Adventures in Quilting

I have wanted to try my hand at quilting ever since I saw this...

Credit: Country Living Magazine

...picture in Country Living Magazine in December 2009.  I think you can see exactly where I was looking?

That quilt right there spoke to me!  For a number of reasons I think.  Firstly, it's linked to Christmas being in a December issue and with all those beautiful baubles and other trinkets that surround it.  I'm a bit besotted with Christmas time, the oh so pretty sparkly things, the excitement, the opportunity for wonderful craftiness, the films, Bing Crosby, dressing the tree... sigh... I just adore it!  Secondly it's very homespun, shaker and traditional looking, which I also love.  And last but certainly not least, it's so gorgeously snuggly, warm, cozy and downright beautiful looking, the idea of sitting under that, it the glow of the fairy lights, drinking a hot choccy... how could I not want and desire it?

Well, here we are, a good year and a half later and I think I might just be on the brink of finally making it.  I know, I took my time didn't I?  You see the thing is, I'd never quilted before.  I didn't know much about it and although I was fairly certainly I would be able to have a good old stab at it, I didn't really know how to begin.  I don't know anyone who quilts, so I couldn't just ask.  Instead, I did some research, read some blogs, brought a couple of books.  I also had to track down that pattern too.  I found a lot of blocks with star patterns, but not the exact pattern on 'that' blanket.  None of the books I had contained it, but after some time spend searching, the internet did provide!

It's a quilt block called Fifty-four Forty or Fight and is named after the  Oregon boundary dispute between America and the British in Canada.  I love that there are so many stories and such history tied up with these beautiful blocks.  It's very interesting to find out about the origins of them all.

It became clear that I hadn't picked the easiest block in the world as a starting point for my adventures in quilting, so I took the advice in my book and started practising 1/4 inch seams and simple 9 block patches with old pillow cases.  I don't have any pictures of these somewhat lame first attempts as they were well over a year ago but suffice to say, things didn't go that well.  I began to doubt that I would become proficient enough at quilting or even cutting fabric pieces to ever attempt the more adventurous block which was what had interested me to begin with.  Reading instructions about making the triangle pieces I would need made sense but seemed complicated and working out how  much fabric I would need seemed too daunting for words.  That, together with a increasingly temperamental sewing machine all combined to make it seem a hopeless case and my probably naive beginners enthusiasm waned and my little sample seams edged further and further back in the cupboard.

All was not forgotten though, I still thought about it occasionally and 'yearned to give it another go' every time I saw a beautiful quilt that someone had made.  'It they can do it, surely I can too' I kept thinking but sewing doesn't come as naturally to me as knitting and crochet, which I find comes easy. Maybe it just wasn't for me?    That magazine, with that wonderful picture never strayed that far from my crafty side though.

I'm pretty sure in life that if something is meant to be, time and circumstance will come together one day and it will happen.  Occasionally circumstance needs a nudge in the right direction of course, but it's amazing how often things just work out on their own I find.  Which brings me to two rather fabulous and inspirational blogs....

First is  Nana Company a blog full of stunningly beautiful sewn creations by Amy.  I found this one a month or so ago and it's really got me thinking very seriously that I must give quilting and sewing projects generally another go.

Secondly we have Bee in my Bonnet by Lori Holt which is packed with wonderful quilting inspiration and information.  I only stumbled across this fabulous blog this week and found Lori had posted this tutorial about drafting quilt blocks.  Then followed  this one about making 'easy triangles' and I was utterly hooked!

No messing about with simple squares and scrap fabrics this time!  I went straight in at the deep end and jumped up and set about drawing, or sorry 'drafting' I should say, my 54-40 or Fight block and as soon as I had time I was cutting squares from my 'homespun' fabric and trying out 1/4 inch seams on my new (and far superior) sewing machine.  I was off and this time, things were largely working out.

It wasn't all plain sailing though.  Taken with the 'easy triangles' I had learnt about on Lori's blog I planned out my triangle blocks in the same way.  Unfortunately it wasn't until I'd sewn them together that I realised what should have been obvious to me.

'Easy triangles' are 90 degree triangles made from squares, not from rectangles.  It wouldn't work the same with a 60 degree triangle which was want I needed.  Silly me!

Still, some unpicking and rearranging solved the problem and soon I had some much more respectable looking blocks.

It took me a few attempts to get some of the seams lining up nicely, so I enjoyed my fair share of unpicking and re-sewing but I'm pretty pleased with my first ever quilt block...

It's not perfect...

But, it's not at all bad...

All in all I'd say, I'm pretty pleased with it and myself right now.  It took me quite a bit of effort and work to get this 12 inch square of checky stripy, starry fabulousness all done but it's definitely been worth it.

One block down, nineteen to go!  I'll need more material, I'll need wadding and backing, I'll need to find out how to do the edging and quilt it and goodness knows what else besides but I'm feeling hopeful.

Anyway, I've got until the Christmas Snuggle Season to figure it all out!

S x


  1. This post is balm to the would-be quilter's soul - in a similar manner to Jane Brocket's book ;-) - and it makes me all the more determined to start quilting too.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. That's a jolly good first block ... well done! I look forward to following your first quilt journey :) I have never machine sewn a quilt but I did hand piece one once many years ago ... it took a loooong time! Hope your route to quilty snuggleness will be a much shorter one :D

  3. Gorgeous, fab especially for a first attempt. Def doesn't look like a first, is sooo good & complicated too. Well done you!!!
    Karen x

  4. Hi Sandra
    just to let you know i get the fabrics from Fabric Shack, i find them v good, theres a great sale section & they deliver quite fast, within a week.
    There's a link on my blog for it :)
    Karen x

  5. Gosh, this is AMA-z-ING!
    Just lovely and (will be) snuggly too!
    I'm a real Christmas gal, too!
    Warm and cosy, you will be.

  6. hurrah for your first quilt block... it is wonderful! and thanks so much for the shout out ;) Keep sewing blocks and don't stress perfection. When the quilt is done and wrapped around you, little tiny imperfections will be all but lost. Keep up the good work, cheers! xo amy

  7. It's a gorgeous quilt block, what a fantastic first attempt! I'm brand new to quilting too but my blocks never have matching points!

  8. Love it! And love the colours! And didn't even notice the wonky joining until you pointed it out!!

  9. Go you! What an awesome first quilt block. I would not have guessed that it was your first block from looking at it.

    Can't wait to see the end result. There are some could basting and binding tutorials out there. From memory the ones that I used on my first quilts were from "Anyone can quilt" and "Diary of a Quilter."

  10. I'm a would-be quilter who's just a wee bit daunted by all those wonderful finished creations I see online. How lovely to hear about your experiences and congratulations on your first completed block! Maybe I should just dive in and have a go .... next week

  11. Beautiful first quilt block. You are in your way. Each one you make will be better than the one before. I have discovered, after seven years, that quilting is a journey. Oh, and an addiction. ;)