Quilting For Beginners: How To Make a Nine Patch

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First of all, hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day! Mine was, um, well, memorable. There were a couple of broken vacuums and a prompt 12pm arrival for the Star Wars Exhibit at PacSci when our tickets were actually for 12AM the previous night (don’t ask). I would not suffer through these kinds of days with just anyone, so I’m really lucky to have a family who loves me enough to suffer through them with me… and keep me laughing through it all.

Secondly, it occured to me that I do not show the actual process of sewing up what it is I show you on the blog these days nearly enough. This type of thing used to be normal for me, and if I’m going to keep blogging, what I’d love to do is to create some more how-to’s to explain the process, instead of assuming that everyone stopping by here already knows the basic steps.
Okay, pillows. I tend to change the pillows on our front porch bench at least twice a year. I use the same pillow inserts over and over, just change the covers. This year, giving a nod to our recent vacation off the coast of Florida, I decided to give a fun nod to my East Coast roots and go totally preppy, using some Lily Pulitzer scraps to make some quilted 9 patch covers. But really, a 9 patch pattern is a great use of any of your favorite scraps. (I found my Lily scraps from this etsy seller). I had enough to do the front of all 3 pillows shown above.

Quilting For Beginners: How To Make a Nine Patch

Materials needed for one 16″ x 16″ pillow:
– Nine- 6″ x 6″ squares, in a complementary assortment of favorite prints from your stash (or maybe trade scraps with a friend).
– One 16″ x 16″ pillow form
– Two 18″ x 18″ pieces of  wide solid quilting cotton for pillow back and bottom layer of quilt sandwich on front of pillow (I used scrap muslin for the back layer of the quilted front.)
– A piece of quilt batting, about 18″ x 18″. I use cotton batting, such as Quilter’s Dream, but use whatever you prefer, it will all work. (Note: You will not be quilting the back).
– one 14″ invisible zipper in a complementary color.
– coordinating thread
– pins
-iron/ironing board
*Use 1/4″ seam allowance throughout.
To Make:
1. Create the patchwork front. Cut and lay out nine 6″ x 6″ squares in 3 columns/rows, playing with placement until you are satisfied with the layout.
2. Sew the rows. I chain piece these. I turn each of the squares in the center column over and lay it on its neighbor on the left column, so their right sides are together, like this-
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(I actually find it easier not to pin these squares together, but you absolutely can if you’d rather.) Leave the squares in the far right column as they are for now, you’ll come back to them. Take the matched pairs, stacked top to bottom, over to your machine. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, begin stitching the top pair, no backstitching is necessary. When you are at the end of sewing this pair, don’t clip your thread or backstitch. Simply line up the very next pair to stitch. Run your stitching line off the end of the first pair and with only a stitch or 2 in between, then begin sewing the next pair.
Here’s what it’ll look like in between the pairs you just sewed-
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Clip the pairs apart, and lay the pairs back out again. Now lay the pieces from the 3rd column of squares on top of the 2nd column squares, right sides together. Repeat the chain piecing process with these three pairs.
Chain piecing is worth practicing, it really is. It is efficient, fast, and it uses a lot less thread in the long run, which makes a huge difference if you’re doing a lot of sewing or cleaning up a lot of clipped thread all over the floor. Trust me.
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3. Press the seam allowances. I press all the top row seam allowances to one side, the middle row seam allowances to the opposite side, and the bottom row to the same side as the top row. In other words, every row’s seam allowances are pressed in the opposite directions. This allows the seams to nest together, creating, hopefully, a perfect meeting up of the seam lines.
4. Piece the rows together. Lay the 3 rows out, right sides up, as they were in step 1. Now flip the top row over and lay it on the middle row, right sides together. Because you pressed those seam allowances in opposite directions in step 2, the seam line of the squares should nest, hopefully like this-
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Pin on either side of each of those seams if you’d like.
The patchwork part of your top is now done!
5. Create the quilt sandwich. On your work surface, layer a piece of the solid quilting cotton (cut it at least 18″ x 18″) first (right side down), then lay a layer of quilt batting directly over it, cut to the same size, then lastly, layer your patchwork top, right side up, over the other layers. Take a few minutes to really smooth these layers out nicely, then pin through all 3 layers to hold them together. My favorite pin basting method works well here, but substitute painters blue tape for the clamps.
6. Quilt the pillow front. (If you have a walking foot for your machine, use it for this step.) Using the edge of my presser foot as a guide, I quilted straight lines 1/4″ away from each side of seam line, through all layers. Or you could get fancy with some free motion.
quilting for beginners6Trim and square up the finished pillow front to 16 1/2 x 16 1/2″.
7. Add the invisible zipper to the bottom of the pillow. I am deferring to Katie’s instructions on how to apply an invisible zipper here. I cannot express how life-changing learning this technique is! Follow her instructions on sewing in the zipper on through to sewing the pillow together.
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8. Finish. Clip the corners, turn the pillow right side out, push the corners out gently, but thoroughly. Press and clip any loose threads, and insert pillow form. You’re done!
I’m loving how bright and summery these pillows look on my porch!
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Please let me know if you jump in and make these pillows, or any of the project tutorials I’ll be posting (or have posted). Tag them with #wisecrafthandmade on all your favorite social media outlets so we can all share!

