“What shall we do whilst J & Daddy are away on football tour T?”

“Well… I’d really like to make a quilt.”


This was one of those conversations that, as soon as they reach their eventual and somewhat ambulatory conclusion, you wonder where the hell it came from.

This is also one of those moments where I find myself thinking, “meh, quilting? how hard can that be?!?!?”

I know, I know. I can hear all of the quilters among you shaking your heads, muttering under your breaths ‘oh, how little you know, my friend. How little you know.’ Perhaps accompanied by a gleefully evil ‘’mwaahahaha” running on loop round your heads with a knowing, sly smile playing round the corners of your freshly licked lips.

T has never quilted. More to the point, I have never quilted. We know nothing about quilting other than it involves sewing lots of bits of fabric together and looks very pretty when made into a bedspread. With a romantic image in our heads of a beautiful bedspread made from liberty tana lawn fabrics laid across a bed in a pristine room with voile curtains billowing gently in the breeze from an open, sun drenched window, we decided that this would be the perfect way of spending our Mummy-Daughter time. A crafty project with something to show the boys when they returned from their football tour. Perfect.

It turns out that quilting is actually quite a lot harder than ‘just’ sewing a few squares together, which my naivety had foolishly persuaded me to believe. I think I was lucky as T was wanting to create a fairly straight forward patchwork quilt. I have assumed that this is a straight forward form of quilting but to be honest I have probably made an ass out of you and me by this statement and it is probably one of the more complex forms of quilting. Is it? Feel free to voice loud corrections if I am incorrect but let’s face it patchwork quilting means there are no funny angles, no octagons, hexagons, dodecahedrons, or any other -ons. There is no paper-piece making nor making a big picture of a cat in a tree out of irregular sized scraps. Just a ‘simple’ patchwork quilt made from squares of fabric which had to come from our fabric stash which, in all fairness was starting to take on the look of a commercial stockroom rather than a domestic sewing cupboard, so T’s style choice was pretty extensive.

As we don’t do things by halves in the Life of Ryrie then, of course, T went for a proper single bed size quilt of about 130cm x 200cm. Obviously we had to start the whole project by working out the size that each of the patchwork squares needed to be to look good and to be workable then add on the seam allowance for all four sides of the square. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But when maths isn’t your strong subject your head starts to ache rather rapidly and being a clothing sewer rather than a quilter I worked all of our maths out in centimetres. Now, it appears that quilters still work in inches. Why? I have no idea, probably just to p*** off new quilters. The consequence of this meant that for the extra bits of fabric we needed to buy, to minimise wastage we had to convert our workings and of course when you are converting measurement and you are a Ryrie there is room for expected error. Anyway, we worked all of our maths, agreed on a square size and finally settled on the number of squares that we needed to make the quilt.

img_1291-1Then we attempted to cut out the squares. You wouldn’t have thought that cutting out a fabric square would take that long but, even though we had created a template to cut round it did. By the time we had reached about 4pm the corners on our squares were rather less than the square ninety degree right-angles that they should have been and our squares we’re looking decidedly irregular. ‘Oh well’ I thought, ‘I’m sure that won’t be too much of an issue.’ Well… It IS an issue people.

It most definitely IS an issue when you are making a patchwork quilt if the squares you are sewing together are not perfectly square. It is a very big bloody issue. Dressmaking is a far more forgiving craft; if you wobble when cutting out your fabric generally it won’t matter too much. If you wobble a little when you are sewing two parts together generally you can figure out a solution and cover it up. If you need to unpick and correct some stitching, again, not too much of a problem. All of these ARE issues when making a patchwork quilt. Every flaw and tiny error you make WILL (am I using shouty capitals too much??) show up. If your squares are not all exactly (is a bold emphasis is better?) the same size you will then need to ensure that you compensate and work out where the sew line should be if the square was perfectly square otherwise it will throw your line levels off and all your measurements will be a fraction out which could then cause you not to have a rectangular quilt but one of those weird -on shapes.

Once you get onto the sewing part in dressmaking you are pretty much done, the preparation takes the majority of the time and generally the sewing is the super speedy part. Do not assume that once you get onto the sewing part of a quilting project it is almost done. Nope. No chance. Especially if your squares are actually polygons but you still want to sew them as squares. It all became a bit too much for my pretty determined 11 year old and by the time Daddy and J had returned from their eventful overseas football tour, just 2 days later, we had managed to sew 1 complete strip together. This little project had become our Everest. It would be conquered, but with a little more effort and a lot more time than originally anticipated.

Six weeks after starting the quilt, the top of the patchwork quilt was complete and reasonably rectangular. SIX weeks!

Once you have the top of the quilt you then need to keep your wits about you to sew it to the backing and filling. That took us another week although part of that was because I did stupidly manage to sew the three sides together in the wrong other TWICE. Doh! But even so.

Now the quilt is finished and lies beautifully, if a little wonkily, on T’s bed. Here it is…

You’d have thought I would have learnt from this experience, not to trust my initial ‘how hard can it be response?’ but oh no my friends, oh no. In a matter of weeks I found myself committing to producing a 3m long x 0.5m high outside wall mural by using the medium of mosaic. Oh and this little project was to be completed with the ‘help’ of 27 year 6 pupils (11 year olds). Indeed, how hard could it possibly be???? Well… that’s a whole other story!