Back when my Mother-in-Law began quilting, ‘all’ you needed to make a quilt was some old shirts, scissors, needle & thread & some batting (and maybe not the batting!). Now quilting has become more of a hobby or art-form and less of a necessity.
There are a lot of sites out there that go into the history of quilting, so I won’t really go into that. Let’s just say that somewhere in the mid-1980’s Quilting started to become something people wanted to do, not ‘needed’ to do.
There are many people that create Quilts that are literally ‘paintings’ made with fabric. That is a wonderful talent, but not what I like to do. I like to make quilts that are to be used, and hopefully look pretty, too. I also like the more ‘traditional’ blocks, but enjoy some of the ‘modern’ variations. I enjoy the creation of something, and the completion – the chance to say “Ta-Da!” look what I finished! [OK, I do have a number of UFO’s – Unfinished Objects or Flimsies – Tops completed, but not quilted, but that’s another story!]
My quilting journey started because my Mother-in-Law wanted to make one more quilt for each of our two grown children, but due to her failing vision she did not think she could finish them. She asked me to finish them for her. So began my quilting experience. Before I could finish a quilt, I needed to know how to make a quilt.
I researched on the Internet, and got some books and read a lot. I went to Quilt Shows and took a few classes. I learned that Quilts could be made by Hand – no sewing machine involved, or they could be made by Machine (or a combination).
One of the best learning experiences came when I joined a group of lovely ladies that meet once a month and make Baby Quilts for a clinic in DC to give to the new mothers that use the clinic. The group is called Quilting For Good and meets at G-Street Fabrics. Thanks to the leaders and members, I’ve learned so much!
Another experience I have enjoyed has been Quilt Camp. Quilt Shops or Quilt Guilds will put together a long-weekend at a conference center or other such location. Meals are provided, lots of space for setting up sewing stations, cutting stations, ironing stations and eating/snacking stations. Sometimes classes are provided, other times a project, such as a Mystery Quilt is available for the group to do, and sometimes it is just a great time to get-away and stitch on your own projects. But there are lots of quilters, with different degrees of expertise and everyone is happy to help everyone!
What I discovered was that to make a Quilt it required a number of steps:
- Choosing the Pattern & Fabric
- Buying the Fabric (or gathering old clothes, if repurposing fabric) for the Top, Backing and Batting
- Cutting the Fabric (Maybe washing & ironing it first – a debated step)
- Stitching the fabric back together according to the Pattern to make the Top
- Cutting & Piecing Fabric for the Backing (if the quilt is larger than purchased fabric)
- Assembling the Quilt Sandwich – Top + Batting + Backing and Basting it by Spray, Pins or Thread.
- Then actually Quilting the Quilt – This can be done (1) by Hand with lots of tiny stitches, or (2) by Hand with individual threads knotted all over, or (3) by Machine using a Domestic Home Sewing Machine, or (4) by Machine – either a Short-Arm or Long-Arm Quilting machine (some of these are big enough to fill my living room!). There are people that have invested in these large pieces of equipment and will quilt the quilt for you.
- Depending on how it was made, the quilt may require a binding – a small strip of folded fabric stitched to the back, folded over and stitched to the top, giving the Quilt a finished edge.
- Finally, quilters today are encouraged to create a label to include on the back of the Quilt to leave a ‘history’ of who made it, who it was for, why it was made and when it was made. Early quilters would sometimes stitch some of this info into the quilting.
Is there a right-way or a wrong-way to make a quilt? The answer is Yes & No. There is no Quilt Police that enforces the rules! Many Quilters have strong feelings about certain steps and what needs to be done and how it is to be done. On the other hand, many Quilters have shared their experiences of steps that make it easier — so why re-create the wheel. I enjoy finding Tips & Tricks and if they work for me, I use them!