My First Quilt – Part 1: Getting in to quilting

In the lead up to Christmas 2010 I decided I wanted my own sewing machine. I started shopping around and I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to be able to do with it, mostly making or altering clothes and costume pieces. The lovely woman at my local sewing machine store was really helpful showing me the different machines and asking what kind of sewing I was planning to do, to help me find the right machine. When she asked if I was planning on doing any quilting I almost laughed, I thought “no way!”, but I didn’t want to offend her so just said “not really at the moment”.

It only took about 12 months before I got sucked in by all pretty fabrics that I didn’t think I could pull off wearing, and the appeal of sewing straight lines on flat pieces of fabric – though here’s a secret, it’s harder than it looks! A few of the sewing bloggers I follow had worked on a quilt at some point or another, I followed some of their links, found more quilts, followed more links… you know how that ends. I discovered the Modern Quilting movement and quilts I not only really liked, but thought I might actually be able to attempt myself.

The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern QuiltmakerThe next Christmas rolled around, I asked for some cotton fabrics and a couple of books. One of those was The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker by Elizabeth Hartman. I read the whole book cover to cover and then went back and picked out the Snapshots quilt as the one I’d like to try first. Elizabeth’s version is basically a checker board pattern alternating white squares with a range of white prints on black, and a pieced back that introduces a splash of colour.

One of the things I love about this book is that for each project there are examples of alternate ideas for fabrics to use, and a list a fabric options including precuts or the amounts required for a different number of fabrics. It’s a gorgeous quilt as is and one day I might go back and make it in those fabrics but I wanted something brighter and a little more exciting for my first quilt, and including those options felt like I’d been given permission to change it a little and do it my own way. So that’s exactly what I’m doing, next post I’ll show you what fabrics I chose and the first steps to making my first quilt!

Really Wonky Stars

About a month ago I found out that some local gals had recently started the Wollongong Modern Quilt Guild, I was so excited to join and go along to my first Saturday Sit ‘n Sew. It was the kick in the pants that I needed to make a start on my first quilt (progress report coming soon!).

The monthly meet ups are a great opportunity to get some dedicated sewing time in, and having some progress to show the next time keeps me chipping away in between. Everyone brings along their own projects to work on and share, there’s plenty of advice to help us newbies, and of course, some yummy morning tea and a good chat to.

We’re also hoping to be able to make charity quilts as group quilting bees, the plan is to take turns choosing a theme, organising the bee and deciding where the quilt will be donated. First up is Rachael who asked us to make a wonky star block with pastel pinks for the background and rich jewel coloured scraps. Here are the fabrics I chose, the center patterned pieces were from my scraps, the coloured squares were from a mixed fat quarter pack I bought (seeing as my scraps are pretty limited for now) and the pastel pinks for the background was provided for us.

Wonky Star Fabric Selections

And here are my (really) wonky star blocks. They were so much fun to make, I perhaps took the wonkiness a bit too far but they’re certainly original.

Wonky Star #1Wonky Star #2

My seam pressing perhaps could use some work but overall I’m pretty stoked with how they turned out, hope you like them Rach!

Sewing Room

Sewing Room

Well, it’s not a whole room, but I do have some room now.

That’s our breakfast/dinner table for about an hour a day, and my sewing machine (a Brother NS50) has been sitting up the far end for some time now, but it was surrounded by my sewing “stuff” that tended to get in the way. There were more books, magazines and fabric spread over the shelves, coffee table and lounge. Seemed like a good enough reason for a trip to IKEA!

Enter some new shelves and clear tubs and everything is all in the one place. Looks a little more permanent to me, and now there’s room on my cutting/sewing/pressing table for cutting, sewing and pressing. My favourite part is having my iPad up there next to me, makes it so much easier when following online tutorials.

It probably wont be this organised for very long but at least I have a photo of how it looked in the beginning. Lucky for me I have another set of those shelves (still flat packed) in the garage and the table can extend to if things get out of hand.

Pin Cushions

Green and purple pin cushions

I wanted to make this pin cushion for a friend’s birthday present to go with her new sewing machine. I had just enough fabric of each of the green and purple scraps to make two, so why not! They came together in an hour or so.

Green and purple pin cushions

Each cushion needs two squares of fabric, a bit of stuffing, some ribbon and a couple of buttons (these ones were from my stash of spares that come with new clothes – Ben Sherman & Esprit).

For anyone who’s interested, I loosely followed these instructions for a Bric-a-brac Pincushion. Next time I’m going to try this Classic Pincushion – love the fussy cutting of the green pattern.

Green and purple pin cushions

Saffron Softies

Saffron Craig Softies - Snuggles

I spied these cuties at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair back in June last year but made myself walk away at the time. While buying supplies for another softie pattern (for a more complicated creature I’ll introduce soon) from Kelani Fabric I came across the fabric panels by Saffron Craig again and had to get them as a warm up project.

It’s as easy as cut the front and back out, pin right sides together, sew around leaving a small gap, turn inside out, fill with stuffing, sew up the gap – you could probably do it in an hour so why it took me a good month or more to make I don’t know.

Saffron Craig Softies - SewingSaffron Craig Softies - Stuffing

There are two videos on Saffron Craig’s website which show her making her softies which got me as far as cutting, sewing & stuffing. It wasn’t until I read this blog post on Chasing Cottons and saw photos of another softie being stuffed and sewn up by cute little girl hands that I got over my fear of  “what if I don’t do it properly?” and finished them off.

Saffron Craig Softies - Mittens

A couple of tips I would add to those already out there, some which I figured out while making my kitties and some that I worked out after and would consider next time…

  • To minimise the amount of white showing around the seams, when pinning the front and back together hold them up to a light source so you can see where the outlines are, and check from both sides.
  • If there are lines that match up like the collars on these kitties, use those as reference points to match up as well.
  • Stuff them heaps! Leave a bit of room when you’re ready to sew up the gap, I found it helped to have a bit of room when initially turning in those seams to match up. Sew it up a bit so you can still fit a finger or pen/pencil through the gap comfortably and add some more stuffing then finish closing it up.

Or you can just ignore all that, slap them together and they’ll still be just as cute the way you make them.

Saffron Craig Softies - Snuggles
Saffron Craig Softies - Snuggles