Patchwork began as a way to use up leftover scraps of fabric. The craft quickly evolved into a pastime linked to American heritage. Competitions are held in their honor and galleries around the world display them as works of art. I’ve always associated patchwork quilts as an artisan skillset. In my family, there were quite a few quilters who continually passed the art down for generations. However, the skill was lost by the time my generation came of age. I became interested after observing my great-grandmother’s quilts and started researching the craft. They truly are beautiful and with some patience and diligence, you can create one of your own. What do you say we grab a pattern and learn how to sew patchwork? Great, let’s get started!
Just a quick note in regard to stitching your quilt. Patchwork can be stitched by hand or by sewing machine. The construction method is the same for both.
For this tutorial on how to sew a patchwork quilt you will need:
- Quilting pattern
- Contrasting fabrics
- Scissors or rotary cutter – My preference is a rotary cutter. They are quicker, precise and easy on the hands.
- Cutting mat
- Quilting ruler – A quilting ruler is optional, but it can greatly assist in precise measurements and cutting.
- Sewing machine
- Needles – If sewing by hand.
Step 1 – Choose a Pattern
Research a pattern or create one of your own.
Step 2 – Choosing Fabric
The best choice for patchwork quilting is 100% cotton. It is considered the standard for quilting and is easy to care for.
A good way to choose colors is to find a printed fabric that you like as a guide. Then use the colors in that fabric to choose your color blocks. You can also use a color wheel to come up with a custom color scheme. Click here for a video on color selection.
Be mindful of scale. If the print on your fabric is larger than the size of your pieces, this can ultimately create pieces that are not consistent with your block design. So, the pattern in your fabric should be within the scale of your block size.
Step 3 – Measure and Cut Your Pieces
Lay your fabric out on your cutting board and mark the measurements listed in your pattern. A quilting ruler can assist with spacing and provide a guide. Another easy way to keep your measurements consistent is to use some cardboard or light-weight plastic to create templates of your pieces. Then use the templates as a guide to cut out your patchwork pieces. Always remember to add seam allowance if making your own templates.
Step 4 – Stitch the Pieces Together
Spread the basic pattern of your pieces onto the table. Now, stitch your first two pieces together. Continue adding pieces until you complete your first pattern block. Click here to view a video of how to sew patchwork squares together.
Step 5 – Iron the Seams
For each row or block that you complete, you will need to iron each of the adjoining seams flat. This step ensures that your quilt will lay flat without a lot of excess bulk.
Step 6 – Connect the Pattern Blocks
Once you have all of your pattern blocks stitched and ironed, you will connect the blocks to form your completed patchwork quilt top.
Step 7 – Build the Quilt Sandwich
Roll out your backing and batting. They will be wider and longer than your top. Center the patchwork top on the batting. From the center, baste or pin all three layers together. Now your quilt sandwich is ready for quilting. Click here to see the full process beautifully demonstrated.
Step 8– Finish
Once you have sewn your quilt, use seam binding to finish the edges. Click here for a post on binding quilts.
Learning how to sew patchwork is not difficult, it’s very detailed. You could definitely call it a labor of love! They make cherished gifts and are worthy of family heirlooms. It’s one of the only items that I have of my great-grandmother’s. The fact that her hands held and stitched that very quilt is always heartfelt to me. It’s definitely worth a try. You never know, your patchwork project might just become a family heirloom or tradition. If you liked this tutorial and found it helpful, please share or leave us a comment below.