Quilting For Beginners: DIY Constellation Quilt Tips & Tricks, Part Three
This post is the third installment in our series on quilting for beginners--Catch up on the full series below:
- My First DIY Constellation Quilt, PART ONE
- DIY Constellation Quilt Embroidery Stitches Tutorial, PART TWO
- DIY Constellation Quilt Tips & Tricks, PART THREE (This post!)
- How To Sew A Quilt Binding, PART FOUR
YOU GUYS. If you have been a part of The Flora Modiste for the last six months, then you KNOW that I have been working on a massive, ultra time consuming project. And it's not just any sewing project, but our very first quilting project: The DIY constellation quilt.
And I can finally (finally!) say that my DIY constellation quilt is FINISHED.
I still can't quite believe it. I honestly half expected to never finish the thing--It seemed like any time I would finish a constellation, another 2 would pop up out of nowhere. It's like the thing just kept growing, like the universe itself. Ever expanding.
I kept expecting to finish the quilt one week, and when the end was nowhere in sight that Sunday, I would push my finishing date to the next week. And the next week. Then three months went by, and I was still working on it.
And mind you--For the last three months, I was working on this quilt every. single. night. Even if just for an hour or two after dinner while my husband & I were watching TV, I was working on it.
I went to visit my mom for a weekend up in central California, and my DIY constellation quilt went with me. On Thanksgiving, on Christmas, I was working on this baby. Seriously, a constant work in progress.
And while yes, this DIY constellation quilt has taken up a TON of time (At least 3 times longer than the predicted 60 hours) I absolutely loved the project. It was almost therapeutic to just sit and work, keeping my hands moving.
I am one of those people that literally cannot JUST SIT. If I am just sitting there watching TV (even if it's something I am intensely interested in) I have to be doing something else. To continue being productive.
Which made this quilt the perfect evening project. And also: For the last 5 years or so, my husband and I have been participating in a "dry January". (Aka: No alcohol for the entire month.) So working on the quilt every night also helped me not miss an evening glass of wine as much. Hello, distraction.
And I reached that point with my DIY constellation quilt about 3 months in. I really just wanted to FINISH it, you know? So that's when I started working on the quilt every single day.
Because I want to move on to other projects, to learn new skills. And if I have a million projects going on at once, I feel scattered, unorganized. I need to close a massive project before starting a new one. It's just how my brain works.
SO. Since I have finally finished my DIY constellation quilt baby, I wanted to go over some of the lessons that I learned. If at all considering your very own first quilting project (DIY constellation quilt or not) I am hoping that these tips will help prepare you. And that the tricks will save you time & frustration!
Quilting for beginners: DIY constellation quilt tips
First, I wanted to go over a few overall lessons that I learned while working on my DIY constellation quilt. These are things that I wish I had known before starting my own project, because I think I would have been much better prepared for this massive endeavor.
Knowing these tips ahead of time would also have helped me in managing my time expectations, which is something that I consistently struggle with anyways.
Have you ever heard someone say: "I really wish I wasn't as prepared for that project"? No.
- TIME: As you have probably guessed from above, my DIY constellation quilt took WAY longer than I expected it to. In the instruction manual for the quilt, it said to expect the project to take about 60 hours. And while I didn't time my quilting, I KNOW it took me much, much longer than 60 hours to complete. Think about it: If even only working on the quilt an hour a day, that means the quilt would be finished in 2 months. HA, if only! My estimate would be that it took me about three times as long. (i.e. 180 hours.)
- COST: I mentioned in our first post on quilting for beginners that I spent about $200 in supplies for this DIY constellation quilt. And that cost did NOT hold true--I ended up needing to go and buy two more skeins of the white thread, as well as two additional spools of the metallic floss. I also decided to purchase another skein of the silver & gold thread, but that was just for aesthetic purposes. The final cost ended up being closer to about $250.
