Have you found yourself looking at the calendar asking, “Where did the school year go”? With summer quickly approaching, students are counting down the days until the last school bell of the year, while teachers are reflecting on the leaps & bounds made throughout the year (ok… they may also be thinking about that last bell too!) Need a little help dreaming up a thoughtful end-of-year gift for your child’s teacher? Spoonflower team member Meredith demonstrates how to make a personalized cheater quilt for approximately $50 using student artwork and Spoonflower’s newest feature, Fill-A-Yard™.
Materials & tools
Let’s start first with the list of materials that you will need to finish your quilt. You can collect these materials and get everything ready so you are ready to sew when your fabric arrives.
- Quilt Top: Your Cheater Quilt Fabric (1 yard) ordered from Spoonflower
- Quilt Backing & Binding: 2 yards of coordinating fabric. I ordered a coordinating gradient fabric from Spoonflower for the backing and binding. You could also use 2 yards of a solid color. If you choose another fabric, it needs to be the same width (56 inches) as your quilt top and should be a similar weight.
- Batting: 40 x 60 inches. I like 100% cotton batting for my quilts. My favorite is Warm & Natural by the Warm Company.
- Masking tape
- Large safety pins (you need at least 100)
- Rotary cutter, mat and ruler
- Coordinating sewing thread
- Sharp sewing scissors
- Sewing needle. I recommend a small embroidery needle because they have a large eye which is easy to thread.
- Your sewing machine
- Seam ripper (because you know you will need one)
- Optional. If you want to tie your quilt instead of machine quilting, you will want to get embroidery thread or perle cotton in a coordinating color.
I want to start out by saying right away that there is no “right” way to make a quilt. I am going to give you the steps I used to make this quilt, but there are many different ways to put them together. I used the sewing machine to assemble and do the quilting for my quilt, but you can also hand quilt or tie your quilt. I will talk about those options in the next lesson.
Setting up your machine.
Make sure your sewing machine is in good working order. Take a minute to brush away the dust and lint. It is always a good idea to put in a new sewing machine needle when you start a big project. For this project, you need just a basic needle for mid-weight fabrics.
Choose a thread color and wind a bobbin or two. For my quilt, I chose to use a rainbow variegated thread in the bobbin for everything and I switched colors for the top thread to match the colored block I was quilting.
Make sure you have plenty of space. This will be a somewhat large and unwieldy piece of fabric to be stitching. Make sure you have extra table space to the side and back of your machine so that you can move it around freely.
If your machine has a walking foot, you might consider using it for this project as they are designed to help with thick layers of fabric and will help keep the layers from shifting as you quilt. Here is a post that tells you more about walking feet and how to use them.
Quilt skills and vocabulary.
These are some basic sewing skills and vocabulary to review before you start making your quilt. If you don’t feel confident, practice with some scrap fabric before you dive into your quilt. Potholders make great practice quilt projects!
Straight stitch. Set up your machine to stitch a basic straight stitch. For my machine, I like a stitch length of about 2.5, which is about 10 stitches to the inch. Make a swatch with a couple of scraps of fabric and batting and see if the stitches look the way you want them too.
Pivot. I traced concentric squares around the center, middle row and outside edge of all of the patchwork blocks with quilting. This means I am going to need to pivot at a lot of corners to make those squares. To pivot, slow down as you get right to the end of the quilting line. Stop with the needle in the fabric. Pick up the presser foot, rotate the fabric 90 degrees, and put the presser foot back down to continue stitching.
Backtack. Backtacking means to make 3-4 stitches in reverse at the beginning and end of your stitching line. This reinforces the end of the stitching. We will use this when putting on the quilt binding.
Selvedge. The selvedge edge of the fabric are the finished woven edges that follow the lengthwise grain of the fabric.
Binding. The quilt binding is the narrow strip of fabric around the outside edge of the quilt that you use to finish off the raw edges. For this quilt, I used the extra backing fabric to make the binding as well.
Preparing your fabrics.
As soon as you have your quilt fabrics, take a minute to admire them and then wash, dry and press each fabric. I always pre-wash fabrics because I want to make sure that if they are going to shrink or change in any way that they do it before I sew. For sateen fabric, Spoonflower recommends to machine wash warm or cool on a gentle/delicate setting, using phosphate-free detergent.
Finishing your quilt.
The first step in the quilting process is to trim your fabrics to size.
- Quilt top. Trim away the selvedges and extra unprinted edges. Set this aside.
