Join me in my first quilting lesson


As I mentioned on the »blog , Hilary has agreed to guide me through the first steps of making a quilt so I hope some of you fellow quilting virgins will join us. And anyone who, like Hilary, is an expert quilter please chip and make your own suggestions and share any top tips and watchouts.
I’ve decided to do a sampler quilt – which means doing a series of 12inch blocks, each with a different pattern, so there’s no chance to get bored – although it does require some concentration and quite a lot of fiddling about!
We’ll be sharing downloads of the templates we’ve used, so you can join me and quilt your own versions. You may prefer to do a series of the same block rather than a multi-pattern sampler, but whatever you choose it would be great to see your results. You can upload pictures onto our »Facebook Page. Either of these can be used for any questions or problems – or you can post a comment under the article here – or send us a DM on »Twitter. Hilary can then give you advice or suggestions – as well as encouragement.
So for Lesson One we cut out the pieces ready to make 3 of the blocks – but I’m just going to share the first one today.

Equipment needed

  • Remnant fabrics – a good variety in your chosen colours
  • A good pair of scissors
  • Ruler
  • Needle and cotton thread
  • A soft pencil
  • Paper or card to make your templates

Not essential but great if you have them:

  • A  cutting board
  • A rotary cutter (much quicker and easier than scissors – with some practice!)
  • A quilter’s ruler (half an inch wide and transparent with a line to show the quarter inch seam allowance)

Prepare your templates

We used thick squared tracing acetate paper for the first (easiest) block – the template for Rail Fence. This acetate is sturdy enough to act as a template and as it’s already marked off in squares to the quarter inch it’s dead easy to make square or oblong shapes – but a ruler and a piece of card will do just as well. Cutting out the Rail Fence template
For the triangles which form the basis of the two other blocks I’m tackling, Card Trick and Wild Goose Chase, we’ll be uploading the templates for you to download and print out. You can just print these on card or paper and then cut them out and use as you would a paper pattern.

Rail Fence Block

I thought this would be a good one to start with as it doesn’t involve a lot of complicated pattern matching and cutting and consists just of a series of oblong strips, each strip cut out four times in each of four fabrics so you have a total of sixteen pieces. The strips each measure 6½ inches by 2inches inclusive of your seam allowances.
DSC01119Here’s the four pieces of fabric I chose for this block after a lot of playing about, mixing and matching and trial and error.
Hilary’s advice was that you have to feel good about the colour combination before you start as otherwise you’ll get bored and disillusioned.
A good tip is to make sure you have a strong colour to use in the central part of this block. We decided on a red fabric with cream flowers.
To show Illustration of Rail Fencethe pattern formation of Rail Fence Block I’ve done a painted version of it here so you can see how the each coloured oblong fits with the next. The way it works is that you create a series of four squares, each with oblongs and then build them into the one big (one foot) square.

Cutting the pieces out

There’s quite knack to using a rotary cutter – I’d never tried this before and it needs a firm pressure and you need to lean it towards the ruler or you risk it running away from your line.Using the rotary cutter
If you have one and can master it, it’s much faster and neater than using scissors. But a good thrifty make and mender can probably get by just fine with a pair of scissors.
Marking the seam allowance
The next step is marking out the seam allowance. Now I used a very nifty little quilter’s ruler for this – just a half inch wide plastic strip with a line running down the middle.
You place this central line over the edge of the fabric and use the edge to mark off your quarter inch allowance with a soft pencil. Simple but ingenious!
Laying the fabrics together ready to sew

Sewing the first square

Next take your first two oblongs, each in different fabrics in the sequence you have chosen, lay them right side together and sew them together along one long side using neat running stitches.
Sewing the strips together with running stitch
Once you have joined them, take your next fabric oblong and join that too, also using neat running stitches.
Add the fourth strip, then you can turn the square over and iron the seam allowances flat.
And that’s your first square for the block!
DSC01127Here’s mine.
DSC01138And then all four – here I’ve laid them out ready for the next stage which is to sew the squares together to form the block. Don’t forget to iron the seams flat before you sew the pieces together.
Hilary and I went on to cut out the pieces for two more blocks – but that’s another story!
Please have a go and join me. If you don’t want to hand sew you can do this on a machine – but I think the pieces are small enough that it’s quite a nice thing to do while sitting watching the telly – or you can pack your stash and do it on the bus if you sew by hand.
See also »Quilts at the V&A for some quilting inspiration

The finished block



  1. Sarah-Jayne says:

    The instructions look very clear, thanks – I am sure I could have a go now.

  2. Dan says:

    Well done! Very good, clear instructions. I think it would be good to show how to press seams flat. I was taught many years ago but some people may not have the same sewing skills and this project could teach those too.

  3. Clare Flynn says:

    Thanks – I’ll include seams in the next installment.

  4. Nicole says:

    Brilliant 🙂 just sewn my squares, I feel vaguely competent 🙂 cant wait for the next installment 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

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