Patch­work quilt- a work in progress

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For the past six months I have been hand-sewing a new patch­work quilt for my bed to replace the worn out one my nan made for me when I was a teen­ager. I’m still no-where near finished, but I’ve done the bulk of the work. These photos are from my Instagram account over the past few months, so they’re not as sharp as if I’d taken DSLR photos of the work.

IMG_0290.JPG (my bed in 2009)

For the past 17 years I have had a patch­work quilt that my nan made for me on my bed. She used pieces of old bedsheets she had around the house and scraps from her dress­mak­ing busi­ness. It’s now seen count­less house moves.


Just before Christ­mas, after many repairs over the years, it finally gave up the ghost. Some of the fabric star­ted disin­teg­rat­ing, and the wadding inside had mostly disap­peared into a hand­ful of scraps. It was time to enter retire­ment. I packed it away until I bought a suit­able frame recently, and then I framed a section of it that was still in one piece, and then unpicked any intact hexagon sections to reuse on cush­ions at a later date (it seemed a horrible shame to throw any non-ragged bits away).

Over Christ­mas last year, I decided to hand sew a new hexagon quilt myself to replace it. My nan died a few years back, and I was given whatever sewing supplies I wanted from her house. In the selec­tion were chunks of some of the origin­al fabrics she’d used in my quilt. I decided to use other scraps and remnants I had around for the other pieces. Patch­work quilts, at least in my book and by tradi­tion, are meant to be an econom­ic­al and envir­on­ment­ally friendly way to re-use sewing leftovers and unwear­able cloth­ing, not a way to spend a fortune on new fabrics. Hand-sewing a quilt for a double bed is not a craft for the impa­tient, but it’s also not a craft that needs any special equip­ment or costs much (or any) money if you use recycled mater­i­als. (You also have to iron all the fabric before you begin, every single piece once you’ve basted it, and the whole thing before you add the wadding).

The origin­al quilt was made of hexagons appli­qued to a flat base. For my quilt I decided to make it all hexagons, because I had so many scraps to use, and no press­ing dead­line to finish it. I’ve used the paper piecing hand sewing tech­nique, which is the tradi­tion­al way of making quilts in the UK, where you create each piece around a paper template which is taken out at the end (here are some free print­able hexagons templates). Using the paper templates keeps all the pieces crisp and accur­ate, and match­ing up prop­erly. You can learn how to do it here.

I used this online calcu­lat­or to work out how many pieces I would need. It was around 400 hexagons. I wanted to make a double quilt that could be tucked under the ends of the mattress, because I like the tidy look that gives, and it also means that if you sit on the bed it doesn’t mess it up. The quilt my nan made was meant to touch the floor on a single bed, which meant it covered a double, but only just.

(making hexagons in France)

Making hexagons is pleas­antly mind­less, and is easily done while watch­ing tv. Before you know it, you have a stack of ten to twenty you’ve made. It’s also a very port­able craft. I’ve trav­elled around a lot this spring and summer, and been around build­ing work, which has made larger sewing projects inad­vis­able (build­ing dust and paint don’t mix well with sewing). You can take a sand­wich bag with some hexagons, a reel of thread and book of needles anywhere. So for the last 9 months I’ve been making hexagons here and there, which are now mostly finished. I now have an assort­ment of sewn up hexagons in plastic sand­wich bags in a milk crate, and also a biscuit tin full.


The next step is to join them up, as per the plan you can see at the back of the photo, which needed care­ful tally­ing of how many I had of each colour. Of course if you were buying the fabric, you would make the plan first, then buy enough fabric, but I was limited to how many blocks I could get out of each remnant I had. I didn’t just want to join up a whole load of small hexagon wheels, so I created this kaleido­scope pattern. (The hexagon grids are free pdfs from here – they also have almost every other kind of grid paper you could want for free). The next step is to sew all my blocks into the pattern, then add the wadding (natur­al cotton wadding from John Lewis- cheap wadding is a false economy for some­thing like this that is going to be used daily) and a back, quilt round the edge of the hexagons, and then add the bind­ing round the edge, so there’s plenty left to do.

(getting some expert help here)

Here’s an intro­duc­tion to the pieces and where I got the fabric from:

Orange flor­al x 8– I actu­ally have no idea where this came from, it had just been hanging around in my stash for years, too small to do much with

Green tennis dots x 14– a leftover from a dress I made a few years back. The fabric was £2 per metre from a street market stall of remnants I used to regu­larly go to. Some­times they’d have pieces of amaz­ing offcuts from cloth­ing factor­ies, and some­times it would be total rubbish. You never knew from week to week. The collar and neck of the dress just aren’t right, so I need to unpick it and adjust the fit of the shoulders.

Apples x14– Again, a small remnant that I have no idea of the source of

Brown flor­al x60 – This was a skirt I got from a char­ity shop. Someone had made it them­selves back in the 70s, but done it wrong. One side was cut straight, the other on the bias. When you walked, the bias side would slowly but surely creep up your leg until it was rucked up to the waist­band, making it unwear­able. I really liked the fabric, but there wasn’t enough cut on the same grain to make anoth­er skirt.

Pais­ley x22 & x12– This was one of the origin­al fabrics. I fussy cut the pieces to give some with a flor­al pais­ley pattern and some with a chain of hexagons on

Blue flor­al x 100– This was anoth­er of the origin­al fabrics my nan used

Green and orange “Liberty” flor­al x 48– I got this in the street in Paris for €3 at one of the “Coupon” stalls in Mont­martre. (Coupon means offcut in French as well as a small piece of paper, a discount vouch­er is usually called a “bon” though). It was labelled “Liberty”, but no way is it actu­ally by Liberty. For a start the print is wonky, and the grain of the threads isn’t true! I was hesit­ant to use it for clothes, because of the threads not being straight. That’s what you get with cheap fabric some­times.

West Afric­an batik x48– This was a tradi­tion­al West Afric­an dress with puffed sleeves (like this one) I got from a jumble sale for 20p because someone has spilt bleach down the front, making it totally unwear­able. I bet the origin­al owner was really sad, as it’s lovely fabric and was a really nicely made dress. You couldn’t use the fabric to make cloth­ing though- the unbleached back was made of sever­al shaped pieces sewn togeth­er, as were the sleeves. There was enough fabric left in the back and sleeves to make some patch­work pieces though.

Mystery fabric x88 (repres­en­ted as purple on the plan) – I still need to make up some hexagons in a plain fabric. I defin­itely have some plain purple cotton some­where that I can use.


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