DIY rag quilt

Well this rag quilt has taken me almost a year to finish, but finish it I did, finally.  Although I would not recommend this particular DIY project for a beginner sewer, you could start with a small sized one.  Crib sized would be much more manageable.

The process is simple, start with squares cut from assorted fabric.  Preferred fabrics include flannels and quilting cottons, because they fray well.  Others fabrics, such as denim, could be used but they are not as soft.  As my grandson’s room will be dinosaur themed, I chose a white flannel with blue, green and red dinosaurs on it as the main fabric.  I complemented that with solid blue, green and red fabrics and a red polka dot fabric.

Wash all fabric first, then iron it smooth before you start cutting.  Calculate how many squares you need of each fabric, keeping in mind that each finished square on the quilt requires three cut fabric squares.  Because my quilt was so large, I actually used a spreadsheet to calculate how many of each I needed.  Lots.   Use a quilter’s template (a big plastic square that has dimensions marked on it for easy measurement) to measure and cut your squares. A rotary cutter works best.   I did this step last spring when watching the Ottawa Senators in the NHL playoffs.

When you have all your squares cut, you then make the “sandwiches” using three squares in each.  The lesson I learned here is not to use the solid red or polka dot red as a middle square (the few that I did bled through the white main fabric on top when washed)   The last three pictures above show the sandwiches I used, with the last two overlapped to show the possible color combinations.

When your sandwiches are assembled, sew an X through each one to hold all three layers in place.  Then sew squares together to make rows.  It helps to have a pattern (that’s why I used a spreadsheet) to consult with to keep the squares in the right order within the rows.  Sew using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, paying close attention as to which sides should be together.  You must keep all the seams on one side of the quilt.  This is trickier than it sounds because as a sewer you are trained to put the “good sides” together, leaving the seams on the “bad side”  On this rag quilt there is no good and bad side.

rag quilt
squares sewed together in rows

When the rows are complete, you then sew them together to form the quilt.  I laid my rows out on a bed (a floor or table would work if your quilt is smaller) to keep the rows in order.  Be sure to sew around the perimeter of the quilt too, also using a half inch allowance.

rag quilt
rows laid out on bed to ensure correct order

Next, using very sharp sewing scissors or a rag quilt cutter (below) snip into all (including outer edge) seam allowances, being very careful not to snip the actual seam.  The next step is to wash the quilt (on a very low, setting equivalent to a hand washing) to encourage the seam allowances to fray.  It’s called a rag quilt for this reason.

The final result is quite satisfyingly striking, even though I had a few discouraging setbacks.  I learned these lessons the hard way:

  • use heavy duty sewing machine needles, the first few I used kept snapping because of the thickness of the fabric layers
  • wash all of the fabrics well first, before you start cutting the squares to cut down on “bleeding” (that’s where the color of one fabric soaks into another)  The worst bleeders are red fabrics.
  • use a plastic template and rotary cutter to cut your squares to ensure precise cutting.  Any errors will show up glaringly when you join the squares and rows!
  • do not use cotton thread, it breaks much more than polyester thread
  • be very careful when snipping into seam allowances.  If you mistakenly cut into a seam, your quilt will be full of holes after the first wash.  I had to reinforce a few seams that my clippers got too close to by hand sewing them.

Here is the final result, on my grandson’s double “big boy” bed!  The C is for Carter

Please be sure to visit my other blogs:
Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at Your Daily Chuckle
and
Be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW
My gardening website can be viewed at gardens4u.ca

 

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DIY cheater quilt

One of the DIY projects I worked on for Christmas gifts included what I call a cheater quilt. I call it that because it takes a lot less time and fabric than a real, patchwork quilt.  I have made several of the latter over the years so I know the difference.

All you need to make a cheater quilt is…

  • a panel (precut piece with a cute pattern on it) of fabric.  Choose the pattern wisely, based on how much quilting you want to do or have time for.  (Busy/complicated patterns will take much longer than simple ones)
  • a piece of complementary fabric for the backing, the same size as the panel.  Most of these panels have a row of colored dots along the edge showing the colors used in the pattern.  Use these dots to choose a coordinating or complementary fabric for the backing.
  • a piece of batting, also same size as the panel
  • some large safety pins
  • a good pair of sewing scissors
  • contrasting or complementary thread (I used white all over, but you can mix it up!)

 

 

The steps are as follows…

  • iron both the panel and backing
  • lie the panel on the floor or a table, with the good side facing up
  • place the piece of batting on top
  • place the backing fabric on top of those two pieces, with good side facing down
  • you now have a “sandwich” with three layers
  • sew three edges (2 long and 1 short if quilt is rectangular) together, using 1/2 inch seam allowance
  • snip corners of seam allowances so seams will lie flat.
  • turn the quilt right side out, so both fabrics show their right side and batting is the middle layer.
  • hand stitch last side.
  • evenly distribute safety pins throughout quilt top, pinning all three layers together.  This prevents the layers from shifting while you are quilting.  I choose spots at the edge of the various design patterns in the fabric panel as those spots will be sewn over.  (otherwise you may end up with holes in your fabric where no pattern in)
  • sew around the design patterns in the fabric panel to achieve a quilted look.  Try to stay on the lines for a tidy look.  This is referred to as “stitch in the ditch.”
  • ensure quilting is evenly spaced over the quilt to avoid bunching of batting when completed.  In my panel I stitched around the large patterns, around the edging and around the floral pattern in the corners etc.
  • remove the safety pins.  If you have placed them on the edges of the pattern as suggested, remove them as you quilt.

