How to Make a Patchwork Quilt

The finished project is sure to become an heirloom that will be appreciated for many generations to come.

patchwork quilt draped over a chair
Photo: Johnny Miller

Making a patchwork quilt is easy: cut a backing, cut a layer of batting, and create a top by cutting smaller pieces, usually squares, and stitching them together. The quilt shown here is for a gift, so the project is small and manageable. Almost any fabric of significance can work in a memory quilt: clothing, blankets, vintage fabrics, hand towels, sheets, or pillowcases. Avoid knits, stretchy material, and thick textiles that will pull and wear differently than other pieces.

To bind the layers, pass short bits of ribbon down through the layers and back up again, then tie these with knots. And instead of finishing the edges with sewn-on bias tape, which requires making mitered corners, simply sandwich the bias tape between the layers when the edges are sewn, to mimic the effect of piping.

Cut Out Pieces

With a quilter's ruler, disappearing-ink fabric pen, rotary cutter, and self-healing mat, measure and cut squares of fabric. The patches shown here are 4 1/2-inch squares—4 inches with a 1/4-inch seam allowance on each side; the finished quilt is 12 by 18 squares. Arrange squares into a pattern.

Sew Patchwork

Pin the squares together, right sides facing, to form rows, then sew with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. There is no need to secure your sewing by backstitching, as each of the quilt's seams will be crossed by another seam. Press all seam allowances in one direction (rather than open). Pin together the rows, lining them up and measuring an exact 1/4-inch seam allowance. Sew rows together, pressing the seams in one direction.

Quilt Patchwork to Batting

Lay the patchwork, right side up, onto preshrunk 100 percent cotton batting, leaving 3 inches of excess batting on every side. To avoid slippage, safety-pin each square to the batting, starting in one corner, continually smoothing layers as you go. Sew the two pieces together by "stitching in the ditch," or sewing exactly over the seams to outline each square. Trim excess batting. Remove safety pins.

Add Trim

Lay 1/2-inch-wide double-fold bias tape around the perimeter, with the double edge flush with the raw edge of the quilt, and the folded edge of the tape facing inward. Pin, stretching around each corner to prevent puckering.

Attach Batting

Cut the backing the same size as the top layer, plus 1/4 inch for a seam allowance. Leaving the straight pins in the trim, place the backing over the patchwork, right sides facing; pin around the perimeter. Sew edges through all layers, leaving a 12-inch opening on one side; turn right-side out. Slipstitch opening shut; press sides and edges with a steam iron.

Tuft Layers

Safety-pin the layers together so the backing doesn't slip. Using yarn, embroidery floss, or thin (1/8-inch) ribbon, make a 1/4-inch tufting stitch across each intersection of four squares: Stab needle straight through quilt along one seam, 1/8 inch to either side of intersecting point. Tie square knot; trim ends. Remove safety pins.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles