My First Quilt

Hello Quilty friends, I am Kelly Eisinger, editorial assistant and newest member of the Quiltmaker team. Here at Quiltmaker I am in charge of taking care of the many ins and outs of our production to keep everything running smoothly. If you have a question, I’ll do my best to thoroughly answer it. If you win a prize, I’ll ship it to you. And if you have any feedback for our team, please send it my way!

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Kelly Eisinger, Quiltmaker Editorial Assistant

I have been asked to share the making of my first quilt with all of you lovely quilters. Keep in mind–I’m a bit of beginner when it comes to quilting, so take my methods with a grain of salt. I have always had a bit of a “wing it” attitude when it comes to learning a new artistic skill. Usually with a little research and prep work, I can manage to round up supplies and tools (proper or makeshift) to start experimenting with.

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My first sewing machine, simple and to the point.

I received my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift in high school. With a few pointers from my super- savvy sewing aunt Teresa, my mom and some basic tools I was off to a fairly productive start. I made a lot of little projects and became pretty efficient in constructing bags, pillow covers and simple projects, yet I never embarked on a quilting project until recently.

Starting here at Quiltmaker was just the push I needed to take my quilting skills to the next level. I searched through all kinds of patterns and kept finding myself attracted to projects with bright, bold and diverse colors. However I wasn’t feeling too ambitious about cutting up a lot of little pieces and  making precisely sewn blocks. I really just had the itch to make something that would give a quick result.

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Star Splitter by Victoria Findlay Wolfe from Quiltmkaker’s March/April ’13 issue No.150.

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Square Roots by Peg Spradlin from Quiltmkaker’s March/April ’13 issue No.150.


WildThing My First Quilt

Wild Thing by Diane Harris from Quiltmaker’s March/April ’07 issue No.114.

My best friend Alissa’s birthday was around the corner. With so many quilt designs to choose from I decided to simplify the elements I appreciated in several and to create my own simple design. Also, in case I decided something wasn’t fitting or looking right, I could change it without having to mess with rest of a pattern.

Step 1: Choosing Fabrics

I gathered large pieces of diverse, bright and bold fabrics from my scrap stash that would fulfill the complex visual feel I enjoyed  from the complicated quilt designs.

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A goulash of scraps, mostly larger pieces.

Each fabric met one or more of the following qualities: large print, petite print, metallic or exceptionally bright and basic/neutral to coordinate with other colors easily.

Step 2: Prepping Fabric

I decided to use a strip sewing method: creating long strips, each containing six to seven smaller pieces. My plan was to make 9 strips total (even numbers are too symmetrical).

Once I was pleased with the fabric selection, I cut the scraps into roughly 6 1/2″ x 14″ and 6 1/2″x 17″ pieces. I was trying to make the quilt at least throw size, with no specific dimensions in mind.  I knew I had plenty of scraps and figured I could always cut more if needed.

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Some shorter pieces ready to be paired with longer pieces.

Step 3 Fabric Arrangement:

To achieve consistent diversity of value I used the following method to pair fabric pieces: 1 short piece + 1 long piece– with the two pieces sharing at least one color or value and each having opposite print scales. I then matched pieces to make pairs and sewed the short sides together. For each finished strip I joined three pairs.

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Short and long pieces paired together using my color matching rule.

After completing 9 full strips, I had a few areas I wanted to rearrange. Since the seams were only 6 1/2″, taking a few apart and reassembling went quickly.

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The complete set of 9 strips for the quilt top.

Step 4: Assembling the Top

Completing the top was simple. I staggered the strips to create a tiled effect, then sewed one strip to another, pressing seams open in between. Once all 9 strips were sewn together I trimmed the edges even.

I had absolutely no desire or intention to sew or hand stitch binding on the finished quilt, yet the strips needed a buffer around the edges. I decided to add 4″ wide silver satin strips (another random scrap item in my collection) to create a border and binding in one. I kept the corners simple, no mitering just straight strips on the length and then the width.

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By cutting multiple strips and combining them, I had enough satin to make a border for the quilt top.

Step 5: Batting, Backing and Quilting

I’m a big fan of cozy quilts, the fluffier and warmer the better, especially for Colorado winters. Taking this into consideration, I used a basic polyester batting to create thickness.

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Basic polyester batting.

According to my quilt book research it’s best to use the same consistency of fabric for the backing and quilt top to help prevent stretching and puckering. However I happened to have an extremely large piece of  heavier weight jersey knit (sweatshirt thickness) I’d impulsively purchased years ago due to its clearance price and cozy factor. Considering this quilt was a bit of an experiment anyway I decided to go for it.

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Turquoise jersey knit backing.

After cutting the backing and batting to be a few inches larger than the top, I used my bed to arrange the layers and create a quilt sandwich (backing face up, top face down, batting on top). I know you’re supposed to quilt the layers together before finishing the edges, however since I was avoiding the hand stitching/binding scenario this was my method. I pin basted a few strips length wise, only through the top and batting.

Then I pinned periodically around the edges, sewed 3/4 of the way around the quilt flipped it inside out, tucked the unfinished edges under and pined in place. Since the pins holding the top and batting were still in place I carefully repositioned them to now grab all three layers.

To finish things off I used a longer straight stitch to stitch in the ditch between each strip, the strips and border and lastly 1/2″ inside the edges of the quilt to help keep the layers intact and prevent stretching with use.

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I stitched in the ditch between each row and around the outer edge of the quilt.

SHAZZAM! I was done with only two minor puckers visible on the backing from stitching. The weight of the backing was a bit tricky to handle, however when going slowly the quilt layers held together quite easily. By breaking up the project into three evenings I was done before I knew it. Most importantly of all Alissa was quite excited about her quilt!

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The finished quilt.

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10 Responses to My First Quilt

  1. Cindy says:

    Hi! I would love some advice on the simplest beginners quilt for a teen.

  2. Congratulations, Kelly, on your first quilt! I really like the fabrics you used – so pretty together. I hope you will be sewing more! Have a super day!

  3. Peg Spradlin says:

    I’m impressed by how brave you were to just jump in and do it your way. And doubly impressed you were able to make the jersey work as backing. I bet your aunt Trese is very proud.

  4. Trena says:

    Pretty cool. I like the edging.

  5. Karlene says:

    Lots of pretty fabrics. Good job for being innovative in your creation. Now you can make another!

  6. Susan718 says:

    I love your quilt! And, although I haven’t seen many recently, purchased baby blankets used to come with satin binding. I remember (years ago) one of my sons used to run the satin through his fingers when he was tired and rub it on his face to help him fall asleep. It’s a different sensory experience that woven cottons just don’t have.

  7. Merry says:

    3evenings? You speed quilter! Awesome job, great gift for bff and lessons along the way! Should inspire a fearful beginner!!! On to the next, admit it you are hooked now!

  8. Hilda Hoas says:

    great job, you obviously had better luck at joining different types of fabric. I made a baby quilt for my granddaughter, cotton flannel top and minkie backing…what a nightmare, never again!

  9. Love Natalie says:

    What a great quilt! And a great sense of achievement I’m sure. Here’s to the next quilty adventure x

  10. Therese says:

    Pretty quilt, and you did great!

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