- FRENCH KNOTS: If you don't know already, French knots are the devil. Like, actually. Lucifer in the form of thread. I went over how to stitch a French knot in our second quilting for beginners post, and how creating the knot itself is pretty simple. And yes, it is. But when there are 500 of those knots on a quilting pattern, it gets very tedious and time consuming indeed. The section of French knots on my DIY constellation quilt (which makes up less than 1/5 of the quilt) took longer to complete than THE ENTIRE REST OF THE QUILT. And I am not kidding. You have been warned.
Quilting for beginners: DIY constellation quilt tricks
Alright, you know my quilting tips now. And you still want to make your very own quilt? You, my friend, are a badass modiste.
Since you are officially committed now, I also wanted to go over a few tricks that I learned while working on my DIY constellation quilt. I don't really know if these tricks are the technical "right" way of quilting, but they are what worked for me.
Tricks that resulted in a beautiful, dreamy quilt of my own.
- SETTING: The instructions for my quilt said that the project needed to be quilted on a flat surface. HA! I don't think my back would have been able to handle sitting on a stool quilting for 180+ hours. I did quilt all of the metallic radial lines while the quilt was flat on the table, but other than that, the rest of my quilting was done sitting on the sofa. (i.e. The stars, the French knots, the names of the stars.) And doing so seemed to work out just fine. But YES, would still highly recommend quilting the radial lines with the quilt on a flat surface to help avoid bubbling & puckering.
- SAFETY PINS: Do not stitch over safety pins. If a safety pin is in the stitching line of fire, move it. And if a pin is underneath the quilting pattern, but along a stitching line, simply poke it up through the sewing pattern and move it over. It is hard enough taking the sewing pattern off (see below) while keeping the stitches secure, so there is no need to complicate and compromise the stitching by trying to save time and just stitch over a safety pin.
The tips continue:
- FRENCH KNOTS: Yes, those pesky French Knots again. When finishing with a French knot, I would highly highly recommend securing it with a back stitch on the underside of the quilt. According to my quilting instructions this wouldn't be possible (because it says to quilt on a flat surface) but none of my knots would stay secure without a back stitch on the underside of the quilt. And I was NOT about to redo all 500 French knots because they got ripped up when pulling the sewing pattern off. Not happening.
- TIME BATCH: Because I live in a tiny home, I was not able to leave my massive DIY constellation quilt sprawled out and flat on a table for 6 months while I worked on it. I had to fold my quilt up (very, very carefully) and put it away every time I stopped working on it. And after 6 months of unfolding and refolding, my quilting pattern really started to weaken and tear. So I would try to limit the amount that your quilt is folded and unfolded, and really only pull out the quilt when you have at least 2-3 hours at a time to work on it.
- REMOVING THE PATTERN: This in itself took almost an entire week. Removing the quilting pattern is not easy. It is so, so, SO easy to tear a stitch out just by pulling the quilting pattern off too roughly or too quickly. (And if a stitch does come undone, make sure to fix it before moving on.) Go slowly with this, and have a pair of small scissors on hand to help with removing the pattern. Seriously, set aside an entire week to do this.
Quilting for beginners: Now it's your turn!
So, a little daunting, maybe? I know it sounds like a lot (and it is) but once you get the hang of the quilting process, it really isn't so bad. And honestly, for me at least, it was a bit therapeutic.
There is something so calming about just working with your hands, and creating something beautiful.
If I had a spare wall in my tiny home, I would probably hang my DIY constellation quilt up. Because, to me, it truly is a work of art.
But I am hoping that these tips & tricks will help make your own quilting projects seem a little less scary. And will help prepare you a bit more than I was when I started my DIY constellation quilt. (Preparation is key, and can make ALL the difference in a project. Truly.)
Because YES. It is a hell of a lot of work. But YES. It's also 100% worth it once it's finished.
And stay tuned--I will be doing one final tutorial post in this quilting for beginners series on how to sew a quilt binding from scratch. The absolute final step to any quilting project! Would love to hear your thoughts on the finished project. And, as always, let me know if you have any quilting tips or tricks to add!