I've never made a quilt before, and it wasn't something I was dying to learn, but I thought it would be a good skill to have. (As it turns out, it was easy!) I was impatient to start, even though I hadn't found an adequate online tutorial for beginning quilters. Most assume you have a lot of sewing experience or basic quilting knowledge.
Here is an account of what I did. Be warned: much of this is NOT how a real quilter does it, as I have now discovered after viewing a fabulous beginner's quilting tutorial here at SewAQuilt.com by Gloria Massard. (I just panicked...I couldn't find the bookmark for that link! Fortunately I found it in my computer's history file. Whew!) That website has the best beginner's tutorial I've found so far. I wish I'd found it before starting this doll quilt, as I made a lot of mistakes, particularly with fabric selection. But I think you'll agree, it turned out quite well. There are no glaring errors, anyway!
Warning: Quilting can be addictive!
First, select a fabric. Go to a quilting store or buy quilting fabric at a fabric store. Do not buy any old thing as I did, from Walmart. One of the fabrics I chose (the lavender one) was cheap, thin, and wrinkled horribly. It was 100% cotton, just like the yellow fabric, but it wrinkled much worse and didn't iron out well. You live and learn. There are other things to consider such as grain, color-fastness, choosing colors, etc. which Gloria's tutorial will teach you. My daughter's room is lavender, so I chose 3 fabrics: lavender, a yellow with lavender irises and green stems, and a print with green lattice and rosebud sprays. The yellow fabric was lovely, but the pattern was too big to show up in a doll quilt. It shows up as being too broken up in the patchwork squares. However, it looks nice as the backing. How much fabric? I think I got half a yard of the green and a whole yard of the yellow. I could have done with less yellow, but I wanted to use it as the backing. (Note: Always buy more than you need...you WILL make mistakes...in fact, cut out a few extra squares ahead of time.)
Cut out 48 squares of fabric, 2 1/2 inches square. Since I planned on using the yellow and lavender fabrics for the patchwork squares, I cut out 24 squares out of each (saving the green for the border). I used a large veggie cutting board, because the large quilting mat I own is packed up somewhere. Towards the end of the project, I went out and bought a new one, that had a pressing board attached to the back side. Love it! If you buy a mat, get a big one. If you make more than just a doll quilt, you'll end up wanting a bigger one, anyway.
I already had a rotary cutter, and I STRONGLY suggest getting one. It is so much easier than using scissors. I use this with a cutting mat for cutting fabric around sewing patterns, too. CAREFUL! Rotary cutters are razor sharp. Retract the blade after EVERY cut, or you WILL cut yourself, even on a "dull" rotary blade. I'm not telling you how I know that. ;-) Bleeding on your beloved already-cut quilt squares is not cool. Do not use around children! Do not leave unattended! Did I mention, be careful?
You also should have a clear plastic quilter's ruler for making straight, square cuts. (Note that in one of the pictures above, at first I used a mini clipboard instead, along with a NOT-squared paper template. These squares were the "problem squares" in the finished quilt top--use a cutting mat and clear quilter's ruler!) I went out and bought a "frosted" (paper-backed) ruler that's supposed to help you see the lines better on dark fabric. I found it hard to see the fabric through it, and went out and bought a larger square one that has slits in it to help you make nice, straight cuts.
In fact, it would be worth it to pick up a quilter's cutting mat,(at left) too, as it has lined grids on it, and in combination with a quilter's ruler , it produces more "square" squares. Trust me, the squareness of your squares is important!
After your squares are cut, lay them out the way you want your quilt to look. (I believe the picture here shows the squares in a later step, after pairing, sewing and pressing, but I wanted you to get an idea of how I laid it out.) If there is a "direction" to the pattern (there was, somewhat, on my yellow fabric) make sure the squares are properly oriented. You can set them up any way you like. I chose a checkerboard look. Keep it simple the first time.
When you go to piece the quilt, don't stack up the squares if you have directional fabric (oh, and never choose plaid unless you're an experienced sewer). I just stacked them in two stacks, and sewed away...ending up with some flower stems in the pattern pointing up. Not too noticeable, but still...
Pick up the squares two at a time, and pin them, right sides together. Sew them (without backstitching) together with a 1/4 inch seam. You can chain stitch them (one after another, connected by a short amount of thread) not cutting in between patch pairs. (See left) This saves time and thread. After each row is completed, cut the thread and lay the row down in the order you picked them up. (It's hard to see, but in the above-right picture, I'm sewing two squares into a pair, with the back of the lavender fabric facing up. On my machine there is no labeled line etched in the metal plate for the 1/4" seam. I figured out it is the long white line on the clear bobbin cover. If you don't have one, you could buy a 1/4" foot for your machine, or measure 1/4" from the needle, towards the right, and lay down a piece of masking tape, or a stack of ten post-its as a guide.)
After all squares are paired and sewn, press the seams. Though more time consuming, I found it to be easier to pin the seams open and flat...of course, then I found out they didn't need to be flat, so you probably won't need to pin them down. Just explaining, since some pictures may show the pinned-down seam allowances. (If you're wondering why this pair isn't attached in a chain stitch to other pairs, I didn't pick up that tip til halfway through sewing up the pairs.)
Apparently you are supposed to press the seam allowances to one side, usually toward the darker fabric. I think you're supposed to alternate directions, but I haven't figured all that out yet. So here you see my improperly pressed seam allowances.
When all pressed, snip apart the thread strings connecting the pairs, then trim the extra bit of thread off each pair one at a time. Don't lose the order of the squares. (Here you see my layout of pairs, and the first pair flipped over and pinned to the pair below it.) Then, take the first pair and the pair below it, pin them right sides together, and sew, always using a 1/4" seam allowance. When done, you will have a block (two pairs of squares, sewn together). Do the same with the rest of the pairs, again chain stitching them one after another. After sewing, press the seam allowances and trim the threads.
Then take the first block and the one next to it, pin right sides together, and sew. Attach the third block in that row, pinning it right sides together to the second block, and sew. Press. You should have a row of three blocks. Do the same with the other rows. (Here, on the left you see blocks waiting to be pinned into a row, and on the right are sewn and pressed rows, ready to be attached to each
After all rows are sewn and pressed, flip top row over onto bottom row, right sides together, pin and sew. Press. Do the same with the third and fourth rows. You should now have the two top rows sewn together, and the two bottom rows sewn together.
Flip the two upper connected rows over onto the two bottom connected rows so right sides are facing together, pin, sew, and press.
It was late at night when I did the last two steps, and the lighting was even worse than in the other pictures. And I was tired. So there are no pictures of those steps. But you should get the gist by now. (At right is the patchwork portion of the quilt top, finished and pressed.)
You should now have the patchwork portion of the quilt top finished. You could stop there, and go on to cutting the batting and backing, and finish with binding. This would make a simpler quilt. However, most quilts have at least one border, and it's really easy, so you may want to try at least one. I did two borders. I feel it looks more finished.
The hardest part is over! Next installment: borders, batting, quilt back, quilting, and binding. And don't forget to check out Gloria's tutorial. It is excellent. More concise than a book, yet much more informative than the average internet tutorial. I'm almost finished with my quilt, and it looks great so far. It's working for me! Good luck, and happy quilting.
For those who have been looking forward to part 2 of the Detangling Doll Hair tutorial, here it is...and here is part 1 for those who missed it. I am doing embroidery on the back of the doll quilt tonight, so I should have part 2 of this doll quilt tutorial done in a day or so.