Nov 22, 2010

Making a quilt #2: a simple pattern

So now Liz and I have chosen our fabric and the motivation to go with it. Jennifer will surely follow in Italy! I dared myself to use eight different dots and circles prints in a baby quilt for a good friend. I tend to think of quilts as modular systems that start with very simple shapes such as squares. Squares are my favorite shapes at the moment: they are incredibly versatile, very easy to cut and sew in rows and columns and complexity is constructed using just scale and color. I also tend to like my quilts to have an odd number of rows and columns. The reason for this is that you have a central square block that aids to organize the whole surface. A matrix of 3 x 5 blocks has fine proportions for a baby quilt so I’ll make 15 blocks. Each block will be made from 9 little squares and I’ll use only two different prints in each block. Do your math at this point keeping in mind your seam allowances (normally ¼ inch). Keep adding and multiplying until you reach a good compromise between the width and length of your finished quilt. Little squares measuring 4.5 in x 4.5 in (including seam allowance) are fine for me but think about it before you start cutting into your precious fabric!
One thing I must tell you is that I'm not a great planner. I usually start by cutting enough pieces to build about ¾ of the total blocks I need. I try to make a fine composition with those blocks and then I cut and sew the blocks I specifically need to achieve a good overall balance. This is all very intuitive and relaxed! I would save time if I could plan the whole thing ahead but I am quite prone to changing my mind so I’d rather be on the safe side...and keep my fabric safe for as long as possible!


  1. Thank you for thinking of me! I am following along.

    Have you always created your own patterns or did you copy patterns and tutorials when you first started?

    I am asking because I ordered some fabric with a specific quilt in mind from a book on patchwork, but it's a good size quilt... and now I am thinking that it might be best for me to start out with something smaller like a baby or lap quilt. But again, I think I will need to copy it from a resource because I have no idea what I am doing yet.

  2. Hi Jennifer!
    Yes, I've always created my own (very simple) patterns.
    And yes, it's better to start with something smaller. The problem with big quilts is that although the actual patchwork is not much more difficult than the piecing of a small quilt, the basting and quilting steps can be quite challenging. So I really think you should build up your confidence with a small quilt before you attack the big beast!
    Why not try to follow my tutorial, you just have to cut, combine and sew 135 squares (4.5 inches, including seam allowances)? Could't be easier and you'll get the hang of it quickly...

  3. Thank you Barbara for the help and advice.

    (Although 135 squares seems like such a feat to me!)

    If I get eight different fabrics like you have, how much will I need of each?

    Also wondering - have you planned the back of the quilt yet?

  4. I am using fabrics that have a width of 44 in. I have destined one of the prints for the back (beige with white dots), I'll need 36 x 60 in, plus a couple of inches more because of basting and quilting.

    I am assuming I can cut 9 squares from each strip of 4.5 x 44 in (the width of the fabric), which is quite possible. I buy fabric by the yard or meter, but I'll give you quantities for Fat Quarters (FQ = 18 x 22 in) also.

    I'll be alternating squares: one white with blue dots and one other print and so on, so I'll need half of my total squares (135) to be white with blue dots (67 squares). If my fabric is 44 in width, I'll need a lenght of 36 in (a full yard).

    The other five prints:

    Print 1 (20 squares) = 13.5 in (2 FQ)
    Print 2 (20 squares) = 13.5 in (2 FQ)
    Print 3 (12 squares) = 9 in (1 FQ)
    Print 4 (8 squares) = 4.5 in (1/2 FQ)
    Print 5 (8 squares) = 4.5 in (1/2 FQ)

    As you see, I've already changed my mind and eliminated one of the prints, so we'll need only seven. The reason for this was because I didn't have enough quantity of one of them...
    Just beware of one thing: sometimes fabric is cut by the seller in a careless manner and you waste a lot when straightening the edges. Anyway, these quantities are safe and in case something wrong you can replace one print by another.

    Tell me about your progress!

    PS Cutting is easy when you have a cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a ruler...