Tumble-Down Quilt

Recently I made my first machine-stitched quilt.

I had not been planning to make a quilt – it just, sort of… happened!

I signed up to do a Creative Stitches course with Workers’ Educational Association at Bolton Museum. I didn’t realise when I signed on the dotted line that the course was concentrating on Patchwork and Quilting and, initially, I was quite disappointed. However, I decided to make the most of it.

For the first couple of weeks or so I tried the different techniques our tutor showed us but when I asked her about which direction the template had to be placed in relation to the straight grain she didn’t seem to know. At that point, my interest in the course plummeted. Although I am very lazy and like to find shortcuts for my work, I like to be taught the correct way to do things so that if I don’t follow the rules it’s because that’s what I choose, rather than because I don’t know any better.

Anyway, one week I decided to try my hand at making a block of patchwork. I think I only tried it because I wasn’t feeling inspired to do anything else in particular. One of my stated aims for the course was to become more confident using colours and patterns so I thought that making a log cabin block would give me a good chance to work towards that aim.

I began by selecting some pieces of blue fabric from those available in class and cutting them to size. I didn’t really know what I was doing but remembered my partner’s mother telling me about cutting on the straight grain of the fabric so I applied my own logic in the hope that what I was doing would work. I then began to handsew the block. Even though I was very careful it ended up slightly askew. Oops!

I began stitching the blocks together on the sewing machine and was pleased to make fairly quick progress. I was talking to a friend about it and she mentioned that I could cut strips, stitch them to the block and then trim them, rather than having to do lots of precise measuring and cutting – an ideal shortcut for me!

I decided not to worry about which patterns I put together. My colour theme was blue but I had included lots of scraps that had just a little blue. I showed my partner one of the first blocks that I made but his nose turned up at the colour scheme. My reaction showed me how far I had come on my sewing journey and how my colour- and pattern-senses were improving. Although he knows huge amounts about colour and commented that those I had used didn’t ‘work’ together, I stood my ground and told him that as the quilt progressed the colours in the other fabrics would pull the whole project together. On some of the blocks I decided to have a different fabric for each piece, on others I would have light on two sides and dark on the other two [sometimes adjacent, sometimes opposite] and I made a couple of blocks of Courthouse Steps [simply because I liked the design!].

It took me a couple of weeks to complete the quilt. I had no idea what size I wanted to do, or how to put the strips of fabric between the blocks and around the edges. I just pulled out a piece of fabric from the bags of scraps and slapped it on to the blocks.

I spent a short while deciding where to place some of the blocks then set to work sewing them all together into strips. Unfortunately the strips ended up quite different lengths so I ‘fudged it’ a bit to equalise them! I used 2oz polyester wadding and backed it with a piece of white self-patterned cotton fabric. I decided to machine-quilt it ‘in the ditch’ around the centre square of each block. The squares are not symmetrical – but I don’t care as I am very happy with the result. I machine-stitched all around the edges using a decorative stitch on my Brother Super Ace II.

And this is the end result… my Tumble Down Quilt, so-called because if it really were a log cabin, it would ‘tumble down’.

Upon completion of the quilt, I began to work out roughly what it had cost. Amazingly it only cost me around £1.00 to £1.50 as I used donated scraps and offcuts. I had not realised the exceptionally low cost of production but now felt the need to splurge!

Radcliffe, here I come.


Later in the course, one of the participants measured and cut several pieces of fabric which she was going to use for a log cabin block at home. She then changed her mind and our tutor was left with a pile of scraps that had been cut to size. Because of my fame [or is that my infamy?] for using scraps, not throwing things away and recycling anything and everything, the tutor immediately offered me the fabric, which I accepted. Below you will see the tote bag I made using the scraps on one side and a motif cut from another fabric [that was being thrown away] which I sewed on the other side.




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