Friday, February 10, 2012

Quilt making 101

Hello all,
I would just like to speak for a moment about what goes into a handmade quilt. Most of you know I'm a quilter and if you are lucky you've been the recipient of one of my quilts. I'm not bragging here, I'm no expert, my binding is often crooked, my quilting stitches are uneven and I'm not winning any quilt contests any time soon but there is a whole lotta work, time and love that does go into them. Not to mention money. I seem to pick up hobbies that are not friendly to my wallet, maybe it's a good thing that I don't have as much time as I'd like to craft...

my quilts tend to be more simple in design, my tops are not all that complicated but the love that goes into one starts with me picking out the fabrics. This could be one of my favorite parts about quilting, I love putting together the colors and patterns in a quilt.

Perhaps I should back up a bit, and give you a little lesson in the anatomy of a quilt. It is comprised of a top, a middle, the backing, and the binding. The top is usually pieced together with any number of fabrics and the design can range from very complicated to very simple. The more pieces you see the tougher it gets to have everything come together equally and with all corners matching and things lining up.  Once your top is all "pieced" together it is finished. Up to this point you have been "piecing" not "quilting."  Piecing together a quilt is a process that involved a crap load of work. It can be very time consuming, and repetitive. all of your pieces have to be cut straight and accurately, sewn together and pressed with an iron every time. I'll tell you working with an iron is not fun in the middle of summer.

Once your top is done you create a sandwich with the top, middle and backing. The backing can also be pieced but I prefer to do solid pieces of fabric. Creating the sandwich requires a large, flat surface that is preferably hard rather than something like carpet. All three components are pinned together, insuring as you go that it remains smooth and with no puckering. The more pins you use the more smoothly the quilting process will go.

Once this is done the quilting can begin. Quilting is the act of sewing all three layers together. This can be a bitch. By this point your quilt is heavy and has to be manhandled through your sewing machine all while trying to keep the stitches equal. I have somehow managed to quilt an almost king size quilt using my little Kenmore machine. Not sure how I managed that really. At this point comes the appeal of working on mini quilts... 
My least favorite part of working on a quilt is tying off loose thread ends, which only has to happen if a line of quilting stops before the edge of the quilt. Sometimes a quilting design calls for it, but I usually try to quilt right off the edge so I don't have to do it. I'm lazy, what can I say.

Once your quilting is done you create a binding strip, machine stitch that on to the edge of the quilt, then trim all of the excess fabric and binding off. The rest of the binding is hand stitched to the back side of the quilt.

Last but not least every quilt should have a label. My quilting teacher taught me this and said it's so that when a quilt you made is on Antiques Roadshow in a hundred years they'll know who made it, what it was called, where it was made and who it was for among other things.  I name all of my quilts and add as much information to the label as I can. Sometimes the labels are written with fabric pens but lately I've started embroidering the labels, I like the look better and feel like it'll last longer. Again, a lot more work but it's worth it.

So, if you've ever wondered, each quilt can take many many hours of work and sometimes a pretty hefty chunk of change. A baby quilt might take up to 40 hours, and the quilt I made for my sister a year ago probably took between 100-200 hours, I have no idea.  I was delirious by the end of that thing. 

All hours and money aside, my quilts are always made with a whole lotta love. They might not be perfect, but the love makes up for it. :)

My sisters quilt on the wall being laid out.

 All finished and posing at the beach

1 comment:

Angie Shields said...

I <3 the quilt you made for Dylan! It will always be cherished!