least as noticeable as the stitches on the binding.
Whew! Thank you for staying to the end of this tutorial/explanation. I did complete my challenge, the quilt was finished in just under one week (the machine binding played a big part in that and I’ll definitely be using this method again). And, for the record, the quilt top measures 57″ by 47″. So that’s what can be made from 12 fat quarters (and just a little bit extra). The small pile of leftovers will be filed under scraps.
My local quilt group, Roundabout Quilters, is supporting Project Linus UK and I’ve made this quilt to add to our contributions to that charity.
Just a little reminder that my Pinterest page includes a board called ‘Pins of the Week’ where you will find a mix of patchwork & quilting, blogging lore, crafty wonders and news items that catch my eye through the week. I update the board each Tuesday, shifting the contents to ‘Last Week’s Pins of the Week’ before dispersing them through the rest of my boards.
Have a great weekend.