How to Make a Quilt By Hand: Reflecting on My First and Latest Projects - and a Contest!

14 Mar 2014

Why did I ever take up quilting? Necessity! I was 16 years old and redecorating my impossibly small bedroom.

how to make a quilt by hand vivika denegre
A section of my second quilt, when I was a newbie at quilt making.
Armed with a redwork pattern of kittens in a variety of poses and a few yards of calico, I set to work. Twelve embroidered blocks later, my neighbor showed me how to make a quilt from my blocks: adding the sashing, tieing the quilt, and finally, binding it. That quilt remained on my childhood bed for years, and eventually was used as a cushion by the family dog.

I'm sorry to say there is no photo of that beginning quilting project, and it was many years before I made another. My second attempt was a much more ambitious--a Storm at Sea pattern--and that sits on the foot of my son's bed. It is so heavy, both visually and literally, that it usually stays folded and is rarely used. I learned so much from making that quilt, from the importance of precision cutting (I discovered rotary cutters half way through its construction) to the need for looking at the value of fabrics as well as the color when designing a quilt top. But, despite all of its construction and design problems, I still feel it deserves a special spot in my home.

These days when I make a quilt, I am much more studied and thoughtful. I sketch, measure, and plan. Sometimes I take weeks working on a design before jumping in with the piecing, and often I have even planned the quilting.

how to make a quilt by hand vivika denegre
My most recent quilt. They both have wave themes,
but my technique has changed considerably!
My latest piece, "Waves at Stony Creek" is one of those highly planned quilts. Despite the appearance of being improvisational, I worked from sketches, revised size and scale to fit hanging requirements, ordered "just enough" fabric (twice) and planned every stitch. This quilt has just been framed and will hang in the lobby of the Maternal Health Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Although there are stark differences between my first quilts and those I make today, there are also many similarities. My heart still races when I start a new quilt, and there is a real feeling of satisfaction when I put in the last stitch. I love every step of making quilts (ok, I don't love adding the hanging sleeve) and can't wait for the next stitching adventure to begin.

So, how did you decide to start quilting? Go back to the time when you made your first quilt, and share your story. And, by sharing your story you have a chance to win big! That's right. Share, enter and you might win up to $200 worth of products. Check out the blog posts by Kristine and Rose for inspiration, get all the contest details, and share your first quilt story.


P.S. These days, when you're learning how to quilt, there are so many options: books, videos, TV shows, and more. Here are some of my favorite resources for beginners and more experienced quilters, from the Quilting Daily Shop:

Quilting Arts CD Collection: When I wanted to learn art quilting techniques, I subscribed to Quilting Arts Magazine. This CD compilation give you the entire first 10 years' worth of articles, all as they originally appeared, in one convenient and economical package.

Vintage Quilt Revival:  This book will teach you basic quilting techniques while creating modern block quilts. The patterns range from beginning quilting projects to advanced, so as your skill grow, you can attempt more complex designs.

Art Quilt Design Quilting Arts Workshop Video:  Value is an important design concept in quilt making, but it can be tricky to learn. I know of no one who uses--and teaches--value better than Carol Taylor.

"Quilting Arts TV": We like to say that "QATV" is the magazine come to life. In 13 seasons, the show has covered everything from quilting for beginners to soy wax batik to digital design--and everything in between.

Hand-Carving Premium Collection:  Printing on fabric is one of the easiest surface design techniques to learn. This collection includes two hour-long videos on surface design and stamp carving, plus a stamp-carving kit. 


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Comments

Linda1313 wrote
on 14 Mar 2014 5:22 PM

My friend, Fran, and I kept talking about learning to quilt but didn't ever start.  She phoned me one day to say that she had signed us up for a beginner's quilting class.  That was our start - 33 years ago - we made our first quilt.  We still get together every week to sew and have done many, many projects together.

on 15 Mar 2014 7:01 AM

A lady I worked with brought a quilt she made to show a co-worker. I was admiring it and she kept saying "If I can do it, you can do it" and it turned into a dare. I think she knew the challenge would create a "quilting monster".  It all started with a dresden plate twin quilt and has never stopped.  I am now teaching classes at my guild and enjoying every minute of it.  There is always a new quilt top in my mind, choosing a pattern and fabrics is such a joy but seeing the finished quilt keeps the creative juices flowing and dreams of the next one.

abbyfuller wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 10:34 AM

I had dabbled with patchwork before making my first quilt. As a teenager I made a patchwork horse blanket for one of my toy horses, and a hotpad for my mother. I have no photo of the hotpad. When my son was little (it's so often babies and children that spark a first quilt) I decided I wanted to make a quilt and went to my mother's collection of craft books, selecting a Quilt In A Day sampler book complete with card-stock templates to cut out. I chose one block (a pinwheel) and set about cutting out triangles with scissors. My fabrics came from flat folds at the local 5 and Dime, the scissors from my mother's sewing basket and they weren't real sharp.

