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Learning to Quilt with a Riley Blake Quilt Kit for Cricut

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About a year and a half ago (maybe more), I saw a deal for Riley Blake Quilt Kits made especially for Cricut on the Cricut website. So, of course, I snapped up two of them.

finished patchwork quilt top

And then, of course, I did nothing.

I have never made a quilt before (except for these cute Valentine's Day potholders).

Recently, I upgraded my sewing machine to a Bernina 475 QE and decided that it was finally time to tackle a quilt kit.

A Few Things About Cricut Quilt Kits

Before I share more about the kit that I am making – I want to mention a couple of things.

First, I don't think that Cricut is offering Riley Blake Quilt Kits on their website any longer.

It's a shame but if you want to use your Cricut Maker machine to make a quilt, you still have options.

If you have a Cricut Access subscription, you will find that a good selection of Riley Blake quilt patterns are included. I hope that these continue to be available.

These patterns tell you how much fabric you will need to make the quilt.

So, you can simply purchase the quantity of fabric that you need a la carte from places like:

My quilt kit includes fabrics from the Riley Blake Hashtag Collection. This pattern is no longer widely available. But if you want pieces in this pattern you can still find pieces on Etsy.

You will find available Hashtag fabrics here.

Find pieces of the polka dots and Swiss dots here.

The pattern I chose for my quilt was the Sew Many Squares Throw because it seemed doable, given my beginner skills.

However, there are more advanced patterns to choose from as well, like these:

Getting Started

Before I started making my quilt, I took the time to prewash and iron all the fabrics that came in my kit.

Also, the kit did NOT include material for the quilt backing.

So, I ordered 4 yards of Riley Blake Confetti White material from Fabric.com to use as the backing – and prewashed this as well.

Making the First Cuts

fabric on a self healing mat with a rotary cutter close by

Since I was using my Cricut Maker machine to help me cut the pieces for this quilt, I needed to cut come of the fabric down so that it would actually fit on my Cricut mat.

I used a huge self healing mat and a rotary cutter to manage this task.

Cutting the Pieces on the Cricut

fabric squares for making a quilt

Now it was time to put the Cricut Maker to work.

To make this project you will definitely need a 24 inch long pink Cricut mat (for fabric) and, of course, your rotary blade.

For a few reasons, I suggest getting more than one mat – you can get a pack of 3 here.

You NEED Your Cricut Mat to be Sticky

First, the fibers from your fabric will adhere to your mat every time you pull the fabric off.

Over time, the mat will lose some of its stickiness.

If your fabric slips while the machine is cutting, you can mess up the cut.

When making a quilt it is important that your pieces are cut precisely, so that your blocks will line up when you sew the whole thing together.

Also, since you are using a kit, you may not have enough excess fabric to repeat the cut – so you want to make sure that the fabric sticks to the mat.

I found it useful to have a pack of baby wipes on hand (to clean the pink Cricut mat) and some washi tape to stick the fabric down in some areas.

A brayer was also helpful to roll over the fabric and make it stick smoothly.

Save Time By Working Ahead

Another benefit to having more than one Cricut Mat is that you can load up a second mat with fabric while the machine is cutting.

Trust me, cutting all the pieces for your quilt takes a lot of time.

Organize Your Quilt Pieces

Once all your pieces are cut, it is important to stay organized.

Your quilt pattern assigns numbers to each of the fabrics that you used.

I found it helpful to layout one pile per fabric and place a sticky note in front of each pile with the number assigned to that fabric.

Set Up Your Sewing Area

I have learned that quilting takes up a good amount of space.

You not only need a space to lay out your quilt blocks, but you also need a place for your sewing machine, and your ironing board.

Yes, you will be ironing a ton of seams up, down, left, right, and open.

Quite by chance, I also had a four foot tall chest of drawers at my disposal. I moved this away from the wall and cleared off the top.

quilt draped over a chest of drawers

This became the perfect work surface where I could stand and pin rows together.

As the quilt got bigger, I was able to drape the blanket over the chest to work on and to also keep it out of the way.

Start Assembling Your Blocks

In the Sew Many Squares pattern that I selected, some of the blocks were made up of four smaller squares.

My first step was to sew these blocks together, using a quarter inch seam allowance and taking the time to press the seams and lining them up so that the corners would all meet in the middle on the finished front.

I used a piecing foot on my sewing machine for this – but your standard foot should work as well – just be careful to know where the quarter inch mark is.

You can stick a line of washi tape on your machine to mark the edge.

Assemble Your Rows and the Quilt

Once the all the blocks were done, I started assembling my rows and the quilt itself.

I guess you can do this one of two ways –

  1. you can assemble all the rows and then sew them all together to for your quilt or
  2. you can sew the rows together as you go along.

I decided to go for option 2 because the fabric patterns were wacky enough to make it hard to figure out which row was which and also which side was left and which was right.

If I waited to sew all the rows together until the end, I felt like it would lead to a lot of confusion.

Creating the Rows

Lining up the squares to create the rows was easy enough.

I did use a couple pins to keep the squares in place as I sewed.

Since my sewing machine does not have a dual feed, the feed dogs will pull the bottom layer through a little more firmly than the top.

This could cause the fabric to shift while sewing so the pins were necessary to keep things all lined up.

Sewing the Rows Together

This was a huge challenge in assembling my quilt.

When you sew the rows together, you want the corners of each block in the upper row to meet the corners of the block in the row beneath it.

However, this is easier said than done.

So many things can cause problems here:

  • perhaps your squares were cut slightly off, or
  • your seam allowances were off when you sewed your blocks, or
  • you just didn't sew in a straight line (me! me!)

