06 Aug Once Upon a Dream — Free Quilt Tutorial
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.”
- Sleeping Beauty, 1959
My latest quilt is truly dreamy! I had the opportunity to work with the absolutely stunning collection called Little Brier Rose by Jill Howarth for Riley Blake Designs. I designed this quilt using an 18-piece fat quarter bundle mixed with some Confetti Cotton solids and it was so fun and easy to make that I am sharing a free tutorial so you can make one too!
This tutorial is for a 72″ square quilt which is my favourite “large throw” size. You can make it larger or smaller by adding/subtracting the number of blocks. (Note: 1 Fat Quarter = 2 blocks.)
- 18 Fat Quarters (fabrics sold as pre-cut size 18″ x 21″)
- 6 coordinating 1/3y cuts of fabric. I used the Confetti Cotton colours Super Pink, Azure, Cobalt, Petal Pink, Boy Blue, Honey, and Lettuce. Yes, that’s 7 colours, but for the sake of easy quilt math, I recommend you use 6.
- 2/3 yard of white fabric. I used Blossom Tone on Tone White
- 4 yards of backing fabric. I used Kisses Aqua on White. After all, it was true love’s kiss that awoke Sleeping Beauty from her slumber. 😉
- 5/8y of binding fabric
- Approximately 78″ x 78″ piece of batting
Other tools you will need:
I assume you have a stocked supply of general sewing notions so I won’t list everything but below is a list of quilting supplies I could not live without:
- Rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat
- Large square acrylic ruler (I use a 12.5″)
- Longer acrylic ruler (I use 3″ x 18″)
- Spray starch or fabric smoothing spray
- Wool pressing mat
- 1/4″ foot for sewing machine — for piecing
- Walking foot for sewing machine — for quilting
- Basting pins or spray baste
- Hera marker
I always start a new quilt project by prepping the fabric. Most quilters have a preference for either pre-washing fabric or using it as-is straight from the store. I don’t usually pre-wash unless I am combining different types of fabrics (eg. quilting cotton with flannel or minky). I do, however, spend a good amount of time ironing out any wrinkles or creases so I am working with completely smooth fabric. This ensures that my fabric cutting will be as accurate as possible. If I am working with any bias seams (sewing fabric cut on an angle) I use a spray starch or a fabric smoothing spray such as Flatter. This is a personal preference but I find that it helps keep my seams from stretching out and getting wonky. It also smells wonderful!
- From each Fat Quarter, cut (2) 10″ squares, then cut on the diagonal to create 4 Half Square Triangles (HSTs), see note below if you are using directional prints.
- From each solid fabric, cut (12) 4.75 x 7″ pieces
- From the white background fabric, cut (36) 4.75″ squares
- From the binding fabric, cut (8) 2.5″ x width of fabric strips
This fabric collection has a few directional prints (prints that have a definite right way up and upside down), such as the print pictured below, so I planned my block layout ahead of time so that I wouldn’t end up with any fabrics facing the wrong direction in my layout. This may not matter to you – many quilts have prints facing all different directions – but if it does matter to you, I recommend you plan your layout before cutting the printed fabric so you know which way the diagonals should be cut. The direction of the angle informs the direction you will place the solid fabric strips, and therefore it will determine where you can place the block in the overall layout.
1. Sew one solid coloured piece to each side of a white square.
2. Press the seams toward the dark side. If you have a wooden tailer’s clapper, place it on top of your seams to help keep the pressed seam nice and flat. I don’t own one, but I learned recently that a paper notepad works well too so I gave that a try and sure enough the steam and heat from the iron gets trapped in place by the paper and keeps the seams extremely flat.
3. Fold each piece in half to find the exact centre. Place a pin to mark the centre. You could also use a pencil or other marking device.
4. With right sides together, line up your centres and pin them together. Pin the rest of the seam.
5. Sew the seam on each side of the solid strip.
6. Press the two seams towards the printed fabric.
7. Using a square ruler, trim up the solid fabric corners so that you get a nice square block. It should measure 12.5″ x 12.5″. Ta da! You have made your first block, easy peasy!
8. Repeat this process for all of your blocks. You should end up with 36 blocks in total.
9. Once you are finished making all your blocks, play with your layout until you have a good balance of colours and the solid fabrics connect in a criss-cross layout. I just love seeing the fabrics come together where the blocks line up.
10. Once you decide on your block layout, pin all the blocks that made up each row, lining up edges, then sew.
11. After you finish sewing each row, press your seams. I like to “nest” my seams whenever possible meaning that I press the seams of row 1 to the left, then the seams of row 2 to the right and so on, so that when I start pinning the rows together, the seams lay in opposite directions and there is less “bulk” where the seams intersect.
12. Sew together all your rows, completing your quilt top. Press all your seams, flat or open, whichever you prefer. Now you have a finished quilt top! Below are a few close-up photos of my finished and pressed quilt top. I just love those intersections of solid fabric and prints.
13. Prepare your quilt backing: cut your 4 yard piece of fabric in half so that you have two 2 yard cuts of fabric. Press out all wrinkles and creases. Trim off the selvedge edges on two sides. Pin them along the trimmed long edge and sew them together using a 1/2″ seam. Press the seam open.
14. Make your quilt sandwich by layering the quilt backing (face down), then the batting, then the quilt top (face up). Smooth out any puckers and wrinkles as you go. Pin or spray baste the three layers together. I use pins and I try to insert a pin every 4–6″ or so, making sure the entire sandwich is pinned down. This is a tedious step in quilt-making but it is necessary in order to get good quilting results.
15. Mark your quilt top for quilting. I use a Hera marker and long acrylic ruler to mark my quilting lines. A Hera marker is a plastic tool that you can drag along the side of a ruler to leave an indentation in the fabric. It doesn’t leave a permanent mark but it gives you a visual of where to stitch your quilting lines. It disappears after you use the quilt for a while or after the first wash. I decided to keep the quilting very simple for this quilt, and very “loose” meaning that the quilting is not very close together. My family tends to find my quilts with looser quilting are more snuggly. (Denser quilting often means the quilt can feel more stiff.) I followed the angles of the solid fabric and quilted every 4″ in one direction. Then I quilted “in the ditch” meaning I stitched along the seam of each block.
16. When you are quilting, remember to take your time. It’s not a race, there are no points for fastest quilting. Get up, stretch, hydrate, eat chocolate. Whatever you need to make the process feel enjoyable. I like to put on headphones and listen to a podcast or audio book. I’m currently listening to The Return of the King (book 3 of the Lord of the Rings series).
17. Once you finish quilting your quilt, give yourself a big pat on the back. This can be an arduous task, especially a quilt this size. Take some time to admire your work, show it off to any friends or family members that might even show a passing interest, (haha!).
18. Sew a long basting stitch around the perimeter of your quilt to make sure all your seam edges stay in tact for the binding process.
19. Trim off the extra batting and backing fabric.
20. Sew all your binding strips together using a 45° seam. Trim off the excess seam allowance. Press seams open, then press the full length of binding along the long edge. I like to roll my binding up into a coil or around an old ribbon spool to keep it neat.
21. Sew your binding to your quilt to finish off the edges. Here is a link to a fabulous, very detailed quilt binding tutorial.
Quilty photo shoot
I took my quilt (and my son) to the beach by our family’s cabin and we got some great photos in the sun and sand.