Introduction: Darth Vader Lap Quilt
This year for Christmas, I gave my fiancée entirely Star Wars themed gifts. (One of his favorite sets of movies). For everyone else I made various gifts that matched their tastes. On one trip to my local fabric store (Joann's) I found an amazing quilt kit that would fit my fiancee's Star Wars theme. Not only was it Star Wars, but it was his second favorite character, Darth Vader. I couldn't have asked for a better quilt for him (unless I could find one with boba fett, which I couldn't. So Vader it was.)
Step 1: The Obvious Part
• the kit
• a "crib size" package of quilt batting (or enough "by the yard" batting to cover approximately 37"x56")
• enough fabric for the backing and binding
• coordinating thread (I purchased 2 spools of the quilting thread I wanted to use, 'just in case')
I bought 2 1/2 yds (44" wide) of a soft white flannel, with the "Star Wars" logo repeated ad infinitum, in black, as the backing. And a complimentary red/grey/white splash pattern (I believe it was 1/2yd) for the binding.
For thread, I just used a medium grey for piecing, and a sparkly ruby red for the quilting.
• moderate sewing skills (straight lines for the piecing, curves and such for the quilting)
• a sewing machine (unless you have the time and patience to sew this all by hand, I don't.)
• a rotary cutter
• various quilting rulers (these are clear, plastic rulers of varying length and width). I would suggest AT LEAST a 6"x18", and preferably a 24" length. A smaller 4.5"x4.5" square ruler is helpful for the corner squares, but not necessary.
• thread and matching bobbin/s
• a cutting mat (as big as you can afford space- and money-wise)
• an iron and preferably a full-size ironing board, but a table-top board will do in a pinch
• safety pins
Useful, but not Necessary:
• space (the more, the better)
• a 1/4" piecing presser foot (if you don't have one, you can also replace this with the use of straight pins, or a steady hand)
• spray starch (helps the fabric to cut and sew more easily, follow directions for use on whatever bottle of starch you choose)
• quilt basting spray (I LOVE this stuff)
• pounce pad or transfer pens if you plan to use a stencil for your quilt pattern
• quilt stencils (if you're going to use them)
• the "binding thingy"
Step 2: Follow the Directions
The included fabric in this kit is 2 pieces, with 1 panel, and 4 accent fabrics. (1 red with black line swirls, 1 white with Vaders crossing lightsabers (not pictured in my finished quilt, explanation in a minute), 1 black, red and white Vader head, and 1 black with white random dots, made to look like stars.
Start any (and every) quilting project by ironing, and starching if desired, all of your fabric. This tedious, yet necessary step will help to ensure proper and crisp cuts with minimal excess. (It also helps to make your quilt "square" so you don't end up with a wonky trapezoid or rhombus when you wanted a rectangle)
The kit includes directions for cutting the 2 pieces into the 5 subsequent patterned sections, and further cuts to make the required pieces needed for the quilt top.
The directions were very easy to follow, and I cut (or so I thought) all needed pieces in about 30-45 minutes.
My mistake came when I cut the Vader crossed saber fabric. Because of my sewing space (half of a walk in closet), and lack of long enough quilting rulers, I measured this fabric too short by 1-2" (depending on the piece). So, I frantically searched the Joann.com website and found the stormtrooper/empire symbol fabric to replace the other miscalculated fabric.
FYI, all of the kit fabric is ONLY available in the kit. So be VERY careful, measure twice, cut once and all that, as there is not enough "extra" fabric in the kit, for mistakes.
Step 3: Sew Sew Sew
One of the presser feet that came with my sewing machine is called a 1/4" piecing foot. If you do ANY amount of quilting and don't have one of these babies, spend the $20 and invest in one.
I'm sure there are some out there, but I have yet to see a quilt pattern that doesn't call for 1/4" seams. This foot has a guard on the right side that you butt your fabric up against, and marks (mine are red) to show 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2". When the end of your fabric is at whatever mark you choose, the needle will be that far from the edge so you can make perfect corners. I LOVE this presser foot.
Following the directions, sew all the pieces together.
Now for the stormtrooper fabric... Because of the size of the squares in the fabric (approximately 2" square) and the directions calling for 4 1/2" strips (4"+2 1/4" seams) I was able to easily "fussy cut" the fabric to make sure the empire symbols weren't in odd positions. I purchased 2 yds for the ability to do the necessary fussy cuts, but I have plenty of oddly shaped extra fabric for any other SW project I may decide to make in the future.
Once your quilt top is finished, you're ready to move on to the next step...
Step 4: Batting and Backing
Lay out your backing fabric, right side (the printed, or prettier side of the fabric) down.
Next, lay the batting of your choice (I chose a low-loft cotton/polyester blend) on top of the backing fabric.
CHOICE A: If you choose to use quilt basting spray, make sure to spray the batting, lay it on the backing, spray side down. Then spray the side of the batting now facing up, before laying the finished quilt top, right side up, on top of the batting.
I now use June Tailor quilt basting spray on all of my quilts, instead of pin basting them. This product is less than $15 a can, and it covers a fair amount. There are other brands available that are a little less expensive, but this brand is definitely my new favorite quilting tool.
CHOICE B: If you choose to pin your quilt the regular way, make sure you place the pins fairly close together (about 6-8" apart over the entire quilt) At the same time, be aware of where your quilting will go, and don't pin there.
Step 5: Quilting
It's ok if your batting and backing are larger than your finished quilt top. In fact, it's better that way. You will trim everything after all of your quilting is done.
I used a beautiful Gütterman embroidery thread for the top quilting thread and a "shiny" red cotton thread for the bobbin thread.
I decided to do "stitch in the ditch" quilting for the outer borders and squares. Stitch in the ditch is a quilting term to describe quilting along the seams.
I knew when I first saw the kit, that when I quilted it, I wanted to follow the outlines of the white areas that form Vader's head, so that's what I did. I followed every. single. outline. If I had a long-arm quilting machine, it would have been a cinch, but since I was using essentially a regular machine to do this, it became much more difficult.
I also chose to quilt the words "Star Wars" in it's iconic font on the upper right corner of the Vader panel.
Step 6: Making the Star Wars Font Template
To sew the font correctly, I used a piece of blank quilting stencil template, and a print out of the design.
I taped the design to the template plastic, removed the thread and bobbin from my machine, and shortened the stitch length to its lowest setting. Then, I just stitched along the lines of the print out, making holes in the template to follow.
When I was finished, I removed the print out, and placed the stencil where I wanted it on the quilt. I then used an amazing product called a "pounce pad" that uses a chalk powder to transfer any quilt stencil onto the quilt top without hours of drawing the pattern over and over again.
Step 7: Finishing the Quilt
After the quilt was quilted to my satisfaction, I trimmed the batting and backing to the same size as the quilt top. The easiest way to accomplish this, is to use a rotary cutter and your biggest ruler.
I then cut the fabric I chose for the binding into 2 1/2" strips. I pieced them together so I would have enough length for each side. (If you use the binding thingy, you'll need to add 6-7" to each length of binding).
As an aside, if you hate mitering your quilt corners as much as I do, and if you hate not having mitered corners on your quilt even more, invest in "the binding thingy" (yes that's the actual name of the tool). It's one of my favorite quilting tools in my fabric arsenal.
I completed the quilt with a decorative arrow-style stitch, and promptly moved on to the next quilt I needed to finish before Christmas. (Which reminds me, I still have 2 to finish...)
My fiancée loved it. This quilt and the Star Wars Boba Fett bounty hunter's code box set that I got him were his 2 favorite presents this year.
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