Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tutorial: How to make a patchwork quilt

The quilt featured in this tutorial is now for sale on Etsy here.
Over the last few months I've had a couple of emails asking me about quilting from people relatively new to sewing. Various questions have come up: how much fabric does one need to buy? How big should a quilt be? What order does one construct it in? They're all difficult questions to answer without knowing what pattern the person may end up working from. So for this post I've put together the instructions to make a very simple quilt, that will hopefully be just right for someone new to these things. It's a much smaller quilt than you might hope to eventually tackle, more suitable as a throw for a chair, a blanket to go over a pram or pushchair, or even to be laid out on the ground for a baby to lie on at a summer picnic. The reason why I've chosen to write a tutorial for a small quilt, is because this way the maker is able to sample all the different aspects of quilt-making (from cutting fabric, sewing it together, creating a quilt sandwich, quilting it and finally binding it) in a more manageable way. Big quilts are unwieldy, and hungry for time and fabric...overwhelming for a beginner. This simple quilt will allow you to use lots of different fabrics and can easily be made from scraps or old summer dresses.




Sanity warning: I think that what's intrinsically lovely about a homemade quilt is the love and care that has gone into making it, and once your family or friends are snuggled beneath one of your quilts any slight imperfections will only add to the charm, so do try not to become dispirited if perfectly aligned seams elude you at first. How easily a quilt comes together is largely determined by how accurately you have cut the fabrics and by always being sure to maintain a consistent seam allowance as you join pieces together - everything will feel much easier if you keep these two things in mind.


The final quilt will measure roughly: 30" x 36" (77cm x 92cm). All measurements include ¼ seam allowances.




Ingredients:


Scraps of beautiful cotton fabric totalling roughly 1¾ yards for the quilt top
Quilt batting 34" x 40" (I used Hobbs Heirloom, but any good quality batting will be fine)
Cotton fabric for the back of the quilt 34" x 40"
Fabric for binding the quilt edges - approx ¾ yard.
Quilting pins and/or quilter's 505 spray (this acts as a spray adhesive)
Cotton thread
Lightweight masking tape
An iron and ironing board
Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat and omnigrid (these make things make cutting out all the fabric pieces easier and quicker, but are not at all essential)
¼" foot for your sewing machine (this is a foot that you can attach to your machine that guides you, so that every seam has a perfect ¼ seam allowance. Again, this is not at all essential, but it will make things easier and your squares are more likely to align perfectly).
Above shows the quilt design that you'll be creating. It's basically a series of squares sewn together, each made up of three rectangles. The interest comes by alternately placing each square so that the rectangles within in it run in different directions.




First select your fabric. I used about 12 different prints for my quilt top, but really you can use as many as you would like as long as you have at least 6 different fabric patterns. In my quilt I've used the same fabric for the central rectangle of every square as I like the sense of continuity this gives. If you'd like to do this too, then you'll need to cut 30 rectangles from this fabric.
Cut each rectangle so that it measures exactly 6½" x 2½". You will need to cut 90 of these rectangles in total. 




Lay out three rectangles. Take two of the pieces and place them face-to-face (so that the printed sides are together) and sew together with a ¼" seam along the long edge. It's important to try to sew with an accurate ¼" seam as otherwise your squares won't line up properly later. (If like me, you've decided to use the same print at the centre of every square, you'll need to be mindful of this when joining your pieces).


Now take the third piece, place face to face with one of the joined rectangles and sew together along the outer raw edge, again using a ¼" seam.




The three rectangles should look like this from the reverse. It's essential that you press all the seam allowances to give a nice finish. I tend to press them to once side, keeping them all going in the same direction. Your finished square should look like this once pressed.




You now need to create 29 more squares, just like this one, until you have 30 in total. Lay them out on the floor as you go, playing around with the distribution of colour and pattern, so that you can create your squares mindful of what your quilt still needs to create a good balance.




