At the beginning of the year, my soon-to-be eleven year old son Louis put in a request for a birthday present - he wanted a quilt. His birthday is at the end of January so I was just a tiny bit panic stricken. Despite the panic, I was absolutely over the moon that he'd asked me to make him something. There's not much scope to make things for a boy of his age and let's face it, in a couple of years, he'll be too embarrassed to even walk down the street with me. Even though the thought of that makes my heart hurt, I do know what teenage boys are like, so I leapt at the chance of making him something before he gets too old.
I'll be totally honest, quilting has never appealing to me. My natural laziness and impatience are probably not great starting points for quilt making, but I decided to jump in and do the best job I could for Louis. Lack of time (I had about four weeks to make it), and lack of skills, meant I had to keep to the following criteria:
- A simple design - squares rather than triangles or hexagons
- No more than six different fabrics used
- Minimal hand stitching
Louis and I chose the fabrics together, using the red and black colour scheme that he wanted. I bought a pre-cut FQ bundle of black fabrics (polka dots, hexagons and chevrons) from M is for Make, along with half a metre of red chevrons and half a metre of a red solid. For the backing, I used dottie red quilt backing, also from M is for Make.
The design is a direct steal from Miss P's lovely baby quilt that she made about 18 months ago. I remember thinking at the time that if I ever made a quilt, I'd want to use the same design.
Once I had my fabric, I asked Kate at M is for Make for help! She was brilliant and pointed me in the direction of I'm a Ginger Monkey - a quilting blog with some great advice and tutorials for all things quilt related. I used her Super Simple Patchwork Square Quilt tutorial and made just a few amendments. My squares were 5 inches and my finished quilt was also slightly smaller: eight squares wide by 12 squares long, resulting in a smallish quilt of roughly 40 x 60 inches. What I didn't realise was that making the patchwork quilt top was the fun, relatively easy bit...
Cutting out the squares took an afternoon, then sewing the squares into rows and sewing the rows together took another afternoon. It was preparing the batting, quilt top and quilt backing sandwich that took ages. I seem to have spent hours on my hands and knees, smoothing all the layers down and safety pinning them together. God, talk about tedious.
I'm glad I took Portia's advice and persisted with basting the layers together with safety pins - I'd have been gutted if the quilting had gone cock-eyed after all that hard work.
For the actual quilting, I was going to use Portia's genius masking tape method, which came via the Martha Stewart blog. But I discovered I'm totally cack-handed when armed with a roll of masking tape, I could barely unroll it in a straight line. I ended up ruling diagonal chalk lines instead, which seemed to work fine. Quilting took a full morning, perhaps three or four hours, and I even remembered to use white thread for the top and red for the underside!
The black polka dot bias binding was from my stash and the quilting gods were obviously keeping an eye on me that day as I had just enough to bind the quilt with about two or three inches to spare. Talk about lucky. I know the traditional method is to machine one side of the binding, then hand stitch the other side. But you know my feelings on hand sewing - that last side was firmly machined into place.
I invested in two machine feet for this project, which you may think is a massive extravagance, but believe me, they were both good investments and their usefulness will last way beyond making this quilt. There's no way that quilt top would have been fit for human eyes without my new quarter inch foot, it made all the rows and columns line up seamlessly. My other, far more expensive investment was a walking foot. This was also worth its weight in gold when it came to quilting the three layers together, not a pucker in sight (well, not many...). I've been meaning to take the plunge and buy one for a while and I don't regret it for a minute. Imagine all those stripes and gingham pieces I'll be able to line up perfectly now?!
New machine feet aside, the patchwork fabric, batting and quilt backing came to around £60. Yes, I could have used fabric from my stash for the quilt top, or maybe used a sheet for backing, but buying it all from a reliable supplier of quilt materials meant the fabrics would all be of a similar weight as well as being excellent quality and fit for purpose. I'm hoping this quilt will last for many years to come! It's not a cheap option by any means, but it's probably about the same price as two Wii games which makes me feel it's money well spent! I can see why quilts are so expensive to buy commercially though - apart from the cost of the materials, the time, effort and love that go into making them is immeasurable.
So has making this quilt converted me? In all honesty, I'd say no it hasn't. I'm absolutely delighted with the finished quilt and, more importantly, so is Louis, but as a process it just doesn't do it for me in the same way that making a dress does. BUT… Louis looks so cosy with his quilt tucked round him in front of the TV, that I may just be tempted to make another one for myself this year. Especially as it didn't actually take all that long to make. Let's just say it's tempting but I'm in no rush... x