It was a combination of the colours and design that first attracted me to quilting. I’ve always had a love for fabric going as far back as I can remember. My grandmother was a very accomplished seamstress and I remember her sewing everything from clothes, to pillow cases and even a custom tent to attach to the back of our minivan. When I would visit her she would have piles of fabric and she and I would spend time going through them looking for small pieces for me to use to make Barbie clothes. Those are some of my fondest memories and because of that love for fabric, quilting has always interested me.
Quilting is an artistic expression. It’s the same as taking paint and brush to canvas but to me, the difference is that anyone can be taught to quilt because quilting has very basic rules. If you follow and practice those rules you will end up with your own piece of artwork. I’ve had a lot of people express an interest in learning how to quilt and so I decided to do a very basic, step by step tutorial of an easy quilt. The reason I chose this pattern of quilt, which is usually referred to as an L Quilt or an L7 Quilt, is because not only is it simple but it’s also a very good quilt to practice a lot of the basic quilting skills. There’s a lot of straight easy sewing involved to perfect those 1/4″ seams and a lot of attention to pressed seam directions which is another important aspect to quilting.
The tutorial below is for a lap quilt but I will explain how to measure fabric for a larger quilt if you would like to make yours bigger. It’s such an easy and fun quilt to sew. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and that is really the most important part of all!!
Before you get started you’re going to need a few basic tools:
- Rotary cutter and cutting mat – the rotary cutter is a handy tool to make straight cuts quickly and easily and a mat is essential for protecting the work surface.
- Quilting Ruler(s) – At least one ruler that is approx. 6″ x 24″. I also found a smaller 6.5″square ruler helpful but not necessary.
- Cushion Square and Blocker – Again, this one is not necessary but I’ve found it is really helpful.
For this quilt I kept it simple by only using two fabrics but it is possible to use more than two if you would like. The great thing about quilting is you can take a simple pattern and make it your own with a few simple changes.
To make it bigger is simple – each finished block is 8″ by 8″ so multiply 8 by how ever many blocks you want in the width and length. So for example, a typical commercial size twin comforter is 65″ x 88″ so if you would like to make your quilt that size you would have to do 8 blocks in a row by 11 rows. This might seem confusing when it comes to buying fabric, but it’s actually just a little basic math.
Each block takes two 2.5″ x 22″ strips of fabric, for this quilt I used one strip of blue and one of white. Next take the amount of blocks you would like to make and times it by 2.5″. My quilt is 5 blocks wide and 7 blocks long, 35 blocks total: 2.5″ x 35 = 87.5″ (88″). Since fabric is usually 44″ wide from salvage to salvage, when you fold it over you get two 22″ strips out of it, so you need to divide 88″ by 2 and that will give you the amount you need per fabric to make your blocks – 1 1/3 yards. You will also need fabric for the backing and because this quilt is only 40″ wide, we only need 1 2/3 yards for the back. Plus you will also need another half yard for the binding.
If at any point in this tutorial you have questions send me an email and I will be more than happy to help.
To make it easy…this is what you need to replicate this quilt:
- 1 and 2/3 yards of the main fabric – In my quilt it’s the blue, for blocks and binding.
- 3 yards of the contrast fabric – In my quilt it’s the white, for blocks and backing.
- Quilt batting approx. 44″ x 60″ – it’s always good to have your batting a little larger than your quilt size. I like to use Warm & Natural, it has a nice weight to it and gives my quilts a good look and feel. It costs a little more than purely synthetic batting but I find it’s worth it especially when it holds up nicely wash after wash.
- Thread – enough to sew your pieces together and to quilt it, a medium to large size spool should do nicely.
Now you’re ready for the fun to begin!
- Start by pressing your fabric to remove any wrinkles or creases. Some people like to wash their fabric first, I personally prefer not too. I find it’s easier to handle when it hasn’t been washed, plus I like the wrinkly quilt look that comes from washing the quilt after it’s completely finished.
- Fold fabric from salvage edge to salvage edge (this is the way it comes from the store or finished edge to finished edge), it should measure 22″, then cut 2.5″ strips, 18 of each fabric (remember it’s folded in half, so that will actually give you 36 strips). Set the rest of your fabric aside for later.
- With right sides together, place strip A on strip B. The right side of the fabric is the front side of the fabric or the bright side; it’s the side you want showing.
- Sew a 1/4 inch seam all the way down each strip. I like to feed the strips through the machine constantly sewing, this is called “assembly piecing” or “chain piecing“, not only does this speed up the process but it also keeps the fabric moving through the feed dogs smoothly.
- I usually just let the sewn strips pile up behind my sewing machine…it’s fun to watch the pile grow.
- Snip the thread between the strips apart and bring them to the ironing board.
