My First Quilt!

This past Friday, March 18th, I finished my first quilt!

I started off by cutting strips off of three different flannel patterns.  I measured them off on the rotary board and cut them into 5″ squares.  Each strip of fabric made for eight 5″ squares leaving me with a hole in the middle.  I did not want to cut a whole strip of the blue flannel for just one square.  I had also not decided yet what I was going to do with the edges (let alone the backing).  My initial thought was possibly using the green turtle fabric for the border and middle square:

Cutting out the Pieces

Not knowing what to do about the middle piece, I decided to just start sewing the four outer strips together.  I was so excited to have gotten just this far on my quilt:

Strip sewing #2

I decided to just cut the blue flannel and use it as the center piece figuring I would use the rest of it for another project, another time and finished sewing the top together.  Making me even more excited about getting this far with my first quilt:

Quilt top sewn together #6

With this being my first quilting project, I left myself a bit of wiggle room when I cut the piece of Warm and Natural batting.  One thing we have noticed about where we purchase our fabric, is they are not very good at cutting straight lines.  I laid out the piece of batting I had cut to measure it to see just how incredibly uneven it was (not to mention the uneven edges of the top I had sewn together).  I deliberated for some time as to whether to just sew it as is or trim up the edges first.

I had just sat down to leave it as is when I changed my mind and trimmed it up (and very glad I did).  First I trimmed up the top and then I did my best to place it evenly on the batting and safety pinned the two together.  In some spots, the batting border was closer to 2″ and others, less then an inch.  I did my best to leave about an inch batting for the border but it was up to a 1/4″ short in one spot.  We have two quilting books (one on blocks and one for general tips and how-to’s) and one of them suggested a basting gun over safety pins for basting the layers together.  If you click on the image below, you can see both the safety pins (pinning the first two layers) and the pink basting tags (holding all three layers).  I picked up a basting gun at Michael’s for about $20 after a 50% off coupon.

About to Quilt first Quilt

To finish off the quilt, I sewed the seams along each 5″ blocks.  That was quick and easy and really pointed out how crappily I pieced together the squares!  Cut me some slack though, this is after all my first quilt and I used it more as a learning piece then anything.  The border was the trickiest of the whole quilt.  My having to stitch rip three of four borders and redo them was a good learning experience in needing to slow down a bit and pay attention.

Finished First Quilt

The entire work of this project was somewhat me “winging it” and learning as I go.  I looked online enough to know I wanted a 1/4″ foot to help with the piece work and that I would need at least three layers for the quilt.  A former boss of my often said, “learning is doing” and that’s what I did.  I will make an upcoming post about the tips and tricks I learned both from blogs I read and my whoopsies from this project.

My son has already claimed it as his own stating “how cool” it was!

Full Flickr set from Quilt #1:  Quilt Photo’s on Flickr

Quilting: Sew, We Need a Sewing Machine

Quilting can be done using one of two methods:  hand quilting or machine quilting (or a combination of both).

I decided to take up quilting as one of my new hobbies that did not involve the computer.  Knowing my hands can cramp up with other crafts, I did not want to be hand quilting.  Am I cheating with this being a non-computer based hobby by using a computerized sewing machine?  I had no idea sewing machines were computerized until we started looking around for one!

Before heading out to pick up a sewing machine, we looked around online at pricing and reviews to select the sewing machine that met both our needs and budget. Because of finances and not being sure how much use we would get out of the machine, I kept looking for ones I knew I saw that were under $100 to realize just how small and cheaply made they were.  Initially, we looked at machines that were as cheap as $79 to ones that were $350.  Most of the machines in this price range did not include any sort of cover and would have been another $35-50.  Having a very curious three year old son and not having a spot in the house for it to permanently live yet, the cover was a must.

Both having mothers who have had sewing machines for 30+ years, we decided it was better to spend more money on a machine that had a longer warranty and was known to be a better brand than something that was cheaper, cheaply built and we might have to replace in the next 3-5 years.