Once you've pressed all the squares with an iron and decided on your layout it's time to begin sewing the rows of squares together. I tend to turn one row over at a time, labelling them with numbers to be sure they they end up being sewn in order correctly. It's frustrating to gather them up and then realise that you can't remember quite which square was meant to be going where.




Place two squares face to face, sewing along the raw edge with a ¼" seam where they are to be joined. Then join another square on, until you have completed the first row.




Be sure to press the seams again, once you have completed joining each row of squares.




Once you have sewn all the squares into rows, it's then time to sew the rows together. Pinning is important here. Your focus is not pinning from one end to the other, but rather on making sure that the seams line up: the aim is for the seams to align wherever the edges of two squares meet along this edge. Thus, I tend to first pin each intersecting seam together, before placing more pins at other points. Below the Crisis Management step is a photo of the intersecting seams aligning.


Crisis Management: If your seams are drastically off, take a deep breath and go and have a cup of tea. Once strengthened by its restorative powers come back to your sewing with the conviction that your quilt will still look beautiful because you've no doubt chosen fabrics that you love. You can either remedy the seams by rechecking them, unpicking a little and making sure each really is a perfect ¼" or you can accept that this is a forgiving pattern and that in the melee of bright colours coming from all angles, your mistakes will very likely be swallowed up when you are not focusing on them. In which case you should just sew from edge to edge and ignore how the seams intersect one another visually.




Continue sewing one row to another row, being sure to press the seam in between each row.




You should now have a finished quilt top. Hurrah!




Now it's time to make a quilt sandwich. So often in sewing we make things with the fabrics facing one another to create a neat outer-edge with the seam hidden away inside. However, when creating a quilt we don't do this, as the raw edges will later be finished with binding, so pay close attention to which direction your fabric should be facing - it may go against your instincts as to what would normally be right. First take the piece of fabric that you had reserved for the back of the quilt, making sure it is well ironed. Place it on the floor with the fabric facing away from you. Tape the top and bottom to the floor using masking tape, smoothing out wrinkles as you go, before taping each side down. It's important to get this as smooth and wrinkle-free as possible, without pulling the fabric so tight that natural line of it is distorted.




Once you are happy with that, take some Quilter's 505 and spray it liberally over the fabric, before smoothing the quilt batting over the top of this.




The batting will tend to hold creases from where it was folded, but as long as you have smoothed them out, don't worry that the crease lines are still visible (as above). Batting does not need to be ironed. Finally spray this batting with 505 spray, and lay the quilt top, right side facing up toward you, centrally on top of the two layers. You'll notice that the quilt top is smaller than the bottom two layers - this is intentional as otherwise it is very hard to align the layers perfectly. Smooth out any wrinkles, until your quilt top sits perfectly flat.




Despite the fact that the quilt sandwich is held together with basting spray, I like the extra insurance policy that quilting pins offer to ensure nothing moves around later while you're quilting the sandwich. Quilting pins are a little different from safety pins - they have a curve in them so that when you stick them in they are naturally more inclined to resurface for fastening. Pinning when the quilt top is stuck down to a carpet is not always the easiest task (and I am no stranger to pinning the quilt top to the carpet itself), so if you have a non-carpeted surface you may find this much easier.




Always, always, start pinning from the centre and work your way outward, pinning in concentric circles. This means that any extra fabric is pushed to the outer of the quilt, rather than being allowed to bunch up toward the centre.




Once your quilt sandwich is finally pinned, unpeel the masking tape and free the quilt from the floor (a little at a time if you have been pinning it over a carpet...that way if you find you have accidentally pinned the quilt to the carpet at any point you may release it without damaging either party!).




