Sunset quilt

Hello everyone, I hope you all enjoyed my last post. I know it was pretty long, maybe I can be a little more concise with this post. Last fall my favorite female cousin (also my only female cousin) and her husband had their first child. As a Christmas gift I wanted to make the little one a quilt. I’ve never made a quilt before, but I figured, “hey, how hard can it be?” Turns out, it’s not too difficult, just time consuming.

I’m not one for following a pattern, recipes, or instructions in general; so when I was brainstorming ideas I obviously wanted to make something unique. My grandmother used to do a lot of quilting, but the last few years she has started to taper off. She had a lot of fabric saved up and about two years ago she let me raid her sewing room – I ended up with so much fun fabric. I used some of it here and there, but I hadn’t done a large project with it. As I looked through my stash I realized I had a wide spectrum of colors, what fun! After mulling over ideas, I thought a sunset would be a great way to use a lot of colors.

My fabric stash – look at all the colors!

Okay great, I have the colors for a sunset, but how on earth do I make this quilt look like one? After striking out on my google search for “sunset quilt.” I decided to search for basic quilting patterns. When I stumbled upon this quilt, I knew I would be making a half square triangle quilt. They’re versatile and not too complicated, albeit more challenging than a block quilt.

Baby quilts seem to vary in size, so I thought I would shoot for mine to be about 45” x 45”. I looked through my fabric and picked out a bunch of colors. Using my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter, I started cutting out 5 inch squares. I cut about 4 squares of each color to start. On the floor of my sewing room I laid out all of the squares in roughly the shape of a sunset. Then I needed to pair up squares to make the half square triangles or HSTs. As you can see in bottom row of the below photo, I simply paired up the rows instead of trying to match specific colors. This worked fairly well. There ended up being a few color combinations that I didn’t like that much, but I made them work.  I used this post as a guide for making my HSTs.

Quilt 1.jpg
A rough layout and starting to match up the HSTs

Making HSTs is tedious. First you need to match up the squares right side together and draw a line down the diagonal. I did this in batches, about 30 at a time. I was going to do all of them at once, but I got bored so I started sewing. With my newly purchased ¼” presser foot I sewed ¼” away from the line I had drawn on both both sides. After I was done sewing I cut down the center line and squared up the HSTs. I used this tool to help, I highly recommend it. It was important to be accurate here so that my quilt would piece together neatly later.

Quilt 2.jpg
Preparing the HSTs

I then ironed open all the HSTs. Note: it is important to press with your iron without moving side to side too much. If you have too much movement while ironing you can stretch your fabric. When possible, I pressed the fabric over to the darker fabric so it didn’t show through.

Quilt 3.jpg
HSTs ready to be sewn

The next step took several days to complete because I’m so indecisive. For the next few nights before bed I would arrange the pieces. The next morning I would take a look at it and inevitably decide that I didn’t like this piece or that piece. Finally, after many iterations I settled on a layout and took a picture. The picture was very helpful because I could reference it when sewing and because our cat is a jerk sometimes. Harry, our very playful 2 year old cat thought it was really fun to run around in circles and randomly throw the HSTs into the air – not cool bro, not cool.

Quilt 4.jpg
Starting to arrange the HSTs
Quilt 5.jpg
Ready to start sewing!

I started at the top and pieced together my HSTs one row at a time. I pressed each row to the side, alternating directions on each row. For example, if row 1 was pressed to the left then row 2 was pressed to the right. Then I connected all of my rows from top to bottom. I pressed all the seams open to reduce bulk – sometimes 8 fabrics converged on one point. My piecing wasn’t perfect, I’m still learning. I did a fairly good job of getting parts to match up, but if you look carefully my points aren’t perfect.

Quilt 6.jpg
Halfway there
Quilt 7.jpg
The finished top

The hardest part of this project was deciding on a backing. I wanted to use flannel so that it would be snuggly, but I couldn’t decide what color would go best with the front. I must have been at Jo-Ann fabrics for an hour wandering around like a lost child. I really need to learn how to make a decision. I finally found an adorable fabric with some of the lyrics from “You are my Sunshine.” I also found a perfect pattern for the binding, dark blue with little stars and dots. The backing wasn’t quite large enough as it was, so I ended up piecing it together. In order to baste my quilt I needed to move to a carpetless floor. I taped down my backing to the floor so that it was taut, but not stretched. Then I taped the batting on top of this. When piecing a quilt you want to make sure that the backing and batting are larger than the front. My backing ended up being a lot larger than my front, but that’s fine, I just cut off the excess.

Quilt 8.jpg
My quilt sandwich all ready to be basted

Now comes the really fun part – pinning that quilt sandwich! This took quite some time. I used special curved safety pins which are necessary, I think using a straight pin would be very difficult. After trying to close just one pin with my fingers I realized I would need a tool to assist me, bleeding all over the quilt seemed like a bad idea. They make special tools for this, but I found that a wooden kabob stick worked perfectly. I started pinning in the center worked my way out. I started with a cross, then I pinned quadrant by quadrant. This took a while, but it wasn’t too bad. I did have to stop and stretch from time to time.

Quilt 9.jpg
My very handy pin closing tool – a wooden kabob stick
Quilt 10.jpg
All done basting!

I would love to be able to freestyle quilt and do lots of fun patterns, but that’s advanced level quilting and I’m still at the beginner level. I decided that I would stitch in the ditch, aka quilt along your piecing lines. I used white thread for the back and a tie-dye thread for the top. A Lot of websites say to choose a thread that blends in with your fabric, but what do you use when the top is EVERY color? I was really excited to discover that tie-dyed thread exists. So much fun! I did an okay job of stitching in the ditch, there were times when it looked like a drunk person was operating my machine. 

Quilt 11.jpg
I started quilting in the center and worked my way out to the edges

Quilting is a challenge because there is a lot of fabric and no where to put it. I ended up rolling the sides up and feeding the fabric straight through. I also used a walking foot which helps the fabric feed evenly. Make sure to check your bottom thread when quilting, running out part way down a line and not noticing until the end is very frustrating. It may also cause a string of swears to escape your mouth at max volume – sorry for scaring you Harry! When I removed the pins I left them open for quicker use at a later time. There’s no sense in closing them back up just for storage purposes.

Quilt 12.jpg
The fabric was all rolled up and was easily moved through the machine

After quilting I cut off all the excess backing and batting and measured the edges of my quilt. I calculated how much fabric I would need for the binding. There are little calculators online that can help you with this. I used this tutorial to help me with my binding. Getting the corners right took me a few tries, but they weren’t difficult once I understood what I was supposed to be doing.

Quilt 13.jpg
Getting the hang of this corner thing – this one is ready to be flipped over and finished
Quilt 14.jpg
Finishing the binding – look at that fun tie dyed quilting thread in the lower right and ignore the cat hair!

I really enjoyed making a quilt. I love making things from scratch, it’s so rewarding.

Quilt 15.jpg
Immediately after finishing the quilt – I ran downstairs and jumped up and down like a little kid
Quilt 16.jpg
And this is why I had to launder the quilt right before wrapping it
Quilt 17.jpg
Tada! Does it look like a sunset?
Quilt 19.jpg
I’m so glad I found this fabric for the backing – I think it’s adorable

I hope my little cousin enjoys his quilt – I had a lot of fun making it. I learned a lot and I look forward to creating another quilt some day.


3 thoughts on “Sunset quilt

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