Have you always wanted to make a quilt clock?
Neither have I. However, every time I’m doing my work-out (in my bedroom, because #pandemic) I stare directly at an eye-height vintage wall clock. I should mention that I h a t e working out. So while I’m staring at the clock I think “I wish I was quilting right now”. And thus came my idea to make myself a quilt clock. My family members raised all the eyebrows at me. Whyyyyyy would you make quilt clock? is what those eyebrows said. Anywaaayys. I made a quilt clock. And I loved it so much that I went to IKEA and stood in a 30 minute socially-distanced line up to get in so I could buy more clocks to make MORE quilt clocks. Fast forward and now my house is full of quilt clocks. Some no longer work because of my impatience and trial-and-error methods, and some are illegible because I used fabric the same colour as the clock hands (doh!). But SOME are the prettiest things in my house right now and I love them to pieces!
You’re probably reading this because you want to make a quilt clock too. I don’t blame you. It’s the perfect accessory for your sewing space, or basically any room in your house. You can download my free template and I’ve outlined some tips for success below. Please remember that I am not a horologist (new word for the day) so I don’t have all the answers, I can only tell you what worked for me and what didn’t.
A Few Things To Note
All clocks are different so I am going to generalize a lot here. You will need to do what works with YOUR clock. Please don’t take apart Grandma’s vintage clock and then ask me how to put it back together again, remember, I’m not an expert, I probably can’t help you.
Also, BE CAREFUL with the glass! There might be some prying and pulling involved in taking apart your clock but remember that glass might be brittle so pleeeeeeaaase be careful not to crack it, cut yourself, or get a sliver in your fingers, that hurts. A lot.
Taking Apart The Clock
- Have I mentioned that every clock is different? You will need to gather the right tools to take yours apart. Most of the clocks that I worked with required a screw driver for screws, and/or a flat tool to pry the face off of the back.
- You may also need a tool to pry the hands off. I used a pair of pliers for some of the clocks that I tested. But some clocks had hands that easily popped off with just my fingers.
- When taking the hands off, be careful! Take them off slowly and firmly — they can be bendy or brittle — don’t yank at them. Some need a lot of force to come off, some don’t need much force at all.
- Once you’ve taken it apart, measure the diameter of the inside of the clock face (where the fabric will go) so you know how big you will need to make the clock face.
- If your clock has a paper face with numbers, see if you can remove it. Some are glued down with industrial strength glue so they won’t come off easily. In the photo at the right you can see mine didn’t want to come off and I tore it apart like a honey badger would.
- If you can’t remove the clock face and you’re using low-volume (light coloured) fabrics, consider concealing the clock numbers with white paint or paper so they don’t show through the fabric.
Choosing Your Fabric
- Choose fabrics that have enough contrast with the clock hands so that you can still read the time. Or, if you have the perfect fabric but there’s not enough contrast to the hands, you could paint the clock hands a darker or lighter colour.
- 12 pieces of fabric are required. You could choose 12 different fabrics or use a mix of any combination adding up to twelve.
Making The Clock Face
- There are two sizes in my template: 10″ and 14″. Get the template here. Print out the size that is larger than your clock — remember you can trim it down to fit any size.
- Use the Foundation Paper Piecing method to sew 3 fabrics together per template, giving you 4 “quarter-hours” of 3 fabrics each. Press as flat as possible.
- With right sides together, sew 2 quarter-hours of your clock together. Repeat so you have 2 “half-hour” pieces. Press as flat as possible.
- Before you sew the 2 half-hour pieces together, cut out a semi-circular hole in the middle of each piece where all the seams align. It should include the seam allowance plus approximately ¼”. This will end up being the hole that the shaft of the clockworks goes, where your clock hands attach.
- With right sides together, line up the seams and sew the two half-hour pieces together to create a full clock face. Press as flat as possible.
- You might need to make the hole a little bigger once it’s all sewn together depending on the size of the shaft, but it’s best to start small.
- It is very important for your pieces to lie as flat as possible in the middle of your clock so that the bulk of the seams don’t interfere with the clock works and hands. If you trim the seams on a tapered angle towards the middle it helps reduce the bulk. Press again.
Finishing The Clock Face
- Using the measurement of your clock face, trim the fabric down to fit into your clock. If your clock has a paper face with numbers that can be removed, you could use that as a template. If not, you might need to make a template using a compass, a dinner plate, or other round object if you have something that is the same size as your clock. For best results, print out an accurately sized circle on a printer and use it as a template. Orrrr, if your clock is square, like my animated clock near the top of this page, you can just use a ruler to trim it down. Make sure you square up your wedges and centre the hole before you cut.
- Once the fabric is trimmed down, try putting it into your clock to make sure it fits.
- Line up the seams with the top and bottom of your clock. Double check the back of the clock to make sure you know which side is the top so when it hangs on the wall your wedges are in the right place.
Assembling your clock
- You might need to glue the fabric to the clock. A regular glue stick or a thin layer of white craft glue should be sufficient, but you could use spray glue or double sided tape if you want it to be extra secure.
- Before you put your clock back together, stand it upright the way you would hang in on the wall to make sure you are happy with the placement and that the glue is sufficiently holding it together.
- Put your clock hands back in place. The hour hand goes in first, then the minute hand, and then the second hand (if applicable). I found that most clocks have a ridge on the little shaft where each hand should “sit”. When you put the hands in place make sure that they fit into the ridge and aren’t hanging loosely. You can test it by manually spinning the dial on the back to “set” the time. If you spin that dial and the hands don’t spin, or get caught on each other, adjust and then try again.
- Put in a battery to see if the second hand starts moving. Or flip it over and see if you can see the little gears in the clock works spinning. If you don’t have a second hand, take note of the time on your clock and wait a few minutes to make sure that the hands are actually moving. (It may not be easy to see the minute and hour hands moving.) If the hands don’t move after some time elapses then they are not sitting in the ridges and therefore not connecting with the clockworks. Take the hands out and readjust them until you are certain that they are moving. Be careful, some hands are bendy or brittle.
- Remove any loose threads or lint.
- Clean the inside of the glass to remove any finger prints from handling.
- Carefully line the glass up with the back of the clock. (Mine looks comically large in the photo below but that’s just because of the camera angle.)
- Place the back of the clock in place, tighten the screws or tabs to secure it all closed.
And your quilt clock is ready to be hung up on the wall for all to admire! Please tag me if you post a photo of your quilt clock on Instagram and use the hashtag #QuiltOClock so others can find it too!