How you quilt the layers together is very much down to personal preference and accomplished quilters often use a free-motion stitch that undulates across the quilt in loops and swirls. However, by far the simplist method is to 'stitch-in-the-ditch'. This simply means to machine across the quilt so that your stitches fall into the 'ditch' created where two fabrics have joined at a seam. In this case, I have quilted in vertical and horizontal lines across the entirety of the quilt following the outer edges of the rows and columns of squares. You may find that the quilt is hard to maneouvre and feels 'slippery'. This is normal and is another good reason for beginning with a smaller quilt, as this sensation is only increased when working with a larger quilt where quilting gloves can be a good investment to give you some extra grip on the fabric. Once the quilt is fully quilted, you can then square up the quilt, cutting off the unwanted bits of backing and batting that show around the edges.




Finally you must create a binding to finish the edges of the quilt. Although it's not strictly necessary here, as the method we are using does not require the binding to go around any corners, it's good practice to create your binding at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the fabric. This is where the greatest amount of stretch and play can be found in the fabric and means that the long binding strips will be easy to apply. If you have an omnigrid you can find this point easily by aligning the edge of the fabric with the line that is marked at 45 degrees. Now simply cut along this line.




To cut the binding strips start working diagonally at a 45 degree angle across the centre of your fabric creating strips that are 2½ " wide. You will need to produce an amount that when joined together will create approximately 4 yards of binding (so this will be several strips).




Once you have cut your strips, you may find that having cut them at a 45 degree angle, each one has a pointed end. Cut this off as shown above to produce a straight end. Next we must sew the strips of binding together, to create one long binding strip. To do this take two strips of binding. Place them face to face at right angles to one another, as shown below.




Pin in place and mark a diagonal line in the direction shown above between the top right hand corner of the upper binding strip and the bottom left hand corner of the binding strip that is partially covered. Keeping the fabrics placed as they are in this photograph, sew along this line. Once you have sewn along this line, cut the surplus fabric off quarter of an inch away from the line of stitching.




Now fold the fabric out to reveal the fabrics that should be neatly joined together. Press with an iron.




Continue to join the binding strips in this way, until you have approximately four yards of binding, pressed and ready to use. Now it's time to attach the binding to the quilt. Start at one corner and with right-sides-together (this means face-to-face), align the binding strip with the top edge of the quilt and then pin along the long edge of the quilt.




Now sew exactly 1/2" from the long edge, from one end of the quilt to the other. When you reach the end, carefully cut the excess binding off, so that the bottom of the binding aligns perfectly with the bottom of the quilt.




Now sew another binding strip on in the same way on the opposite side of the quilt. It should look like the photo below:




Once complete, it's time to put the two final binding strips on, but this time, first fold outwards the binding strips that are already attached to the quilt.




With the binding strips folded outwards attach the final two bindng strips as below, aligning the top edge of the binding to be joined with the top edge of the binding that is already joined. Cut off any excess binding when the strips are sewn on.




The binding should now look like this:




To finish the binding. Turn the quilt over, as pictured below:




Now fold the edge of the binding inwards, so that it meets the raw edge of the quilt.




Fold in once more, so that the folded edge just covers the line of stitching. Pin in place and repeat on the other side, so that a neat corner is created.




Now turn on the radio or curl up in front of the television and hand sew the reverse side of the binding in place. Use a whip stitch or a ladder stitch, going through only the upper layer of fabric, so that your stitches aren't seen on the front of the quilt.




You're now finished. If your quilt is made from 100% cotton, you should feel free to wash it at 40 degrees and tumble dry as frequently as you need to. The first time you wash it, you may find that the fabrics shrink very slightly, which can give you an attractive slightly dimpled, puckered look that so many heirloom quilts seem to have - this is generally considered to be a positive thing (although, if this really isn't your thing it can be avoided by laundering all your fabrics prior to cutting them).


I hope you might enjoy making a quilt from this tutorial  - please do add any finished photos to the Flickr pool or email them to me - I'd really love to see.


And if you don't feel quite ready to make your own, but would still like a small quilt of your own, then you can find the one featured in this post for sale here on Etsy.


Florence x

As with all my tutorials, you are welcome to use this free-of-charge for your own personal use. If you wish to sell the things that you make from using my tutorials, however, then I request that you pay a small one-off fee of £3 for the right to do this.
for the right to sell items made from this tutorial.

