A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.
A friend of mine asked me to write the pattern for the easiest quilt ever, and I immediately thought of a whole cloth quilt. A whole cloth is one of the easiest quilts to make. You do not need any advanced sewing skills to make one. You also do not need all the specialty tools that quilters use, like a rotary cutter, cutting mat, or specialty ruler. You don't even need a sewing machine. All you need is fabric, batting, and thread. If you live in a warm climate or plan to use the quilt as a table runner or wall hanging, you can even omit the batting.
With a whole cloth quilt, you can learn the basics of making a quilt and practice making a quilt from start to finish. With these skills, you can then go on to piecing quilts. This will help avoid the issue so many beginning quilters have—unfinished quilts that languish because the quilter does not know what to do with them.
Whole Cloth Quilt
A whole cloth quilt is one that is not pieced. A solid piece of fabric is made into a sandwich by placing it on top of the batting and backing, and then quilted. The edges can be finished before or after the quilting.
With a whole cloth quilt, you can use beautiful fabric that will do most of the work for you. If you enjoy hand quilting, you can get to the relaxing activity of hand quilting right away without the need for cutting up pieces of fabric in many pieces only to sew them back together again, hoping that they will fit properly.
A whole cloth quilt can be made much faster than traditional pieced quilts, especially when the quilting stitches are applied with a sewing machine.
Supplies for Whole Cloth Quilt
For each of these supplies, you will need to consider the size of the quilt. Take the finished size of the quilt, and add the amounts as shown.
- Fabric for top, one quarter of an inch bigger on each side than the size of the finished quilt. This assumes that you are using quarter inch seam allowances.
- Batting, thin silk or cotton, about four inches bigger on each side than the size of the finished quilt.
- Backing fabric, about four inches bigger on each side than the size of the finished quilt.
- Cheap throwaway thread for basting for hand quilting OR safety pins for basting for machine quilting
- 100% cotton Thread for quilting - it can either blend in well with the top or be a pretty contrasting color that will show your quilting stitches. You can also use more than one color.
- Thimble and size 11 needle for hand quilting, OR sewing machine with quilting needle for machine quilting.
What Fabric to Use for Easy Whole Cloth Quilt Top
100% cotton fabric is recommended for quilts, since it is less slippery and easiest to work with. There are several different types of fabric that make beautiful whole cloth quilts.
- A solid fabric in your favorite color highlights your hand quilting beautifully. If you are going to go through the trouble of hand quilting, you might as well let your quilting show. Most quilters choose a color that is either light or dark, avoiding medium colored fabrics. White, ecru, black, blue or red are the favorites. With a solid fabric, you can either add your stitches free form, or mark your quilting lines ahead of time.
- There is fabric on the market that already has quilting lines marked on them. In this way, the work of choosing a design and marking your quilt is already done for you. Simply baste the quilt top to the batting and backing fabric, and start quilting. When you are finished making the quilt, simply wash it to get rid of the marking lines.
- A beautiful patterned fabric in your favorite color is great to hide your quilting stitches. You can simply apply quilting stitches with your sewing machine to help keep the layers from shifting.
- Some manufacturers print fabrics that look like quilts, called "cheater cloths." This allows you to make something that looks like a pieced quilt but is really very easy and does not require piecing.
- A fabric panel has beautiful designs that look like completed pictures, and often have borders printed on them. They are quite visually appealing and make great quilts. They also come in a variety of sizes, making it easier for you to choose the size of your first whole cloth quilt.
What Size Should I Make My First Whole Cloth Quilt?
One of the many advantages of making whole cloth quilts is that you can make them any size you desire. Simply measure your bed, considering how much overhang you want, and use that size. If you have a fabric panel, you can simply use the size of the fabric panel.
If you are making a quilt for the very first time, you can certainly make a bed size quilt if you are ambitious, but I recommend making something smaller. Try a wall hanging, lap quilt, baby quilt, or table runner size. This will keep the project down to a manageable size and let you have a finished quilt faster. It will also help you decide whether you find hand quilting relaxing or tedious. If you are quilting by machine instead of by hand, a smaller quilt will be easier to maneuver through the little space in the arm of the machine.
Note about Backing and Batting
The batting is the soft part of the quilt that is hidden between the front and the back of the quilt. I recommend 100% cotton or silk for the batting. If you are hand quilting, I recommend finding batting that is made specifically for hand quilting. It is easier to needle through and makes the quilting experience much more enjoyable. Polyester batting tends to be more slippery and tends to "beard" (little threads come out of the quilt top and batting over time).
