The Billboard Quilt-Along is open to anyone who wants to participate and has no set start or finish date. I’ve compiled a list of posts here.
This post is all about the materials and supplies you’ll need to make your Billboard Quilt. It isn’t a shopping list, but more of a glossary. I'll tell you in advance which materials and supplies you'll need for each step, but this is an overview you can refer to throughout the quilt-along.
I recommend using mid-weight (standard) quilting cotton for all parts of this quilt. Mid-weight cotton is sturdy enough to handle the appliqué process, but light enough that your finished quilt won’t be overly bulky.
The amount of fabric and batting you need will depend on your pattern, and we'll talk about that later this week. In the meantime, start thinking about the colors and/or prints you want to use.
Background Fabric: This is the solid base of your quilt, or the negative space in which the patchwork letters are floating. There will be a lot of this fabric in your quilt, so I recommend choosing a neutral solid that won't overwhelm your other fabric choices. White, ivory, gray, and stone are great choices for background fabric because they tend to look good with many different colors and prints. If you want to inject more color, consider pale, muted, or very dark versions of the colors you're planning to use for the letters.
Fabric for Letters: This is the fabric you’ll use to make the patchwork letters. The watchwords for your letter fabric should be contrast and harmony. The fabrics you piece together should contrast with your background fabric in order to stand out. They should also be harmonious enough with one another that each letter reads as a single unit.
With that in mind, here are three ways you might approach choosing fabric for your letters:
One of the easiest ways to make a harmonious block of patchwork is to combine monochromatic (single color) print and solid fabrics. If you go this route, don’t get too matchy-matchy. Using fabrics in slightly different versions of the same color will usually create a more interesting patchwork.
For my quilt, I used 5 different-colored sets (orange, dark orange, citrine, olive, and teal) each with 1 solid and 4 prints. Having 5 different sets of fabrics allowed me to vary the color of my letters, which all stand out against a white background.
The easiest way to find a set of coordinating fabrics is to use a single collection. If you prefer to mix and match, stick with a simple color scheme that contrasts with your background fabric.
Since this method involves using multiple colors in each letter, I recommend using the same set of fabrics to make all the letters. In the example above, coordinating prints in spice, ivory, and plum contrast with a much darker mahogany background.
The patchwork letters in this quilt are perfectly-suited to using up scraps. The biggest challenge here will be maintaining the contrast and harmony necessary to make the letters readable. If you have mountains of scraps, you may be able to apply them to either of the methods mentioned above. If you’re working with a more limited set of scraps, choose a background color that contrasts with most of them and pull the scraps that match the background too closely.
Fabric for Quilt Back and Binding: I’m using the same fabrics for my quilt back and binding, but you can really use anything you want. I’ll talk more about this in my Planning the Quilt Back post.
Thread: Use your preferred thread for piecing and sewing. I recommend 100% cotton in a neutral color for piecing and quilting, and 100% cotton or 100% poly thread in a coordinating color(s) for sewing around the appliqué letters. I’ll talk more about thread colors later in the quilt-along.
Batting: Low-loft cotton or cotton blend batting is most appropriate for this project.
The supplies list below references “fussy patchwork letters” which are made like my Map of the States blocks, with the pieces of each letter planned in advance. Next week’s posts will also describe how to make simpler patchwork letters that don’t involve freezer paper templates or color coding.
Graph or Gridded Paper will be used to plan your quilt top and back. 8x8 gridded paper is available at art supply stores and sometimes at quilt shops. Places that sell office supplies usually sell pads of simple graph paper. 8x8 gridded paper is preferable because the grids are smaller, allowing you to fit more on a smaller piece of paper, and because the 8x8 configuration makes it easy to measure fractions of an inch. However, the simpler graph paper can easily be taped together to make bigger sheets.
If you typically use your computer to plan quilts, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that here too (and, of course, that means you won't need any graph paper)!
Sketch Paper will be used to draw your letter patterns. If you’re making fussy patchwork, you can opt to skip this step and draw your letters right onto the freezer paper. Use inexpensive sketch paper or newsprint (as opposed to nicer drawing paper) in a size that best corresponds to your letters.
Pencil and Eraser will be used for drawing patterns. Any sharp pencil will do.
Rulers will be used for drawing patterns. If you use your quilting rulers, remove any pencil residue by washing them with warm water and gentle dish soap.
Colored Pencils or Markers will be used for indicating colors on your quilt top and back layouts, and for color-coding freezer paper templates while making fussy patchwork. Any colored pencils or markers will do. You’ll be ironing the fussy patchwork templates, so avoid crayons or anything else that's likely to melt.
Freezer Paper is sold at most grocery stores in 18” x 33-yard rolls. It’s usually located near the canning supplies, on the aisle with plastic bags and paper napkins. Freezer paper has a plastic coating on one side that sticks to fabric when it’s warm. This quality makes freezer paper perfect for making patterns that can be ironed onto fabric and then easily peeled away. For this project, freezer paper will be used to make fussy patchwork patterns.
Paper Scissors will be used to cut freezer paper templates and patchwork that has been backed with fusible web. These scissors should be reasonably sharp and capable of cutting accurately, but should not be your good fabric scissors. Remember also that rotary cutter blades will cut paper long after they stop cutting fabric. If you have an old rotary blade around, you can definitely use it to cut the freezer paper.
A 4” x 14” or 3" x 18" Ruler (optional) can be faster for cutting small pieces than the standard 6" x 24" ruler.
Lightweight Fusible Web is basically a paper-backed web of glue used to fuse layers of fabric. For this project, we’ll use it on the back of the patchwork letters. This will make it possible to iron the letters onto the quilt top. (It will also act as a bit of a fray check for the raw edges of the letters.)
When choosing fusible web, always choose the light (or “lite”) version designed to be used with sewing machines. Heavy or “no sew” fusible web will gum up your sewing machine and ruin your day. I recommend Heat’n’Bond Lite, which is available almost everywhere and sold in multi-yard rolls or off the bolt.
A Quilter's Square'n'Blocker or Similar Pressing Board (optional) is a flatter, more rigid surface than many ironing boards and can make working with freezer paper and fusible web a little easier.
Sewers Aid (optional) is a lubricant, sold in tiny bottles in the notions section of most fabric stores. Putting a drop on your machine's needle can help it slide more easily through thick or gummy surfaces like the fusible-backed patchwork letter appliques.
Measuring Tape (optional) can be used to measure finished sections of your quilt. If your quilt is small, a standard 60" tailor's measure will be perfect. Longer versions (mine is 120") are sold with quilting notions and, of course, you can always use the metal tape measure from your toolbox.
In addition to the supplies listed above, you’ll need “standard” quilt making supplies, including but not limited to: a sewing machine, scissors, rotary cutting supplies, an iron, ironing board, pins, and needles. If you’re new to making quilts and need a more detailed introduction to quilting supplies, I’ll shamelessly refer you to my book The Practical Guide to Patchwork.
- Gather graph paper, pencil, eraser, ruler, and colored pencils or markers.
- Decide what kind of fabric you want to use for the background and the letters.
- Join the Flickr Group.
Wednesday, August 10: Planning Your Quilt Top