- Backing. Cut a piece from the 2 yds of backing fabric that is 56” (full width) x 40 inches. We want the backing to be a little larger than the front to start.
- Binding. Fold the remaining piece of backing fabric in half, matching the selvedges. We will cut these pieces doubled, perpendicular to the selvedges. Using the rotary cutter and ruler, cut 4 strips that are each 3 inches wide. Trim away the unprinted edges and selvedges.
The remaining backing fabric you can set aside for another use.
Laying out the quilt layers.
You will need a large table or other flat space to lay out your quilt. I don’t have a table that’s large enough, so I end up using the well-swept hardwood floor in my dining room. Lay the backing fabric face down on the table. Using small strips of masking tape, tape the corners and sides of the backing fabric to the table. Pull it smooth and tight, but don’t pull so hard that you distort the fabric. Taping down the fabric allows you to get all of the layers smooth without adding any wrinkles or puckers underneath where you can’t see it. Add a couple of extra strips of tape to mark where the edges of the printing are on the selvedge edges of your
backing fabric. This will help you line up the top layer.
Place the batting on top of the backing fabric. Starting from the center, smooth the batting all the way to the edges. The batting will want to stick to the backing fabric, so you may have to pick it up and lay it back down if you have large puckers or wrinkles.
Place the quilt top face up on the top. Placing the quilt top takes just a little patience to get it aligned just right. Since your backing fabric is exactly the same printed width as the top, you want to alight carefully so that the top isn’t hanging over into the unprinted area. Use the extra tape marks to help line it up. Again, starting in the center, smooth the fabric all the way to the edges. Be careful not to distort or skew the fabric. Patience will pay off.
Using the safety pins, pin through all of the layers about every 4-6 inches. I put about 9 pins in each patchwork block and then put a pin every 6 inches around, placed about 3 inches in from the outside edge. Use lots of pins. They are going to keep everything from shifting as you quilt it.
Choose your quilting.
It is important to do something to hold all of the layers of the quilt together and that is where quilting or tying comes in. You have 3 options for quilting your quilt: by machine, by hand, or tying.
Machine quilting. I machine quilted my quilt by stitching concentric squares in each patchwork block. I chose a top thread color to match the color of the block and used rainbow variegated thread in the bobbin for everything.
I started quilting with the two blocks in the center and then worked towards the outside. Use a straight stitch and backtack at the start and stop. For each block, I started with the small square in the center and worked to the outside, stitching around each edge of the square and pivoting at each corner.
Some tips for machine quilting.
- Roll up the part of the quilt you are not working on. This rolled edge will give you an easy way to hang on to the quilt and will keep the extra fabric out of the way.
- I use both hands to guide the fabric, holding the quilt rolls on both sides of the needle and pulling it slightly tight from side to side. I think this helps keep it from forming little puckers under the needle.
- Be patient. The layers of fabric will want to shift a bit, especially when you get to the corners where the start and stop of your stitching meets. Stitching slowly and taking time to smooth everything out will help.
Hand quilting. You can choose to hand-stitch your quilting lines. There is a great tutorial here with tips to get you started with hand quilting.
Tying. Tying is probably the quickest way to finish your quilt. Use a long piece of embroidery thread doubled over. From the front side, make a small stitch (1/8 inch) through all of the layers of the quilt, leaving a 2 inch tail. Stitch again very close to your first stitch and pull the thread through again to the front. Trim so you have another 2 inch tail. Tie the two ends together using a square knot. You want to make ties about every 4 inches all over the surface of your quilt.
Baste the outside edge.
When you are done quilting, switch the stitch length on your machine to be slightly longer and stitch through all layers about 1/4 inch from the outside raw edge of your quilt. Trim away the excess batting and backing to match the quilt top. You can remove the safety pins.
Join and press the binding.
Join the binding strips together end to end, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance to make one long strip. Press the seam allowances open. Now fold the binding strip in half, matching the long edges of the binding strip together and press.
Stitch the binding with a mitered corner.
Set the quilt on a table face up. Starting in the middle of one side, match the raw edge of the binding strip to the raw edge of the quilt. The folded edge will be towards the center. Pin the strip in place until you are 1/2 inch from the corner. Place a pin at 1/2 in from the corner to mark where you should stop stitching. Starting about 1/2 inch from the end of the strip, stitch 1/2 inch from the raw edge until you reach your stop mark. Don’t forget to backtack at the beginning and end.
