Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Sew I think we should talk...

Have I mentioned before that my favourite thing about sewing is the sheer volume of awesome puns? I feel it's important to get that out there early on. I am unapologetic about my punning. I recently completed my first EVER proper, from scratch patchwork quilt. It was a present for the rather delicious Lucy Erwin. I've made other quilts before (for babies Aoife and Emily respectively) but this was my first time sewing all the squares together etc. It ended up looking like this...

Chevron-ed back and red, grey and white patchwork quilt. Fabric by Marisa and Creative Thursday 

I love sewing. I REALLY love sewing something useful. Baby quilts are essentially useless when you have a newborn. They are too big and bulky and really you need something softer and smaller for wrapping them up in. Where they really come into their own is when you have a sick toddler on the sofa, needing a blanket and ribena and cuddles. Something made with love is the perfect remedy to ear infections/the cold/chicken pox. (When someone I say something is 'made with love' what I actually mean is 'I used so many obscenities whilst making this a sailor would blush, and the fact I didn't throw the whole thing in the trash is a testament to my affection for you.')

Lucy's quilt was REALLY simple. So simple that literally any one of you reading this can do it. I'm hoping to inspire a few people to try it, because it is totally, completely do-able and I would like to have a friend to talk to about it. The hardest part is knowing where to start, which is what I'm attempting here. I'm also about to make two more quilts (one for the ridiculously gorgeous Leila Paton and one for as yet unknown baby Magowan) which I thought I would update you on as I go through then you will be able to see how easy, if at times cuss-worthy, the whole process is.

I used this website as my starting point. Amy Smart is a seriously talented lady, and she has created the best tutorials ever on how to go about making a quilt. My only sewing lessons were school Home Economics in first and second year of High School, but I'd remembered the basics and figured the rest out as I went along (stitches can always be ripped out. Always.) Amy doesn't use fancy kit, or a fancy machine or anything like that. Her beginners series was essentially the only way I could have completed Lucy's quilt. I have tried patchwork quilts before and totally failed, but her tips on how to start the whole thing have completely changed my confidence about it. I also used the instructions in this book, but if I'm honest I'm not a fan of patchwork for anything other than quilts and the skill level was a bit above mine. I'm saving it for future use though.

I can't really say anything about getting started any better than her, but I will say that getting a rotary cutter, self-healing matt and quilters ruler set for $30 on Amazon made it super easy to cut* straight lines. This is 80% of the battle. My sewing machine is the bright purple version of the John Lewis basic one. It was a present from Dave (birthday? christmas? I don't remember any more...) and I love it. It's not ideal for thicker fabrics like fleece or towelling, but it copes beautifully with a crib sized quilt and the stitching required for it. The non-patchwork ones I made for Aoife and Emily were all done by hand, and were also seriously simple.

My newest fabric purchase. Lots of colour and contrast. 'Modern'  by Robin Zigon

Finally, I'll briefly talk about fabric, which is kind of the whole point of these things. I am a bit of a cheat about these things, and Lucy's quilt was a bundle of 7 fat quarters I bought together, then a load of awesome red and white chevron pattern for the back. I didn't know what a fat quarter was when I started, but it's basically a quarter of a metre (or yard, here in the US) of fabric. Today, I bought another bundle of 9 fat quarters. I'll add these to the bits of fabric I already have leftover from Lucy's (and other little projects) to create both Leila's and baby Magowan's. Pros will tell you that it's better to pick fabrics separately to add together to create your quilt, as just using one designer's collection can look a bit one dimensional. I totally agree with this, but in all honesty, I don't have the experience to pick and choose individual ones that will look good together, I don't have enough fabric saved up to create a 'stash' as they call it and I don't have the money to just buy half a yard of whatever I like. The bundles are a pretty affordable way to do it (about $25 per bundle.) I buy them in this amazing shop, but if you are in Scotland, I know Mandors does some great ones too. I know you can buy fabric online, but I'm just too tactile for that. There was a few really cool fabrics I liked, but when I got to the store today they were much tougher than I wanted for a baby quilt. I had to touch them to know.

Sew that's my introduction to making a baby quilt. I'll post some pictures as I go through the process and show you the progress I'm making. I hope I've inspired you, or at least given you some hints at how to get inspired by other people. I really love making things- it's easier to be creative when you have something positive at the end of it, and if you are like me, things like sewing serve as an antidote to work (well, volunteering) which I love, but doesn't have a creative outlet. Let me know if you decide to give it a try!

*I still struggle to sew straight lines- This is the other 20%. Lucy's quilt is seriously squint in places. Thankfully, I think her mother's hormones are warping her vision, as she claims not to mind.


  1. Great post. I really want to make a patch work quilt and maybe, just maybe, this post has given me the nudge I need! Totally with you on touching the fabrics, I could lose hours in Mandors!! Roz x

    1. Go for it! You've made clothes before, haven't you? It's SO much simpler than that. I've made a few skirts and it took me FAR longer and was so much more involved. Once the cutting is over it's basically just sewing straight lines...

  2. I am planning to start planning (that's a thing, honest) a quilt of my own, so this is such a helpful post! Can't wait to see your progress.

    1. The devil is totally in the detail on these things- on the first one I probably spent 2 weeks reading blog posts and books to pick up tips on the best ways to do it all. I still made a bit of a mess of plenty of it, but I learnt so many tips that made it much easier. Plan away- you can DEFINITELY get this ticked off your 30 by 30 list!

  3. I now know what I'd like for my birthday! I'll be sending the mr on a trip to John Lewis. Also, Lucy's blanket is amazing and using it every day :o)

  4. I've been putting off getting my sewing machine out and have been handsewing things. I really need to get it out to build my confidence but have now forgotten how to thread it. I think I'll get some online tutorials and just woman up and face it but this has made me feel better about the fear and the next step is of course to do something.


want to disagree? tell me I'm marvellous? Go 'write' ahead...