My first quilt – a WIP

My first quilt - a jelly roll quilt for baby - a work in progress.

Did you read the review of the FREE Piece, Patch, Quilt class that I took.  It really did give me all the skills I needed to make my first quilt a success – except I hadn't really thought it through properly when I ‘designed' my quilt.  Before we go any further, don't worry, this is not turning into a quilting site, and the way my first ever quilt is going, I'm not sure there will ever be a second! But sharing things that don't quite work out is often more fun than those that do…

What I did and what I should have done

My eye was caught while online shopping by this cute little Jelly Roll in bright colors.  I thought it would be perfect for making a little quilt for a new baby girl who is on the way, plus a cot quilt should be a small and easy project to start with.  So I ordered the fabric.  You can see it just peeping in the top right corner here.

Review of the free beginners quilting class; Piece, Patch, Quilt.

Except I didn't really notice that although it was described as a Jelly Roll, it was only half the size of a regular one, and only had 20 strips instead of the 40 I was expecting.  I had been thinking I would use half the strips for the front and half for the back.  Darn.

I reserved two grey strips that seemed to contrast most strongly with the rest and sewed up the other 18 together. So far so good.  Then I chopped the quilt into 3 across ways, and sewed those grey strips in. I turned the central piece around the other way and sewed that in and voila – my first ever quilt top was finished.  It looked lovely, and I'd even managed to sew and press it pretty accurately.  Happy.

thesimpsons3Er, but now I only had half the strips I was expecting, I didn't have anything for the back.  So I measured it and that's when I realised that I should have given the whole thing a bit more thought before starting.  The top measures 39 by 47 inches.  Now what was I going to do?  I should have thought in advance and made sure it was going to fit on a yard of fabric, at about 36 x 44 inches.  Duh!

I really didn't want to cut it down, and even if I did, I'd have to cut it down a lot to allow for shifting so that the backing would be quite a bit larger.

My local fabric store only has a choice of about 20 cotton prints and at least half of those feature vegetables or turtles.  And the rest are mostly strange. None of them were going to match to this quilt.  I DO have a small fabric stash, but it is small and most of the pieces have already been cut into for one project or another, and none of them were large enough for a quilt back, as I only ever tend to buy 1 yard anyway.  So I rummaged around, found a whole 1 yard of some blue-ish fabric with multi-colored owls and a third of a yard in this bright pink, and it had to do.  I split the owls, sewed the pink in the middle as a ‘design feature' and just about had enough to make a back for my ill-designed quilt.

My first quilt - a jelly roll quilt for baby - a work in progress.

I sandwiched the top and bottom with some batting and spray basted them all together on the patio.  In hindsight, although it was all smooth and flat, I think it should have been rather more taut, but I wasn't sure how to do that.  It was hard enough trying to work around the constant stream of cats who found it the most comfortable place to sit. I think you can probably quilt OR have cats – you can't do both.

My first quilt - a jelly roll quilt for baby - a work in progress.

So now I have my first quilt all stuck together and ready to quilt.  Er, well how do I do that then?  So far, my quilting experience has been solely very small straight line quilting projects such as my long arm oven mitts.  This was a whole different ball game and I wanted it to be pretty, so I've signed up for another class.  This time, I've signed up for Start Free Motion Quilting. I think I'm running before I can walk here, but hey, that's my way.  How bad can it be?


I can't imagine my first ever quilt is going to be a free motion masterpiece, but I'll settle at this stage for one that doesn't take me a week to stitch and doesn't all come unraveled when it's washed.

Keep watching as the project/disaster unfolds.

You made this possible.  Thanks for this quilt project go to – LUCY, who smuggled the jelly roll in her case along with lots of other fabric goodies for me, and to LEE who brought in some of that quilt basting spray.  I couldn't have done this without you ladies, thank you.
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40 Responses to My first quilt – a WIP

  1. Pingback: How to Make a Jelly Roll Quilt: 49 Easy Patterns | Guide Patterns

  2. Jennifer says:

    It wouldn’t be fun if everything came out perfectly – well, maybe it would, but we wouldn’t learn as much. I like your quilt and solution. Wasn’t it fun to find something that worked in the end?

