Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kwilty (Angela ) Jean

The very first quilt I ever made was for my niece E's first birthday. She's turning 11 in a few weeks, so I guess that means I have a decade of quilting under my belt.
Over the years, I've made hundreds of baby quilts. In 2003 alone, I made over 200. Sewing is a creative outlet for me, and also a therapeutic one. During the 5 years we struggled to build our family, sewing kept my mind and hands busy when it was too difficult to deal with the world. I made quilts for other people's babies when I couldn't have my own. It sounds like torture, but it wasn't. It kept me calm, focused and productive.

I'd like to share my process with you....with one caveat...I do not claim to be a "real" quilter. I am completely self-taught and therefore positive that many of my techniques would make a bona-fide quilter cringe and wring her hands in dismay.
But, this is my blog, and this is how I do it.
At this point I should also confess that I have a textile addiction. (one day I'll share my collection with you, but that's a post for another day). Money is a lot tighter now, so I haven't bought much lately, but a few years ago my fabric shopping was rampant. My favourite place to buy fabric is here.
So, are you ready? Let's get started. First we need to pick a colour scheme and some fabric.
I make so many of these quilts, that I have bins of  fabric pre-cut into 4.5" squares and sorted by colour. From time to time I branch out and make different types of quilts, but I always come back to 9 X 9 square patchwork. I have a thing about squares. I find the symmetry very appealing.
For this quilt, I decided to go with greens, yellows and teal.
Next, I find a clear space on the floor (not easy to do at my house), and begin the design. I prefer a random-looking composition over a formal pattern, but that's just me. One of my tricks is to lay everything out on the floor, step back, and squint a little. If something jumps out I adjust the design.
At this point, I suggest you barricade your work space or your design could end up like mine.
I turned my back for one second to grab the camera and someone ran over my quilt with his fire truck. He was too quick for me to catch him in the act but the evidence was damning...
Once I'm happy with the design, I stack each row.
Then, I stack the piles, turning each pile 45 degrees. I call this a Kwilty Pack.
Designing is my favourite part of the entire process. I often design as many as 10 or 15 quilts at once and store them like this in ziploc bags so they are ready to go when I need to sew one up quickly to fill an order.

Now we're ready to start sewing the top together.
I un-stack the Kwilty Pack (make sure you put the piles in the right order or your quilt top will not look like your original design) and line up the piles of squares on my ironing board, which I have set up on my left.
I take the top two squares from pile #1. The top square goes on the bottom, right side up. The second square goes on top, right side down. Stitch together along the right-hand side with a 1/4" seam allowance.
When I get to the end of the length of the square, I stop, but don't cut the thread. I pick up the top two squares from pile #2 and repeat the same process.
When I've have done that for all 9 piles I end up with a long line of "flags" that looks like this.

I open up the first pair of squares I sewed together. I pick up square #3 from pile #1, line it up, right sides together with the square on the right and sew them together. When I get to the end of the edge of the square, like before, I stop sewing but don't cut the thread. Pick up the square #3 from pile #2 and repeat the same process. Continue with the rest of the 9 piles.
I continue until all 81 squares are sewn together and the quilt top looks like this.
At this point, the squares are all sewn together along their horizontal axes but not their vertical axes. Now, one column at a time, I sew the vertical axes. As I go, I'm careful to keep the seam allowances all going the same direction.
TaDA! Quilt top DONE!
Now we need to iron the seams down. I iron the back first, keeping all the seams going in one direction.

I do a quick iron of the top side too. Just for extra smoothness.
 Now it's time to make a quilt sandwich. Go get your batting. I'll wait here.
I lay a piece of batting on the floor. The backing fabric goes on top, right side up. The quilt top goes on top of the backing fabric, right side down. Careful, when you lay fabric on the attracts rascals...
I pin all three layers together. I try not to pin the rascals, although that might help move them off the fabric.
I sew all three layers together, leaving a space-2 squares long-open, to turn everything right-side-out.
I trim, the edges... the opening shut, and sew it up.
Almost done now. To finish the quilt off I top-stitch all along the edge. It gives it the look of traditional quilt binding, but without any of the tedious work.
I also top-stitch along a few of the grid-lines, just to give the whole quilt a bit more stability.
The finished product.
Quick and easy. (I'm pretty sure it took longer to write this post than it takes to make the quilt)
I love these quilts because they are colourful and very durable. I have thrown my kids' quilts in the wash countless times and they still look great. They used them in their cribs and now their beds, but they also drag them around the house to make forts and take them outside for picnics.
I hope you enjoyed today's sewing lesson. If anything is unclear, feel free to ask a question in the comments and I'll do my best to answer it.


  1. Masterpieces! Thanks for sharing, Ang... you make it look so easy, it makes me want to learn to sew!


  2. Absolutely fantastic! What an art!

  3. 200 quilts in a year! That's insane! Now that I have the instructions on how to make the quilt, I really should make one!

  4. I think this is my favourite entry you've posted so far! Technically very well done/well explained, I feel I could actually follow these instructions and make a decent quilt :^)

  5. Thanks so much to you and Jennifer Burt for this quilt! I love the colour patterns, and my baby will love it too! So talented!

    From Lynn, Adam, and baby to be (the new quilt owner)

  6. Very helpful! The chain piecing is a great idea for keeping the rows together. Saved me a lot of time!