Like the top fabric, the backing is recommended to be 100% cotton. If you are machine quilting, you can use a sheet, but most sheets tend to have a higher thread count than quilting fabric, and it may be more difficult to needle.
Read More From Feltmagnet
You may be tempted to use a panel for the back of the quilt as well, to make a two-sided quilt, but note that you will have to make extra effort to make sure that the front and the back are properly lined up.
The batting and the backing should be slightly larger than the top, to allow for some shrinkage during quilting, and to give you some room for error in lining up the sandwich.
Now that you have purchased the fabric for the top and the backing, the batting, and the thread, before you start quilting, you need to decide how you will finish the quilt. This will determine how the quilt top, batting, and backing should be arranged, and whether you finish the quilt edges before or after you secure the layers with quilting stitches. There are two main ways that quilters finish a quilt.
Adding a Quilt Binding
One option is to sandwich the quilt first, quilt it either by hand or by machine, and then apply a binding to finish the edges. Directions for a double-fold binding are available here.
How to Birth a Quilt
Birthing a quilt is also called a pillowcase method. Put the batting on a flat surface (I use the living room floor) and smooth it out. Sometimes letting it rest overnight or tumbling it in the dryer for a few minutes takes out the wrinkles. Use painters tape to tape it smoothly on the floor. Do not pull taut. Then put the backing fabric, right side up, on top of the backing and smooth it out. Finally, put the top of the quilt wrong side up. This will look strange to you, but don't worry; we will fix it in the end.
Make sure all of the sides are even and straight. You may wish to trim the fabric to make sure it is a nice rectangle. Pin around the edges to keep the fabric from shifting. Take off the tape and take the quilt to the sewing machine. Sew around the edges, leaving about 10 inches of space. Turn the sandwich inside out, so that the quilt top is now on the outside. Gently poke out the corners to make sure that they appear the way you like them.
Fold down the edges of the quilt at the space you used to turn the quilt right side out, and sew them together by hand using a whip stitch.
The other option is to sew all the layers together and hide the seam allowances inside the quilt. The directions for this are in the sidebar of this article. With this method, the quilting comes the quilt has been turned
Basting a Quilt
Quilting is an important part of making a quilt. It keeps the three layers from shifting and adds the element of stitching that makes quilts so admired. By this time you get to this step, the layers of your quilt will be in the correct order, with the right sides of the top and the backing facing out, and the batting hidden in the middle. If you are going to add a quilt binding, you will have some extra batting and backing fabric that will stay until you are finished quilting the quilt. If you are going to birth the quilt (also known as the pillowcase method), your edges will be finished.
Before you start, you need to find a way to keep the layers from shifting while you are quilting the quilt.
- If you are hand quilting, you can add very long basting stitches to keep the layers together. You can use cheap thread that you will cut out when you are finished actually quilting the quilt, so choose a color that is fairly easy to see, and can easily be distinguished from your quilting thread. Be careful not to use thread that will bleed if it gets wet.
- If you are machine quilting, you can use safety pins to baste your quilt. You should be able to take them out while you are quilting by machine. You can use regular safety pins, but I recommend using quilting safety pins that are curved. They are easier to put into a quilt.
Quilting a Whole Cloth Quilt
If you feel comfortable sewing by hand, you can easily sew some kind of design on the quilt. You can easily sew straight lines either vertically, horizontally or diagonally across the quilt, or some kind of checkerboard pattern. Following some lines that are already on the fabric will help keep your stitches even.
Don't worry about getting small stitches. It is more important to keep them consistent throughout the quilt. Take your time and enjoy the process. I find that quilting for long periods of time makes my hands cramp up and my wrists hurt, so I prefer to quilt a few minutes a day.
Machine Quilting a Whole Cloth Quilt
If you would rather do it by machine, you can easily sew rows of lines on a sewing machine. Use a walking foot to keep the fabric from shifting and take your time with the quilting.
Suggestions for Quilting
Whether you do it by hand or machine, I recommend starting in the middle, then sewing the next two rows between the middle and either side of the quilt. In this way, you keep your stitches evenly disbursed, and when you decide you have had enough, you will be finished and won't have the other side to still finish.