During our online searches, we were trying to find a sewing machine that was better suited for quilting or had reviews mentioning how well they worked for quilting.  I was also trying to find a store to buy it from that I knew was good for service and was local should there be any problems.  We narrowed it down to two Kenmore sewing machines off the Sears website – one which was $350 and another that was $500.  The one at $500 had a lot of reviews that mentioned quilting, the reviews were good and the warranty looked great:

  • 25 Year Limited Warranty on internal frame defects in material or workmanship
  • 10 Year Limited Warranty on Internal Mechanical Components
  • 2 Year Limited Warranty on External Sewing Machine components
  • 2 Year Limited Warranty on Electrical Equipment
  • 90 Day Limited Warranty on Parts and Labor

Because of the warranty, reviews and features, we decided to get the $500 machine.  This was a lot more then I was initially wanting to spend but we both viewed it as an investment for our family on an item we would use for many years to come – whether for quilting or say, patching up a foot long tear in our sons snow pants he needed to wear for the last few days of winter.  To help bring the cost down, we redeemed enough Sears points to get a $60 gift card and used a coupon to obtain more points for another $50 Sears gift card.  We also bought the three year servicing service through Sears for $79.99 that allows us to get the machine tuned up once a year among other things.

As luck always seems to have it for us picking up bigger items at the Sears in Kelowna, we had to order one in which took about a week to arrive because at the time, no trucks were driving through the Rocky Mountains from Edmonton.  I was also at the time awaiting the arrival of my new Canon T2i that we ordered online through Sears website on Boxing Day which was back ordered and finally arrived almost seven weeks after being ordered.

The Sewing Machine

Can you believe I was actually more excited about the arrival of our sewing machine then my new dSLR?  Certainly made that last week of waiting for my camera go by faster!  (and gave me something to take a picture of the sewing machine with)

Quilting: Our Starter Quilting Tools

Over the years, I have jumped into new hobbies without putting much thought or research into them. Now that I’m older and supposedly a bit wiser, I have become more frugal in my spending. Not wanting to waste any money on items we did not need to get started in our quilting endeavors, I turned to the Internet. At first, I watched quilting videos on YouTube to see what tips quilters gave, tools they were using and generally how to create the top layer of the quilt.

I knew the first three items I would be purchasing: Rotary Cutter, Rotary Mat and a lipped ruler:

Quilting Tools

As much as it sucks forgetting coupons at home, it also helps keep tabs on my spending.  Because of the cost, I almost bought a much smaller cutting board until deciding to go home and print a 50% off coupon. While home printing off the coupon, I watched some YouTube video’s of someone cutting to see they were using a 36″ x 24″ rotary mat which at regular price cost a lot more than the smaller mat but was about the same price with the 50% off coupon!  The same was also true with the rotary cutter only initially we picked up what we thought was a smaller rotary cutter to realize it was meant for paper and not fabric.  Whoops!

I am glad the ruler we picked up at the same time as the rotary mat has a lip (I think this one of the tips I read about on a blog).  I hook the lip on the top edge of the cutting board and then work on lining the edge up with the lines of the rotary mat, laying it down flat before firmly placing my hand on it in preparation for cutting.  So long as the ruler does not move and I am able to cut in a straight line, having the lip catch on the edge of the rotary mat gives me one more “check” in ensuring I cut a straight line.

Having these three tools in hand, I started using our “fugly” fabric to practice my cutting.  My partner kept trying to get me to start out with our good fabric but I did not want to waste it getting used to cutting.  With the amount of oopsies and wiggly first lines, I am certainly glad (as I believe she now is) that I elected to start off with the cheaper fabrics we have.  The only drawback I have found with it, is that it is flannel and tends to stretch a bit.

After spending a few days of cutting, we both decided a sewing machine would be the next step in our quilting endeavor.