Welcome to Part 3 of our Beginner Quilt Series! Today’s the day we get to start sewing our fabrics together into a quilt top. If you are just joining us, its not too late to jump in! You can find the overview of tools you need HERE, and instructions for cutting HERE.
Make sure you have a nice, sharp needle on your machine. If you have purchased on of the kits which have Liberty, I recommend using a 70/10 or 80/12 needle. If you want to get a good overview of using Liberty fabrics and quell any fears you may have, you can read my post SEWING WITH LIBERTY. Basically, if I am using lawns I use 70/10, and if I use regular quilt weight cottons, I use 80/12. But my motto is “use what you have and make it work” too, so don’t get too hung up on this. I would not use anything larger than these sizes for piecing together a quilt.
Next you want to make sure you have good thread. I’m using Wonderful Specialty thread which I got locally, but mostly I like to use Floriani embroidery thread. No, this isn’t embroidery, but I love that this thread is NOT cotton and it is strong. Cotton thread wears faster than cotton fabric which means that if you plan to use your quilt, the seams will wear out faster than the fabric will and you’ll be left with a lot of repairs. I found this out the hard way because I was using thread that was being promoted by a lot of people being paid to advertise it, only to find out its not great in the long term. I absolutely love and recommend Floriani, and I also use Coats all purpose thread. That’s what you’ll have the easiest time finding at any craft store or even Walmart.
Finally, choose your machine foot. A foot is the piece that is going to guide your fabric through the machine- it places pressure against the feed dogs which are the little strips of textured metal that move when your machine is running. They pull the fabric away from you and the foot places pressure so the fabric stays flat. I love to use a walking foot which is the larger foot you see above. It actually moves every time the needle goes up and down and it acts like a second pair of feed dogs, evenly moving the top fabric with the bottom fabric. Its not totally necessary, but it makes for really even sewing.
You can also use a standard “A” foot, or zig zag foot, as a lot of people call it. This is the foot that comes on pretty much every sewing machine, and it is easy to use as well.
Alright! Let’s go ahead and get started. Layout your fabric on the floor or a table in the way it will be arranged when its done.
Starting at the top, stack up your first row of fabrics from left to right (left fabric should be on top, the furthest right on bottom).
Set the top fabric to the left of your stack, the take the second fabric and place it on that first fabric right sides together (RST). This simply means the pretty sides are facing each other. We are going to sew on the right (directional, not pretty) side of the fabrics.Line your fabric up on the 1/4″ mark on your machine. Most machines have little tick marks on the metal plate which should help you align the fabric. If there that lines up with a mark on your foot, you’ll have an easy time of keeping your fabric straight. For me, it lines up right at the inner edge of my walking foot. As my fabric goes through, I make sure I stay exactly along that line, not to the right or to the left so I have a consistent 1/4″ seam which is the standard seam allowance for all quilting projects.
I like to keep my left hand on top and adjust it as the fabric feeds through which the machine will do. You do not need to push or pull on the fabric, your hands are just there to keep it steady and straight. If you find your fabric has gotten way out of place, stop your machine, remove your fabric and cut out the thread, not the fabric, with your seam ripper and begin again.
Now, after you have fed your first square through, don’t cut the thread. Just leave the square there, and go ahead and layer your third and fourth fabric together just like you did with the first two. The third fabric should be on bottom face up, and the fourth fabric should be on top of it face down, or right sides together. Align these fabrics on your machine and begin stitching just after that first set.
This method is called chain piecing and it saves both time and thread.
After you have stitched all the way down those fabrics, cut your thread. You can use the knife on the edge of your machine like I used here, or you can use some scissors. I point that out because a lot of people don’t realize their machine has this feature.
Now set your fabrics back down on your last square in order. From the bottom you should have square #5 which hasn’t been used yet, then section 3/4, then section 1/2 on top. Just as we placed our squares right sides together, we are going to place our sections together in the same way. 1/2 should be face up on bottom, and 3/4 should be face down on top, so that square #3 is aligned with the edge of square #2.
Using a 1/4″ seam again, sew those sections together along squares 2/3. Don’t cut your threads yet.
Now go ahead and flip over section 3/4, then place our remaining square #5 face down on top of square #4. Stitch down that line, and then cut your threads. You have just sewn your first row!
Head over to your ironing board, and press so that all the seam allowances are going to the right →.
Stack up your fabrics for your second row and repeat the assembly process to complete the row. Press all seams to the left ←. Pressing your rows in opposite directions not only will help your seam to be stronger than pressing them open, it will also help your quilt to be super straight when you sew the rows together in a bit.
So repeat with rows 3-5. Rows 1, 3, 5 should all have seams pressed to right →, and rows 2, 4 should be pressed to the left ←.
Now that all your rows have been sewn together and pressed, we are going to sew the rows together. We are going to use the very same techniques to sew the rows. Row 1 should be facing up, and then you can place row 2 on top facing down. The top of row 2 should be aligned with the bottom of row 1. We are going to sew a 1/4″ seam along this edge. You can pin or clip the row if you feel you want to do that, but having the seams in opposite directions should help you keep the fabrics lined up, and they should “lock” in place.
Don’t cut your thread, just go ahead and line up rows 3/4 in the same way you just did with 1/2, and sew a 1/4″ seam. Clip your threads and press the seams for both rows DOWN ↓. Its easier to do this after your sew each row as opposed to waiting to complete the top.
Place rows 1/2 face up, and row 3/4 face down on top so that the bottom of row two is aligned with the top of row three. Sew a 1/4″ seam along that line and press it downward.
Now you just need to attach the fifth row! Place your 1/2/3/4 section face up, and place row 5 face down on top of your larger section so that the bottom of row four is aligned with the top of row 5. Sew a 1/4″ seam, and press it DOWN.
You, my friend, have just sewn together a quilt top! Great job!
If you would like to see this demonstrated on a video, you can tune into our LIVE video on Facebook at 6pm EST today.
Next week, we will begin quilting our quilts! You will need to get three things for that. You’ll need some batting, which is the fluffy stuff that goes in the middle of your quilt. You’ll need some safety pins told hold your layers together. And you’ll need a marking tool that won’t stay on your quilt permanently. I always use Warm and Natural cotton batting. Its a great weight, its natural, and its super easy to use. I would not get a poly batting. Here’s a small package of batting from Amazon.
If you want to get a larger cut for future projects, this Queen size is a great one too!
I would recommend a Hera marker for marking quilt lines.
Finally, you will need a set of curved safety pins to hold your quilt together. Some folks like to use a spray adhesive, but I don’t prefer that method since it stinks up the house and gums up your needles. This pack is inexpensive and will last a long time!
All of these offer Prime shipping, so if you choose to order, they should arrive in plenty of time for next week’s segment.
Please note: Amazon links are considered affiliate links which means if you choose to buy by clicking my link, and I hope you will, Amazon will give me a few cents of the sale. The price is the very same, but it does help support my blog and these free tutorials I write!
That’s that! If you have any questions or need clarity of something, please leave me a comment below. If you are making along with us, you can tag your photos #ojhbeginnerquiltseries so I and others can see your progress!