Somehow I got that quilt pieced, then read up on quilting. I used straight pins to baste it and tried to machine quilt a simple square design. The pins kept falling out and the layers shifted around, creating puckers. I ended up ripping out the machine stitches and quilted that sucker by hand. You'd call it Big Stitch now, I just called it done and gave it to my son for his 5th birthday.

A year later he called my in to his bedroom, "Mom, there's something sharp in my quilt." Sure enough, I worked a needle out of the layers, one I had lost while quilting. Sure made me feel like a good mom, lol. He slept under it for 20 years, until it was rags.

vjdunham wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 10:51 AM

I was in my early 20's. My mother in law made quilts by hand. I decided to give it a try. I wish I had kept or took a picture of it . She helped me place the badding and finish the quilt. It was a great bonding time

mjr4 wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 12:09 PM

I remember playing on the porch as my grandmother and great aunts quilted but it wasn't until I was looking for a project for my 2nd/3rd grade class that would encompass several subjects areas, ie., math, art, history, reading, that brought quilting back in my life.  I took a beginning quilting class over summer break and wrote a creative teaching grant to use quilting as a theme.  To my delight it was approved.  We spent a year measuring, piecing, reading quilt themed books, collecting color data from the whole school, doing many quilt related  art projects, and of course, quilting.  Beside all the intended learning, I was thrilled that one of the little boys said, "This (quilting) makes me feel good."  Over the years, I have slowly gone from traditional quilting to art quilting...The most unexpected thing happened when I received a second place ribbon at, not a quilt show, but an art show...Quilting has brought me a lot of pleasure, a lot of opportunities to learn and to teach,  and most of all a lot of wonderful friends.

CherylP@19 wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 12:57 PM

I made a crazy quilt for a friend as a wedding present when I was in college; using scraps and lots of embroidery. I was, of course, very proud of my efforts, but today I would probably want to throw it in the ragbag.

nglani18 wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 2:12 PM

I pieced many quilt tops that were never finished. The first quilt I actually completed was for my daughter. It is gray & pink flannel, comver in butterflies and small flowers. Now I do custom quilting on machines that make quilting a joy, instead of being frustrating.

JoAnthony wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 4:23 PM

We where quite poor, but I was given a new Kenmore sewing machine. I was soooo elated and was now able to make my children their own clothes from tiny little sun dresses to pjs. I didn't throw any scaps away.

One day I had got out all the scraps because I saw a picture of a quilt made from simple squares. I pieced a top from that. but since I had never seen a quilt up close, I didn't quilt it with a quilt stitch.

I still have that quilt, its 30 years old and very ratty. When I look at it, the squares remind me of all the clothes I made over a 4 year period. And I remember the kids wearing those clothes. But last year, I retired it from use, because its in bad shape. No one but I have any memories of those clothes, so it stays with me.

majicfingers wrote
on 15 Mar 2014 5:19 PM

As a child I made doll house quilts, completely improvised.

on 15 Mar 2014 5:32 PM

I finished my first quilt a few months ago and was bold enough to enter it in a national show before it was even finished. :) Working in my second one now....

on 15 Mar 2014 6:46 PM

tyank you for showing your "firsts" and now - that really helps since i just finished my 2nd - and it's also "wavy" but not in the way i'd like! not giving up, and you're part of my inspiration to keep going !

PCMomwad wrote
on 16 Mar 2014 12:30 PM

My first quilt was inspired by a photograph in Woman's Day of a quilt-as-you-go log cabin in yellows, greens and blues.  It was just what I needed for the master bedroom of our first house in the late 70s.  I bought similar calicoes at a quilt shop, and put that quilt together.  After several years, it faded and frayed out.  My next quilts were for our babies, and I really got into quilting after they grew up.  Now my favorite fabrics are batiks, and the patterns are more intricate.  Rotary cutting with plastic rulers rocks!

PCMomwad wrote
on 16 Mar 2014 12:30 PM

My first quilt was inspired by a photograph in Woman's Day of a quilt-as-you-go log cabin in yellows, greens and blues.  It was just what I needed for the master bedroom of our first house in the late 70s.  I bought similar calicoes at a quilt shop, and put that quilt together.  After several years, it faded and frayed out.  My next quilts were for our babies, and I really got into quilting after they grew up.  Now my favorite fabrics are batiks, and the patterns are more intricate.  Rotary cutting with plastic rulers rocks!

Mindyindy wrote
on 22 Mar 2014 8:45 AM

As a gift to myself over 20 years, I purchased a rotary cutter, mat, ruler and Eleanor Burns' Log Cabin Quilt Book and a small bundle of fabric.  My Mom had sewn for years, but sewing clothing wasn't something I wanted to do.  But the quilting was a different story -- she and I now had a bond of FABRIC.  After I made my first quilt, a Log Cabin pattern, I received in the mail from her a small log cabin block.  When I was born, the neighbor lady had given my Mom the block and said one day Mindy will make a Log Cabin quilt.

