A Quilt Pattern for Beginners (and what is a ‘fat quarter’?)

Clouds and Smoke cover picture.JPG

I have just published a new quilt pattern, designed specifically for anyone wanting to make their very first quilt. It’s called ‘Clouds and Smoke’ because the original is made in creams and greys. I was so happy to find the beautiful stone building pictured above for the cover photo-shoot, with its rich mix of greys.

The quilt is a nice, straightforward design, using squares.  The final quilt can be square (usable as a lap-quilt or throw or as a play-mat) or an oblong (usable as a lap-quilt or throw or a cot-quilt for a baby over 12 months). Diagrams are given for both shapes. You can complete the quilt top with six ‘fat quarters’ – three of cream or cream print and three of grey or grey print.  (I bought my six fat quarters at Sewn at Pam’s in Bishop Auckland, UK.)

A ‘fat quarter’ is a phrase much bandied-about among quilters but which I had never heard before I returned to doing patchwork and quilting in the last few years. A ‘fat quarter’ looks like this:what is a fat quarter.jpg

Things can get a bit complicated, however, because of the difference between imperial and metric measurements.

American quilters stick to imperial, so they will buy lengths of fabric in yards, and will think of the width as 42″. So, following the diagram above, a fat quarter will be 21″ wide and 18″ long – a quarter of the area of one yard.

Quilters from the British Isles, especially younger quilters, will be used to using metric, and will buy lengths of fabric in metres and will think of the fabric width as 107cm. So, following the diagram above, a fat quarter will be 53.5cm wide and 50cm long – a quarter of the area of one metre.

The ‘metric’ quilters will get a slightly bigger piece of fabric, because a metre is longer than a yard.

The reason that this particular piece is called a ‘fat’ quarter, is that it has a chunky, almost square shape. If you went into a fabric shop that used imperial measurements and just asked for a ‘quarter of a yard’ you would get a strip cut across the roll, so it would measure 42″ all the way across the width, but only be 9″ long. The shape of the ‘fat quarter’ gives quilters more scope (even though the actual area is exactly the same).

So, as a beginner, you need to know how your fabric shop sells fabric (by the yard? by the metre?). If you are buying fat quarters in a pack, it is worth looking closely at the packaging to see how big those particular fat quarters are.

I’m teaching a ‘Make your First Quilt’ group at the moment, which is very satisfying, but each time I do it, I am reminded of how many different skills are involved in making a quilt. You need to already know how to use a sewing machine to stitch a straight line, but the pattern covers all the other techniques you need to learn. There are useful hints and tips alongside careful step-by-step instructions, each with its own colour photo:

2 measuring up a block.JPG

You can learn how to cut out, stitch together, layer up, add quilting and bind your quilt. Machine quilting is covered and so is and hand quilting:

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You can find the ‘Clouds and Smoke’ pattern by clicking here.

Taking up crochet

Two and a bit years ago, my hobby became my business. Now, there are sixteen patterns (so far) for sewing and quilting, and many more in development.  Click here to see them, if you live in the UK/EU) or click here to see them if you live outside the UK/EU.  There have also been five magazine articles (one of them is mentioned here) and there are over a hundred fabric designs (click here to see them).  I love sewing and quilting, so I have every reason to enjoy my work.

But what to do when I’m not working? I’m not good at sitting still doing nothing, so I thought I might head back to something I did in the past.  Crocheting is something I used to do as a teenager, but which I haven’t done much since. Crochet has become somewhat trendy of late so I though I would like to have a go. I came upon the box below on one of my charity shop searches and decided that making a warm hat would be a great idea, as there was a ski trip coming up. I had a longish train journey to fill, so felt that could work…

Crocheted hat kit.JPG

Alas, I should have looked more closely at the box and spotted the German words near the top of the lid. Once installed on my train, the box opened, it became clear that all the instructions were in German. Now, I did study German until I was 18, but oddly my course did not in fact cover crochet terminology! It took me most of the three-hour journey just to translate the instructions and to practise a few stitches. Once that hurdle was over, I got on OK, although I did swop the rather vibrant bright green yarn (as depicted on the box-lid) for some white, to go with the purple and peachy-pink colours. Here, then, is the hat.

Hat crocheted by Amanda Ogden.JPG

While on the subject of the German language and woolly hats, I should also say that when away on the above-mentioned ski-trip, I had occasion to purchase an Innocent mixed-fruit smoothie, which was close in colour to that of the hat above.

Innocent smoothie bottle.JPG

To my delight, I found that the top of my bottle was covered by an exquisitely-knitted small hat. I was aware of the Innocent campaign in the UK, where for every knitted hat a donation is made to Age UK, as can be seen from this article in their magazine.

article from Age UK magazine.JPG

Clearly, this happens in Switzerland as well, and donations go to national charities for the elderly in that country.  The label on the hat translates ‘This little hat helps’.  Apparently over one million little knitted hats have been made in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.   So I am in possession of this beautiful, tiny item (it measures 2″/5cm high), which is knitted in a fine cottony yarn, complete with a plaited thread ‘bobble’ at the top. I love it – and sadly, I will probably never know who the skillful maker is.

Tiny knitted hat.JPG