Friday, September 2, 2016

My First Quilt - Part 2 Piecing the Top and Back of the Quilt

Welcome back to the diary of my first quilt!  When I left off I had just finished cutting the pieces for the quilt and now I am ready to start piecing it together.  Looking at all of the pieces I was a little overwhelmed, but knew that I needed to start somewhere.

The first draft of the layout.  Notice any glaring orientation errors?
In this series of blog posts I am sharing the digital diary I kept as I worked on the construction of my first quilt.  I am much more verbose than usual but I really wanted to share the notes and pictures I kept as I went on this journey.

Before I started sewing I made a bunch of bobbins.  I started with 4 new spools of navy thread and 5 spools of white thread.  I plan to use the white for piecing and the navy for the quilting. (I might add some other colors for quilting but I know I'll need a bunch of navy bobbins.)  I'm sure that I have too much thread, but I would hate to run out and have to track some more down someplace.  I had to order the navy thread online because my local JoAnn Fabrics ran out.  

I laid out some of the Navy strips with my carried pattern pieces and couldn't wait for naptime to start sewing. I haven't sewn anything for a while and having the pieces cut was like a sirens song.  I brought one row at a time into my sewing room. I don't plan to pin them since each seam is really short. I have the 1/4 inch quilting foot on my sewing machine which helped make the stitching fly by.

I didn't back stitch at the front or back of these squares. I've ready that some quilters don't bother securing the ends of the threads since pieces will be stitched together another time so I decided to give it a shot.  I know I will have a lot of pressing to do plus trimming loose ends but I'm off to a good start.

I didn't even raise my needle in between each piece. I'd just lift up the presser foot and put the fabric right up against the needle and would be off again.  See sew sew.

I finished 3 rows during a short rowdy nap and pressed them.  I was also able to wind all of the bobbins that I showed before.  Not bad for a 45 minute block!

After pressing the rows aren't perfectly straight but I may need to fudge that a bit with ironing.  While cutting the pieces I didn't bother making a tiny triangle for the 4 corners.  I created 5" triangles and then sewed one edge even.  When I put the entire border on the quilt I can trim the excess fabric.  This saved me a little bit of math and time.

I may have ordered way too much thread. I finished piecing the quilt into rows and I am still on the first bobbin and spool of thread!

I sewed long strips to either side of the center panel. I considered skipping pins as I did for the short 5" long seams but in the end I didn't want to risk making any mistakes.  It wouldn't be smart to get sloppy now when I've put so much planning into the project.  As a shortcut, I didn't cut the length of the strips ahead of time but trimmed them down after the fact.

I sewed the rows from the bottom up. To connect them I'm starting with the split rows in either side of the center panel. Since I'm cutting strips down to size to square off at the end I cut a little extra before pressing it out. Better to over cut than under cut!

I probably should be sewing these strips on with navy thread. I don't want to switch now but where the Navy pieces join together you might see the threads. Oh well.

I got close to the end of the center portion in one day. One normal day with two kids and normal naps. We even went tot he children's museum in the morning so we were all worn out. At 11:30 after Rowdy woke up again (what happened to my good sleeper?) I decided to throw in the towel and pick this back up in the morning.

The matching isn't perfect. I even ripped out half a seem once to fix things. Given that this is my first quilt ever (*A planned out quilt.  I made a patchwork quilt that I pieced by hand in high school that came from a kit.)  I am satisfied. The mistakes are part of what make this wonderful.


I started a new day jazzed to finish this center panel. We are going to a sheep festival later but I should have an hour to dedicate to my quilt.  (Present day Rebecca here - we had a blast at the sheep shearing festival and I plan to share some pictures with you at some point.  I can't believe it has been 4 months and I haven't gotten around to writing that post yet!)

Not perfect alignment, but you have to look really closely.


Squaring off the panel was easy. I did my best to line it up but if it isn't a perfect square I'll be okay.

For the first part of the boarder, I pinned the Navy strip to an edge and stitched with 0.25" seam allowance. I left a quarter inch the end edge free on the first piece so I could have the border be flush with one edge and overlap the next all the way around.

Next I had to cut the final border out of the center fabric.  I tried to cut the border so I wouldn't have any super thin sections peeking out. There may be one next to the binding but overall it worked the way I wanted. I'm learning that I hate working with such large scale prints!  Or maybe it is just large scale prints with animals and heads.  I want to keep as much of the print in a block as I can but it makes it hard to cut.  Smaller scale prints are so much easier to cut up.

Cutting on the fold is the best!

I finished sewing the top together!  The quilt is about 50 inches square. My batting is 60 inches square but my backing fabric is only 43 inches or so.  I am going to need to think a lot about how I want to put the back together.  I think I can take 1 length of the backing fabric (saving the rest of another project) and cut 12" from one end and insert a 10-12" stripy section from the top fabric. I'll have to check Pinterest for ideas.

On second thought this would put the striped in the center. I don't love that idea. Maybe I should do a 5" high striped section followed by more chevron backing. I'd rather have the backing much too wide so when I quilt there is something to trim in the end.


I've been thinking about the back of this quilt for a while.  My quilt top is about 50" square but my backing fabric is only 40-44 inches wide.  I have plenty of the fabric (3.5 yards) to make the backing complete  but what do I want to do?

For a while I considered doing juts a stripe of the dino fabric but that felt a little incomplete to me.  Some friends suggested I do a 12" pieced section but that seemed like it would take up a LOT of the back of the quilt versus juts being an accent.  Plus I didn't want to do that much work to cut and piece.

In the end, I decided to do a pieced section of 5" blocks enclosed in the navy fabrics I used on the front of the quilt.  I will need fewer than 10 blocks and I already have some extras cut from the front of the quilt.  (I will make the stripe more than 10 blocks long for extra fabric.)  The most efficient thing to do would be to make the stripe 12" or so and then divide the backing fabric and insert the stripe. This would save half of the backing fabric for a future project.  However, I didn't want my stripe to be that wide and it would take more effort for me to think about.  I like my bordered squares plan.

I will not cap the ends since I'm not sure how the back fabric might shift during the quilting process.  I will make sure the stripe and the quilted piece extends at least a few inches on either edge of my quilt top.  I just hope i"ll be able to line this up so the stripe is "square".


Now that the stripe is done I need to cut the back fabric. I pressed it and folded it in half lengthwise and widthwise. I measured the cut based on the stripe length.

I'm glad I bought extra fabric because I have about half a yard left over. I would have been quite nervous if I had only purchased 3 vs 3.5 yards.  I trimmed the slevages off the sides where I would be sewing the stripe (cutting on the fold) and pinned and sewed the stripe in the middle.

The approximate placement (although stripe is upside down) shows that I have a ton of extra fabric width. I think I'm going to be happy with how this turns out!

Now that the top of the quilt is done and the back of the quilt is done, I need to actually QUILT the quilt.  Gulp!  I love my quilt top so much and am very nervous to stitch into it.  What if I don't like how it turns out?  What if I ruin the whole project?  Stay tuned for the next post of my diary where I'll pin, quilt and bind off my first quilt!