59 comments:

  1. You Star! Thank you thank you thank you... what a brilliant post for newbies like me. I'm attempting my very first baby quilt and am making things up as I go. I'm a bit terrified to tell the truth so it's wonderful to have the more experienced crafters post blogs like this.

    Cheers!

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  2. I have been looking for an easy first quilt project for a long LONG time. Now I believe I actually dare starting one. Thanks a million for this great and clear tutorial!

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  3. thanks so much for this....will take courage and have a bash...brilliant to have great instruction to follow.

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  4. Wow! Thank you for taking the time to put this tute together. It answers lots of questions for me as I am about to begin my first ever baby quilt!

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  5. Great tutorial, Florence. Everyone can learn something new - I must remember to get some quilting gloves before I start another quilt. I make one so infrequently that I forget how useful a pair would be.

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  6. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this - incredibly generous of your time....so, this quilt can become part of my Project SEW2011! x

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  7. Finally! I wonderful tutorial for an easy first timer quilt. I am doing this!!!! Thank you so much!!

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  8. Thanks so much for this tutorial, Florence, it's very clear, and I'm a total beginner when it comes to patchwork, but feel I could give a quilt this size a go! Em x

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  9. I've wanted to make a new quilt but I have a hard time coming up with a design. I think this one is great. Do you always hand sew the binding? I've always used the machine. Probably looks better to do it by hand but it's faster to use the machine:) Thanks for the idea,and the tutorial!

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  10. This quilt is so gorgeous - I'm definately going to have a go at it. Never made a quilt before though! Where did you get that lovely fabric as I'd like to make one just like that. Thanks, Rachel

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  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is wonderful. I have looked for something like this for so long. I love you for doing this.

    Andrea from New Zealand.

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  12. Thank you for the best instructions I have come across - I had made the top but was too scared to do the rest cos I hadn't been able to find clear easy detailed instructions.

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  13. Great tutorial. I'm going to give this one a go. Just wondering if you use a normal foot or a walking foot when you do the 'stitch in the ditch' quilting? Also I always thought you only needed bias binding if you did a mitred corners so I'm surprised to see you did the binding in separate sections.

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  14. Wow, what an incredible tutorial. Thank you so much for putting it all in one place. You know what, I could actually fancy giving this a go...

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  15. Thank you - I'm so delighted you like it and that it might be useful.

    Miranda - yes, I always handsew the reverse of the binding - I think if you have the time it looks neater, but more, there's something so lovely about quilts that I really like that some element of it has been finished by hand.

    Rachel - the fabrics are: Nicey Jane by Heather Bailey, Freshcut by Heather Bailey, some Robert Kaufman cherries, a little bit of Amy Butler, some Rosalie Quinalin....the list goes on. I do have some left over as pre-cut strips, which I may put on Etsy when I get a moment.

    Leanne - my machine has an in-built walking foot, so I'm just able to use a regular foot. A walking foot is preferable, but if it's pinned really well, it's not impossible to go without.

    With the binding, I think mitred corners are really tricky - I certainly found them to be that way as a beginner (as this tutorial was very much aimed at beginners). I mention in my tutorial that the strips don't need to be cut on the bias, but that it seemed like a good opportunity to explain it that way as in most situation where you use a binding it would need to be bias cut, so it's a sort of half-way house. It means that the next time a quilt is made, everything else will be a known factor and if mitred corners are wanted then it's just a quick peep on youtube for a 'how to' - I hope it makes sense as to why I chose to do it this way.

    Florence x

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  16. What a beautiful quilt :) Thank you for this simple but very effective tutorial. Im collecting rose and pink fabric ready to make my grandaughter a quilt but I had not found a design I want to do... until now :)

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  17. Oh, it's such a sweet quilt...thanks for the tutorial...I've never sewn a quilt and really will now!

