For more quilting fun, swing by the blog: http://underconstructionblog.typepad.com
Step 1: Supplies and tools
20 4 inch squares of cotton fabric*
1 piece of cotton fabric approximately 16x18 inches (for back)
1 piece of batting** (flat stuffing to put inside the quilt) approximately 16x18 inches
2 yards of embroidery floss
all purpose thread
sewing machine (or needle and lots of time)
large, embroidery needle
small sewing needle
seam ripper (most likely)
*make sure your fabrics are pre-washed and dried so you are certain the dyes are set and the fabric won't shrink after your quilt is complete
**I like to use a thin, cotton batting which can be purchased by the yard at the fabric store. Buy 1/2 yard for this project (18 inches). You can also purchase polyester batting. Choose a very thin weight (3-5 ounce). Alternatively you could use a scrap of flannel inside your quilt--make sure your flannel is plain (no pattern to show through) and pre-washed.
Step 2: Decide on a layout for your quilt top
If you can't decide on a layout, just start sewing and let fate be your guide.
If you want to do something a little more complicated, now is the time to decide. You could cut each square into half or into quarters or triangles. Note that the more pieces you cut each square into, the smaller your final quilt will be because each time you sew pieces back together you lose 1/4 inch in the seam allowance. See the end of this instructable for a few ideas for modification.
Step 3: Notes before you start to sew
--The only critical thing about quilting is seam allowance. It is important you keep a consistent seam allowance. One quarter (1/4) inch is ideal but for this project it is more important that it be consistent than be exactly 1/4 inch.
--Always, always, always sew with pretty sides together. In other words, when you put together the two pieces of fabric to sew, the good (pretty) sides of the fabric should be facing each other. If you get confused, pin the fabric before you sew and open it up to check that it looks right.
--For machine sewing, use 10-12 stitches per inch. On my machine, this means set it at 2 or 2.5.
--With quilting (unlike other sewing projects) you do not need to back stitch to lock the stitches at the beginning and end of each stitch line.
--If you are hand sewing,* use a small running stitch and the same 1/4 inch seam allowance as for machine sewing.
*There is an interesting article about hand sewing here: http://agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/CFAM/May0803a.htm and hand stitching instructions here: http://www.sewing.org/enthusiast/html/el_handstittch.html
Step 4: Begin sewing rows
To assemble your quilt top, you will sew your squares into 5 rows of four squares each and then sew the rows together.
To start, stack squares 1 and 2 (see notes on second photo) pretty sides together and sew along the edge using your 1/4 inch seam allowance. 1/4 inch is approximately the distance between your needle and the edge of the presser foot on your sewing machine (measure to be sure).*
You can pin the squares together but I find that it is not necessary. Try it yourself, the less you pin, the more time you save. Just hold the squares with one hand and guide your fabric into the machine with the other. If you find they don't stay stacked, use a pin.
- If you have trouble sewing a straight line, you may want to purchase a magnetic seam guide. Just search that term on amazon to find one for a few dollars. I found this tool very helpful when I was learning to sew.
Step 5: How to use a seam ripper
I actually don't know the "real" way to use this tool but this is what has been working for me for a decade.
For quilt squares, since you didn't back stitch, you can gently start to pull apart the fabric pieces at the end. Use your left hand to hold them apart while using your right hand to push the seam ripper through the line of stitching. The red ball should go under the fabric and ride along the bottom of the stitches and the sharp edge inside the "u" of the ripper cuts the stitches.
The sharp point is only used from the top of the fabric to cut individual stitches.
Step 6: Chain stitching and adding to your rows
You will end up with a little chain of squares coming out the back of your machine all connected by thread. Now snip apart (being sure to keep them in order) and lay them out again on your work surface.
Next add square 3 to the first row (made up of square 1 sewed to square 2). You can see in the fourth photo below how I arranged the 2 square sets and flipped squares 3, 7, 11, 15 and 19 over onto the patches. I stacked them in order and set them next to the machine so I could chain stitch them and keep them in order.
Step 7: Continue until your rows are complete
Now press the rows with the iron being careful not to distort or stretch the fabric. Press the seam allowances to the same side and , ideally, in opposite directions for each row (see photos in the next step)
Step 8: Sew rows together
After pinning, carefully sew the rows together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and removing the pins just before your needle reaches each one. This is where you will find out if your seam allowance was perfectly even. If not, you will need to pin the joints evenly and slightly stretch the fabric to make it match up.
Continue to add rows one at a time until all 5 rows are joined.
Step 9: The quilt top is done!
Press your patchwork top carefully with the iron and get ready to assemble your quilt. You should also press the backing fabric for your quilt.
Step 10: Layer and pin quilt parts
Lay out a piece of batting a few inches larger than your quilt top. Stack on your backing fabric pretty side up. Note that your backing fabric should be slightly larger than your quilt top (in the photo below, my backing fabric is too small, it should hang out from the edges of my quilt top).
Place your quilt top on the backing pretty side down.
Pin around the edges as shown with pins at points "A" and "B" where you will start and stop sewing.
Step 11: Pin around edges, pivot at corners
At the corners, stop sewing 1/4 inch from the edge of the quilt top and use the wheel on your sewing machine to plant the needle into the material. Lift your presser foot and pivot the quilt 90 degrees. Lower presser foot and continue on with a perfect corner.
Step 12: Trim the batting and turn right side out
Next reach in between the quilt front and back and turn the quilt right side out. Carefully poke the corners out using your scissors or a knitting needle.
Step 13: Stitch hole closed
Step 14: Prepare to tie your quilt
For a simple project, tying the quilt with embroidery floss is really the the easiest solution and the bits of floss add a nice decorative touch.
To tie the quilt, use the large embroidery needle and thread the needle with the full thickness of the embroidery floss. Use some spit to stick the strands of floss together before threading the needle.
You'll want to make a tie at each intersection where four squares meet. Take a stitch diagonally across the intersection such that about 1/4 inch of the needle shows on the back of the quilt (the stitch is about 1/4 inch wide).
Pull about 2 yards of floss through and, without cutting the floss, take a stitch at the next intersection. Continue until all stitches are in place without cutting the floss (this saves rethreading the needle over and over).
Clip the floss between each stitch.
Step 15: Tie the quilt
Using a surgeon's knot, tie your quilt. Left over right, and again. Cinch down. Left over right and again. Cinch down. See the video for clear instructions.
Once the ties are done, trim the floss to approximately 1/2 inch.
Step 16: All done!
If you want to try something a touch more complicated, click to the next step for variations on the original design.
Step 17: Triangle variation
Step 18: How to make triangles out of squares
Step 19: Horizontal stripes variation
Because all this sewing makes the quilt top quite small (approximately 12x14 inches), I cut narrow (1.25") strips off the backing piece to create a skinny border. Just be careful that your quilt top stays smaller than the backing piece.