  3. Yvonne says:

    Deby, I just love your site, and you remind me so much of myself. I remember, some years ago, I watched a Martha Stewart episode where she took men’s old wool/tweed suit coats and made a lap quilt out of them. I don’t even think I was new to sewing then, I think I couldn’t sew, but the project seemed so easy and simple to me, it was worth a try. After all, how hard could measuring 4×4 squares, cutting, lining them up and stitching them by hand, be? What a mess! I was so disappointed with myself. In my head I had a picture of how beautiful this was going to be, and how I could make one for me, and my mother in law, and my father–heck the whole family. It turned out so bad that I couldn’t even talk about it. I learned right then–never tell anyone about what you’re making until it’s done. That way you won’t have to explain what happened when someone asks about it. I must say, I’ve improved since then. Just a side thought…I’ve registered for a beginners quilting class at my local fabric store more times than I can count, and each time it’s always been cancelled–not enough students. Is it me or what? But I’m seriously thinking about taking one through Craftsy. And we can show our beautiful results online together.
    Have a great day, Deby!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Sorry to hear about your early sewing disasters – you are so right, keep plans secret then no one will be any the wiser when or if things don’t turn out. I know hos frustrating it can be with the classes too. There aren’t any here but when I was in the UK, I was constantly signing up to adult education classes n all sorts of subjects and 90% of the time they would all cancel the week before due to lack of numbers. It’s a shame, but the teacher has to make a certain number of students to make it worthwhile. At least with the online classes that never happens, and if you are sick and miss a week, you don’t miss a lesson.

  4. Courtney says:

    My first quilt was such a disaster…. Yet I still gave it away as a gift…. I still feel bad…. You are doing great!!! Love the colors!!!

    • Deby Coles says:

      I don’t think this will turn out too badly, anyway, they don’t know what size it should be, only what size it is. So therefore it’s exactly as it should be 😉

  5. Beechbaby says:

    I always buy extra fabric because I’m a beginner also and am afraid that with one mistake I can be short of fabric I need to finish. And I’ve also used everything from matching fabric to sheets for my backing as well. As for the quilting…I’ve made 6 so far, still consider myself a true beginner, and have used the “stitch in the ditch” method for quilting for all of them. I have a walking foot and a free motion foot my machine but I’m still not comfortable enough to try free motion quilting.

  6. Doreen S says:

    Love the quilt! Great idea with the different width strips separated by the grey polka dot. Quilting only gets better as you do more quilts so keep up the good work. The first jelly roll I bought had 20 strips too, so I thought that was what they were supposed to have.

  7. Graceeh says:

    Well, it is probably cheating in the worst possible way but I have actually used a thick flannel sheet from LLBean for the back of one of my quilts. It is so warm and cozy. I guess I could have broken it up somehow or added appliqué to it but it was for my hubby and he is very conservative and it suits him very well the way it is. Good quality sheets and sometimes, even curtains can make great quilt backs. Sometimes, even part of a “too big” sheet can be incorporated into the quilt front or border to coordinate with the back.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Thanks for the tip on fabric alternatives. Sadly sheets and curtains are also typically things that have to be ordered overseas and shipped into the island, so it wouldn’t have helped me this time around, but I’ll keep my eye out around town in future in case any of the shops ever get any cotton sheets. I did recently buy a pair of second hand curtains from a hotel that was upgrading their rooms, but not the sort of thing that would suit a quilt. In fact, I plan to take them apart and turn them into—-some new curtains one day, if I ever get my own house…

  8. Lorna says:

    Deb if you want to get it done before your class on free motion can I suggest using a serpentine stitch over your seam lines. You need to have your fabric flat not really taut and from what I see you have done a great job.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Hmm, I’ve looked all over my machine and fiddled with all sorts of settings and widths etc and it doesn’t have anything like this one. Mine are all too small and tight, more like a zig-zag. But its a good idea, thanks. I’ve already started on the class and am ready to start some practice this afternoon. But in this heat, it registers 106 in my sewing room, I think I’m going to be a bit hot.

      • Lorna says:

        Too bad, it’s a build in stitch on all 3 (yes 3) of my machines and my fave for a quick quilt. I often use a variegated thread and it just jazzes up a baby quilt quite nicely. Warm here today too, 28 Celsius (I’m in Nova Scotia, Canada so that’s warm}

  9. Karen says:

    I think you are doing great for your first quilt, just remember everyone has been a beginner at one time. I am sure you will love it, especially with your creative mind, before long you will be addicted. Keep up the good work and continue to stretch your skills, It is always good to move out of your box and your usual things.

  10. Lucy McKie says:

    Since I now have a long arm I have a stash of quilter’s safety pins and other goodies necessary for pin basting a quilt. I will bring them in November and show you how they can make the quilting process painless and perfect!

