My First Quilt

Up until a few months ago, I was quilt-indifferent. I had nothing against quilts. In fact, I was very loyal to a particular twin-size comforter from Target all throughout college. It just never occurred to me that I should try to make a quilt. Quilting has always seemed so distant from the kinds of things I like to sew.

I’m not sure exactly when my switch flipped, but I can say that meeting Suzy of Suzy Quilts opened my eyes to the wonderful world of modern quilts. I met Suzy this summer at a photoshoot for Oak Fabrics, and I have been gleefully stalking her gorgeous Instagram feed ever since.

holding bow and arrows quilt

While I had big plans to make a queen-size quilt to fit my bed, I soon realized that was waaaaay too ambitious for a first project. This is the baby-size Bow and Arrows pattern by Suzy Quilts, which came as a free download when I signed up for the SQ newsletter.

I used fabric from my stash for every piece of this quilt. I initially bought the blue and red florals to make an Alder Shirtdress, but the material was way too sheer (it’s cotton lawn—I should have known better), and I was afraid of looking like a picnic blanket/tablecloth. Luckily, those fabrics worked well for a red, white, and many-shades-of-blue quilt. I am an American, after all.

bow and arrows quilt full

The dark blue denim comes from an old pair of trousers, the medium printed denim is for a soon-to-be Morris Blazer, the grayish striped fabric is a chambray from my stash, and the in-your-face graphic red sateen is leftover from my beloved Cardamome Dress.

bow and arrows quilt red closeup

I knew I was holding on to those scraps for a reason! Now I see a whole new world of possibilities for my random, too-small-to-do-me-any-good remnants.

Batting is the one item I should have bought anew. Veteran quilters: I am a dummy, and you should make fun of me for what I’m about to admit. I had just enough Insul-Bright for the baby-size quilt, and that’s what I used. If you’ve ever used insulated batting, you know that it is very loud and crinkly. And, I’d imagine, a lot stiffer than your average cotton or poly-blend batting. Luckily this is going on the wall, not a bed. No one (but you) will ever know. Shhhhh.

looking bow and arrows quilt

Since this was very much a learning process for me, I figured I’d simply share…

What I Learned Sewing My First Quilt

Quilts take forever. There’s the cutting—so much cutting. Then the block assembly. Laying it out to check the design. The quilt assembly. Just when you think you’re starting to get somewhere, BAM! You realize you’re only one-third of the way done with the quilt top. And then once you finally finish the quilt top (hooray!), the actual quilting (you know, what makes it look like a quilt) is there to laugh in your sweaty face. That said, it was worth it in the end.

Precision is key. When it came time to “square” the quilt, I lost a couple inches of width at the edges, most likely because I didn’t cut perfectly on the grain or measure my fabric carefully enough before cutting. Also, a 1/4″ seam allowance means 1/4″. Some of my arrows are sharper than others because my seam allowance mysteriously grew in certain places…

bow and arrows quilt closeup quilting

I need a thimble. I used Suzy’s tutorial to create and attach the binding. Per her recommendation, I decided to secure it by hand for a clean finish. I like this type of simple hand sewing because it’s so meditative. But after two long hand sewing sessions, my right ring finger was killing me. I’d been pushing the needle through multiple layers of fabric with the sensitive skin next to my nail. Oops! Pure, absentminded masochism.

There are many ways to hang a quilt. The quilt is done, yay! I even found the perfect spot for it. Horizontally above my bed, in case you were wondering. Now, how the hell do I hang it? Suzy suggests sewing a fabric sleeve to the back of the quilt and hanging it on a piece of plywood. Martha Stewart’s guru uses plywood and velcro. Craftsy suggests quilt magnets. Then there’s the self-leveling Hang It Dang It rod. What would you do?

bow and arrows quilt corner

Looking at these photos, I probably should have added a few more lines of vertical quilting stitches on the arrow sections. But you know what, I was tired of quilting and ready to be done. So I stopped, and no one gave me an F. Oh, the beauty of a hobby that’s 100% your own.

It is so very far from perfect, but I am pretty pleased with my first attempt at a quilt. Are you a quilter? Do you have any required reading or tips for a beginner?



8 thoughts on “My First Quilt

  1. My description of quilters is usually “they’re not like you and me”. Well, they’re not like me, anyway. ; ) I tend to trust Martha about things like quilt hanging and madeleine recipes and what to glue or not glue to a pumpkin. So the big stuff!


  2. I absolutely agree with your description of how quilts take forever!! My first (and currently only) quilt was quite a surprise in turning out to be a monster job. (but I did jump into the deep end with a 2m square quilt!) sewing with a thimble is indispensable, I actually cannot handsew without one…enjoy your quilt! 😊


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