- With the darker fabric on top, press the seam, this sets the stitches into the fabric. I like to use my cushion square and blocker when I press because it keeps me aware of the blocks shape and helps avoid the fabric from stretching. When pressing the block try to avoid pushing and pulling the fabric around with your iron, you want your pieces to maintain their shapes in order to get all your seems to match when you assemble your quilt.
- Let the block rest while it cools down. It only takes a moment and it also helps keep the block shape.
- Slowly press the the strip open, until the full strip is flat with the seam towards the darker fabric. Again, press it down gently, don’t push and pull the iron.
- Check to make sure the strip is square and not stretched out and that the seam is is fully pressed open to give the perfect measurement. If you take a ruler to it now, your strip should measure 4.5″ wide. There should be 2.25″ of each fabric on either side of the seam.
- Next, lay the ruler flat on the strip so that one of the lines on the ruler runs straight with the seam. There should be 2.25″ of each fabric on either side. Take your rotary cutter and square off your strip by cutting a small piece of fabric to start.
- Now that your long strip has a nice straight edge, line up your ruler and cut your strip into 4.5″ pieces.
- You should be able to get four out of the same strip and still have a tiny piece extra.
- Get rid of the extra scrap pieces (If there is more than 2.5″ of left over strip I like to save it for another project).
- Lay out your four squares, let’s call them A, B, C and D. Place two on top (A and B) and two on bottom (C and D).
- Take square A and turn it clockwise once – easy, peasy!
- Now go ahead and take square B and turn it clockwise twice.
- Take square C and turn it counter clockwise once while leaving square D alone. Now you can see your block design!
- With your squares laid out correctly, simply flip square B on top of square A.
- Make sure right sides are together.
- Flip square D on top of square C, right sides together.
- Sew a 1/4″ seam along the right side of both sets of squares.
If at any point you start to get frustrated – stop! – set it down, get up and take a deep breath. Make yourself a tea and relax! Remember quilting is fun!
- Press your seems and let them rest, then lay them out. You can see how the front looks by the top one and the bottom is how the back will look.
- Notice how all the seams are pressed towards the dark fabric where possible. That is important!
- This is how they will look when they’re ready.
- You’ll probably realize that the two pieces are actually the same piece, one is just turned clockwise twice. Since this is the case, it makes it easy to sew the remaining pieces quickly.
- I like to set up my squares next to each other and place square B on top of the square A with right sides together, then sew them on the right side with a 1/4″ seam allowance. This allows the process to go faster.
- Set the seams and press them all towards the darker fabric. Then take your finished pieces and place them right sides together correctly so that they will form your block pattern.
- Place your middle seams together so that when sewn all the seams will meet perfectly.
- This is where pressing your seams in the right direction will help you! You will notice that the pressed seams fold in opposite directions and “lock” or “nest” the seams together. This is something you want on all your major seams because it will help all your pieces line up together nicely. It’s a little secret that will help you quilt like a pro!
Take your time! Remember – it’s not a race!
- Once you have all four of the little squares sewn together to make a full block, you might notice the middle bit of seam is kind of bulky. This will make it a little harder to quilt later and cause your quilt to have little bumps. So you want to open up that bulky little section and iron it out. Start by seam ripping the little seams in the middle.
- Gently pull those few little stitches out making sure not to go below the seam that is going perpendicular to it. There should only be two or three stitches.
- Now do the same to the little seam on the other side, again making sure not too go to low.
- Once you have those few stitches removed and you lay your block flat you’ll notice that the four main seams kind of fall in the clockwise direction on their own creating a little square in the very middle. Use your finger to flatten the square out.
- Press the four main seams clockwise around the block so that they are all going in the same direction, making sure to keep previous seams pressed in their original directions.
- Now you should have your full blocks, properly pressed will all your seams matching up in the middle. Great job!!
- Place two blocks together, we’ll call them block A and block B.
- Next flip block B onto block A, with right sides together. You’ll notice again, where the two seams meet up, they are going in opposite directions so that you can “lock” or “nest” them together.
- Sew the two blocks together using a 1/4″ seam, press the seam to set it and lay them out. Don’t press the seam in either direction yet, that will come later. Sew 6 more sets of two blocks together.
Next sew three blocks together, set the seams but again, do not press the seams in any direction yet. Sew together 6 more sets of three blocks together.
Now sew all seven sets of two blocks to the seven sets of three blocks so that you have seven strips total comprising of 5 blocks in each strip.
This is where you’re going to press the seams. Starting with the first strip press the seams to the left, then with the second strip press the seams to the right. Alternate the direction of the seams with each strip until all seven have been pressed.
When you go to sew the strips of blocks together make sure the seams line up and “lock” or “nest” together. This will help ensure your blocks line up perfectly. When you’ve sewn all the strips together, you’re quilt top is finished!
Congratulations!! Wasn’t that fun!