  11. Anke says:

    Looks lovely – the baby will love it! I’m already curios to see your final picture 🙂

    Funny enough I did my first patchwork piece today and I also experienced that it is a hard work to go. (Not that I doubted it …) I did some math before, as i wanted to end up with a certain size and somehow I lost some cm, and my fabric moved around, so it is not at all prezise as I wanted.
    But it was meant to be a test and still I am not really sure if I will dare to go to the big blanket.

    • Deby Coles says:

      From my test pieces, I can see that the quilting process causes the fabric to gain texture and depth, and therefore loose length and width. Makes sizing even more difficult!

      • Anke says:

        Good then, that I skipped the quilting part – just for the pillow case it wasn’t necessary and for a test piece it was challenging enough!
        But I will take this effect into account when I try the big blanket (if ever). But as there does not have to fit something in (as a ready-sized pillow) it is not that bad when it turns out a bit smaller 😉

  12. Lesley Gilbert says:

    I recently started quilting and made my first 2 baby quilts finishing them off with some straight and ‘3 stitch’ zig-zag lines. A friend asked me to make her 2 baby quilts so I decided I really did need to learn how to FMQ properly. I’ve been practising for the past week, taking advice from some free you-tube classes with Leah Day. She explains everything so clearly for beginners and lots of helpful advice about tension and feed dogs etc.

    Looking forward to seeing how you finish off your quilt 🙂

  13. Mary Jane Tremblay says:

    Leah Day and Angela Walters , both have excellent for beginners classes on Craftsy. I’ve taken almost everyone of their classes. Great for the beginner and the experienced quilter.
    You’re quilt is lovely and the receiver will love it.
    I love your show I follow it every day you post it. Keep up the great work.

  14. cwest100 says:

    I think you did great! Thanks to you and a few other bloggers, I have recently taken up sewing. However, I’m like you – straight seams and the most adventurous I’ve gotten is a skirt other than craft sewing! HOWEVER, I’ve seen so many beautiful quilts, that I may wade into the water. My mother was an avid quilter, but after her pieces were sewn together, she did her quilting by hand! Thanks for letting us know how it’s going.

  15. Susan Wood says:

    Well done for breaking into the quilting world. It’s a big ole world but very rewarding when you finish a project. Just a thought, but seeing as the quilt is for a baby be careful with the chemicals in the spray on basting.

  16. Sharon N says:

    Jacquie Gering teaches a Craftsy class on usin your walking foot for quilting. Really good class. Highly recommend it. It is good to know both ways.

  17. dara says:

    very pretty, Deby!!

  18. Mandy says:

    You’re doing great for your first quilt! I’ve been making quilts since I was 9 or 10. My grandmother retired from a garment factory and started making quilts to sell to supplement her income. I would spend weeks with her every summer learning to sew. She passed away in 2002, but I still have several of her quilts and my very first quilt. I have the very last hand-quilted double wedding ring quilt she made on my bed.

    • Deby Coles says:

      I’m already feeling very sentimental about this one. It hasn’t been much work really, but I imagine after spending perhaps 100’s of hours painstakingly putting one together for a very special person or occasion, you really do add a little of yourself to it. I hope those family quilts will bring happiness to you for many years to come.

  19. Vicki says:

    I am so proud of you! The first quilt is always the scary one. Looks to me like you have it under control. Can’t wait to see it finished.

  20. Tracy says:

    Deb, you’re so funny! I much like you – when I find a project that interests me, I jump in, sometimes without thinking things through. I also have cats (does the black cat have just three legs or is that a trick of the camera angle?) And sewing can be a challenge with them around!

    Good luck with the free movement quilting!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Yes the cat really does only have 3 legs. He lost one when he was a kitten – he’s crazy, always getting into trouble! Even with 3 legs he still manages it. He usually lies behind the sewing machine and sleeps while I sew, but put any fabric on the floor and he’s all over it. I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

  21. lizelaine says:

    Deby, I have had the same experience—beginning quilter saw a cute baby quilt in Craftsy and wanted to make it for a friend. I now know what “on point” means (not something for a novice and next time pick something with larger pieces. My fabric was colorful and instead of being “baby fun” it was “Mardi Gras” fun. On top of that, like you, when I thought I was ready to put it all together there was only half as much as I needed and the supplier didn’t sell the fabric in pre-cuts anymore. Unlike you, I haven’t finished mine.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Yikes. Yes, we all do it, jumping in with enthusiasm just keeping our fingers crossed it will all turn out right in the end.

      • Franni V says:

        My first one , still unfinished, had wadding about an inch thick. Even the walking foot I went & bought specially didn’t cope with it! But if we didn’t leap in, wouldn’t life be sad & boring??

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