Thrown together scrap quilts

Thrown together scrap quilts

A few notes about sewing and me

My mother sewed clothes for herself, my sister, and me until we were out of high school. I learned to sew from her, and made a dress or two, but that was about it. By the time I was old enough to choose my own clothes, ready-made clothes were so plentiful and inexpensive that there was no reason to sew. Ready-made clothes also had the advantage that I could try them on first, and find out if the style that looked good on the model also looked good on me–or not– before investing a lot of time and money.

Unlike crafts such as knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch and embroidery, sewing on a machine cannot be done while watching TV or riding in a car or plane, so sewing was rare in my world.  It was reserved mostly for repairs or the occasional Halloween or cosplay outfit.  I only started doing real sewing when I inherited a really good machine from a (still living) relative who was downsizing.

A couple weeks ago I was sewing with friends who each have several incredible sewing machines and organized sewing rooms.  They in turn were telling me about friends of theirs who could sew well enough to just look at a style, look at them, and make a beautiful outfit without benefit of a pattern or measuring.

Their level of sewing is way out of my league.  Their friends are in another galaxy altogether.

The two quilts I am posting about here are ones I made before I ever took a quilting class, before I bought a rotary cutter, and before I learned how to properly bind a quilt. They are worse than anything you will find in a quilting magazine or on the web.

Which leads to the question…

Why am I posting this?

I am posting this as encouragement (or a warning, depending on your tolerance of error) to other newbie seamstresses who maybe, like me, don’t want their world to revolve around the sewing room but still would like to try a project or two.  If you cut corners, what will it look like? How bad will it be? Do I have to buy a lot of stuff?

I am posting this for those who maybe, like me, don’t want to spend a lot of money on fabric, but want to do something with the flood of old clothes that are too bad for the thrift store but too good to throw out.

I am also posting this as an entry in the “I made the mistakes so you don’t have to” category.  I have been happy with these creations despite their faults, but if you decide to make something different, perhaps looking at these can help you avoid a few pitfalls.

The quilts

Heart Quilt
The “jeans and dresses” quilt

My mother-in-law made dozens of cute dresses for my daughter when she was young using all kinds of novelty fabric. When my daughter outgrew or wore out these dresses, I wanted a way to remember them.  So I made this lap quilt, about 28″ X 34″.

I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to draw the hearts, which I cut out of the different old dresses.

In my house, there is an endless supply of old jeans to cut up, so I cut squares from old jeans. My squares were about 6 inches plus seam allowance (on all sides).  I also cut a 2 inch border (plus seam allowance) from old jeans.

My sewing machine has a blanket stitch that I used to applique the hearts on the denim squares. To do this properly, it might have been good to iron the hearts onto fusible interfacing.  I didn’t do that–I cut that corner, but it would have made the hearts more sturdy.

I sewed the top together just as shown here.  I arranged the hearts in a way that I thought looked good before sewing the rows and columns. If I had planned ahead better, I could have had more of a checkerboard pattern between the light and dark denim. That’s something I should have planned from the beginning.

For the backing I bought some material on sale. Because I didn’t know how to do a quilt binding, I layered batting on the wrong side of the backing material, and then sewed the back to the front with the right sides together, leaving an opening at one end.  Then I turned the blanket right side out and then stitched the opening closed. If you don’t like this look, I recommend learning how to do a quilt binding.

I tied this quilt with yarn at the corners of the squares. You can see that here:

Heart Quilt Back

Then, because my mother-in-law used so many cute buttons on the dresses, I sewed a sampling of these buttons at the corners of the squares. Buttons make the blanket lumpy to sit or lie on, but the other side is still soft if the blanket is on top of you.

After making the heart quilt, I did the same idea with a bigger design:Butterfly Quilt

The butterfly design is one my mom used on quilts she made for my sister and me.  My mom did the blanket stitch by hand, but I did this blanket stitch applique with the machine and sewed the antennae with straight stitches on the machine.  Here’s one of the butterflies up close:


The squares on this quilt are 9 inch squares (plus a seam allowance). I made butterfly patterns out of cardboard that I used to trace on the fabrics.

I made all the same mistakes with this quilt as the other one, plus one more.  I did not adequately baste the layers either with basting stitch or safety pins, before I tied the quilt. And to make matters worse, instead of tying, I tried to cut time by sewing at the corners.

If I do it again, I will baste the layers and then quilt with a “stitch in the ditch” along the rows and columns.

As a result of my mistake, the squares are not as flat as they should be, as you can see in the photo.  Because I used a certain machine stitch, I can’t just pull them out and redo it like a normal tied quilt.  I got the worst of both worlds here.

It doesn’t look as bad on a bed. In fact, my sister liked it so much, she wanted a quilt like this too so I made another one–and did a much better job of it.

For this quilt, there wasn’t enough of my chosen backing material (a butterfly pattern on sale) to cover the back, so I pieced it with some plainer fabric.

Butterfly Quilt Back.jpg

I hope this inspires you to take some of your old clothes and make something new. Hope you avoid making the mistakes I made–but don’t be afraid of making your own.





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