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Welcome to our first practice tutorial as part of Cucicucicoo’s Learn to Machine Sew series! On Monday we practiced the straight stitch and how to adjust stitch length and tension, as well as tacking down the beginning and end of stitching with a zero stitch length if you are unable to backstitch. It’s great to be able to straight stitch all over fabric (and paper bag!) scraps, but I know that you want to make something that you can be proud of with your new skill. So today we are going to be doing some very simple quilting.
I am not really a quilter, but what we’re going to do today is pretty basic. To keep it simple we’re not going to bind our quilt piece, but leave the edges raw. There are all sorts of things that you could do with it, such as frame and hang it or make a pillow from it. I will be making a pillow case for a throw pillow from it, which you might consider doing too, because I will be publishing a tutorial for making a pillow cover in another two or three weeks. (edit: here’s the tutorial on sewing an envelope-style pillow case.)
For todays’ tutorial you will need three squares (or rectangles) of fabric the same size: two quilting cotton and one batting. I didn’t want to waste my special fabric for the back piece that won’t be seen, so I just used some plain woven cotton for that piece. When making a pillow case, you need to cut the fabric exactly the size of the insert, which goes against the logic of seam allowance, but is what you need to do to get a snug fit. So, if you are making a pillow cover for a 50 x 50 cm (20 x 20 inch) Ikea pillow insert, as I am, cut your three squares 50 x 50 cm (20 x 20 inch). Make sure you have enough exterior fabric (in my case, the cupcakes) for the pillow backing. For this size pillow, you’ll need two 32 x 50 cm (13 x 20 inch) pieces with the long side along the crosswise grain (see Lesson 2 for more information about grain) for the backing. If you cut them out now, just put them aside for when we get to that tutorial.
Batting is foamy, fluffy stuff sandwiched between fabrics to provide depth to the project. Most batting is synthetic, but you can also find cotton batting. You can also use polar fleece or another puffy fabric, but the end results could vary.
Place the back square (my blue one) on your surface, right side down. Place the batting on top of it and on top of that the top fabric, right side up. Make sure all the sides and corners are lined up. (My batting piece was slightly bigger than the other pieces, which is why it doesn’t seems lined up, but it is.) Then pin through all three layers of fabric along the sides and throughout the center.
The cool thing about quilting is that the stitching compresses the batting, leaving the spaces between stitching to puff up. You can already start to see the effect with just the pins.
Decide how you want to quilt your fabric. If you have a printed cotton, you could sew around some or all of the shapes. Or, if the cotton is a solid color, you could use your fabric marker (the erasable type, as discussed in Lesson 2) to draw shapes or block letters and stitch along those. How cute would it be to quilt your child’s name with a heart or star and frame it for his or her bedroom? Or quilt simple stripes or a diagonal grid or just random shapes and wavy lines. Let your imagination roam free! But before starting to sew, remember to test tension and stitch length on a scrap sandwich (of batting between cotton layers). I started my quilting by sewing around some of the top fabric’s printed cupcakes.
I soon got tired of doing this, so I decided to sew diagonal stripes across the entire square, except the stitched cupcakes, which I wanted intact. I used my chalk roller* to draw even lines using my cutting mat* and quilter’s ruler* (even if I don’t quilt, I use these tools a lot).
Then I stitched along the lines, making sure not to go inside the quilted cupcakes. Look how the surface of the fabric changes from this…
…to this. Because of the batting in between the cotton layers and my stripes which were a bit close together, I had to make sure to use both hands to pull the fabric on each side taut as it went under the machine, or else the top layer would bunch up. A walking foot would help with this, too, though I didn’t use one. I worked from one corner to the opposite one, one line at a time. When there was a quilted cupcake interrupting the line, I preferred to start stitching from the cupcake and working towards the fabric edge.
Brush off your chalk marks and you’re done! I realized in hindsight that my cupcakes were a little on the small side to stand out amongst the quilted lines, but I think it would be really cute to quilt individual shapes and then lines around them if the shapes were larger. If you plan on making a pillow cover with your quilted piece, here’s the lesson on how to do that.
This tutorial is part of the syllabus of Cucicucicoo’s beginner’s sewing course!
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