 

The finished project, a DIY cheater quilt, can be hung on the wall (add tabs to the top) or used as a baby blanket for the crib or stroller.  These make great, personal gifts for the mother-to-be on your gift list.  Choose fabrics to complement their nursery décor as I did here with a baby jungle and pink/green color scheme.  You can see I forgot to iron my panel and backing before I started; oops.  I hung the finished quilt in a steamy bathroom to remove the wrinkles instead.  It is not advisable to iron a finished quilt as a hot iron will flatten the puffiness.

Impulse Shopper

I do not like shopping in general; i always joke that I do not have the shopping gene that most females are born with.   My problem is that I have  visions in my head of what I want, whether it be furniture or clothing, but I just can’t find the things I envision.  However, when I do see something that “speaks to me”, I get excited and usually do end up purchasing it.  Some  may call this impulsive, but that is the only way that I don’t end up regretting my purchases.

For example, my living room has needed new furniture for years now, but I refused to go out and buy something just to fill it up.   This room had ended up as the “collector” room in the house where items we have but don’t know what to do with pile up.  Last year I finally got it cleared out leaving only my piano against one wall.   I looked through most of the furniture stores in the Ottawa area, but found nothing that really caught my eye.  My vision for this room was something sylish, yet comfortable, not super modern yet not really fussy looking, with dark green as the primary color…

Last winter, when taking my son’s hockey skates in to be sharpened, I walked past an antique shop and saw the sofa of my dreams in a picture taped to the window.  Well, sort of…The sofa was beat up with an ugly, torn and well worn gold colored fabric on the seats, but the “bones” were beautiful.  The back, arms and legs were carved walnut with only a few chips and dents.   I phoned the number listed with the sofa and went to visit it on a country road just west of Ottawa.  Of course, it looked worse in real life, with the stuffing coming out of the seats and a few broken springs, but I loved it and thought it well worth the $89 price tag. It weighed a ton, but the owner and I managed to load it into the back of my van.

On my GPS device I looked up the phone number for Frank Cantusci’s shop on Hazledean Rd in Stittsville to see if they could recommend someone to restore the woodwork and cushions for me.  Years ago I had gone into this store to look for upholstering fabric to cover a sofa at our cottage, and remembered that Frank and his wife Nancy were very friendly and helpful then.   As luck would have it, Nancy chuckled at my request, claiming that restoring antique furniture is Frank’s specialty.  I needed no further encouragement and drove straight there.

Frank and his son Johnny unloaded the sofa from my van and took it into their shop where they examined it thoroughly.  They were excited with my purchase too, claiming that although the sofa needed lots of work, it was indeed a beautiful piece, and could be restored.  Nancy and I went through most of their fabric samples, concentrating on  those in the green category, until I had made my final selection.  I left the sofa with them for a few weeks and was astounded at the difference when I went in to pay for their services.  Of course, my vision was not yet complete…

When I next walked in the door of Cantusci’s to see my sofa, the first thing I saw was an old, very high backed arm chair; once again, love at first sight…   Frank laughed at my reaction; his friend had dropped it off for him to get rid of and he was going to  “throw it on the fire pit” because it was so ugly and in need of repair.  I quickly convinced him not to throw the chair out, so he agreed to “donate” it to my living room furniture vision.  I picked out another fabric, one to co-ordinate with the dark green sofa, and Frank began to work his magic on the old chair.  In the meantime, I had him looking for a second wing back arm chair to complete the set, as he and Nancy spend many weekends browsing antique shops for items they can restore.  By the time I went back to the shop to pay for the first chair, he had a few others for me to choose from…

While I was waiting for my living room furniture to be restored, I  had another great impusle.  Again, for a few years I had been looking for an arm chair and ottoman to compliment the wine colored leather sofa and chair in my family room, and had not been able to find exactly what I envisioned in any stores.  I mentioned this dilemma to Frank and Nancy on one of my visits to their shop; Frank simply shrugged “no problem” and asked what size of an ottoman I wanted.  The chair I needed for that room could not be too large or bulky, yet I wanted it to be comfortable and stylish.  I chose one from the collection he had picked up for possibilities in my living room; a smaller wing back arm chair with straight, plain legs.  Frank promised to paint the legs of the chair black and then create the legs of the ottoman to match the chair.  The ottoman is not a restored piece of furniture; it was created in their shop, exactly to my specifications:  I needed something to replace a coffee table  that could also be used as extra seating, but that would not take up too much room.   I had already seen a fabric I loved when choosing the green for the living room;  a patterned fabric of wine, dark green and black, perfect for both the chair and ottoman.

I am thrilled with my custom designed living and family rooms, even if every piece was an impulsive choice.  I don’t really care if the colors and styles of my choices are not trendy; I love them, they are unique, and exactly what I had envisioned.  I only wish I had the forsight to take some “before” pictures so you could see what a marvelous job Frank did on my furniture…

Frank is currently on the hunt for two end tables for me and I am on the lookout for a piece of art for over the sofa in the living room…