Last year, my family traveled to Mount Beauty in northern Victoria for Easter. As its name suggests, Mount Beauty is idyllic and lovely. Various members of the family went horse riding (me), mountain biking (Mario) and shopping (Mum), all the while enjoying the beautiful Autumn mountain scenery. On Easter Sunday there was a small market, and a quilt show.
Somehow (I’m not really sure how I managed this, in fact), I convinced Mario to come to the quilt show with me. We were both blown away – these were not your Grandma’s quilts. Some were incredible geometric designs guaranteed to send you blind and crazy, while others were artistic representations of nature. There was one wall sized quilt in blues and greens with applique gum leaves embroidered over the top, à la Anne Mieke Mien. It was only a couple of hundred dollars, which, after my own first attempt at quilting, I now realise was an incredible bargain. I wish I had bought it. In any case, the quilt show inspired me to make a quilt of my own. I did some browsing online and decided on this pattern. The instructions are here.
I won’t go through the process I used to put all the patches together, as the instructions are fairly self explanatory. The hardest part was choosing colours and deciding how much of each fabric to get. I ended up overestimating, so I just made more patches. This made a nicer sized quilt, but meant that I had to deviate from the instructions a bit in the later stages.
I originally decided that I could hand sew the quilt. My theory was that I could do it in front of the t.v., and not be tied to the sewing machine, which was hidden away upstairs. This theory lasted for about 2 patches, when my extremely bad hand sewing and the length of time it was taking me necessitated a new plan. So, I made a sewing fort, and I pretty much didn’t leave it from Thursday morning until Sunday night. I figured that the minute I looked to be distracted from my project, Mother Sue would jump on the opportunity to disassemble my fort and regain her pristine lounge room. But actually, she was very supportive. Thanks Mum!
So I followed the instructions to make the patches and sew them together. I spent a good few hours trying to assemble the pairs of half-hearts so that I wouldn’t duplicate colour arrangements. I very vividly remember doing this while watching Bridget Jones’ Diary. Then I got distracted for, oh, six months or so, and the quilt went into exile in a drawer. Part of the reason was that I didn’t have the materials for stage 2 – the backing, the batting, the bias binding or the borders. Boy, that’s a lot of B’s. The other part of the reason was that I had a few things on – wedding flowers, graduation, restoring a table, moving out, etc.
In any case, I eventually got back to the quilt. When I was buying the four B’s, it helped a lot to have my Mum’s guessing expertise. I only ended up with a few yards extra of each fabric I picked. I suppose that’s much better than having too little! Maybe I can make a matching cushion now. Sewing the borders on was easy enough. I used these instructions. I made the backing from four large rectangles of material sewn together – the quilt was too large for one piece of fabric. Then came the hardest part.
I decided to make my own bias binding for the edges of the quilt so that the colour would match perfectly (bias binding is the border that goes around the edge of the quilt so you can’t see all the messy edges from where you have sewn it together. You may it by cutting a strip of fabric, ironing it in half, then ironing one half in half again.) All the instructions on making your own bias binding say that you should cut it diagonally from your fabric, but I decided not to bother. It wastes a lot of fabric that way. I believe the reason has something to do with how stretchy the material is on the diagonal. I cut my bias binding along the selvedge of the material (the “self finished edge”), which is the least stretchy part, and it seemed to work well enough in my opinion.
I was all set to sew the bias binding to the three layers of the quilt – the patchwork layer, the batting and the back – when my quilting guardian angel suggested sewing the layers together first, and then adding the binding. Thank goodness I did that, because it was a bit of a nightmare. The top layer moved under the foot of the sewing machine at a much faster pace that the bottom layer, leaving me with a very lop sized piece of backing fabric that did not cover the quilt. I had to unpick various sides about 5 times before I mastered the technique. The trick was going VERY slowly, and holding the tension in the material the whole time.
After that, sewing on the bias binding was a dream.
There are a couple of methods for doing the bias binding on a quilt, as explained by this website. I chose the quilt or “French” method, which involves hand sewing, for a few of reasons:
1. I didn’t have any pink thread that matched the colour of the binding, so sewing over the top of it would have looked silly and (knowing my straight line sewing skills – or lack thereof) messy.
2. I had sewed the bias binding on to the front of the quilt, so my silly messy line would have appeared on the front instead of the back, making it even worse.
3. Everyone said hand sewing wouldn’t take as much time as you’d think (liars!).
I used the slip stitch as recommended by the above website, and it worked beautifully. The stitching is almost invisible (and would be completely invisible if I was a better sewer and not so lazy!). Once I finished that, Voilà! My first patchwork quilt! Now I look forward to many evenings snuggled under it, because seeing as I have now moved out, I am much more conscientious about using the central heating! It’s a win-win situation all round.