A summer and winter quilt

First, I must confess that this is my first full sized quilt. If you are looking for quilting expertise, you need to go elsewhere. However, my quilt worked and I am already cutting up last summer’s old clothes to start another, so I must have done something right. And, incidentally, my quilt was inspired by this one, because I liked the way the quilting was done with coloured thread, by hand.

I buy new fabrics very rarely, preferring to cut up our clothes when they become too shabby, or a tea towel which I accidentally burnt a hole in on the Aga, or old sheets and curtains. Almost everything in the house seems to go with everything else, somehow. Like most people, I am drawn to a particular palate, particularly in summer. There are lots of dusty blues, greens, pinks and shades of stone. I must want our house to look as though it has been bleached by the sun.

Which is a long way of saying that you don’t need to go out and spend money to make a quilt. Mine (and Ilse’s) were genuinely made entirely from old clothes, curtains, curtain lining (I use organic cotton fleece, which is wonderfully warm) and offcuts. The only things I bought specifically for the summer and winter quilt were the binding and the embroidery threads, which didn’t come to much.

Summer clothes are ideal for quilting, in my opinion. They’re generally made of shirt or quilting weight cotton (most of the fabric I buy to make sundresses is quilting weight cotton), and have been washed and ironed many times. They are often patterned, or in interesting shades reminiscent of ice creams and flowers. If you haven’t saved any from last year, pop down to your local charity shop and buy some. Everyone’s a winner: you, the charity and the planet. Just make sure that they are pure cotton, and give them a wash before cutting them up.

For the winter element, old sheets are perfect. They always wear out in the middle but are fine everywhere else. Again, if you don’t have any, frequent your local charity shop until you do.

I didn’t measure my quilt at all. I’m not entirely sure how big it is now, except that I would guess that it is about 2m by 1.5m, as it covers a single bed from head to toe and hangs down the sides a good way. All I did was cut a square of cardboard a little bit bigger than I wanted each patterned square to be, and ensure that I cut the fabric with the grain.

Divide your heap of squares fairly evenly into four or five piles and make sure you’ve got enough by laying them out on the bed in question. Remember to allow a bit of overlap for the seams. Too many squares is better than too few. Or you could do some maths, to make sure. You also need to work out how much white sashing you need, and cut long strips of it. I sewed many of my squares into strips by hand, on the patio last summer, with the children. But when it came to the sashing I ran it all up in one quick afternoon session at the machine.

Lay your backing, right side down, on a carpet or rug (to hold it steady), your filling on top, and your quilt top as the final layer, right side facing. Smooth it all out as you go. Then carefully, with minimal rumpling, sew long rows of running stitches through all the layers with embroidery thread. You can also buy special threads and needles to do this, if you want to do it properly – it’s a Japanese technique, apparently.

Trim the edges, machine the front of the binding into place, and hand sew it into place on the back of the quilt. You really do want to put a ‘made by’ label onto this. Then let someone you love have it on their bed, for a bit, before it moves on to the next person. And in the middle of winter, have a look at it and remind yourself that there’s another summer just over the horizon.