Once all the blocks had been completed, it was necessary to choose contrasting fabrics for sashings and posts which are placed around each block and used to join these blocks together. On my quilt you will see I chose the red fabric as a highlight for the posts and purchased a more subtly patterned fabric for the sashings. After deciding on the placement of each block which required laying out each block and then moving them around to achieve a layout whereby the colours and patterns were evenly distributed, it was then a case of systematically sewing the fabrics together in order of rows and then joining these rows together all the time being careful to match seams and keep everything straight.
After that came the task of cutting the border which involved quite precise measuring because as our teacher explained sometimes the length of the top and bottom and both sides of a finished piece of patchwork can be uneven no matter how careful the seam allowances were sewn. So it was important to measure in three places (top, bottom and centre for the length and left side, right side and centre for the width) and use the average measurement to cut the lengths of border. The side borders were sewn to the patchwork first before the top and bottom borders. It was at this point while we had our fabric and rotary cutter on hand that we cut out strips for binding and were shown how to neatly join these lengths of strips together which was very easy. This was then put away for use at the end of the project.
The following week we were taught how to lay our backing fabric (which was yet another piece of fabric purchased) face down on the work table, place the cotton wadding over top and then final placement of our 'work of art' on top. We all worked together on each other's quilt because it was so important that when each layer was placed on top of the other, that it was gently and accurately placed to ensure evenness with no stretching or warping and straightness was maintained. After securely attaching all three layers to the work table with the most high-tech of devices (bull-dog clips!), we all set to the task of pinning the layers together at close intervals but not on any seams. Pinning four quilts together took up the entire lesson but it was a most enjoyable time for us all to chat about all sorts of topics.
The following week, we were taught the technique of 'stitching in the ditch' which really is just a quilting term for stitching in the seam allowance on the lower side. We were also shown the correct way of securing and bringing the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt so the back of the quilt was smooth with no cut off threads and whilst it took us all a little while to master this technique, it was worth it for a beautiful and professional finish. In order to keep the quilt flat and stable and prevent any possible warping, we were also advised on the order of stiching seams ie. the inside sashing borders first, then the outside before sewing the individual blocks. All of my blocks were sewn in the ditch to reflect the pattern on the back so I'll admit it was a long process and required patience. The quilt needed to be rolled carefully around the sewing machine when working in an area which was quite tight, but once I could see it coming together, it was inspiration for me to keep going albeit in stages.
The following and last week of our classes involved squaring and cutting the borders evenly and attaching the binding to the edge. Our teacher was very implicit with the technique on how to mitre the corners to give a perfectly rounded point and instructed us on a clever technique to join the ends together so the binding appeared seamless and not bulky. It was then just a matter of folding the binding to the wrong side and handstitching a slip stitch into place to cover the machine stitching and, for me, this was enjoyably done while watching television and listening to the rain or howling wind outside.
My quilt now has pride of place displayed over a cream upholstered chair in our lounge room and I am so happy with my efforts and the finished effect that I often look and touch it lovingly when no-one is around (sshhh...don't tell anyone).
I am also proud to say that I have already started my next quilting project which consists of log cabin blocks in very bright colours. But I'll leave that story for another post.
'Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance' - Samuel Johnson