My First Quilt: A Beginner Jumps in Headfirst

Alke’s best “Who, me?” face.

We went away for the weekend on a bicycling tour and left our puppy with a petsitter. It was our first attempt leaving Alke for such a long time period without constant supervision, and the experiment failed dramatically. Among many other things, he pulled out a significant amount of the loft from it. Although I briefly fantasized about getting a new puppy, what I desperately needed was a new blanket. I didn’t like much of what was available in the store (and I generally prefer handmade things anyway), so I thought: how hard can making my own blanket be? Let’s just say that jumping into a making a queen-sized quilt was perhaps not the brightest idea I’ve ever had.

fabric samples
My “layer cake”: 16 fabrics cut to 1/3 yard

As I was looking for easy quilt patterns, I stumbled across this pattern. I liked how clean and simple it looked, and I was sure I’d be able to personalize it to my tastes. I had no idea what a layer cake was (hint:  it’s a 10 x 10 precut set of matched/designed fabrics) when I walked into a local fabric store, and they only had one. It wasn’t to my taste, so I decided to pick out my own fabric. With the help of the absolutely wonderful sales people at Stitch On, I picked out a slew of fabric and went home to begin making my top quilt.

Here are things I wish I had known when trying to follow the pattern (please be kind and remember I was a complete, complete newbie and had no idea what I was doing):

  • What a layercake is and how much fabric is in it (about 40 precut 10 x 10 squares, which equals about 3 yards of fabric)
  • That under the “Assembly Instructions” section, the “cross cut 2 x 5″ strips and 2 x 10″ strips” note did not mean to cut the strips into two inches by five inches. Each strip really is three inches wide. From that first cut, cross cut means that you cut again across the fabric to make two sets of strips that are five and ten inches long. (I will not admit how long this took me to figure out).
  • Which mark on my sewing machine was actually the 1/4 inch mark (it’s actually not the width of the presser foot, which I learned only after I had made up my first square and couldn’t figure out why I was off on the size of my block).
  • Include zero into your counting when when you’re using a self-healing mat to cut. Again, this is very embarrassing to admit: I laid down my first piece of fabric to cut, all nice and beautiful against the one-inch mark, stretched it to ten inches, lined it up perfectly, and cut it an inch too short.
  • Any clue about what happened after you finished making the top quilt. I was woefully under prepared for how how to make a quilt sandwich and how much having someone else quilt it would cost.

    The top quilt

When I finished my top quilt, I was so excited with how it had turned out. After much hand wringing and despairing about the estimated cost, I decided to have the quilt professionally quilted. It was definitely $90 well spent (and by far the lowest estimate; one was nearly $200). The woman who quilted my quilt was superb. I am confident I would’ve butchered it, and I was so pleased with how it turned out!

My cats lay claim to the quilt.

After the quilt was returned to me, I procrastinated mightily about learning how to bind the quilt off. It was too pretty, and I felt anxious I would screw it up at the last minute. I found this video by the Missouri Star Quilting Company to be a very helpful tutorial in boosting my confidence. What it didn’t teach me, however, was how to actually make the hidden stitch because I’d never hand sewn anything before either. I experimented a little bit before I found something that worked. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good picture, video, or simple explanation of what I did.

Finally, after starting this quilt in late August, I can say that it’s done and proudly on my bed by the end of January. It hibernated for way too long with the binding, and I was very busy at work… but still. It was by no means the weekend project I thought it would be when I found the free easy pattern online. (Ah, such naivete!)

My total cost for my custom, handmade, just-my-style queen-sized quilt:  $406.98.

My cat models the new quilt.

This includes: the tools (I at least had a sewing machine, but I didn’t have the rotary cutter, the self-healing mat, or the large clear ruler), the materials, (the extra “whoops” materials),  and the professional quilting. I have some fabric leftover, which I hope will be enough for matching shams. If I had known it was going to be so much money, I would never have made the quilt. I can assure you, however, that this is one occasion where ignorance was truly bliss. I am very happy with my quilt and am glad I was so ignorant!


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