This is another in my never-ending attempt to use up scraps of fabric in my basement. If you don't have scraps, this could be easily adapted to use 'new' fabric. I am making lap quilts for a local hospital but you could use the same technique to make any size quilt you want.
The nice part of a quilt-as-you-go project is that by the time you have the quilt top assembled, you are already almost done with the whole thing. I made one of these for my nephew (baby sized) on a sewing machine in an afternoon. I made a set of 5 twin sized totally by hand in about 5 weeks. The strips can be all one piece or they can be stitched together--randomly or in a design. The options are endless.
I hope you give this beginner project a try--even if you are not necessarily a beginner quilter.
Step 1: Materials:
Fabric strips--cotton works best but I have used cotton poly blends or other fabrics occasionally
Batting--comes in rolls or folded in a bag (not the bags of loose stuffing which is used to stuff toys and pillows)
Backing material--can be muslin (traditional) or a bed sheet, tablecloth, curtain, etc.
Thread--I like quilting thread because it is stronger than all-purpose
Needle and or sewing machine--big quilts are actually easier by hand since it can be tough to get a large quilt into the small sewing area of a sewing machine (although there are ways around this problem)
Step 2: Cutting Your Strips
You can buy fabric in strips but this is not usually the most economical way to go about things. You are also limited in color/pattern choices.
Buying fabric by the yard is easier to find the colors that you like. If you are cutting it into strips with scissors, it will take some time. Rotary cutters are fast and easy to use once you get used to them. I recommend finding a friend who owns one and giving it a try. A mat, ruler, and cutter are a great investment if you are going to do a lot of quilting.
The width of you strips is up to you. I like the look of narrow strips but it takes a lot more of them to finish the project. Wide strips make things go very quickly. I have cut my strips as narrow as 2 inches but never wider than 5 inches. For some quilts, I have used several different widths in one quilt--adds some variety.
Step 3: Do You Have Enough Strips?
Nothing is worse than spending a lot of time and effort to make something that you are really proud of and running out of materials before you are finished. A little math can save you from this.
Since my finished quilt is only 40 inches wide, I cut my strips across the width of the fabric (usually 42 to 45 inches)
Figure on losing a half an inch of the strip width to your seam allowances--1/4 inch on each edge. If you cut your strip 2 inches, it will end up being 1 1/2 inches wide in your quilt. If you cut your strips 4 1/2 inches, they will finish as 4 inches wide. Calculate how many strips you will need for your project.
I am using scraps from a lot of different projects and I usually cut my binding strips 2 1/2 inches wide. I normally cut my binding strips when I cut out the rest of my quilt--just to make sure that I have everything I will need. I cut one more strip than I think I will need--just in case. This means that I usually end up with a strip or more left over. For this project, those strips are perfect. A 40 inch quilt requires 20 of these strips.
Step 4: Getting Ready to Sew
Lay out your backing fabric on the floor or large work table. The decorative side (if there is one) should be facing the floor/table. You may find it easier if you tape the backing in place. Unroll your batting, without stretching it, and smooth it down over the backing.
Pin or thread baste the entire surface. I usually use safety pins for this. If you end up quilting a lot, you will eventually find that you acquire a lot of safety pins. I store them in the open position so that they are ready to use.
Step 5: Sewing the First Strips
Lay the first strip down across one end of the batting/backing piece. This strip should be face up. Take the time to make sure that it is straight and doesn't hang over the edge. When you are satisfied, lay the second strip face down over the top of the first one. Pin the edge of the strips to the batting/backing layer. Straight pins work well at this stage.
Sew a quarter inch seam along the entire strip. You can do this by machine or by hand.
Step 6: Each Additional Strip
Lay the project out on the floor or table. Flip over the top strip. Make sure that your seam lays flat--no puckers in the fabric. Remove all the safety pins from under the strip you just flipped. (If you thread basted, you don't have to worry about this as the thread basting can be removed later.)
You really do not want to be trying to remove a safety pin after you have sewn on the next 4 or 5 strips. Trust me on this one. I did it but it took a lot of time/effort and was frustrating. I ended up cutting the pin into pieces and working pieces of safety pin down the narrow strip one at a time. Not fun!
Straight pin the edge of the strip to the batting/backing layer. Lay the next strip face down over top, aligning the edges. Straight pin this strip.
Sew a quarter inch seam along this edge.
Repeat this step until you have used up all your strips and your quilt is the desired length.
Step 7: Binding
Take a long strip of 2 inch or 2 1/2 inch wide fabric and bind the outer edge all the way around the quilt. You may have to sew several strips together. See my instructable on binding a quilt for details on this process.
Quick summary of the binding process: fold the strip in half lengthwise. Align the cut edges with the edge of your quilt top. Pin in place (optional if you are experienced). Sew a quarter inch seam.
Once the binding is in place, you can trim off any excess batting/backing that still remains. Wrap the binding to the back of the quilt and whip stitch the fold of the strip in place.