I read an article recently by Charlotte Hilton Andersen entitled 12 Signs of Adult ADHD and am amazed at how many of the signs apply to me. I’m not sure why I am amazed, but I am. Perhaps because way back when I was a kid, ADHD was not yet a popular diagnosis.
I’ve always assumed it is my impatient personality (I am an Aries, and Arians are known for being impatient) that prevents me from tackling projects that take too long to complete. Take sewing for example. I have created several quilts over the years, but they take me forever to complete. I do, however, fare better if I have a specific deadline to meet. I much prefer DIY projects that I can finish off in a day or two. My success rate for those is much higher. I don’t have time to get distracted.
This aversion to time-consuming projects explains why I donated fabric when my neighbour began sewing masks in the fight against COVID-19, instead of offering to sew any myself. You can probably guess where the fabric came from…yes, unfinished quilts. I am just happy this fabric I had good intentions of using (someday) has (finally) gone to good use, instead of taking up space in storage buckets.
Oh, and quitting the yoga session before the final relaxation step? That is so me!
Surely I am not the only one. How many of these signs apply to you? I can think of a few people I know of, but I won’t name any names.
Well, this rag quilt has taken me almost a year to finish, but finish it I did, finally. Although I would not recommend this particular DIY project for a beginner sewer, you could start with a small-sized one. Crib size would be much more manageable.
The process is simple, start with squares cut from assorted fabric. Preferred fabrics include flannels and quilting cotton because they fray well. Other fabrics, such as denim, could be used but they are not as soft. As my grandson’s room will be dinosaur-themed, I chose a white flannel with blue, green, and red dinosaurs on it as the main fabric. I complemented that with solid blue, green and red fabrics and a red polka dot fabric.
Wash all fabric first, then iron it smooth before you start cutting. Calculate how many squares you need of each fabric, keeping in mind that each finished square on the quilt requires three cut fabric squares. Because my quilt was so large, I actually used a spreadsheet to calculate how many of each I needed. Lots. Use a quilter’s template (a big plastic square that has dimensions marked on it for easy measurement) to measure and cut your squares. A rotary cutter works best. I did this step last spring when watching the Ottawa Senators in the NHL playoffs.
When you have all your squares cut, you then make the “sandwiches” using three squares in each. The lesson I learned here is not to use the solid red or polka dot red as a middle square (the few that I did bled through the white main fabric on top when washed). The last three pictures above show the sandwiches I used, with the last two overlapped to show the possible color combinations.
When your sandwiches are assembled, sew an X through each one to hold all three layers in place. Then sew squares together to make rows. It helps to have a pattern (that’s why I used a spreadsheet) to consult with to keep the squares in the right order within the rows. Sew using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, paying close attention as to which sides should be together. You must keep all the seams on one side of the quilt. This is trickier than it sounds because as a sewer you are trained to put the “good sides” together, leaving the seams on the “bad side” On this rag quilt there is no good and bad side.
When the rows are complete, you then sew them together to form the quilt. I laid my rows out on a bed (a floor or table would work if your quilt is smaller) to keep the rows in order. Be sure to sew around the perimeter of the quilt too, also using a half-inch allowance.
Next, using very sharp sewing scissors or a rag quilt cutter (below) snip into all (including outer edge) seam allowances, being very careful not to snip the actual seam. The next step is to wash the quilt (on a very low, setting equivalent to a hand washing) to encourage the seam allowances to fray. It’s called a rag quilt for this reason.
The final result is quite satisfyingly striking, even though I had a few discouraging setbacks. I learned these lessons the hard way:
use heavy duty sewing machine needles, the first few I used kept snapping because of the thickness of the fabric layers
wash all of the fabrics well first, before you start cutting the squares to cut down on “bleeding” (that’s where the color of one fabric soaks into another) The worst bleeders are red fabrics.
use a plastic template and rotary cutter to cut your squares to ensure precise cutting. Any errors will show up glaringly when you join the squares and rows!
do not use cotton thread, it breaks much more than polyester thread
be very careful when snipping into seam allowances. If you mistakenly cut into a seam, your quilt will be full of holes after the first wash. I had to reinforce a few seams that my clippers got too close to by hand sewing them.
One of the DIY projects I worked on for Christmas gifts included what I call a cheater quilt. I call it that because it takes a lot less time and fabric than a real, patchwork quilt. I have made several of the latter over the years so I know the difference.
Everything you Need for a Cheater Quilt
a panel (precut piece with a cute pattern on it) of fabric. Choose the pattern wisely, based on how much quilting you want to do or have time for. (Busy/complicated patterns will take much longer than simple ones)
a piece of complementary fabric for the backing, the same size as the panel. Most of these panels have a row of colored dots along the edge showing the colors used in the pattern. Use these dots to choose a coordinating or complementary fabric for the backing.
a piece of batting, also same size as the panel
some large safety pins
a good pair of sewing scissors
contrasting or complementary thread (I used white all over, but you can mix it up!)
iron both the panel and backing
lie the panel on the floor or a table, with the good side facing up
place the piece of batting on top
place the backing fabric on top of those two pieces, with good side facing down
you now have a “sandwich” with three layers
sew three edges (2 long and 1 short if quilt is rectangular) together, using 1/2 inch seam allowance
snip corners of seam allowances so seams will lie flat.
turn the quilt right side out, so both fabrics show their right side and batting is the middle layer.
hand stitch last side.
evenly distribute safety pins throughout quilt top, pinning all three layers together. This prevents the layers from shifting while you are quilting. I choose spots at the edge of the various design patterns in the fabric panel as those spots will be sewn over. (otherwise you may end up with holes in your fabric where no pattern in)
sew around the design patterns in the fabric panel to achieve a quilted look. Try to stay on the lines for a tidy look. This is referred to as “stitch in the ditch.”
ensure quilting is evenly spaced over the quilt to avoid bunching of batting when completed. In my panel I stitched around the large patterns, around the edging and around the floral pattern in the corners etc.
remove the safety pins. If you have placed them on the edges of the pattern as suggested, remove them as you quilt.
The Finished Product
The finished project, a DIY cheater quilt, can be hung on the wall (add tabs to the top) or used as a baby blanket for the crib or stroller. These make great, personal gifts for the mother-to-be on your gift list. Choose fabrics to complement their nursery décor as I did here with a baby jungle and pink/green color scheme. You can see I forgot to iron my panel and backing before I started; oops. I hung the finished quilt in a steamy bathroom to remove the wrinkles instead. It is not advisable to iron a finished quilt as a hot iron will flatten the puffiness.