Coin Stack Quilt

You may have noticed a link in my sidebar to the Coin Quilt Piecealong Flickr group. Organised by two inspiring bloggers, the aim is to piece together a coin stack style quilt in 2009. I had been gathering quilting fabrics haphazardly for about a year, and using them in small projects, but I hadn’t taken the plunge into piecing and making up a quilt. With no fixed pattern, and a generous deadline, this quiltalong was just the push I needed get started.

I decided to make a cot quilt (c. 80cm x 120cm) for some friends who are expecting a firstborn soon. I wanted a simple design with bold colours, and not gender specific. I picked some fabrics from a Tabbycat charm pack, and arranged them in colour groups (I may have overdone the green column. I have a weakness for green). I pieced three columns of 5″ x 3″ strips of fabric together, then spent about two days deciding in which order they should sit on the quilt. I cut and sewed cream-coloured cotton sashing, and attached the cream border – adjusting for my less-than-straight seams.

I wanted a fairly plain backing, but I also wanted to include a little bit of interest in case the quilt had to be reversed. I pieced a thin stripe of blues-to-greens and placed it a third up from the bottom edge. I chose some Warm & Natural cotton batting for the middle of the quilt. This makes a it a lightweight coverlet, perfect for the summer heatwave that is supposedly around the corner. Besides, I was worried how my temperamental machine would cope with something thicker!

The quilting itself was nerve-wracking. I marked out the diagonal lines with masking tape, and sewed along the edges, removing the strips as I went. I had thought about quilting a cross-hatch in the other direction, but found that I liked the dynamism of parallel diagonals as they were. Finally, I added a plain green binding (using this tutorial), and washed the quilt to give it a slightly crinkled look.

Some things I have learned while making this quilt:

  • I’m constitutionally incapable of designing asymmetry. Although I love the idea of offset stacks, irregular sashes, or other design quirks, I can’t bring myself to incorporate them into my plan. For my next quilt I really want to break this habit and try experimenting with asymmetric designs.
  • I find sewing a lot more stressful than knitting. One of the things that makes me a confident knitter is the ability to go back and fix mistakes, or even unravel a whole garment, without losing any of the raw materials. I’m a more nervous sewer because I worry that a mistake in measuring, cutting or sewing will waste the fabric. I’m still thinking about how to get over this mental hurdle.
  • Curved safety pins are a godsend for holding the fabric-batting sandwich together during quilting. Also, I have discovered the importance of a good iron.
  • Although machine piecing/quilting is much faster, I think I’d like to try to hand-stitch a quilt soon. I think the slower pace might give me greater control over the stitching, and be more suitable to my temperament.
  • There’s something very satisfying in the look and feel of a finished quilt. The arrangement of colours, the texture of seam and shrunken fabric have a very particular effect on the psyche. I think there must be a cultural memory that is triggered by quilts, making them instantly recognisable objects of comfort.

I’d like to try another coin stack quilt. I like the simple design and the importance of the colour and pattern of the fabrics. So I’m leaving the Flickr Piecealong button on the sidebar in the hopes that I might manage another one before the end of the year…