To make the mitered corner, fold the unsewn tail of quilt binding straight up, so that its raw edge is parallel with the next side of the quilt we are going to stitch. Right at the corner where you stopped sewing, there will now be a 45 degree fold. Fold the binding down, so the next fold matches the edge of the quilt top behind it and its raw edge is aligned with the next side of the quilt. Pin the corner folds and edge of the quilt and then stitch this new side, stopping again 1/2 inch from the corner. Repeat for all sides of the quilt. When you reach the beginning of the binding, overlap the ends, trim away the extra binding fabric and join the lines of stitching.
To finish the binding, fold it over and turn it towards the back of the quilt. Use a needle and thread with small slip stitches to secure the folded edge of the binding to the back of the quilt, covering the raw edge and the line of stitching. If you don’t know how to do a slip stitch, there is a nice tutorial here.
When you get to the corners, the miters should just fold into place in the front and you just need to make a little tuck to make a matching miter on the back and stitch it down as you go.
Please show us your finished quilts by sharing a photo using hashtag#SpoonChallenge on your favorite social media outlet! We would love to see them.
The next step is to place the patchwork blocks into your design. Open the file you worked on last week where you have prepared with the background and border.
Illustrator: Choose File -> Place. Choose one of the patchwork blocks saved on your hard drive and click Place.
Photoshop: Choose File -> Place Embedded. Choose one of the patchwork blocks saved on your hard drive and click Place.
This is the step where the rulers and grid will be very helpful. I centered the patchwork blocks in the design and left 2 inch borders between them. Click and drag the first patchwork block so that the top left corner of the block is at 8 inches (right) and 5 inches (down) from the corner of the design. [Read more…] about Cheater Quilt Lesson Four: Placing the Blocks
Now that you have created your six patchwork blocks, it is time to put together the whole quilt design. You can do this using Photoshop or Illustrator (or even another graphics program you are familiar with) by following the same basic steps. Each program handles things a little differently, but you can accomplish the design with either. I prefer Illustrator for this kind of layout, but I will help you with notes for both. (Note, my screenshots and instructions are for the most current versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. If you have an older version, the same tools will be there, they just might be located in a slightly different place.)
Create your canvas.
I am going to first make a blank canvas that is exactly the size of the top of the quilt. For this design I chose one yard of sateen fabric, which is 56 x 36 inches, so I chose File -> New and set it to 56 x 36 inches at 150 dpi or 8400 x 5400 pixels.
Add the background color.
Choose a color for the background of your design. I picked a cool grey (#A09F9E) because I felt it made my rainbow blocks really pop. I like to use the Spoonflower Color Map to pick a color because I will know exactly what it looks like when it’s printed. I keep my color map folded up in the drawer of my computer desk.
Some ideas for choosing a color:
Coordinating. Think about the colors in your design and pick something that relates, like a darker or lighter shade of one of the colors in your theme. If you have all blues and greens in your design, icy blue, navy or deep green might make a great background.
Contrast. Try pairing a neutral with brights. I chose grey to make my bright rainbow patches really pop. If you have neutral colored photos (like black and whites) then you might pick a vibrant background color.
Illustrator: Draw a rectangle that fills the entire canvas and set the fill color to the color you have chosen.
Photoshop: Make a new layer and choose Edit -> Select All. Then choose your color and Edit -> Fill.
Turn on grids and rulers.
I like to turn on a couple of tools to help with layout. If you don’t already have them active, you can turn on rulers which will add measurements all along the sides of your canvas. Additionally, you can turn on grid view which will lay a grid of evenly spaced lines (like graph paper) over your image. These won’t print out or show on your final saved document, but they will help you line everything up as you are working.
Illustrator: Go to View -> Rulers -> Show Rulers. Then go to View -> Show Grid. You can adjust the spacing on the grid under Illustrator -> Preferences. I like to have lines every 1 inch.
Photoshop: Go to View -> Rulers to turn on the rulers. Go to View -> Show -> Grid to turn on the grid. You can adjust the spacing on the grid under Photoshop -> Preferences. I like to have lines every 1 inch.
Add a border.
For my design, I added a white border of small squares. This is the only step where it will matter a bit if you are using Photoshop or Illustrator; the design will be slightly different.
