Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quilting for beginners

Note - some of this won't make sense as I haven't been able to get the photos working yet...
I have been wanting to try my hand at quilting for a long time now.  I even went to a class at a local fabric store but didn't get very far as it was the Winter term and DS2 ended up being very ill and I missed lots of classes and then we had snowmaggedon.

So - the other weekend I had an enforced day on the iPad, on the sofa, following the night before - if you see what I mean.  (Two parties after our local gala day broke me.)  Early in the day I stumbled across this blog.  Are you back now?  It's the wonderfully inspiring Bottled Rainbows quilt made by the lovely Rachel at Stitched in Color. 

I have fallen for this quilt.  It ticks a lot of my boxes.

  • Suitable for beginners (that would be me then)
  • It's slightly scrappy so may forgive mistakes
  • It's bright and cheerful
  • It's rainbow themed (I have a rainbow thing going on at the moment)
  • It will teach me lots of things about quilting.

So lots of pluses.  So what are the negatives?  Well, funny you should ask...
  • It uses scraps (this is my first quilt so I have no scraps)
  • It uses pretty much every technique there is (well maybe it doesn't but it feels like it does)
  • It scares the pants off me!
But, I appear to be glutton for punishment and have dived right in.

First - source the materials required.  The scraps were going to be a problem.  I dived into my (small) fabric stash and found some suitable bits but nowhere near enough and not enough variety.  I called my Mum.  That's what you do when you need help right?  Well - she's an angel (and a proficient quilter).  It's a good job I don't live closer to her as I would sneak into her crafting room and steal the lot.  She sent me a parcel of goodies.  I am thrilled.  Colourful scraps and some plain white fabric (I'll come back to this).  My next stop was eBay.  Scraps are to be found on eBay but you have to be careful and look at the pictures closely.  Some scraps are full of sequins, fur and polyester.  My ideal is cotton, bright and mixed.  I found a couple of people selling what I needed and also some places selling charm packs - so mixed coloured squares for patchwork/quilting.  My scraps are building.  The irony of this has not escaped me.  This should be a quilt to make having already made 12 beautiful toned quilts.. yeah right!

The next thing to source was the sixteen colours needed for the borders.  I read and googled and read and searched and ended up drawing up a table of UK sites selling the colours I needed.  No-one had more than about 6 of the colours I needed.  I could play with the colours a little but without them in front of me it was hard to tell if I had it right or not.  Eventually having done all the maths I ordered them all as a set from a site in the US, recommended by Rachel.  They work out at just over £2 per Fat Quarter.  Sourcing them individually here would have cost a lot more.

Next thing to think of is the backing fabric.  I looked on eBay and on UK sites and lots of options available... but my Mum sent me some already - so yay - don't have to look for that one.

Now - my next thought was I have never done anything like this before and the last thing I want to do is dive right in with those purposefully chosen Fat Quarters and make a complete pigs ear of it.  Instead I have decided to do two sample squares.  As I am an impatient soul I went over to Purely Patchwork in Linlithgow.  Having never visited this place before I was thrilled.  A gorgeous shop, perfect for all my requirements and made me feel guilty for buying on line.  They had a whole section of plain colours which would have been perfect for creating the rainbow with.  Oh if only I had come here first.  

I bought a black and a cream fat quarter for the sample squares and half a metre of cotton batting.  What I hadn't realised was the size of the batting.  I hadn't really though about it.  It may be 1/2 metre long but it is hugely wide.  I am using double or king size quilt wide - wow!!  I had a rummage through a basket of scraps and selected some of those too and came away really chuffed.

Now came the tricky part.  The bits I haven't done before.  All those careful measurements and making sure all my lines are straight.  Hmm - I am glad this is just the practice run and I am learning so much.

Some key learning points:
  • I need a larger cutting mat
  • .. and a new rotary cutter
  • Needles don't bend
  • You need to go clockwise round a patch...
All key things to know.  I have the two patches put together and pressed and my seams are a little wobbly but not as bad as I feared.  I used some bright blue cotton I had sitting here for the ages for no other reason than it was a plain colour.  One thing I have now invested in is a seam foot for my sewing machine.  It means I can butt the fabric up against the edge and get a perfect 1/4" seam.  I am looking forward to using that on the proper quilt.  The batting is lovely to work with and the whole piece is all squishy to sew on.  It is called ticker-tape quilting where you sew the piece onto the backing and the batting all at the same time.  My kind of quilting.  I am using a zig-zag stitch and loving it.  I have it on a fairly slow speed and it is very therapeutic and kind of addictive... just one more block..  

Here is the black one - just using random scraps.  The proper quilt will have much more colour co-ordinated scraps. 

This is the back which gives away all the details and shows up the not so straight lines.  I kind of like it though.  It's nice to see clearly how the stitching works.  The real quilt will be using white fabric and cotton so you won't get to see this.

The white one Orla has decided should have a flame theme - I am thinking these scraps are *way* too small so I need to rethink this one before I commit it to being sewn together.

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