I have shown you two ways to make patchwork using recycled fabrics - English paper piecing and crazy patchwork. But how do you turn your patchwork into a finished piece? A patchwork is just a piece of fabric made from lots of smaller pieces sewn together. You can use it to make anything you would make out of fabric - curtains, tablecloth, clothes and so on. But traditionally the crafts of patchwork and quilting are closely associated, and most people who make patchwork want to turn it into a quilt. There are a number of ways to do this, but I'm going to show you a way that is quick and suitable for a recycled quilt made of lots of different types of fabric. Fine hand-quilting would be difficult or impossible on such a quilt, so instead I'm going to show you a utility quilting technique called tieing or knotting.
Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version.
1. A quilt is three layers of fabric held together with stitches. The top layer is your patchwork. The middle layer is the stuffing or batting. You can use an old blanket, perhaps one that is too worn to use anymore, or one from the charity (thrift) shop. If you do use an old blanket, give is a good wash and dry first. Alternatively you can use purpose-made quilt wadding from a quilting or craft store. Be sure to read the instructions - some of them need to be pre-washed or they will shrink dramatically and ruin your quilt. The bottom layer is the quilt back. It's often a single large piece of fabric, or it can be pieced together from smaller bits. An old sheet is fine for our recyled quilt project.
2. Lay out the quilt back on the floor or a table if it fits, with the wrong side up. Smooth it out so there are no wrinkles. Carefully lay the batting on top, so there are no wrinkles in either layer. Carefully lay the patchwork on top of this, right side up. Take time to ensure all three layers are smooth and wrinkle-free. The bottom two layers should be rather bigger than the patchwork. The batting should be perhaps 2" bigger, and the back about 4" bigger. This is known as your quilt sandwich.
3. Now you are going to secure the three layers of your quilt sandwich together with a series of square knots, at about 6" intervals. You choose where you are going to place the knots. At the corners of your blocks? At the centres? Corners and centres? It's up to you. Don't use regular sewing cotton thread - pick something heavier, such as embroidery cotton or perle. Thread your needle with a long thread - you're going to make lots of knots one after another and cut the threads afterwards. Pass the needle through the quilt and up again, leaving a short "tail". Ensure you caught all three layers, and didn't somehow miss the quilt back. Make a square knot (remember left over right, right over left) and tie tightly, holding the quilt sandwich together tightly. Do not cut the thread.
4. Now move along to the next point you're going to make a knot, and do the same thing. Make sure you leave enough thread between two knots so that the quilt stays lying flat. What I mean is, don't pull the thread between one knot and another so the quilt puckers. Keep making knots until you run out of thread, then rethread and start again.
5. Once you have knotted the whole quilt, which should be pretty speedy, you can go back and trim all the long threads. Give every knot one last tug to make sure it is tight and will not come undone, then trim the tails to your desired length. I don't like big long "tassels" but some people prefer that look. If you trim them too short, though, the knots may come undone.
There is a way to knot a quilt with a sewing machine. Instead of making knots by hand, you machine stitch on the spot, then make about four long but closely-spaced zig-zag stitches, then stitch on the spot again, and that replaces a knot. Sounds quicker than tying, doesn't it? But to make sure the quilt sandwich stays flat and smooth you have to baste it together somehow, either with safety pins or long hand-stitches, whilst it is lying flat on the floor. It seems to me if you're going to do that, you might as well tie it on the floor and that would actually be quicker than basting by hand and then tieing it by machine.
6. You're almost done. Now you just need to bind your quilt to tidy up the edges. Trim the batting to exactly the same size as the patchwork. Trim the back of the quilt to about 2" larger than the quilt. Fold the backing over the patchwork, enclosing the batting. Then fold the raw edge of the backing under by 1". Pin in place, all the way around the quilt.
7. Handstitch the binding in place (slipstitched with normal sewing thread) and that's it! You should seriously consider adding your name, location and date to the back of the quilt, even if only with a fabric marker pen.
If you use these instructions to make a recycled patchwork quilt, I'd love to see a picture of it. Email me, and let me know if you're happy for your photo to be published on Bean Sprouts.
This is Part 3 of a 3-part series. Part 1 is How to Make Patchwork and part 2 is Another Way to Make Patchwork.