For a mere 25 dollars in materials, a sewing machine, and about 4 hours, you can make a lightweight fitted quilt that will keep you toasty warm either at home, or in the wilderness.
This design incorporates an integrated foot box for comfort and ease of use.
Backpacking quilts, when appropriately sized provide warmth similar to a sleeping bag, but save weight and material. Anybody using a DIY quilt for backpacking should test their gear before heading into the wilderness. What is toasty warm for one person, is a miserable night of freezing cold for another.
Step 1: Sizing and Materials List
Being warm is all about your materials. For this project, I chose to use a fleece liner for extra warmth, and a nylon ripstop shell. Both of these were obtained from a local discount store for less than $3 per yard.
The dark colored fleece will retain body heat, and the nylon will repel water, and improve durability for camping use.
Insulation in this project is the key. The thicker the insulating material, the warmer you'll be. I used 1/2" polyester batting, and a layer of Insul-Brite. Insul-brite is not necessary for indoor use, but it makes for a very toasty and warm quilt.
Sizing: Since everybody is different, I made this quilt to fit me, you may want to adjust the dimensions to match your height and shoe size.
The quilt starts as 2 pieces of material, 72 inches long. (if you're over 5'8, consider making a longer quilt)
At the top, the material is 50 inches wide, which will make a 48-inch wide quilt.. For the foot area, the quilt is tapered down to 42 inches. If you have "normal sized" feet, 38 inches would be fine for most people.
Liner: 2 yards of fleece, or dark colored soft material of your choice (more for taller quilts)
Shell: lighweight nylon ripstop fabric, or other wind-resistant lightweight material
Insulation: 2 yards of 1/2" polyester batting (twin size is cheaper than by the yard)
2 yards of Insul-Brite (optional)
Blue painters tape
Basting pins (large safety pins)
Sewing machine (or needle and thread for those with LOTS of time)
Polyester thread (standard issue fabric thread, not the heavy stuff) - black is ok.
New sewing needle for your machine
For a truly lightweight and compressible Backpacking quilt, you can use Climashield or Polarguard from your favorite online outdoor fabric supplier for your insulation. For a warmer quilt, either use thicker insulation, or multiple layers. Just remember: the thicker it is, the harder it is to sew.
Step 2: Stack the Stuff
By now, you should have cut your material into equal sizes. 48" wide at the top, 72" long, from about 3' down from the top, tapered to 38-42 inches depending on how much room you need for legs and feet.
Starting with the shell material, use the blue painters tape and lay it out on your kitchen floor, or other clean, flat surface. Use the tape at the corners to keep it stable. If there is a "right" side to the shell, put it face-up. This will eventually be the outside.
Next, add your liner material and tape it down. (Yes the Liner, Trust me, we'll get the insulation where it belongs later!) If the liner has a "right" side, put it face down. The down side will eventually be facing you, as you wear your quilt.
Finally, add your insulation (don't use tape here)
Note: In the pictures, I didn't have enough batting or insul-brite on hand so I put the insul-brite toward the feet, and the batting toward the top. Ideally, you should use the appropriate size to ensure the insulation comes to the edges, but it's not totally critical for home use.
Step 3: Temporarily Stick It Together
Pull out your basting pins, and pin all layers of the quilt together. Place the pins about every foot or so, about 2 inches from the edge, all the way around.
This will allow you to work with the material in the sewing machine, without it falling apart.
Carefully remove the tape.
Step 4: Break Out the Machine!
Starting at the head, sew through all layers of material, keeping within 1/2" of the edge.
Using your scissors, trim the insulation close to the hem.
Sew down both sides. For indoor use only: sewing batting and other spun insulation is very difficult, it's ok at this point to only sew the liner and shell together. If you plan on using this for camping, make sure all material is sewn together.
OK, I got so excited at this stage, I forgot to take pictures... sorry...
Step 5: Pull It Right-side Out!
Now you have an inside-out quilt.
From the foot-end, reach in between the liner and shell. Grab the sewn head-end and pull it out. Hold the top end and shake it to make sure the insulation is spread out between the shell and liner evenly.
You now have a mostly rectangular quilt.
At this point, you're almost done. 2 more short trips to the machine!
Step 6: Sew the Foot Box.
Fold the quilt in half, along it's length, with the liner to the outside.
Sew across the foot end, securing all three layers of material.
Trim any excess material and insulation. Leave at least 1/4th of an inch so you don't tear the seam.
This seam doesn't have to be pretty, as it will be completely hidden.
Step 7: Sew Up the Leg Section.
with your feet on the ground, measure from the ground to about 4" above your knee. This length will be the closed up leg part of the quilt. Too short, and your legs could get cold. If you make it too tall, it will be difficult to get in or out of your quilt.
With the quilt still folded, and the liner facing out, sew up from the foot end the distance you just measured, creating a long pocket.
Be sure to double sew the last 2 inches, and backstich to ensure this area does not pull apart later. Try to sew close to the edge. Since this edge is already seamed, trimming isn't necessary.
Step 8: Pull the Quilt Right-side Out.
Reach into the pocket you just created, and pull out the foot end, making your quilt right-side out.
Step 9: Time to Get Warm!
To use the quilt:
While sitting on your sofa, place the quilt over you, lift your feet, and place them into the foot box. Tuck the quilt around you or un-tuck to regulate the amount of warmth needed.
For sleeping or backpacking use, lay down on your sleeping pad and pull the quilt over you. Lift your feet and insert them in the foot box. Tuck as needed.
Quilts, when appropriately sized, work well for both back and side sleepers, and weigh much less than comparable sleeping bags, while providing similar warmth. 1/2 inch poly batting and fleece will be sufficient insulation for some people down to 50 degrees. If you need to operate in cooler weather, do your research, and test your gear before relying on it in the woods.
If you make one, please let me know! I'm always up for improvements and suggestions. Stay Warm!