Step-by-step instructions for a patchwork quilt

quilts image by Christopher Martin from

Creating a patchwork quilt (i.e., one made of squares called "blocks") can be as simple or as challenging as the quilter wants it to be. The easiest kind of patchwork quilt has blocks of like designs but different colour and/or fabrics that alternate throughout the quilt. A moderately difficult quilt may have a standard pattern sewn onto blocks that alternate with plain blocks of coloured fabric. An experienced quilter may design her own patterns and arrange a combination of pattern blocks in a unique style.

Choose a pattern. Either stay with plain blocks of differing colours or fabrics, or use a simple purchased pattern. Directions in purchased patterns give helpful hints and suggestions.

Pick a colour scheme. Select colours that appeal to you, that the recipient will enjoy and that go with the pattern's theme.

Buy appropriate fabric. Be sure the fabric is sturdy, colour-fast and preshrunk. If the material has not been preshrunk, wash and dry it before beginning the project.

Select the batting for the centre layer. Batting comes in different thicknesses. Decide how the quilt will be used, and choose the thickness accordingly. Try to buy it wide enough so that you can use one piece.

Choose the backing. Use a sheet, a light blanket or fabric you buy for the purpose.

Follow the pattern or cut the blocks into the desired dimensions. Cut the squares at least ½ inch longer and wider than the finished size to accommodate sewing.

Position the finished blocks into the final arrangement and piece them together, sewing one block to the next by placing right sides together and stitching along one side at a time. Sew horizontal rows first. Then sew the rows together to form the quilt from top to bottom.

Pin the three layers of the quilt together by placing the backing facedown, laying the batting on it and laying the quilt top face up on the batting. Use long quilting pins to attach the pieces to each other.

Baste. By hand or machine, sew the three pieces together in a temporary long running stitch.

Choose a sewing method. Those who stitch by hand swear that their quilts are more beautiful and more like heirlooms. However, using a sewing machine say is faster and easier.

Quilt. This permanent sewing connects the three layers. If you're hand-stitching, use a loom and start in the middle of the quilt. Stitch around each square, cross-hatch (go from corner to corner diagonally on each block) or stipple (sew in a very tight pattern). You can also stitch these patterns using a machine.

After quilting, consider tying your quilt. Using a sharp yarn needle, insert a piece of yarn or thread through the corner of each block, bringing it back through the quilt at a small distance from that first insertion and tying the two ends of the yarn in a knot.

Leave extra material around the edge of the quilt, turn it under and stitch it down.

For a sturdier binding, cut a strip of cloth matching the main colour of the quilt, sew it onto the edge, turn it under and sew it to the backing.

Remove the basting thread, remove the pins and wash the quilt to get out all markings.

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