Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Q is for Quilting, Part 1**

**Previously published on my personal blog, this series of posts is aimed at explaining to non-quilters just what goes into making a quilt.  Thought I'd move them over here to Type B**

The pinwheel pattern is from the late 1700's

This is the first of several posts on quilting. Why? Why not?! (Also, I am hoping to print my blog out one day and I thought it would be fun to have the process documented.)

Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start - I love The Sound of Music!). What is quilting? According to those word wizards, Merriam-Webster:

quilt, transitive verb

1 a : to fill, pad, or line like a quilt b (1) : to stitch, sew, or cover with lines or patterns like those used in quilts(2) : to stitch (designs) through layers of cloth c : to fasten between two pieces of material
2 : to stitch or sew in layers with padding in between

Wikipedia provides this more extensive explanation. But, you know what quilting is, I mean you've seen those Quilted Northern toilet paper commercials, right - layers of tissue "stitched" together in a little pattern. It's exactly like that :)

Quilt top - finished quilt hanging at my mom's house in Eagan.
Circa 2007

Let me break it down - you have some fabric, you cut it up, sew it into blocks, and then sew the blocks together. This is the "top" of the quilt or the "patchwork" layer. (The process of assembling the top might technically be called "piecing.") Then, you take the backing fabric, set a layer of batting (a layer of insulation that may be cotton, wool, bamboo, synthetic or a blend - I usually use 80% cotton and 20% poly or 100% cotton), and then the top. This "quilt sandwich" is then quilted together, meaning that all three layers are stitched together.

This quilt resides at my dad's house.
Very unusual color palette for me, but for some reason I thought the fabrics worked.

Here's a close up of the quilting holding the top, batting, and backing together.
(Long-arm quilter) Circa 2007

While I spend most of my time piecing, I tend to use the word "quilting" to describe it all. I have only a little experience quilting the sandwiches together. I have previously sent my quilts to a professional long-arm quilter (yes, people do this for a living). This, however, can be quite costly (let's say a minimum of $110 for a twin size quilt), though the results far exceed what I can do myself. However, how can you learn something if you never try, right? I have quilted the last several baby quilts I've made and also the wallhangings I recently made. I'm a little nervous to do anything bigger, but I have one I am working on right now that I plan to do myself with my craigslist sewing machine (New Home Memory Craft from the late '80s).

This is a quilt I made for my husband in 2008, made of batik fabrics.

So, I know what you're thinking. Quilting is only for little old grandmas with grey-hair who talk about the Depression (the one in the 20's, that is). Well, just so you know, I DID find a grey hair recently, dagnabit! Fortunately, it's been a lone grey hair. But I think people would be surprised at the number of younger people and yes, even men (see, ManQuilterQuiltDad and Ryan Walsh) who are into quilting.  There is a real resurgence of handicrafts and homemade items amongst the younger generation. Or maybe it was always there and I'm just tapping into it now...

I have two workhorse sewing machines because I feel the need, the need for speed (I don't care how crazy Tom Cruise is - I love Top Gun and watched it five million times one summer). I am able to do all my piecing and quilting by machine. And when I get the room - watch out because I am setting up my machine frame!


Hopefully with the frame I'll be able to put more projects in the finished column and they can find their forever homes.

Next installment - supplies for getting started!

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