  • beki

    May 9, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Ha! the moment I saw those pillows I thought “that’s so Lilly Pulitzer!”. I didn’t know you could buy LP scraps. I’m off to check it out now…

  • rachel | buttons magee

    May 9, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I just made a patchwork pillow over the weekend! love the preppy. I need to refresh some of my pillows too! xo, rach

  • Erin | house on hill road

    May 9, 2011 at 7:21 am

    super cute, blair! i have a soft spot for lilly. and i love the idea of a 101 series – brilliant!

  • Cinnamon

    May 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for taking the time to explain how you did it Blair! I’ve always wanted to try quiliting, but I always get overwhelmed and just go back to my usual projects. I think I could give this a try.

  • Snow Creek

    May 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Oh, I’ve done the same thing before – mixing up the 12pm and the 12am. Unfortunately my mix up was missing a flight out of Alaska! Thanks for the pillow tutorial. I’ve had cool fabric to make pillows for the porch swing for far too long. Maybe this summer will be the one!

  • Sarah

    May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    That looks like so much fun! My porch definitely needs a few of these.

  • sewkatiedid

    May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    So Spring, like the ray of sunshine we…uh, don’t have.

  • Valerie

    May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I LOVE these pillows. Super fun and cute. Look to me some time for some great fabrics at amazing prices. That was not a shameless plug, I swear! Just wanted you to know we’re here 🙂

  • Whispering Oaks

    May 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Cute pillows. Nice tutorial.

  • Monique

    May 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Bring on the tutorials!

  • Melissa @ Love Affair With My Brother

    May 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Love it! Super cute! I will have to whip up a couple of these when we move to our new house!

  • blair/wisecraft

    May 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Oh great! I hope you do give it a try. The idea of quilting can seem very intimidating, so hopefully I can explain things in such a way that it simplifies it all a little.

  • blair/wisecraft

    May 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    You got it! Thanks Monique!

  • frivolitea

    May 10, 2011 at 4:18 am

    i do not sew, but I love seeing other people’s project. those pillows are fabuous.

  • susan

    May 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

    oh, love them! I collect vintage Lilly stuff and freak out about the prints, and your gorgeous nine-patch pillows are so happy to look at!
    This is one of my favorite Lilly things I have…

  • Nate

    May 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Wow really neat! I’m with Sarah — my porch could really use this 😉

  • Jessica

    May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Hi Blair,
    I love that you decided to include detailed instructions for these pillows! I’m fairly new to quilting (I just became and editor for the new site FaveQuilts.com), and a week ago, I took the plunge into making my first quilt. I’m starting out by making a bunch of simple nine-patch blocks (I think I’m going to cut them up and scramble them later), and I’ve been following tips from a similar nine-patch pillow tutorial (http://www.favequilts.com/Quilted-Pillows/How-to-Make-a-Patchwork-Pillow). However, because I’m stubborn, I decided to press all my seams the same way, so of course I ended up with unmatched seams. Thanks for explaining why they should all be opposite! I also loved your tips for chaining the blocks to save thread. All of these beginner tips are really helpful!

  • CathyT

    May 18, 2011 at 4:00 am

    I laid out the pieces for a quilt I am making and now I have some shortcuts that make sense to me, especially how to iron them. Thanks for the tutorial.

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