22 January 2015

What I Learned...My First Pieced Quilt

Back in the days of yore when I decided to start quilting, I mean quilt for real; not just sew some fabric and use yarn to tie it up, I went to google and found an easy quilt pattern HERE at www.allpeoplequilt.com.  It seemed easy enough.  I grabbed my trusty 3x12 inch ruler, self-healing mat and set to work.
What the quilt was supposed to look like (from apq.com)
I printed the directions and went to a few different fabric stores and searched through their remnant bins and their fat quarters.  Once I had decided on my bright colors, I brought home my fabric washed it and began cutting.  Against my better judgement, I will share pictures of my first quilt.  It will illustrate the lessons I learned.

What I Learned Making my First Pieced Quilt

  • Lesson One - Don't sew your first block until you have the rest of the fabric cut for ALL BLOCKS. This way when I have time - even if only a half hour, I can sew a block together and set it aside for adding to the rest of the quilt.
  • Lesson Two - Don't freak out when you make a mistake.  Sewing your first pieced quilt means you will make mistakes.  I found that when I made the most mistakes was when I was cutting the various strips for the block.  If I had done all the cutting at once, I could have got into a rhythm and made fewer mistakes.  I would have also known earlier in the process that I didn't buy enough background fabric.
  • Lesson Three - Ask for help.  Find someone who has quilted before you and ask for help when you get stuck.  I should have asked my friend Tricia for advice.  She was not a huge quilter, but had taken a class before.  That is one more class than I had under my belt.  Even if I didn't know Tricia, I should have asked at a quilt shop.  People in the quilting community are willing to help a newbie.  I also find loads of help looking at tutorials on youtube.com and searching quilty blogs.
  • Lesson Four - If it feels like a short cut, then you're probably not doing something right.  When I was sewing my completed blocks together, I used a pin every foot or so.  (the blocks were only 12.5 in)  I sewed a whole row together and I sewed the blocks wrong.  I had to pick my stitches, consult my print out and start over.  In quilting, being a 1/4 inch off is a big deal.
    I thought the binding would make up for having an uneven quilt back
  • Lesson Five - Square Your Blocks.  My blocks had all sorts of jagged ends.  Some strips of the blocks were too long, others just barely made it to the 12.5 mark.  I decided that seam allowance would hide most of my mistakes and the binding would cover the rest.  If I had known to square them, then I would have to fiddle with them less. 
  • Lesson Six - The top speed of the sewing machine is not for all projectsSewing two pieces of fabric together is one thing, and an experienced seamstress can go full-tilt.  As a beginner, it is ok to take your time.  Learn the quirks of your machine.  If you know you need to start needle down, do it.  If you know you struggle sewing a straight line, slow down.  Eventually your skills will allow you to sew faster.  This is especially important for Free Motion Quilting.  Too fast, you skip stitches and get eyelashing.  Too slow, your bobbin thread will not like you.
This is what happens when you try to quilt too fast

  • Lesson Seven - Make sure the product you have is the right product for the job.  I was super afraid of Free Motion Quilting.  I just couldn't handle making huge mistakes.  I made a few pot holders for practice (like making and sewing binding).  I quilted them using straight line quilting.  My little quilt sandwiches were manageable on that scale.  I was apprehensive with Free Motion Quilting such a huge thing, so I bought a polyester fusible batting for this project.  It was on clearance and I felt good about the price.  (this was before the giant roll of warm and crafty I bought)  I either did not pay attention to the directions or had my iron too hot, but I had to peel the back off of my sandwich two or three times because it kept wrinkling up.  Finally I just started quilting "the good spots" and that caused the fabric to shift all over the place. 

I quilted a fold on the back of my quilt - should have pin basted too!

My Version - check out that jagged edge