How exciting - my very first quilt made with fabrics featuring my own pattern designs!
The 'Spooky' collection originated from an instagram challenge (#trickortreatspookyandsweet) as seasonal pattern designs for Halloween and autumn decor.
Right from the start this collection was meant for a patchwork quilt.
Now I take you on the journey from my first sketches, to the printed fabrics, and finally to the process of sewing the quilt. Since this is an ongoing project, the finished quilt can not be seen here, yet.
But there will be more blog posts coming as the project progresses !
Every pattern starts with a sketch.
The collection is created from several prompt-based challenges. Each prompt, words of autumn and Halloween topics, served as source of inspiration for one pattern.
In this step, planning for colours is already included.
Based on my sketches, I digitally created some basic motifs for the patterns, to set a style and colour scheme.
Both are a vital cornerstone for a collection, so the patterns can be made to match and be easily combined with each other.
Pattern creation is done in Adobe Illustrator, drawn by hand on a Wacom graphic tablet.
To digitally draw right on top of the pencil sketches, in several separate layers is so convenient!
Also, colours can be changed until they match up very easily, too.
Now the pattern collection is done !
Out of all resulting pattern designs and their colourways, I selected a set of my favorites and best matching patterns in red, orange and purple colour.
The number of patterns required for the planned quilt is determined by the quilt design I chose.
Its the Hazel Quilt, a design plus instructions by Erica Jackman is my choice for my Halloween-themed quilt. (Visit www.kitchentablequilting.com to see more of Ericas work !)
Digitally I put my patterns into the provided template, to plan out and better imagine what the finished quilt would look like.
Finally the order of printed fabrics arrived from Spoonflower:
nine fat quarters (size of 18x21 inches) and one or two yards respectively of the neutral coloured patterns for the contrasting background.
All fabrics are a nice cotton quality. First step is pre-washing and ironing them, then GO !
Making the first cut is always scary - what if something goes wrong?!
But thanks to the quilt instructions I had this time, I trusted the process and began.
Once I get into it, the cutting is actually my second most favorite part of any patchwork project !
After four hours, all required pieces for the quilt top are cut and ready, both the coloured and the neutrals
Laying out and seeing all pieces in neat stacks always makes me so fidgety to start sewing and see the finished quilt.
So let's start sewing - but wait a minute !
Choosing the right needle for the sewing machine is important. I started with a size 90 from a previous jeans project. But a size 70 is a better match for the thinner cotton material I'm working with and it won't leave such big holes in the fabric.
Sewing begins with the smallest pieces. These are the 'boring' ones in most cases, because they are needed in high numbers.
For the so-called flying geese you can see in production in this photo, over 80 blocks are required for the small throw size quilt.
Following the quilt instructions I learned a new time effective technique for those blocks, too.
Another very handy thing is chain piecing, for which pieces are fed into the sewing machine one after another without cutting the yarn in between.
For one, yarn tension stays perfect at every new seam and secondly, you can save a bit of yarn this way.
And really, cutting the chains apart afterwards is so much fun ! :)
Now comes a part I don't like that much - ironing.
To get the many small pieces fit together as accurately as possible when sewing, it is very helpful to suffer through it, however.
Therefore I dug out my trusty ironing mat and got to work.
I'll admit I skipped the ironing at later points and fingerpressed instead - but don't tell anyone !
With the finished flying geese blocks and all the colourfull patterned pieces, I worked on a full layout for the quilt top on the floor.
I was not fully happy with the digital version I did before. While it gives a good preview, the physical layout method is more intuitive.
My first try was not specific enough, I left out the background to safe space on the floor . . .
. . . but I wasn't all happy with that one either and so a second layout followed, this time with each and every piece of the final quilt top.
There was just about enough space on our living room floor to fit it all !
For this layout I didn't quite follow the instructions for the Hazel quilt and did my own version.
Probably because I used my own version of the layout and did not follow the quilt instructons at this point, I was a few pieces short and had to start cutting again.
Fortunately, it was just a hand full and of course I saved all the scraps from the fat quarters.
The remaining ones will by the way also come into play again later on !
Finally, finally, finally the big part of sewing starts ! The piecing of the patchwork top is one of my favourite parts of making a quilt.
By strategic planning, bigger blocks are made by combining all the small pieces one after the other.
Since I'm a bit lazy sometimes and try to work efficiently, I moved my sewing machine to the living room, to work next to my layed out pieces. But that doesn't only mean shorter ways but also less confusing the pieces which is very convenient.
What a sight, the first few of the blocks are done.
Piece by piece, they are constructed, only to be sewn together with the next bigger piece. This way, the quilt top grows steadily.
I love this process !
After a bit of a break in the process, I moved back to my sewing space because it is more comfortable for my back than crouching on the coffee table.
A sturdy pizza box came in handy for transporting the pieces to the sewing machine in a sorted manner, one block at a time.
Then it's time to iron again. By now I have a umber of big 'block' pieces, and I did some more ironing while the pieces are still easy to handle in size.
I always start on the back side, to make sure the seam allowances are pressed nice and flat. All the fabric pieces will be more smooth now and the blocks can be sewn together more precise.
Now one more round of ironing on the front side, while I'm at it.
The quilt top is really taking shape by now !
The effect of the ironing is probably hard to see in the picture, but the ironed piece (purple star) is in front with the unfinished one (red star) behind it.
The carefully ironed blocks practically fly through the machine !
With every seam and newly combined block, the entire piece becomes a bit harder to handle.
That's the main reason why ironing them at some point in between is helpful. It makes sewing smoother and the last big ironing so much easier !
Sewing the quilt top works especially good with "nesting" - that means placing the seam allowances of to-be-sewn-together pieces so that they face away from each other (green marker). Ironing or fingerpressing them before sewing makes them fit better. This way, those connection points won't be too thick in the end.
Sometimes, directions of the seam allowances don't match, in that case I cheat a bit by ironing them the other way (red markers).
Almost done: the last seam of this quilt top is in the works !
At this point, the sheer mass of fabric can be seen.
For sewing, a space of about an inch behind the sewing table can be usefull, so that the fabric glides over the edge and down in an orderly way instead of building up as an unruly bundle behind the machine.
A rule of thumb: avoid long seams as best as possible ! :)
So this is the current status - a finished quilt top for my Halloween Spooky Hazel Quilt.
The first big step is done now, and I'd like to conclude with a picture I take of every quilt I make: the super cool stained glass window look that comes from the seam allowances when you hold the fabric up against the light.
So fascinating !
The next step will be choosing a matching fabric as the backing of the quilt. I do have a plan for that, but that'll stay a secret for now until I know that it'll work ;)
Update: Part II of my quilt project is now online - it's about experimental fabric dyeing!
In the meantime the Spooky pattern collection is already available on Spoonflower, many colourways and even more different pattern designs than shown in the project so far.
All of them are in a spooky-good autumn style, perfect for Halloween decor.
Have a look if you want !