    It sold already...I just looked on Etsy! I just sold my first item on Etsy yesterday...SO thrilled. I need to add more items:
    www.etsy.com/people/homemadegoodness

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  18. Florence, thank you for the extremely detailed instructions. I will have to start looking at fabric so I can make my first quilt!

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  19. Fantastic tutorial, especially the binding. I've only made one quilt with binding, but your method looks like it would be less bulky than the method I used. Thank you.

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  20. Fabulous tutorial! I've bookmarked for when i finally get my sewing machine!

    Have a lovely day ♥

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  21. Thank you so much for this fantastic tutorial... I have had the idea to make a quilt for a friend's baby in the back of my mind for a while, and thanks to your tutorial I think it just might be doable as your instructions are so clear and easy to follow :) x

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  22. Thank you so much. I've been crying out for a simple tutorial like that.

    Could you at some point explain hand tying? Never understood that either.

    Thanks again!!

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  23. Thanks for this tutorial, so clear and inspiring! Love the pattern and fabrics you've chose!

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  24. This is one great tutorial! Thanks for taking the time to put all that together...WOW

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  25. Thank younso much for writing your tutorial. I was one of those annoying people asking questions about quilts and todayi have taken the plunge and brought the fabric for my girls quilts. The local habi section in out department store is closing down unfortunately but all the fat quarters were 68p each including moda heather bailey and a few amy butler. So 122 fat quarters later I have confided my hubbie this will be pretty. Wish me look

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  26. YAY!!

    I have made my first quilt. A rather large quilt from the book Material Obsession. I have just finished hand quilting it and I was reading the instructions for binding but they confused me. I remembered your tutorial and then it all made sense. Thank you!! I will complete it all on my own!

    Naomi x

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  27. hmm great post. I am not a newbie quilt maker but its sometimes nice to have the basics gone over in such a clear way- and get a few tips too. Thanks xx

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  28. I love it. I'm going to do one for my 8 months old boy! Can't wait!

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  29. Thank you so much for this.. im starting tomorrow and im very excited about it.. my 14months old baby boy will love it!:) thanks again

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  30. Thank you so much. What a great idea - so easy to follow. Excited!xx

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  31. http/sewinglady.wordpress.ner4 August 2011 19:44

    Excellent tutorial! Thanks

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  32. Thank you so much for giving such explicit instructions - especially on how to attach the binding! So far I've only made a small patchwork-quilted bag but I now feel more confident about making a small quilt - probably for my granddaughter's doll's pram - before attempting a full-size one. Thank you very much!

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  33. Okay. Alright. I think I've got it. I've made several quilts in the past. But was always frustrated by the non-matching corners. So I googled "how to make matching corners on a quilt" and you popped up :) Thanks for the tutorial. Sounds like what I need is that little 1/4" foot ... and to cut verrrrry carefully. I'm going to find one of those foots (feet?) and get sewing on my (blog-giveaway) Christmas fabric. And thanks again :)

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  34. Many thanks for putting this tutorial up, I am new to patchwork and this project seems perfect for me! Many thanks again.

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  35. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain the procedure in easy to understand terms. I particularly the comments about if you go a bit wrong with your stitching, as this has just happened to me.
    Reading your tutorial, makes me feel confident enough to go back and finish off my work now, as I was feeling a little disheartened with it after my error.
    Thank you again and happy sewing!
    Pam

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  36. Thanks Florence for this very detailed and basic tutorial - I am about to attempt my first ever quilt, and will incorporate some of your designs into mine.

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  37. Brilliant tutorial - thanks for the guidance, much appreciated! :o)

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  38. Brilliant tutorial - thanks for the guidance, much appreciated! :o)

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  39. Brilliant tutorial - thanks for the guidance, much appreciated! :o)

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  40. I am a newbie and want to get started on something very soon. I went to a taster session at my local fabric shop which cost £15 and everything is done by hand! which put me completely off - until now. Thanks from a new follower

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  41. Thank you! This has given me confidence to attempt to make a quilt for my future neice/nephew due in the summer! Page bookmarked :)

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  42. Very sweet and quite simple - thanks for the tutorial!!

