Patchwork sewing is an excellent hobby to keep your hands busy, make use of old unwanted clothing or smaller pieces of individual fabric and to create something totally unique for yourself or as a gift.
I personally have been sewing for nearly 30 years, but first learned to sew when I was 4 years old. This is an ideal hobby for any person of any age. I first learned to sew by hand and was using a machine within the same year. It is however worth noting for anyone new to sewing that you may poke yourself or cut yourself even when hand sewing, so you should take care. Thimbles are good for those starting out.
If you are new to a sewing machine be aware of where the stop button is and how to quickly stop your machine. If you are using a foot pedal, take the time to stitch a few rows in a piece of fabric so you understand how fast it goes, how thick the thread is and make any adjustments so that it is right for the project. When you sew two pieces together they should not be tight, so ensure your thread tension is at an adequate setting.
Also, it is important to keep your fingers away from the footer and needle where possible. Everything in this area is moving and I cant tell you how many times I have poked myself with the needle or hit myself with the needle clamp screw as I got too close. When you have to work close to the needle the best practice is to move slowly.
Patchwork quilting has been a much loved past time across Europe and in America. You can learn more about the history of patchwork quilting by visiting the wikipedia page here.
To start a new patchwork, the best things to have are a few different patterns of fabric, an acrylic measuring board, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.
You can use a scissors to complete this part, but a rotary cutter leaves you with a cleaner finish.
Another great tool to use, particularly if you are new to patchwork is acrylic patchwork templates. You can get them in various sizes and shapes.
If you are new to patchwork, I would suggest starting with a minimum of 5″ square or with rectangles. The basics of patchwork are all the same.
The project I am working on is a small 8.5″ x 25.5″ piece which will be made into a lamp shade. For this project I am using rectangles with angled sides.
Choose some fabrics with a similar tone but different hues or shades of that tone. For this project I have picked pinks.
It is best to use material which is 100% cotton and not elasticated. When completing a patchwork, ideally you should not use fabrics with a different thickness, feel or elasticity.
A good way to practice if you are new and do not have any plain cut fabric from a roll is to use old clothing; old shirts work well. If using old clothing, remember the above about the type of material thats best to use.
You can however buy a fat quarter bundle of material from a number of online retailers including Amazon to get you started on a project.
When you are about to start a project or buying material its worth thinking about the following points:
What pattern will you follow? Grid it out. How many blocks per row? How many rows? How much fabric will you need?
Example – if you are doing a 50″ x 50″ patchwork quilt, 5″ topical squares that will be a 10 squares x 10 squares grid. If you use 5 different types of fabric you will need 2 pieces of the same fabric per row x 10 rows = each colour fabric you have, you will need enough to cut 20 squares each. Important: It is however important to remember that with patchwork, you will need to add an extra 0.25″ to each side of the shape for space to sew a seam. Therefore, when calculating the above, you should ensure that the fabric you are getting is enough to cut 20 squares which are 5.5″.
Because I am not using an acrylic template I will start by squaring the fabric off.
For fabric which has lines or grid you should cut on a line to make sure it looks square (unless you don’t want it to look this way, make sure that however you cut it, the pieces look the same).
To make it quicker to cut you can fold the fabric. In this case I have folded this piece of fabric in half, making sure the the lines are inline.
Use the corner which you have squared off and cut from here.
From here, I use my long acrylic ruler to mark out 2.5″, putting the piece I am cutting off under my acrylic ruler.
For this project in particular I am cutting off 3 rows that are 2.5″ in height. I will deal with the width shortly.
You can see a timelapse of squaring and cutting fabric by clicking here
For fabric without a line pattern to square up, fold in half. Lay flat against your cutting board and line the folded end up to one of the lines on the board. find a line running in the other direction and lay the ruler in line with this line and use the rotary cutter to cut a thin strip off.
As you can see from this image, this piece of fabric is now square on this end.
Once you have all of the long strips cut you will need to make a template for the final piece size.
