Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sewing: my first attempt at a patchwork quilt

I had a very busy (in a good way!) autumn last year, and one of the absolute highlights of it was going to India for a dear friend's wedding. Today's post is about her wedding present.

When I say the friend above is very dear, she really is. So not just any wedding present would do. Something personal, special, one-of-a-kind. Something with something quintessentially English infused into it, as this is where she had lived for the couple of years leading up to the wedding.

I ummed and ahhed forever and then, about 2-3 weeks before getting on a plane to Delhi, I decided to make a quilt.

First mistake I made? Thinking 2-3 weeks is enough to make a quilt. I pulled an all-nighter and some very late nights to get it done in time. Which, as it happens, felt very appropriate, since the bride and I shared many essay-crisis late nights/all-nighters during our student days.

I had never made a quilt before, and as with everything else in crafts, some things you just need experience for. For instance, knowing how insanely heavy the quilt is once all the layers have been put together. Trying to manoeuvre that in the last stages was like a heavy upper body work-out. I understood then why all the quilting blogs said not to do the quilting bit in one sitting. So, it was full of mistakes. So many. When it was time to present my friend with the gift I was excited, and also terribly embarrassed. In my head this would be a work of perfection. But instead was a labour of love, with all its flaws, which I guess is how it should be.

Picking out fabrics (second from bottom didn't make it into the quilt, as I changed my mind about the pattern last minute) and early stages of construction.

Left: early stages of cutting. Right: towards the very end. Handstitching on binding to keep it in place for machine sewing.

Front and back. A bit poor quality photos as it didn't occur to me to take result photos until reaching the hotel in India, and then phone photos had to do.

All in all it was good fun, so much so I have two new quilts (well, one isn't new - you might remember this post? I think this will be a project spanning a few years, progress is a bit slow) in the works at the moment.

What I discovered I love about quiltmaking:
  • It's not really very hard. Even a complete beginner can sew a straight line, and most basic quilt designs involve only straight lines.
  • It's a perfect multi-tasking pastime. Listen to podcasts, the radio, watch movies, TV-shows, documentaries, catch up with people on Skype (anything that doesn't require the use of your hands). In my case, the wedding-quilt saw me through all seasons of Breaking Bad.
  • It's insanely satisfying watching it come together! You can quite literally see your productivity before your eyes.
  • It's so much fun to plan it! Picking out the design, choosing the fabrics. Oh, the fabrics! Quilting cottons have an allure like no other fabrics! I made a day of it and went to a Cotswolds town. Strolled, purchased the fabrics, had lush tea and strolled some more. It's twee, quaint and bucolic all at the same time! About as English as it gets.


But...some things I learned about beginner's quiltmaking for next time:
  • Don't rush it. See it as a long-term project over a couple of months.
  • Start with something small. A baby quilt or one for a single bed.
  • Start with an easy design. The one I chose wasn't hard, but entailed literally hundreds of little squares. 
  • Follow a pattern. Designing your own is fun, but it's a ton of measurements and calculations. 



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