Art and Needlework home

11/11/09 : My First Full Sized Quilt–In Progress

| 1 Comment

As soon as October came around and my family was working on the farm in the cold, wet weather for almost 30 days straight, the ineffable happened–my older sister needed an extra bed cover. I found her looking on the Internet for quilt prices and toying with the idea of buying one, but I said, “Why don’t you let me make one?” As soon as I said it I felt like I was getting myself into a mess!

I only made one quilt before–a crib sized one–and that was, I thought at the time, very hard to do. I haven’t quilted much since that baby quilt, so why on earth did I volunteer to make a HUGE one that will fit her twin sized bed? “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll give it a go anyway.”

So on October 10 I began to pick out designs, find fabric, and see how much yardage I needed. I am still working on the quilt but here is what happened so far:
Choosing the Right Sized Quilt for Your Bed:

I first measured my sister’s twin sized bed. To do this, I measured her mattress’ length and width; which happened to be 39″ x 75″. We wanted the quilt to be large enough to tuck under the mattress and to cover the pillows, so we added 26″ to the width and 24″ to the length to accommodate this. So the finished quilt should roughly measure 63″ x 97″.
For those who are interested in making their own quilt I suggest you measure your OWN bed. Don’t use the measurements given here because each bed is different.

Picking Out the Design:

My sister said she wanted her quilt to be reversible–one side to be used during the Spring and Summer months and the reverse to be used in the remaining two seasons. We went through some quilting books I have but couldn’t find a suitable one. She wanted a simple pattern with large blocks and we just couldn’t find a pattern that didn’t require an extensive amount of patchwork. But after much searching we did find one, it was in The Quilter’s Companion Katharine Guerrier.

It wasn’t a pattern complete with yardage, measurements, instructions, etc., all we found was a quilt layout chart in the “How much to buy” chapter of the book (page 25).
Here is a scanned image of the chart:

Not a whole lot of information to work with but we went with it anyway.

Choosing Fabric and Calculating the Yardage :

There was not much fabric to purchase because we wanted to use some of the leftover fabric we had in our stash. Actually, the whole quilt top was made from fabric scraps, all of which were cotton. Just so I knew we had enough fabric to work with, I had my sister go through our scraps and pick out her favorites that would work well together. We then measured each piece of fabric to see if we could get at least one 12 1/2″ square.
And for the borders of the quilt, I pieced together short strips of fabric. For some fabrics, like this green solid pictured here, you don’t really notice the seam line, so your quilt design isn’t altered. I good way to use up some fabric!

For those who are interested in making their own quilt, here is a link to a free online quilt fabric calculator.

The backing was purchased and this is how I figured out the yardage. . . I knew that the finished quilt was to be 63″ x 97″ and I also knew that the backing should be a few inches larger than the quilt top (this is due to the fact that the backing “shrinks” when you are doing the quilting process). I read that the backing should extend at least 2″ beyond the quilt top edges on all sides. I decided to have an excess of 2 1/2″ to be on the safe side. The photo below shows the quilt top (the blue print), the batting, and the backing.

So the fabric piece I needed was 68″ x 102″. A very large piece of fabric, I know! Initially, I thought I was going to piece two fabric widths together to make this backing, but thankfully, I found a large enough width on I bought two yards of a 108″ width fabric from an Ebay store called Quilting Quest. Visit it here. The fabric only cost $7.99 a yard and the quality is very good.

The binding (the very outer border of the quilt that “binds” the quilt together), yardage was calculated by way of the binding calculator chart. I purchased it from

Buying Batting:

Now about the batting. This one was kind of hard to choose because there are so many choices out there! Cotton, Polyester, Cotton/Polyester, Wool, Silk, etc., etc., etc. In the end, I chose cotton because of two reasons. First, I used it before and I was acquainted with it. And second, I knew that cotton is less flammable than a polyester type. I purchased a 90″ x 96″ piece of Warm and Natural cotton batting from, and was able to get a very good order total because I used Joann’s 40% off coupon on this item. The batting cost $13.00. Wow, huh?

Some Quick Notions I Bought:

Along with the fabric and batting I bought two very important items and they were: machine quilting thread and machine quilting needles. I’ve tried using universal sewing needles for machine quilting and they don’t really compare to the needles specially made for this technique. They go through the quilt like butter. The quilting thread is also very nice to work with. It is 100% cotton and slightly thicker than your standard sewing thread, so your stitches will not deteriorate as fast. You should only use the machine quilting needle with this thread, because the universal type can shred.

OK, let’s move on. As soon as I had all my supplies, I cut out each of the 12″ blocks (12 1/2″ squares including seam allowances) and began assembling the quilt top by making long diagonal strips made out of the quilt blocks. I then sewed the strips together, and lastly, the four corners.

Which Direction Should I Press My Seam Allowances Towards?

