Oct 24

How to Begin Patchwork

hand stitching quiltingIn patchwork, otherwise known as piecing, small pieces of fabric are sewn together to create a decorative design. This can be done either by hand or by using a sewing machine. It is only possible to use a sewing machine for stitching together certain shapes like squares and rectangles.

Sewing by hand is more popular and allows you to create more intricate designs. This method is known as ‘piecing over paper’. This is because the shapes chosen for the final design are drawn onto paper and cut out. This must be done accurately for the pieces to fit together snugly. You can use graph paper or draw round a template.

Pieces of fabric slightly larger than the pieces of paper are tacked round each of the shapes and then joined together from the reverse side of the work using over-stitch. The tacking is done on the fabric only; it is not attached to the paper.

Geometric shapes are often used and even quite simple to construct patterns, like lines of squares, can create striking effects. The shapes must tessellate and so not every shape will work in patchwork. Hexagons will, but octagons have to be teamed with squares. ‘T’ shapes have to be constructed from two separate rectangles.

The work can then be embellished with appliqué, embroidery and even inlay patchwork. Appliqué is the application of motifs made from fabric to the front of the work whereas inlay patchwork is stitched from the underside. These techniques can be employed once the basics have been mastered.

A bed cover that has been pieced but not wadded is called a coverlet; one that has been wadded is called a quilt. Quilting is a method of stitching two layers of material together with wadding (or batting) in between. If the top layer is one piece of fabric, it is known as a wholecloth quilt; if the top is pieced it is known as a patchwork quilt. The bottom layer is usually one piece of fabric and is not generally on show. A quilt offers more warmth than a coverlet but takes more time to construct.

For beginners it may be wise to start on smaller projects such as cushion covers. If you want to create something to cover your bed you may want to opt for making a duvet cover which will be an easier project than a fully-constructed quilt. If you want to cover a ready-made cushion pad, make the patchwork to cover the pad don’t look for a pad to fit your work.

Hand quilting is done on a frame. One hand is held above the quilt and the other below so that the needle can be passed from hand to hand through the quilt. Running stitch is used to secure all three layers together adding another decorative dimension to the pieced work. Working on a large quilt was traditionally done by groups of women either in a domestic or commercial setting. Quilting sessions were also often social occasions.

One of the nice things about patchwork other than the obvious use for otherwise wasted off-cuts of fabrics is that quilts often contain memories. The fabrics used could be from children’s clothes or homemade curtains.

The names of the designs are often appealing as well as descriptive and often evoke thoughts of bygone days: ‘grandmother’s garden’, ‘log cabin’, ‘Jacob’s ladder’, ‘bear’s paw’, ‘flying geese’, ‘maple leaf’.

Of course fabrics can be bought especially for the purpose of making a quilt. Fabric for patchwork is usually sold in pieces called fat quarters and these pieces of fabric are often sold in bundles of similar coloured fabrics that complement each other. But you can buy fabric off the roll which is cheaper and of course you will be able to choose each fabric separately. When creating projects that will be washed it is important to use fabrics with similar washing instructions. If you use a pure cotton fabric, it will need more ironing than a fabric with a synthetic element.

If you choose to edge your work with piping, whether it is a quilt or cushion, bias binding can be tailor-made to match your fabrics or bought ready-made in packets. There are gadgets that can help you make your own bias binding; they are used in conjunction with an iron. Bias-binding is so called because it is fabric cut on the bias (cut diagonally) to ensure that it keeps its shape well and does not pucker when wrapped around a cord.

If you find that patchwork is the craft for you, you will probably want to invest in equipment that will help make each step of project construction easier. You can buy templates to draw round for your paper and fabric pieces, and cutting wheels and boards to make the job of cutting fabric pieces much quicker. For a huge array of fabrics, books and equipment it is well worth visiting a stitching show as well as checking out your local shops.

Then you will be well on your way to creating useful, unique and stunning projects for your home.


Christina Sinclair is a lecturer and self-published children’s author with qualifications in design. She is now writing ‘The Salty Sam Fun Blog for Children’ which is to be found on her website. The blog has articles about history, science, nature, gardening and environmental issues. It also has free craft downloads, knitting patterns, easy recipes and other projects for children: http://www.christina-sinclair.com/blog/

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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