Tuesday, 17 April 2012

'Easy' Quilts

In the last few weeks, a couple of friends have asked me about making their first quilt. Is it complicated? Is it going to be too advanced for their sewing? And how long will it take?

They don't tend to believe me when I tell them that a quilt is only as hard as you make it. Most people think of a quilt as lots of little squares sewn together and yes, that kind of quilt can take a while. But a quilt top can really be quite simple and still be very effective.

This is a quilt I made from a single piece of flannel with appliqued flowers and birds. Didn't take too long to make, although (as with most quilts) the most time consuming part was the cutting out.

The principles of this 'quilt in an hour' can be applied to any fabric, and you can make a quilt with just single pieces of fabric for the front and the back. For these, more elaborate quilting can really make the quilt something impressive - but elaborate quilting is beyond me!

I recently saw a quilt that was simply a plain white piece of fabric and a contrasting backing. What made it special was that the quilter had used a huge variety of stitches and threads to quilt an elaborate bird on the fabric, and thus turn a plain piece of cloth into an amazing quilt.

A quilt is really just a sandwich of layers: top, wadding, and backing. It doesn't have to be squares, and it doesn't have to take months. A few examples:

This is the quilt I made last week. I started on Monday night, and finished it on Wednesday. The actual quilt top construction took a few hours; the rest was the binding. It was made with fabric from Africa, bought and given to me by my mother-in-law, and the quilt was a gift for her.

To make it, I simply cut strips of the dark blue fabric and strips of the same width from the unbleached cotton. I varied the width of the strips so they ranged from about 4-10 inches. Then, I joined them together at an angle, again varying the length of the blue pieces. I wanted to bring out the green in the blue pattern, so I appliqued the green rectangles over top of the strips once they'd been sewn together. It was backed with another yellow fabric she'd given me, and I used the green for the binding. Simple simple, but it looks smart!

Try buying 20cm strips of 6-8 different, complementary fabrics and sewing them together for a super easy baby quilt - have a look at this blog for inspiration! Make your quilting as simple or as complicated as you can handle, finish off the edges, and you're done. It looks like a serious amount of work, and no one has to know that it wasn't.

And finally, if you're new to quilting, you can have a look back at this post which will cover the basics of it all. So don't be intimidated by quilts. It's really just a sandwich. And anyone can make a sandwich!

Stick Man tutorial

We love all things Julia Donaldson and The Gruffalo here, but my kids are equally fond of Stick Man. He's a bit of an unsung hero, is Stick Man, but he's surprisingly easy to make. Here's a project that can be done in about 20-30 minutes, and sewn by hand if you don't have a machine. Easy, cheap, and fun - does it get any better? 

You will need:

-brown felt (I used two squares and had plenty left over)
-brown thread
-3 pipe cleaners
-a black fabric pen, or black thread
-green felt and thread

Step 1: Draw a Stick man

Thankfully, my drawing skills are just about able to cope with this task. I'm sure yours are, too. I used a sheet of A4 paper, and made sure that he wasn't too skinny at any point. Once you're happy with your pattern, cut two out of the brown felt.

Step 2: Fashion a Stick man from pipe cleaners

Fold one pipe cleaner in half for your head and body. Twist another one across the middle for the arms, and join the legs on at the bottom. Be sure to fold the ends of the pipe cleaner back so that the sharp, pointy edges aren't going to stick through your felt and poke any small people.

Pipe cleaner stick man, with the ends of the pipe cleaner folded up so as not to be pointy

Step 3: Give Stick Man a face

Take a scrap of your brown felt, and cut an isosceles triangle that is quite long along the bottom and the right height for Stick Man's nose. 

Stick Man's nose

Position the triangle on Stick Man's head, and sew straight down the middle of it, like so:

Now fold the triangle in half and sew up the sides, like this:

Voila! You have Stick Man's nose. I then used a fabric pen to draw a very simple face on him, but you can embroider yours in black thread if you'd rather.

Step 4: Cut some leaves

Using your green felt, cut out a couple of leaf shapes. These will stick out of the top of Stick Man's head, so don't make them too big. I cut 2 of each of my leaf shapes and sewed them together with the green thread, for extra durability, but you don't have to.

Step 5: Sew him up! 

Starting at the left arm, sew up the side, across the top of the arm, and up the side of the head. Stop to tuck your leaves in, and sew over them twice. Sew down the other side of the head, top of the right arm, and the side edge of the right arm. Stop and tuck your pipe cleaner man inside of your felt Stick Man, and slowly start sewing the pipe cleaner inside.

** Just to be clear: on this project, we're not sewing on the reverse side and then turning Stick Man inside out at the end. All the stitches are visible. **

Continue sewing stick man until all the edges are closed and the pipe cleaner form is completely tucked in. And... You're done! You now have a bendy, functional Stick Man, ready for all sorts of adventures. Just don't forget to always bring him home to the family tree.