Every time I finished a diagonal strip, I pressed the seam allowances with a steam iron. I didn’t know which way to press them so I had to go searching for the info. I found the answer in Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts by Mary Hickey, one of my favorite books. She tells me to press them in towards every other block. And after I sew the strips together I should press those new seam allowances in one direction. Here’s a copy of one of the book’s illustrations that really helped me:

After having a rather difficult time finding a large enough space to lay out the quilt, I moved onto the backing and batting. To cut out my backing, I first laid my backing fabric on the table and placed the quilt top over it. After centering the top in the middle of the backing, I made markings with tailor’s chalk 2 1/2″ away from the quilt top’s edges. I then cut out the backing following my markings.
Next, I removed the quilt top, laid out the cotton batting over the backing and used the backing piece as a template. I cut the batting to the exact length and width of the backing. Unfortunately, my batting was not long enough, about seven inches too short in length. However, the batting was too wide, how about that? I just took the excess batting from the “width side” and sewed it to the area that needed seven more inches. Yes, you can sew batting together. I was so happy to find that one out! You can do it by either machine or hand; I did it by hand because it looked the easiest.
To do this, simply abut batting edges (DO NOT OVERLAP THEM) and sew them together using a whip stitch. Make your stitches about 1/2″ apart and don’t make them overly tight, for you may cause a ridge that can be seen from the public side.
After the batting fiasco passed, it was time to layer the quilt and baste. Yeah, baste. I hate it. But I am very happy to say that I figured out a way to baste without so much hassle, time, and pricked fingers! I’ll tell you what I did, craft pattern style.


  • backing
  • batting
  • quilt top
  • masking tape
  • safety pins, about 1″ to 2″ long (open them all now)
  • knitting needle OR pencil OR bamboo skewer OR 1/4″ width dowel (optional)

Lay out backing on table, wrong side up. Take masking tape and with help from another person, tape each corner of the backing with the masking tape. (Note: when I did this me and my sister were holding the backing slightly taught, one person being opposite the other. I repeat,
slightly.) Tape down edges of the backing every eight inches or so.
Layer batting over backing and tape down using two 4″ strips for each side.
Layer quilt top over batting, right side up. Center top and make sure there is 2 1/2″ of batting surrounding the entire top.
Starting from center of quilt, insert safety pins, first going horizontally, then vertically. Pins should be around 6″ apart, but more the better. Take a look at photo to visualize pin direction.

Tip: You can close the safety pins by hand but as I soon found out, this is really hard on the fingers. To help out with the task, try using a knitting needle. Place needle under pin and use your index finger to close, while holding the needle stationary. See photos below.

After the basting was all done, it was time to machine quilt. I own a no-fuss, standard sewing machine that has no computer or special gadgets for machine quilting, such as a long arm, extension table, etc. It is a Kenmore and was purchased in the 1990’s. It may not be state-of-the-art, but I was able to machine quilt with it and it performed very well–something I was not expecting at all.
Before I placed the quilt under the presser foot, I changed a few things on the machine. First, I made a makeshift extension table. I took two shallow, plastic boxes I had in the sewing room that were just about the height of the sewing machine bed, and I flanked them with the front and left side of the machine. I attached them by using a long rubber band that went around the machine and boxes, nothing fancy. These boxes extended the bed of the machine by 8 inches so I had a lot of room to allow the quilt to move right along. I noticed a big improvement the first time I tried it out.
The other thing I did to the machine was attach a walking foot. You can learn more about this special presser foot by reading my previous post, “Fireproof” Quilting.
Lastly, I used a cream thread for the top thread (to match the pinks, whites, beige, purple, red, etc. of the quilt top) and a moss green thread for the bobbin (to contrast with the burgundy backing that my sister chose).

I stitched-in-the-ditch for the entire quilt and then came back and made outline stitching that was 1 3/4″ away from the first. I needed to do some outline stitching because the batting requires quilting stitches to be no more than 10″ apart. After the quilting was all done I removed the pins. I was very excited to discovered that my basting method worked so well! I didn’t have ANY trouble with pleats or puckers, and I have always been plagued by those two. The walking foot was a big help, too.

And that is where I am now. I will post again when I am finished with the next and final step: binding. I’ve decided, though, that I will not cut out some bias binding as I originally planned. I noticed that there is quite a bit of backing fabric extending from the edges of the quilt top, I thought the backing would shrink more but it hasn’t. I think I will simply trim the batting and backing, fold the backing over a 1/4″, press, fold over again, and stitch down using the walking foot. I’ve read about this method but never did it before. If it doesn’t seem to be working out I’ll make some bias binding. It is always good to have a Plan B when it comes to sewing.

Will add an update soon!

So here is the quilt top that has just been quilted. . .

And here is a closeup of the outline stitching I did. . .

The quilt blocks were made with many fabrics that held many memories for my sister and me. The center pictured here is from a bed sheet of my sister’s. Some other blocks came from old skirts, dress scraps, doll dress scraps, fabric given to us by friends, and more.

And we cannot forget the reverse, the Fall/Winter side. . .

One Comment

  1. i am green with envy. quilting is something i haven’t attempted. i find it so intimidating! i’d love to make a quilt for my daughter but haven’t gotten up the nerve.

    thank for commenting on my blog and for subscribing. it’s a pleasure to meet you!

Leave a Reply