Monday, 13 May 2013

How long does it take to make a quilt?

First of all all of your fabric needs to be prepped, which may or may not mean washing, then ironing, cutting straight edges and then working out the pattern formation, in what order the blocks need sewing together and then actually sewing together.  In the case of this Cath Kidston-esque, (according to Betsy CK ownes anything floral), little beauty I used old fabrics, I prefer them as they are usually better quality than modern stuff and soft with wear.  I used vintage tablecloths, some printed and some hand embroidered bottom drawer type and because I was looking for the best bits I trimmed them up according to what I thought was most appealing and then worried about the dimensions when I was sewing them up. Therefore this takes longer because of all the odd shapes to accommodate, it's a little bit like crazy patchwork but the corners are all right angles.  This took me 5 hours.

Next the quilt sandwich is made, batting is the filling whilst the quilt top and back are the bread.  I like to use 100% cotton batting, I recently did a king sized quilt with 100% wool and I do like it but I think I prefer the cotton because it acts more like felt when it is being manipulated and the final quilt is a little bit more weighty.  Avoid the polyester man-made stuff, if you are going to put in the time and effort don't skimp, value your time.   The quilt sandwich is then pinned together with the long lovely to sew over flower head quilting type pins,  all the time being manipulated to keep edges straight and pattern even.

Then the basting, a very satisfying activity as it uses massive stitches and you finally feel like you might have a quilt.  I think that traditionally quilters are taught to baste in lines like a grid, I can't see the sense in this as it gives you no room for manoeuvre.  I always work outwards from the centre point like the rays of the sun, filling in with extra lines on the periphery.  This took me 2 hours.

Looking at the basted front it feels like you are nearly there.  When I quilt I always start at the middle and work outwards, if I was using straight lines I would start with a cross of the vertical and horizontal. the sun ray method means that the puff of fabric and batting is always smoothed outwards and can easily be tweeked if necessary.

 I free machined this quilt which means I dropped the feed dogs on my machine and starting from a centre point free motion stitched one very long and wiggly line.  I did stop to replace the bobbin - it used 3 full ones, but I didn't break the continuous line of thread from the spool of cotton on top of my machine.  This took me 1 hour.  It is a pig to do on an ordinary domestic machine but I like it because I can stitch right up to the embroidered parts without crossing and spoiling the effect of them.  I always have in the back of my mind the women who sat patiently embroidering, did they do it for their bottom drawer, did their domestic life turn out to be as perfect as they had hoped.  I find that most of the hand embroidered table linen I come across has been used very little, I would guess this is because when the dream turns in to reality no-one actually has time to launder and press linen after every meal.

Finally the quilt is completed with a bias edge finished by hand stitching on the reverse side, with sharp little mitred corners.  To make the bias binding and pin it accurately in place and then machine around took me 2 hours.  The beautiful hand stitching which is a an invisible hem stitch and perfect points took me 2 hours.

A total of 12 hours labour, but what would this lowly woman's work cost you to buy?

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