The story of a quilt: a quilt for keeps
About a year ago I had an idea for a new course. I’d taught lots of beginners how to make patchwork quilts and they had the bug! They wanted to make more and had all the skills but, as brand-new quilters, they also wanted someone to hold their hand. I wanted to find a way to bring new quilters back to quilt school to make something together, to develop their skills with the comfort of some guidance and company.
My idea was a guided quilt-a-long. A quilt-a-long is a way for quilters to get together in real life or online to make their own versions of the same quilt. Pattern designers regularly host quilt-a-longs online and they are a great way to meet other quilters and make new friends.
My first guided quilt-a-long group got started in April 2018. I chose a star pattern that uses the classic ‘flying geese’ method to make the points of the stars. We used a clever variation whereby the fabric squares used to make the points of the star are smaller than the background fabric (‘the goose’). This means that you don’t have to worry about losing the tips of the star shape when you piece the blocks together – every single block will have eight crisp points and look fantastic.
I couldn’t resist quilting-a-long. I planned to make a quilt for our home. I almost always make quilts as gifts and lately most of my quilts were made to demonstrate techniques and finishes to inspire my students. This time I felt like making a quilt for keeps. I decided on a pink and orange colour scheme and pulled all the fat quarters I needed from my stash. I added plenty of Kona white and I was all set to start cutting.
As I made my quilt I added in some extra fabrics here and there – mostly scraps – and played with the blocks a little. I made a few with white stars and patterned backgrounds and others with patterned stars and a contrasting patterned background. Some stars were made from the same fabric, other were a mix of two different fabrics. I made 42 blocks and put them together in a 7x6 layout to make a large single (twin) size quilt.
The quilt-a-long was so much fun! Seeing everyone who took part having fun with their fabrics, getting to know each other and gaining confidence as quilters, was amazing. Each quilt was so different and so personal to the maker who made the pattern their own – you could hardly tell that each quilt was essentially the same.
I finished my own quilt using a plain bed sheet as backing, my favourite quilter’s dream cotton wadding and a low-volume patterned binding. I quilted it by hand using my usual Gutermann quilting thread in white and I quilted circles all over it to soften all the points and angles a little. This quilt even came on holiday with us last summer to be finished and I have sweaty memories of trying to quilt it during a heat wave in the Black Forest! It now lives on my eldest daughter’s bed. Until a few months ago my girls shared a room but, now she’s nearly 8, my big girl began to need her own space. The quilt works perfectly with the little red bedside cabinet we made for her, her orange Tripp Trapp chair at her desk and the colourful tub chair that already lived in the spare room.
I’ve made a companion quilt to this one in teals and blues, quilting-a-long with my next group of new quilters and I’ll share that one soon. It’s destined for my little girl’s bed which is painted green.
I’m hosting two more quilt-a-long groups starting in the Spring. We’ll use the same pattern because it has proved to be incredibly versatile and spot on for new quilters ready to tackle their first “big” quilt. Most people aim for a throw-size quilt but you can chose to make a larger or smaller quilt – it’s up to you. I make sure you have several months to finish your quilt so you can work at your own pace in between the sessions where we meet to work together at key stages of the process.
Have a look at my website for more information and to book if you’d like to join us!