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  43. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    I was a quilting virgin, but after reading your tutorial I have just made my first ever quilt and have posted a photo of it on your Flickr site: Made by You. It has certain flaws - non-aligned patches etc., but it was so good to have such detailed instructions and I loved doing it. I particularly appreciated your advice to take a deep breath and leave it for a while (when I had sewn the wrong sides together!). One piece of advice I was given by a quilter in the fabric shop was to take care when spraying 505 on the fabric on a carpet - so I did mine on a wood floor. Apparently if the adhesive remains on the carpet it acts as a magnet for every bit of dirt and fluff for ever more. Thanks for all your inspiring ideas.

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  44. Thank you so much for this tutorial, I'm a beginner quilter and don't know how to bind yet until i read this tutorial

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  45. thank you. I search for simplest quilt tutorial n was directed to you.I've never made a quilt, but now I am confident enough to start one.this tute is awesome thanks again

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  46. Thank you for your tutorial. I make baby blankets from my blog but I do not quilt them because I am terrified to doing it! This tutorial has made it easy to understand and less frightening so I will give it a go! thanks again x

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  47. Great, perfectly clear instructions and informative photos - thank-you!

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  48. Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. I am a quilter and have recruited a number of women here in Bocas del Toro, Panama to join me in a project to make small lap quilts for the residents of our local home for the elderly. These individuals are the poorest of the poor and the home has few amenities. My goal is to provide each resident a with a small quilt as a Christmas present, as one treasure that is their own. The women who have volunteered to sew are not experienced with making quilts and we live on islands spread over a large area, so holding a class is not feasible. But most everyone has Internet so your tutorial is just perfect. Again, thank you!
    Mary Boone Heckrotte camryka@gmail.com

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  49. This is fabulous! I especially like the advice about going and having a cuppa if it's not working out - I needed to hear that!

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  50. What a fab, step by step guide for a total beginner. Thank you!

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  51. Florence, thankyou so much for an easy to follow quilt. I've just started quilting and this tutorial has helped me tremendously. Very easy to understand and follow.
    Thanks again
    Theresa

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  52. Thank you so much for a great step by step tutorial. I have nearly finished my first quilt and it is all thanks to you. I would still be wondering where to start if it weren't for you :)

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  53. Thank you for this, I've just made this design in a single size for my daughter who's starting High school. She's thrilled with it. Now I am starting 2 more foe my boys

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  54. I have bookmarked you! A truly lovely quilt and what an excellent tutorial; clear and easy to follow. I have sewn since I was very young.....all manner of clothing from bridal gowns to lingerie. I have also run sewing classes, but never quilted. My friends baby is due in a few weeks and I thought I would make a small throw, so I am delighted to find this. It is even in the right colours! Going to order fabric now. Inspired!

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  55. I am up to hand stitching the binding on my first ever quilt and just wanted to say a big THANK YOU Flossie!!
    Your tutorial has been very easy to follow and I am so happy with my little quilt for my baby boy! Susy (Australia) x

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  56. Am so excited about this - have fabric from my sisters wedding that was just cut with pinking shears and used as napkins by everyone that I am going to make into a quilt..now I've bought the batting, spray and scissors I just need to get a machine!! (My grandma's has never worked for me for longer than 5 minutes and so is time to bite the bullet!), Thanks for the tuturial - best i've found after hours of trawling! Elizabeth (Bosham) x

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  57. Thank you so much Florence for a wonderful tutorial. Now I have the confidence to try and make a quilt as the instructions were so clear. Thank you for taking pity on us, the poor beginners. You are so thoughtful and I know from reading the comments left that there are many thankful women out there. A big thank you from me. I have to put this on under the anonymous category as I don't know how to do the other profiles but my name is Deirdre

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  58. Thank you so much Florence - I shall pass this on to my daughter who is keen to make her first quilt and I am hopeless and explaining how I make mine.

    C from Hampshire

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x