By Kathy Mathews
Apply these skills to your first labor of love!
Quilts are eternal. They’ve been a part of our country for centuries, and people love them. If your family is lucky, you own a quilt made by a relative that’s still in pretty good shape. If your family doesn’t have a handmade quilt, why not make one yourself and start a grand tradition? Not only will you and your family enjoy it, but you can also pass it down from one generation to the next. It’s a way to make your home beautiful now and be remembered in the future. Pretty cool, yes?
For those of you saying, “Why can’t I just buy one?” I would say yes, that’s a possibility. But how much can you afford to spend? If you buy a quilt for under $200-$300, it’s not an heirloom and it won’t be passed down. Quilts at department stores and places like Pottery Barn are not using the same quality materials that a handmade quilt uses. The workmanship is not top-shelf — it’s just a fad bedspread made to use and replace. This is fine if you’re looking for a temporary quilt, but it won’t be one you’ll want to pass down from one family member to the next.
So what about buying a high-quality quilt with first-rate workmanship? Again, this is entirely possible, but it will cost you over $1,000. Expensive, yes, but worth every penny. Look for these kinds of quilts at reputable Amish quilt dealerships or from local quilters in your area.
However, instead of shelling out thousands of dollars or buying a cheap knock-off, why not learn how to make a quilt yourself? Yes, I am serious. A simple quilt isn’t too difficult to learn how to make, and you might just enjoy the process enough to make a few more once you’ve tested the waters. If that’s the case, what a lucky family you have!
Once you have your supplies (see my post from last month), you will need to acquire some very basic quilting skills in order to produce a labor from your heart. This will be the gift of love you want to give to a baby or a new couple. Here are the essential abilities you will need to create your own quilt:
- Measure and cut accurately — the beginning quilt is not one to trust just by eyeballing it. You’ll be happier with your first attempts if they are measured and cut accurately. You’ll be able to participate in group quilts. You can play with this boundary later on, but for now try to be as precise as possible.
- Understand a few basic terms — right side of fabric, right sides together, wrong side of fabric, quarter inch seam, pressing — these are big ones to know if you’re just starting out.
- Sew a straight line — my mother did not know how to sew, so I taught her how to turn on the machine, thread it, fill the bobbin and sew a straight line. She used only those skills happily for many years. She made fun pillowcases and afghans.
- Sew a quarter inch seam — the easiest way is a quarter inch foot, but I used a strip of masking tape on my throat plate for at least six years and it was very accurate.
- Press seams to opposite side so your seams butt up — you don’t want your seams to pile on each other.
- Baste together three layers by pins or spray — once you have to top, you have to be able to create the quilt sandwich.
- Have the ability to pin the edges together and turn inside out — this will eliminate binding. My daughter used this method for her first two quilts. It shortens the task.
- Quilt on your sewing machine with simple lines or tie — once the top is sewn and the quilt has three layers you need to keep those layers together. Some people tie and many people sew designs by hand or machine. Machine quilting in straight lines is very popular now and fairly easy to accomplish. You are now done unless you want binding!
- Cut and create binding — your quilt will need to be finished on the sides. If you didn’t do the “pillowcase method” in number seven, you need to create the binding.
- Sew binding on a quilt — once the binding is created, you sew it around the edges and then sew it down again. This is the final step, yay!
Ta da, you’re done! Now you have a quilt and it’ll feel great. Celebrate it for the time and love you put into it. You should be proud!
Are these the only skills you will ever need? No, of course not. If you love this wonder we call quilt making, you will surely acquire other skills. But take it slow — your first quilt is meant to express love. It doesn’t have to be a prize winner. You will find that your skills will get better over time, but the love you sewed into that first quilt will remain the same.
I hope you give that first quilt to someone who not only sees stitches and fabric but the love you put into it. The look on their face will fill you up, and you’ll want to repeat that experience again and again.
10 skills, one quilt and you’re hooked. You’ve joined the Quilter ranks.
We welcome you!
After you’ve learned a few skills, make sure
you have the right tools for the job!
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About Kathy Mathews:
Kathy Mathews has been sewing for 49 years and quilting for 31, which is odd as she’s so young. She taught Spanish and French full time for 35 years in Illinois Public schools and then continued at the college level until 2014. During all that time, quilting and sewing allowed her a creative outlet and kept her sane. In addition to needle arts she is an avid reader, swimmer, traveler and yoga newbie. She blogs mainly about quilting at www.ChicagoNow.com. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, is the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to the cutest two year old girl in all the land. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.