Beginner Quilting

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Quilting is probably not a project you'd expect a modern sewer to take on. But, more and more, the 20 and 30-something's in our Sewing 101/102 classes are asking about it. Whether they used to see their Grandmother working on them when they were children or have no experience with them at all, quilting is piquing the interest of a new generation.

Although we do not offer quilting classes nor do we claim to have a deep understanding of quilting, we do love the idea of piecing together an heirloom and we fully support our customers while they take their sewing skills to another level. Thankfully, we have a great Community Education Center here in Charleston and they offer affordable classes for any sewing level.

Throughout the next eight weeks, we'll track my newbie experience with beginner quilting starting with today's post about picking fabrics.

Instructions for picking fabrics for the beginner quilt were to choose one main fabric for the border, four coordinating fabrics for the blocks, a neutral fabric for the background, another fabric for the sashing and binding, and a final fabric for the backing. Yea, that's a lot of fabric. Not to mention, what do all of those things really mean? How do they really all work together? Maybe, I'm a little OCD (ok, a lot OCD) but I like to plan, I like to visualize, I like to know what I'm getting myself into. So, needless to say I was immediately overwhelmed.

I started with the Down Under Gray Multi Chevron (bottom left above) and starting to pick out coordinating fabrics that matched. I had a dot, a diamond, and a houndstooth when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Krista was there as were a couple of girls from her 201 class. Krista explained that in quilting (unlike clothes-making) you could mix bold patterns and, in fact, that is what makes a quilt truly special. Everything went back on the shelves.

I knew I wanted something sophisticated, modern, colorful, and fun, so when I saw the Spa Geo Multi by Michael Miller, I knew that would be a good starting border. Next, I saw Cocoon-Butterfly by Valorie Wells. They colors in the two fabrics are the same but the pattern itself is very different. I was coming out of my comfort zone...scary! Both the Spa Geo and the Butterfly shared similar colors like turquoise, yellow, and pink. So, next I grabbed up Essential Dots in turquoise and Down Under Gold Diamonds to balance them out. I needed one more accent fabric to support my border and I wanted something with a pop. This was the hardest one to find for me...the last one, go figure. I ended up stumbling across a great coral red/orange with accents of white and pink (not picutred, sorry) and was starting to get really excited.

Next on the list was a neutral for the background. Background? What's that? To figure it out, we had to call in the big guns...Krista's mom. She's quilted before and she still didn't know what the background was. But, she did some research and discovered that it was the fabric that filled in the "holes" of the block. The best way I can explain it is that the look of the block isn't the combination of fabrics and designs as a whole, but rather one bold pattern that stands out (a plus sign, an "x", a pinwheel, etc) and the background is what fills in the parts of the block that aren't included in that main pattern.

The yellow fabric in this quilt is the background.
So, I chose a solid grey for the background. In hindsight, I probably would have chosen something with a slight pattern to it...maybe tone on tone? Maybe this!

I couldn't get that great Chevron out of my head (I mean, it's a great Chevron!) and although a little muted, the colors did work with my more elaborate scheme. So, I threw the Chevron back in the mix, but as the backing (the flip side of the quilt is one whole piece of fabric). The binding needed to match both sides because it folds over the edges of the quilt to hold it all together. I couldn't imagine choosing yet another fabric for this small portion of the quilt and the grey solid I chose worked with the Chevron, so I added on to my measurement for it. Viola, grey binding.

Now, here's where I messed up. You had to know this wouldn't go perfectly right out of the gate, right? I don't have that kind of beginner's luck. The sashing and binding in the example quilt are the same. So, I thought that's what I had to do. I got even more of the grey solid for the sashing. It felt like a lot of grey when I was buying it. I should have gone with my gut. Now, my sashing, binding, and background are all the same. That's a problem for the many areas where the background and the sashing butt up against each other. That's not going to fly. Wah, wah!

So, more shopping is in order so I can find a better sashing fabric. Maybe Michael Miller's Happy Houndstooth?! I have to alter the sashing and can't change the background because...

Nine Patch with Down Under Gold Diamond and Grey cotton solid.

I made my very first block! This is called Nine Patch (for obvious reasons). So, as you can see, so far so good. Next week we'll learn about half-square triangles and make some more blocks. I'll be back with another report on how it all went down and how my fabric choices are coming together. I'll get you an update on my new sashing fabric, too. In the mean time consider modern fabrics for your next/first quilting project and help bring quilting back to the trend reports.

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