Illustrator: I am going to create a really simple custom brush to make the border squares design. Anywhere on the canvas, draw a small square (1.5 x 1.5 inches) using the square tool. Fill it with the same grey as your background and outline it in white. Select the square and drag it onto the brushes palette. A “New Brush” window will pop up. Choose “Pattern Brush” from the options.
“Pattern Brush Options” will then pop up where you can adjust many settings for your brush. I set the spacing to 50% and chose “Add space to fit” under the Fit section. I left everything else as the default. (If you are interested in learning more about making custom brushes, look here for a great tutorial.)
To add this border to the design, draw a new rectangle that is 51 x 31 inches and center it in the canvas. With this new rectangle selected, click on your new custom brush from the Brushes palette. It should outline the new large rectangle with a chain of squares.
Photoshop: Unfortunately, Photoshop works with custom brushes differently and it is harder to make a border like we did in Illustrator. Instead we will draw just a simple frame. Use the rectangle tool to make a rectangle that is 51 x 31 inches, centered in the canvas. Then go to Window -> Properties to adjust the fill and outline color of this shape and the thickness of the outline.
Save your file. Use the “native” file type for the program you are using. For Illustrator that is .ai and for Photoshop .psd. Usually it will default to this type. This format will save all of the layers, grids and allow us to continue to adjust the file in the next lesson. You will need a .jpg before you print the design, but you don’t want to save it that way at this step. We will add the patchwork blocks in the next lesson and get it ready to print.
- Set up your file.
- Choose a background color.
- Add the border.
Show us a screenshot. How did you choose your background color? What kind of border did you design?
It is time to put together the patchwork squares! We are going to use the collage tool at PicMonkey to create our patchwork blocks. [Read more…] about Cheater Quilt Lesson Two: Assembling your color collages
Choose a colorway or theme.
Your first design choice is to pick a colorway for your quilt. I chose a rainbow with one patchwork square in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. [Read more…] about Cheater Quilt Lesson One: Developing your theme & curating photos
Join us for a three week series with Becka Rahn, co-author of The Spoonflower Handbook, on learning how to transform your favorite photos into the perfect memory quilt. Each week, starting Tuesday, November 17th, we will share a lesson or two on the blog with instructions on how to execute a bite-size piece of the project. We used Instagram photos and a polychrome theme, but you can use any special photos and color palette. Share your progress using hashtag #SpoonChallenge along the way using the social media platform of your choice! [Read more…] about How to Create a Photo Cheater Quilt
For the uninitiated, we should probably begin by explaining that a cheater quilt is a piece of fabric designed to look like patchwork or applique that allows a quilter to avoid piecework and concentrate on quilting. The challenge to designers this week was to create a robot-themed cheater quilt design that fits onto a single yard of our fabulous Kona cotton. Have fun voting!
The participants this week are:
1. I, Robot by forest&sea
2. Inside the robot by mariao
3. "BOT-imore" Album Cheater Quilt by floathandmade
4. "Robots for Girls" by bulldogsandbabies
5. 'Howdee Yul' quilt by amel24
6. 18th century karakuri tea serving doll by chameleonfire
7. A Robot in Love Cheater Quilt by cynthiafrenette
8. All my circuits by tscho
9. AllGearedUp by beckydolley
10. Attic Window Robot Cheater Quilt by joofalltrades
This week's contest is for cheater quilts that mimic the traditional style of Hawaiian quilts, which generally consist of a design in a single color appliqued on top of a background with some sort of border. For examples, of course, you can always check Google images. I had never heard of Hawaiian quilts until Spoonflower team member Holiday stopped by my desk a few weeks ago to show me a little book she'd been reading called "Hawaiian Quilting Made Easy." It really seemed like a perfect fit for a cheater quilt contest. A "cheater quilt," as you probably know, is one in which the design is printed onto the fabric rather than pieced. The entries this week look amazing. I can't wait to see some of the contest fabrics from this week quilted and finished. Please, please, please post photos in the Flickr group!
The participants this week are:
1. Seaweeds and hibiscus flowers cheater quilt by mariao
2. 3 by keskha
3. 8 Bit Crab – Hawaiian Style Cheater Quilt by jesseesuem
4. A Flowery Sugar Skull by my_zoetrope
5. A hawaiian queen's quilt by paragon_studios_one
6. a Hawaiian Quilt by shiny
7. AAaaaaaloha Cheater Quilt by leeleeandthebee
8. After the Rain by kayajoy
9. Akahai Quilt by jennartdesigns
10. Aloha Quilt by resdesigns