Sunday, 3 November 2013

Patchwork Quilt - Simple Square Design

The sewing skills laid out in this tutorial could be applied to any patchwork project, a blanket, cushion, skirt, dress (a la Holly Hobbie perhaps.) You're not restricted by size and can start small to get a feel for how everything goes together.


This method of quilting requires a Sewing Machine, and any basic model will do! I started out with my John Lewis "Sell me a machine an idiot could wield" £99 one and it was brilliant for all sorts of projects including quilting. 

A quilting ruler, rotary cutter and healing mat are pretty useful (approx £30 for the lot), but if you don't want to invest in these you can simply cut a square template out of card and use scissors - its a bit more time consuming but as long as you get equal sized squares then you're fine!

Lots of safety pins and ball-headed pins are also going to come in use, as well as plenty of thread and an steam Iron. Not to seem like I'm predicting doom but I always have a seam ripper on hand when working on any sewing project.


There are a whole host of designs you can use in quilting - but I use a simple square one (5.5"x5.5") and really go to town on colourful cotton fabrics. 

There are some fantastic prints to choose from, but don't go too print heavy - mix in solid colours and simple patterns, so think about 3 lead colours as well as prints.

This is a great project for fabric scraps, but you're also going to need (unless making a double patchwork sided quilt) a good length of solid colour fabric for the backing and wadding for the core of the quilt. 

Wadding comes in a variety of lengths, cotton or polyester, and is available to buy online or in any craft shop. Alternatively, for the quilts we use at home I've used simple polyester fleece blankets for the wadding. These are more widely available and are considerably cheaper. 

Making your Quilt

Step 1. Cut your squares

Make sure your fabric is ironed before you start, and that you have a good clean flat surface.

The squares I've cut for the blanket shown are 5.5" square x 108. This is where you'll appreciate how much time the rotary cutter will save you...

You also need to make sure those squares are accurate and straight - this will save a lot of heartache and unpicking later on.

Step 2. Lay out your design

Once you've cut your squares its time to decide the order they will appear in your quilt. If working on a large project you'll need a lot of space to spread out so you can see what the completed quilt will look like.

Lay your squares out on the floor as you want them to appear - think about contrasting colours and not having anything too the same together otherwise individual prints will get lost.

Once you're happy, start at the bottom row and pile them together from left to right (first one always on top), then pin the pile together. Then place this - the bottom row - at the bottom of the pile of all the subsequent groups of squares.

When you're finished you should have the first group of squares that will form the top edge of the quilt, at the top of the pile - and can work from left to right.

Step 3. Stitch your squares into rows

Starting with the first two squares, place them right side to right side (making sure the prints the right way) - place a stitch running the length of the squares on the right side - leaving enough seam allowance to allow you to press the seam flat. This will allow you to create a flat surface underneath your patchwork. 

Make sure you sew as straight as possible, otherwise you will create a lopsided square and will make the next stage that little bit more tricky.

Keep going until you have sewn all the squares into the row. This will then give you a better idea of the completed width of your project. 

Now stitch the next pile of squares in exactly the same way until you have a pile of rows. Again, make sure you keep these in order.

Step 4. Stitch your rows together

You're going to stitch the rows together in the same way as the individual squares - right sides together, only this time running the width of the row. Again make sure you're stitching the rows the correct way together. You can check this by placing them together, and then turning the row out as though stitched to check how it will look. 

Pin the rows in place, pushing the pins outwards towards the edge you are sewing. The needle in your sewing machine should - in theory - pass over the needle edges, allowing you to continue stitching without removing the pins as you go. The needle can catch the pins causing them to bend, but I've not had a machine needle break yet using this method.

As you're pinning, make sure the seams match up on the top and bottom rows - this is really important otherwise your squares won't be straightTry not to stretch the fabric to do this, but if you find they don't match up - don't panic! Simply unpick the top (unattached) row and sew it again, making sure it is the correct size.

 Iron the seam allowance flat on the reverse side - again creating a flat finish.

 This is how the front side should now look.

Step 5 - Pin to the wadding

Now you have all the squares sewn in place, the top part of your patchwork quilt is done! That's the time consuming part over with. 

Next lay out flat the wadding you intend to use as the filling for your sandwich layers (the patchwork being the top -  this bit is the middle) 

Lay the patchwork right side up on top of the wadding - making sure the wadding is big enough to cover the entire underside of the patchwork.

Now using safety pins, carefully pin the two together, interspersing pins at the edges, corners and throughout - just enough to keep the two in place as you work on the next step. Make sure the fabrics lay flat together, and don't place any pins in the "ditch" lines between the squares as that is where we're sewing next.

Step 6. Stitching in the Ditch

Choose the right colour thread for this carefully as you want this element to be as invisible as possible. Take your patchwork, now safety pinned to the wadding, and stitch between every row and square. This part is called stitching in the ditch and creates a neat top finish and that wadded pocket feel to each square.

Step 7. Attach the backing

Remove all the safety pins used to hold the patchwork and wadding together.

Lay your quilt right side down on your backing - right side to right side. The wadding should now be on the outside facing upwards.

Pin the edges together, again leaving a good seam allowance. Now stitch round the edges, leaving a good enough gap on one side (preferably the bottom) for you to pull the right side of the quilt to the outside again. 

You need to sew the edges as straight as possible. When working on a large scale like this I use a long ruler and some tailors chalk to mark out the sew lines.

Once sewn, trim the edges to reduce any bulk. Now, pull the patchwork side from inside to the outside through the gap. Carefully hand-stitch the closure. 

Finally use embroidery thread to blanket stitch the edge of the blanket. This will add better definition to the edges of the blanket.

Take a few minutes to check for any loose threads, and then sit back and marvel at what you have created! 

Now sit back and enjoy that you've made something 
decorative, warming and completely unique! 

For Evie's room I've made her a patchwork Space cushion topper for her toy box, and for our lounge we have a Folk inspired patchwork quilt that drapes over the back of the sofa. Scarlett loves to bury herself under this, or we lay it out of the floor for Evie to play on. Its something useful that I've made and I'm really proud that the girls can see our house is filled with creative and loved things. 

Please leave any questions in the comments box below, or if you've found this blog useful I'd love to see the results!

For further inspiration on sewing projects, and for more information on basic quilting, please see one of my favourite Craft Books - Martha Stewart's Encyclopeadia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts. 

Please check out the Sewing Circus website, or like our page on Facebook

Fran x

With thanks to Kate Reay whose Patchwork Quilt order is featured throughout this blog x

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