Gosh, it still brings tears to my eyes.  Mom had held onto that block all those years.  I still have that Log Cabin quilt and the Log Cabin block is framed, on the wall  in my bedroom.  It was all meant to be.........

carolp0229 wrote
on 22 Mar 2014 9:52 AM

My youngest son was getting married and his paternal grandmother had passed away without making his adult quilt.  I had never quilted before but I had made clothes for years.  I went to my local quilt store, decided to make an Eleanor Burns quarter trip that was California King size.  I picked 24 colors - one for each hour of the day, bought the cutting mat and the rotary cutter and a refurbished Brother sewing machine.  I started to cut and sew my strips together.  Followed the directions and 2 weeks later had a quilt top (with mitered borders).  I made the quilt back and took the quilt to the local quilt store to have it quilted.  The quilt store put my quilt at the top of the pile because I had to have it back and ready for binding in 2 weeks.  I got it back and put the binding on and had it ready to give to my son and his soon to be wife at the bridal shower.  This was a 6 week effort driven my the memory of my mother-in-law who meant the world to her grandson and to me.

lkwalker wrote
on 22 Mar 2014 11:53 AM

Years ago I watched several quilting shows each week on HGTV, but I'd never actually made one. Thinking it was as easy as these expert quilters made it look, I decided to do an applique quilt. Let's just say I was not completely satisfied with it, but it actually came out something like I had envisioned. Needless to say, I had not made a sketch first of what I wanted, so some of my dimensions were a little out of kilter. Now I am careful to do a simple sketch for all my quilts, and I'm loving every minute of it.

on 23 Mar 2014 9:13 AM

It all started when my Mother gave me a quilt she had won at a church bazaar. I was living in a partially insulated barn turned into a dwelling, and it came in handy during those bitter cold New England winters! I thought it was so beautiful I instantly fell in love with quilts. I brought it to my local quilt shop to show them and exclaimed, isnt it beautiful! And wondered why they were so polite agreeing with me. I shrugged it off and signed up for a beginner class and hand pieced and hand quilted a 6 block sampler, learning piecing and quilting as I went. I loved the process, and the feel of fabric in my hands, it reminded me of hugs from grandmas in their house dresses. After my first quilt class I once again looked at that quilt my mother had given me and saw all its imperfections... Now understanding the quilt shop ladies "politeness". But it didn't matter to me it was still beautiful and started me on my quilting adventure that I am still continuing over 25 years later.

on 23 Mar 2014 9:13 AM

It all started when my Mother gave me a quilt she had won at a church bazaar. I was living in a partially insulated barn turned into a dwelling, and it came in handy during those bitter cold New England winters! I thought it was so beautiful I instantly fell in love with quilts. I brought it to my local quilt shop to show them and exclaimed, isnt it beautiful! And wondered why they were so polite agreeing with me. I shrugged it off and signed up for a beginner class and hand pieced and hand quilted a 6 block sampler, learning piecing and quilting as I went. I loved the process, and the feel of fabric in my hands, it reminded me of hugs from grandmas in their house dresses. After my first quilt class I once again looked at that quilt my mother had given me and saw all its imperfections... Now understanding the quilt shop ladies "politeness". But it didn't matter to me it was still beautiful and started me on my quilting adventure that I am still continuing over 25 years later.

on 23 Mar 2014 9:15 AM

It all started when my Mother gave me a quilt she had won at a church bazaar. I was living in a partially insulated barn turned into a dwelling, and it came in handy during those bitter cold New England winters! I thought it was so beautiful I instantly fell in love with quilts. I brought it to my local quilt shop to show them and exclaimed, isnt it beautiful! And wondered why they were so polite agreeing with me. I shrugged it off and signed up for a beginner class and hand pieced and hand quilted a 6 block sampler, learning piecing and quilting as I went. I loved the process, and the feel of fabric in my hands, it reminded me of hugs from grandmas in their house dresses. After my first quilt class I once again looked at that quilt my mother had given me and saw all its imperfections... Now understanding the quilt shop ladies "politeness". But it didn't matter to me it was still beautiful and started me on my quilting adventure that I am still continuing over 25 years later.

Sheesh wrote
on 24 Mar 2014 9:11 PM

My first quilt was a baby quilt for a niece. I didn't have cutting mats, cutters or nice acrylic rulers.  This was nearly 40 years ago so not sure if these were readily available.  I cut 2" strips of several different flannels and cut these into 2" blocks.  I hear your groans and feel my pain.  I proceeded to sew these into strips and the strips to make an approximately 40X 40 inch quilt.  I then layered it to prequilted material, sewed it like a pillow cover and turned it right side to the out. Then I tied the quilt.  It was the hit of the shower.  Since then I have made about 50 quilts for nieces and nephews and now great off springs.  I am now working on 3(three)  Poky Little Puppy quilts (from Timeless Treasures).  

on 24 May 2014 8:08 PM

Was a winner for this contest ever announced?

on 24 May 2014 8:09 PM

Was a winner for this contest ever announced?