Using my project as an example, I cut 2.5″ tall pieces and 6.5″ wide pieces. My template piece is 2″ tall and 6″ wide. I will use this piece to mark the back of my fabric so I know where to sew.
These pieces show the template marked on the back of the fabric. Make sure you place the template as central as possible. It is best to use a fabic pencil if you have one, if not you can use a pencil or a standard pen which will wash out in the wash. Do not use sharpies or markers of any kind.
You can watch a time lapse of the marking and cutting process by clicking here
Once the pieces are marked on the back, you should iron each individual piece, eliminating any wrinkles.
Although this is not necessary, ironing makes the final project cleaner and it also makes it easier to line up and sew the pieces together.
Set them into stacks ready to put together the pattern.
Here I have laid out the pattern as I will be completing it so I can put them into stacks by row. First I will be sewing the short ends together into rows before I connect them together.
I have not followed a particular pattern here. The rules I have made for this project is that no two pieces of fabric should touch, each row will have a piece of each fabric, plus one that’s duplicated, but it shouldn’t be duplicated in more than one row, one piece of each per column.
What pattern you choose is up to you. It can be methodical or it can be random.
Put them into stacks. I personally like to work from left to right, so the piece on the top of my stack will be the first piece. I also separate rows so when I stack them in one large stack I alternate rows so they are easy to differentiate.
It is easiest and fastest to sew patchwork on a sewing machine, but if you do not have a sewing machine you can sew by hand.
To hand sew patchwork you will need a needle, scissors, pins and thread. Ideally use a colour thread close to the project you are working on.
I am using red to make it easier to see how to hand sew.
First, lay the two pieces on top of each other. The front side of the fabric should be facing each other and the back side which you have marked with your template should face out.
Line up the corners you have drawn for your template. Use a pin in each corner to make sure you have lined the pieces up.
Next use a pin in the middle, make sure it goes through the fabric, making the line of the template line up. push through the fabric and then back through to hold it in place.
Pin the corners down, ensuring that the template lines for each are now lined up
Move the pin in the left corner over a few centimeters, starting a couple of mm into the line, pull the threaded needle through the fabric and come back through to the top side in the corner.
Tie a knot here. I like to triple knot, but be careful not to over tighten and pinch the fabric.
Follow a similar pattern going forward.
Push down through the fabric a few mm forward. Pull fabric through to the back of the project.
Push the needle back through to the left of where you have come through to the back, touching the last stitch you have made to the left.
You can watch a timelapse of this being completed by clicking here
Alternatively, for a step by step slow video you can watch this by clicking here
Once you have stitched together push the seam one way and iron in that direction. All pieces should be ironed in the same direction.
The seams should all be tight. If they are not, make sure to reinforce with further stitching.
From the front, the rows will look like this.
Sewing on a sewing machine works similarly. However the one important thing to note with the sewing machine is that you should ensure you stitch forward 2-3 stitches, back 2-3 stitches and then forward on both the start and end of the line.
To watch a time lapse of sewing on the machine click here.
To watch a slow version of the video for step by step guidance click here.
Now that I have sewn all my rows together and ironed the seams down, I personally like to add a little bit of decorative stitch to the top which holds the seam down and in place.
You do not need to do this step, but I think it adds a little extra detail. Many modern machines have preset stitches you can use. Use the seam as a guide and you can get a nice top stitch like this leaf design here.
Now that I have all of the rows sewn together horizontally I am going to put the rows together.
Similarly to doing the individual rows, when putting them together line up the corners of each piece first and then use more pins to ensure the middle is lined up.
It is easiest when stitching the rows together to do it all in one pass, in which case you will need quite a few pins.
Your goal when stitching the two rows together is to stick as closely to your pattern is possible. In my example I wanted the diagonal lines on each row to line up. I took care lining up the corners and they are all together.
Now repeat this for all of the rows.
Once this is done repeat the ironing process and iron all of the seams down in one direction. If you want to use the top stitching method again to hold down the seams you should again do this.
Project to be continued. Please check back for updates.