How I Do What I Do*

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Someone just recently asked me the secret to my quilts. The advice I gave her is the same information found in quilting instruction books everywhere.

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First, collect A LOT of fabric.

I have been amassing my fiber inventory for nearly 25 years. I have old, old prints. I have scraps from clothing and aprons and tablecloths. I have pieces from entire collections. I have full bolts of a single print from a collection. The list goes on. You need a lot of fabric to get that pieced-together look of a Classic Americana quilt.

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Second, I sew 5″ squares into strips of three, trying to have a good representation of light and dark even on the strips.

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I sew with a 1/4 seam allowance. This is a perfect amount– just enough to keep the seams together, but small enough to prevent a lot of bulk, which is important to consider when making a quilt. Quilts have a LOT of seams.

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I always make a standard 9-patch block. This means three squares across and three deep. It’s easy to whip these blocks together once you get started and you can easily have diversity of color and prints in a single 9-patch. I LOVE ironing nine-patches. I could do this for hours, and sometimes I do.

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Before you know it, you will have a many 9-patch blocks–all set for arranging into sections.

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I have created an intermediate block of squares that is larger than a 9-patch but smaller than the whole quilt top. I called it the SIXER because it combines six 9-patch blocks (two across and three down). Organizing 9-patch blocks into SIXERS will prevent you from sewing long strips of 9-patch blocks and trying to stitch those strips together. The chances of getting all of the squares to line up correctly are terribly slim with long strips. SIXERS make it possible to get the corners to meet where you want them.

I use four sixers to make a lap size quilt (54″ X 81″). Two across and two down.

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Once I have the top loaded on my long-arm machine, I bring all of the layers of the quilt sandwich (top, batting, backing) together with a casual meandering stitch. The rhythm of quilting this way is calming and enjoyable. It actually goes by pretty quickly.

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An alternative to quilting on a long-arm machine is to baste the quilt layers together, using thread or safety pins, and stitch right through the middle of each squares, creating a plus sign in the middle of the square.

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Finished product.

In the end, you’ll have a great, old-fashioned looking quilt to use as a comforting and sweet backdrop to your life.

*The instructions in the blog are meant to help someone make a quilt one or two times for their home as a gift for a friend or family member. The use of these instructions for using in manufacturing quilts for sale is strictly prohibited. The terms Classic Americana and SIXER are protected by copyright.

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