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quilt how-to

alright, so here is the tutorial for my go-to quilt. just after snapping the first photo, yesterday became, what seemed like, the darkest day of the year. . . so the lighting is bad, but i think you'll get the gist of what i'm saying all the same. . . 



fabric. 100% cotton. two solids for front and back. third fabric for binding, can be patterned or solid, you choose. the beauty of this quilt really lies in its simplicity and flexibility. 

batting. i only use 100% cotton, mid or thinnest loft. 

thread. lots of thread in as many (or as few) colors as you choose. 

tools. rotary cutter, cutting mat, masking tape, quilting pins, binding clips. 


first. cut fabric to desired sizes. for a quilt size guide, see here. depending on the size of the quilt, you may need to do some piecing. be sure to leave batting just bigger than front and back pieces.


second. baste the quilt. very important to do a good job basting so there is no unfortunate pinching or clumping of fabric while quilting it on the machine. usually best to do this while kids are in bed since their little feet cannot resist dancing (or crawling) on large pieces of fabric stretched on the floor. begin by taping the backing to the floor as taut as possible. don't be afraid to pull. gently lay and smooth batting over taped layer. follow with "front" of quilt. smooth out and get fabric as flat as possible. starting in the center, use quilting pins (essentially safety pins with a bent arm) to secure the the three layers together.  work your way out in a circle, smoothing and flattening the "quilt sandwich" as you go. the fabric should be totally smooth. be sure to go all the way to the edges.


third. machine quilt. the fun and most time consuming part. with a walking foot on your machine, begin the quilting at one edge of your quilt. (quilt "parallel" to the shorter side, easier to manage). quilt at very a slight diagonal. removing basting pins as you go (don't sew over them, or let your daughter take control of the pedal for you while she also watches a show about mermaids. . . you'll regret it). when you reach the opposite edge of the quilt (going beyond edge of fabric, into the batting a bit) lift presser foot but keep needle in "down" position. rotate the blanket and quilt to the opposite edge at a slight angle once again. repeat until you quilted the length of the quilt. your quilt will look something like this:

switching out thread colors (or keeping the same) repeat entire process again and again and again until you are satisfied with the amount of quilting. this uses a lot of thread but looks really great. just be sure to go slowly, feed quilt through at an even pace and watch that the fabric doesn't get gathered or bunched while quilting. the walking foot helps a ton with this, as does proper basting, but keep watch just in case. if some of your lines aren't perfect, don't worry, the other quilting lines will distract, and washing and drying does wonders for covering up small mistakes. 


fourth. trim quilt. to get ready for binding, the quilt sandwich needs to be "squared" and trimmed. i like to trim two sides at once, folding it in half before evening it up and trimming. clear ruler and rotary cutter. check that all layers go to the very edge after trimming. 

fifth. bind quilt. i use the "double fold mitered corner" binding method. the same method taught in denyse schmidt quilts book and that was taught at my quilting class at purl. i love this method, and it deserves it's own tutorial. luckily, there are a few out there. hand stitching the binding is ideal, but if you are short on time, go ahead and use your machine to stitch the binding down. don't feel bad, it will still look great. (especially in the light of a much brighter day).

sixth. after binding and trimming all loose threads, throw your quilt into the washer and dryer. pull it out, admire it, wrap it for a gift or wrap yourself up inside. feel great. you just made a quilt, and it's modern and cool and probably took you less than 10 hours.  

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Reader Comments (123)

I'm so glad you posted this. I've had my eye on this quilt for a long time. Awesome.

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervalerie

Um... Are you secretly a superhero? This is amazing! (And yet still so far beyond my talent, even though you make it look so easy.)

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

I loved this quilt the moment I saw and immediately went out that weekend and purchased my fabric and threads! I showed the pictures to my girlfriend on your blog and she actually made one before me! This quilt is awesome!

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

thanks so much for sharing. i made one and holy wow, i'm already scheming to make more.

February 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterliz

Oh how funny...I just stood up from the sewing machine to take a break from sewing a little tunic top, and read this blog entry. Your quilt binding is the same fabric I am sewing. Purl Soho addicts, unite :-)

February 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentererika

thank you for inspiring my next quilt!
baby cate is almost 4 months old and sadly, has no quilt to call her own. thankfully, her sisters are all about sharing (most days). slap two solids + batting together, quilt it up, add THE perfect binding (truly, you nailed it), and call it a good day. how come i have never thought of that? your uncomplicatedness (word? maybe not, but appropriate nonetheless) is something that i aspire to.

February 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercathy gaubert

Ooooh, thank you for the wonderful tutorial! This is the point where I always chicken out at the enormity of the task. You made it look a lot easier than it was in my head. I was wondering how in the world you got the huge thing evenly trimmed, but I see you just move your cutting mat to the floor....duh! Thanks for the help. I might actually get a quilt finished now! ;-)

February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdebra cooper

This looks so awesome and I want to try it! I am more of a novice than you and was wondering how much fabric you usually use....especially for the binding.


February 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

this looks amazing. Your tutorial seems easy enough so I may have a go. this is the first time on your blog and I am loving it!

February 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpaula

Oh - please forgive my ignorance here! I am new to sewing, quilting, etc.
I would love to make this quilt as a gift for an upcoming shower. Do I have to have
a walking foot on my sewing machine to do it if it is just straight sewing? Would it be utter disaster to do it without???

February 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

hi jenn,

i would very very strongly recommend a walking foot. it helps feed the top layer at the same rate as the bottom layer. without it, the top layer doesn't move through the machine as fast as the bottom layer and as a result you'll get a lot of bunching and pinching while quilting. it will be very frustrating, i've tried it. .

good luck!!

February 18, 2009 | Registered Commenterkatie

katie, i just finished my "katie's quilt" yesterday. you can have a look at http://fiddlesticksandnonsense.squarespace.com/

thanks again!

February 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermo

I was Katie Did, Katie Didn't my whole life. I love this quilt and will be doing one as soon as I clear out all the other projects under my bed.

February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatie pedersen

I'm going to join the millions of other commenters to say - THANK YOU. I am intimidated and in love with quilts, and I think that this might be the perfect "first quilt" for me to learn by.
A friend and I have thoroughly studied this how-to, with advice from her quilt-tastic mother, and we are going to make a small one first, to learn on, and then a big one. We are SO excited.
Thanks so so much for making this accessible to us.

March 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjess

Gorgeous !!! I love the fact that you give "us" permission to machine stitch the binding on.......does everyone else have to be so super and hand sew them on.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynette

It never dawned on me to use solid fabric, use creative quilting like this and then a patterned border. I am SO ALL OVER THIS!!

March 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertracy

Wow....this tutorial is amazing!! Your quilt is gorgeous!

I am new here and since I find your blog delightful, I'm just kicking myself that it's taken me this long to find my way over.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey Z.

Wow, I'm amazed! That is just beautiful!

May 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertammy

I used this method to quilt a Spiderweb quilt. I love how it looks. Thanks for the tutorial!

May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

I hope you don't mind, I referenced this! Wonderful. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I am excited to get started.

Here is the blog entry if you were wondering:


June 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I just discovered this today... Now I can't remember who posted the link, darn it! I am sooooo excited to try this! I'll be linking as well.

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

One word:


I have two older daughters (13, 12) that would love trying something like this. They could make them as Christmas gifts.

Awesome--thank you! Now I just need to learn how to sew :)

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Schulz

Did you do the whole quilt on a regular sewing machine? How did it fit? rolled maybe?

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRonda

Thank you for sharing this tutorial! This is definitely topping my must-do queue! If I give myself all summer, m/b it'll be ready before quilt weather hits :).

June 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

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