To make this work for me, I found it helpful to pin both rows together (right sides facing each other of course) and also drive a pin through both layers as close to both sides of each and every seam as I could get.

Despite all of this, some of my corners still did not match, but they weren't off by too much.

Hopefully, this will improve with practice.

Creating the Quilt Sandwich

Once I finished the quilt top, I was really tempted to just take everything to my local quilting boutique and have them long arm the quilt together.

Wouldn't that be easy?

But no, this was supposed to be my learning quilt, my practice quilt.

I was determined to put my skills and my sewing machine to the test and quilt the darn thing myself.

Remind me why I did not choose a smaller size quilt to start with?

My quilt top measured 54×66 inches which is a lot of quilting.

Working with the Batting

I decided to go with 100% cotton batting for this quilt primarily because I prefer the way a finished quilt with cotton batting feels over a finished quilt with polyester batting.

A side advantage of using cotton batting is that the quilt top sort of “sticks” to the batting which makes it easier to work with.

I couldn't find the exact size that I needed so I just ordered a twin sized piece and cut it down.

Even though I was careful to cut the batting to be slightly larger than the quilt top, I should have cut it a good 3 or more inches larger all around.

As you sew your layers together, things shift and pull – better to have excess batting that you can trim away later than not enough.

The same rule applies for the backing material.

Set Up the Backing

The fabric I chose for the backing was not as wide as my quilt, so I had to cut it in half and sew the pieces together.

This creates the unfortunate event of a seam down the back.

You can buy special fabrics that are around 108 inches wide that will accommodate most quilts without a seam instead.

Riley Blake even makes a selection of these.

Since my quilt has a seam, I was careful to use a 1/2 inch seam allowance for sturdiness.

Also, when pinning my quilt sandwich, I did my best to line the back seam up with a vertical seam on the front.

Since my plan was to “stitch in the ditch”, I hoped that I could get the seam to line up with a row to make it less conspicuous.

Pin or Baste the Sandwich Together

The final step in assembling the quilt sandwich is to pin it all together.

I wish I could tell you this was simple, but it wasn't.

My first attempt went very wrong.

I used curved safety pins specially designed for quilting – which was a good thing. But I didn't have enough of them.

Also, I don't think that I pulled the backing tight enough.

Let me explain what happened.

I placed a quilting pin in each one of the blocks around the outside perimeter of the quilt.

Then I randomly placed pins in blocks throughout the quilt.

Finally, I drove straight pins through one of the front seams through to the back seam to line them up – pinning from top to bottom along the entire seam.

Sewing the Quilt

My quilt in my sewing machine.

Since this seam was near the middle of the quilt, I decided to start sewing there.

To do this, I attached a walking foot (also called an even feed foot) with a sole designed to help you stitch in the ditch to my machine. You will have to find one that is compatible with your machine – (this one is for Singer machines).

I read that it is good to start in the middle and work your way out towards the edges.

This first seam worked out perfectly! Probably because I had placed pins to keep the quilt sandwich together up and down the entire seam.

The problem came when I sewed the second seam.

Feeling confident, I moved one square to the right and stitched in the ditch along that entire seam.

When I was finished, I turned the quilt over to inspect my work. The backing had bunched and I sewed over this bunch and basically created a pleat in the backing.

Here's the thing, I didn't realize that the stitch length I was using was quite small. It took me about an hour to rip that seam out!

So, I unpinned the quilt sandwich and started over, making sure to pull the backing tight this time.

I read a tip to use masking tape to securely tape your quilt backing stretched taut onto the floor (or other flat surface) while you pin.

This might be something that I try next time.

Stitch in the Ditch

Initially, I thought that I would just use the stitch in the ditch technique to put this quilt together.

But once I finished, the quilt looked a little boring.

You couldn't even really tell that it had actually been quilted.

So, I decided to but “x” stitching through each of the smaller squares.

quilt

What a difference!

A visible design started to emerge.

back of the quilt

Once I finish the smaller squares, I think I may even do some free motion quilting in the bigger squares.

I have not used this technique before so will have to practice first.

Lessons Learned

I wanted to use this Riley Blake Quilt Kit to learn how to quilt – and that for sure is happening.

However, I have also learned a few other lessons through this process.

Quilting Takes a LOT of Time

Just because you have a kit, does not mean it's a shortcut.

Sure you save time picking out fabrics and making sure you have the right quantities – but oh my – all the other work takes so much time!

Piecing and Quilting are 2 Different Animals

For my simple quilt, piecing was the easy part. Certainly, piecing more complicated designs will be a challenge.

Creating your own designs will take even more mental creativity.

But quilting the darn thing – that is a physical challenge. Especially if your quilt is somewhat large.

Your home sewing machine is typically not that big, so wrestling your quilt through it is tricky.

I haven't gotten to the free motion quilting part yet – but I expect that to also be challenging and a new skill to learn.

Pick a Small Starter Project

My first quilt project was a potholder. My second quilt project was a 54×66 quilt. Crazy!

I did this because I had a quilt kit.

But if I had to do it again, I think I would have graduated to something like placemats, to a table runner, to a small baby quilt. You get the idea.

You Need a Lot of Thread

As I type this, I am on my last spool of white thread.

Stock up ahead of time and wind some extra bobbins while you are at it.

Have Fun With It

Lastly, remember you are trying this as a hobby – so have fun with it.

All the mistakes and wavy lines are what makes your quilt unique. So embrace the imperfections.

What started out as a quilt that I thought was kind of ugly is turning into a project that I am really proud of.

I kinda like it.

I'll stop this post here but will pop back in with updates on the free motion quilting and also on attaching the binding (which I'm a bit worried about, too).

Happy quilting!

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