A. To keep this simple collect 6 1/2" orphan blocks you have in your stash pile. If you don't have any, cut twenty-five 6 1/2" squares from your stash. I usually start with one square I like for the center and build a design around that. I sort of did that with my first quilt to tie. For a smaller practice quilt, you can use 9 or 12 squares.
B. Once you have your squares, go cut a 38" square of batting and a 38" square of fabric you would like for the backing and would like to bring to the front for the binding. For the smaleer practice quilts you need for 9 squares a backing of 26"x26", and batting the same size. For 12 squares you will need backing of 26" x 32" and the same size for the batting.
Here is a photo of my choices:
Once I have my layout, I take masking tape and mark each square with a row and number. This way I keep them in order when I go to sew them.
Then I pin one row together so that I can work on one row at a time.
Now you can go sew your blocks into vertical rows. But don't sew the rows together into a top. Here's where this method starts to differ from the conventional quilt process.
We'll begin with our 38" square of backing fabric. Iron it nicely, fold in half and iron the crease at the outer edge. Do this for both sides. We'll use these small creases to mark the halves of our quilts. Now I laid the back on my carpet with wrong side up. Next I placed my 38" square of batting on top of it. Now I went around the edges with safety pins and pulled the back tight (not taut) through the batting by sticking the pins into my carpet pad. If you use a table to sandwich, you can use painter's tape along the edges of the backing to make it somewhat tight. This is an important step to reduce pleating of your back when you are quilting.
Our quilt has 5 vertical rows of blocks. Take the middle vertical row (C in my case) and measure it. Mine is 30 1/2". Make a note of yours. I centered the row on my sandwich 3 3/4" from the top and bottom and 15 1/4" from side to side Here is where you use those creases you ironed into the backing edges. If you are using 3 rows, use row #2. If an even number of rows, lay the row 1/4" to the left of center. See photo below.
Take your sandwich to your sewing machine. When I quilt, I use the same thread in top and bobbin, a Microtex 75/11 needle, feed dogs down (except for my Bernina 130), a single needle plate, and a open darning foot. I am going to do a large meander over the row staying about 1/2" away from all the edges. Don't worry - as you add more rows and quilt, you can fill in spaces that may look empty. This is to anchor your sandwich and get the hardest part of the quilt quilted.
You could also use a foot with a plastic oval. Note: If you've never quilted on your machine, stop and make a 12" square sandwich to practice. Pin your sandwich around the edges and one safety pin in the center. Set up your machine. Bring your bobbin thread to the top of your sandwich and take a couple of tiny stitches to anchor the threads. Now with your hands on both sides of the foot - start to sew and use your hands to guide the sandwich going at a steady speed. When you start to do a curve, slow down a bit so you won't get big stitches. There are a lot of good how-to machine quilt books out there. I started by quilting small charity quilts and haven't looked back. Hey I've still got a lot to learn, but with the practice, they are starting to look better and better. That's all it takes - practice. Here's a site to see a machine quilter in action: http://www.daystyledesigns.com/stippling.htm
Or you might like to do straight line quilting. I do all the above but use my walking foot and guide. See below:
Roll up your quilt on the right side of your row of blocks and place it under the needle. Bring your bobbin thread up to the top, and take a few tiny stitches to anchor your threads. Meander at a steady speed over your block leaving a 1/2" free of quilting on all the edges and guiding the row with your hands. Here is my completed first row - took about 10 minutes. Ps: I put the tape from the top and bottom blocks of the row and stuck them to the batting to remind me which end was up.
1. Take row D and measure its length. Mine was 30 1/2" long. My row C is now 30 1/4" long due to the quilting - Remember when I measured it in step 2 and it was 30 1/2" long? I'll be able to stretch row C (I'll pull on the bottom a little in whatever square needs it.) the quarter inch to make the seams intersect and the vertical rows to match. Here is the new row next to the one I've quilted"
3. Starting at the top, and using a walking foot, position your quilt to start stitching after bringing the bobbin thread up to the top of the quilt. Sew your seam with a steady speed - remember the walking foot is doing the pushing, not you.
You now have the technique in full. You can do all the remaining rows in the same fashion, just flip the quilt when you are done with the right side, and do the rows on the left starting your seams at the bottom of the vertical row. This keeps the bulkiness of the quilt to your left.
Each block does have some pink in it and I used pink thread to quilt it.
Here's the back of it:
It is meandered all over. The next step is to add the border. This is done just as you did the rows. First the two sides and then the top and bottom. I wait to quilt the borders after all 4 are attached. It is very easy to then do a quilting pattern all around the borders at one time. Actually this batting I am using can be quilted up to 4 inches apart. The border is going to be 3 1/2. Maybe I won't quilt it.
All borders added. Decided since my borders are only 2.5 inches wide, I'm going to do the minimal quilting on them, so I am doing a line half way between the border seam and the outside seam. I'll be using the walking foot for this and the seam guide.
Fold the front and the batting back up and align the edge of your ruler with the edge of your border. Trim away the excess batting.
Bring you backing up now so that it is smooth and is like the photo.
Now trim your backing to 1" all across the border. This will be your binding. Do this for the other three sides. Repin your border's edge through the three layers.
Step 7 - Quilting the borders and binding the quilt.
Using the walking foot and guide, I will quilt around the borders at their centers, marking where the turn will be with a straight pin.
Do this for all 4 sides. And your quilting part is done.
Now fold the back that you left for the binding in half and press.
Bring this over for the right and left sides of your quilt and pin in place. Top stitch the binding in place.
When you have done this you will do the same for the top and bottom. When you bring over the top edge on the already sewn sides you will form a square at the corner:
Here's my quilt finished and ready to be gifted to my DGD on her 1st birthday. The curvy sides straighten when washed.
and the back: