Quilting is about creating beauty with scraps of cloth. The concept is pretty easy, sew two layers of cloth together with a layer of fluffy batting between them. The top layer of fabric can be a single sheet but is many times a patchwork of fabric pieces called blocks. These blocks have been sewn together to make one large piece. Sometimes they are made by embroidering blocks of fabric and sewing them together. The quilting step is the sewing or tying the two layers of fabric and batting together at regular spacing intervals to keep everything together.
This craft dates back at least a couple thousand years, and possibly longer. The colonial period really brought the craft to its heyday. Settlers brought the techniques from Europe and the hobby has thrived ever since. In the early 1800’s quilting bees became hugely popular.
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There are no specific rules to follow when beginning you first project. Those that are active with this craft are always finding new and faster ways to do the same tasks. It is often said that each project is an expression of its makers artistic abilities. As such, there is no time to waste in getting started on the next one!
One such improvement in technique involved fabric cutting. Not that long ago, fabric was marked with a template and then cut with a pair of scissors. While some people still do it that way, there has been a move toward the use of rotary cutting boards which makes the process fast and piece size and shape uniform.
One way to get the ball rolling is to study quilting patterns. This will get you familiar with the parts and how one is put together. Pattern study will also help you with understanding the terminology and maybe some of the techniques. Start with block patterns and move to those for the complete item. Once you have some experience you will design your own!
Most of the fabrics used in this craft will be cotton. But, no matter what the fabric is made of, it is important to understand how the grain of the fabric can affect the outcome. For example, cutting fabric along the grain, parallel and perpendicular to the fabric threads, will give you a piece that is less likely to stretch out of shape. In most cases, you will want to prewash your fabrics to stabilize colors and shrinkage before cutting. These are a few of the more important factors to take into consideration.
Color selection is an important consideration if you are looking for an elegant or classic look. However, wild and crazy color combinations may be perfect for your teenager’s abstract outlook on life.
How you build the blocks will have an impact on how well it goes together. Giving the fabric a good pressing before cutting will help with cutting accuracy. If you are used to making your own clothes, you will need to set up your sewing machine to make a quarter inch seam as compared to the wider seam you may be used to.
If you are making it for a specific bed in your home, you will need to check measurements and size it for the mattress dimensions of that bed.
There are various kinds of batting available for making the sandwich and numerous ways to tie the three layers together. These will be explained in the pattern instructions.
Some Terms To Know
Backing – The bottom or back layer
Baste – Temporary stitching or pinning of the layers
Batting – The fluffy middle layer of the sandwich that provides warmth and thickness
Bearding – A condition when the batting fibers poke through the top or bottom fabric
Bias – The diagonal grain of a piece of fabric. Typically fabric cut this way will be stretchy and must be handled gently
Binding – Strips of fabric that enclose the raw edges of a quilt
Block – Several pieces of fabric sewn together to form one unit
Block Setting – This refers to the orientation of the blocks. There are straight and diagonal settings. Straight means blocks are stacked in vertical and horizontal rows. Diagonal means the block rows run at 45 degrees to the edges
Border – Strip of fabric sewn to the four edges to create a frame for the blocks
Fat Quarter – A cut of fabric that measures 18” by 22”
Loft – The thickness of your batting
Sashing – Strips of fabric sewn around blocks giving it a framed effect
Selvages – These are the tightly woven edges of the fabric that run parallel to the lengthwise grain
Strip Piecing – This where you sew long strips of fabric together and then cut smaller pieces from it
Some Reasons to Learn Quilting
Relaxation is one of the most important. Like several of the fabric crafts, this one allows you to sit quietly and become lost in tranquil thought while you create your work of art. And, it is fun!
This is a great hobby if you like to create handmade gifts for special family members. Not just a plain simple gift, but one that the recipient will cherish for decades. It is simply a wonderful feeling when you can say that you made it yourself.
This is also a hobby that you can use for a little extra cash. After you satisfy your gift needs, you can turn to sites like ETSY and eBay to sell your handiwork. You will be surprised at the kinds of prices that handmade quilts fetch. You can do them on a pre-order commission basis and make them to the purchaser’s requirements.
Ever think you could get stung by a quilting bee? Well, you can! Like every art form, some basic understanding is needed to be fully enjoyed and appreciated and hopefully I have been able to help you with this. There are tons of resources available on the web to help you get started in this wonderful hobby. Again, make sure you have some fun while you are at it!