© 2013 Shasta Matova
Comments: "Pattern for the Easiest Quilt Ever'
peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 05, 2015:
oh it looks easy, just choose a cloth, draw patterns and stitch, never thought of that, voted up
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on June 21, 2013:
Thank you for your comment just-about. I think a whole cloth quilt is a great way to learn the basics of quilting, and you will get a beautiful end result. I hope you show me a photo of the finished quilt when you are done with it.
just-about on June 20, 2013:
I've been thinking about making a quilt but am a complete beginner. I only knew about patchwork quilts until I read this hub and I wasn't too keen on the idea of having to cut out loads of pieces before the sewing started. I love to sew neat rows of regular stitches so maybe whole cloth quilting will suit me better. I shall have to explore this technique more, I want a project for next winter.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 16, 2013:
That's true cygnetbrown, a whole cloth quilt is a great beginner quilter project.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 08, 2013:
Thanks Dianna / teaches12345, quilts add such a warmth and comfort to any home. I was happy to find these photographs, as I don't have any whole cloth quilts left at home. I tend to give away a lot of my quilts.
Thanks Aurelio, I appreciate the support. You're right, you can easily coordinate the quilt with curtains, bedspreads, table cloths and other things made out of fabric.
Thanks Sharkye. That is a good idea to add a border so it looks like binding when you are finished. I used to avoid doing things the "easy" way - being afraid that it wouldn't be the "right" way, but it turns out that the quilt police doesn't really exist, and you can make your quilt any way you want! I would love to see a photo of your quilt when you are finished.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 08, 2013:
Thanks Pearl. Your grandmother was smart to teach you how to quilt with a whole cloth quilt. I bet it was even easier without the batting. I didn't have anyone to teach me, so I started with a very complicated pattern.
Thanks Rosa, yeah, quilters tend to get obsessed, and want to cut up fabric into millions of tiny pieces, when really they could easily make quilts with the fabric intact! I hope you do try it.
Thanks Joanne, I do hope you try it. It is a great way to get started with quilting.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 08, 2013:
Thanks Natashalh, pieced quilts are beautiful too! I hope I get a chance to see your quilt.
Thanks Paula / fpherj48. Easy quilts are quick to make and can be just as beautiful as pieced quilts. They are a great way to learn how to quilt.
Thanks Rose / randomcreative. I am glad you enjoyed this article.
Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on February 02, 2013:
Awesome hub! I had no idea there was a term for the method I was using to make my quilts! I've been turning them inside out like that to avoid having to use binding, then topstitching close to the edge. With a wide, solid border it looks almost like a bound quilt. So glad to know that I am not a total lazy idiot and that this is an official technique.
This whole hub is full of great tips! I am sharing, pinning, and bookmarking for reference. I like the quilting part a lot better than the piecing part, so a whole-cloth quilt is definitely on my to-do list for this year.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 31, 2013:
I don't know much about quilting but those patterns look beautiful. I like the idea of using a beautifully patterned fabric to start, which you can use to match curtains and pillows as well. Voting this Up and Useful.
Dianna Mendez on January 31, 2013:
I just some really pretty quilts at the fair today. Yours is beautiful and should have been displayed as a top notch quilt! Thanks for sharing this idea.
Joanne Lambert on January 28, 2013:
Thank You Rosa,, I like the pattern,, and i will be trying it out,, It is a simple way to make a very nice Quilt,,
It was good of you to put it on FB for all your quilting Friends and Family,, your prize winning Aunt will truly like this,, It looks good to me : }
Rosa Marchisella from Canada on January 28, 2013:
Not a quilter, myself since I like simpler projects that can pack away quickly. I always wondered why people didn't just make quilts this way and put it on my "To Experiment With" list, so I was super pleased to come across this hub!
I've shared it on FB and pinned it to my Cool Crafts board. Thanks so much. and keep up the great hubs :-)
Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on January 28, 2013:
My first quilt was a whole cloth lap 'spring' quilt. My grandmother taught me to use 2 pieces of material without batting in between. These were used on top of beds when nights weren't cold as in the springtime. It was a great introduction to my quilting career. It was easy to finish, and I was able to be creative with different stitches in different sections.
Loved your detailed and thorough instructions. Voted Up, Useful and Interesting.
Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on January 28, 2013:
This quilt definitely is something a beginner could do!
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 28, 2013:
Your quilting articles are excellent! Thanks for another great resource.
Suzie from Carson City on January 27, 2013:
MT...You are definitely in to quilting...and what a wonderful hobby it is. I like the word "easiest," here. It means that I may even be able to give it a try. Thanks MT!! UP+++
Natasha from Hawaii on January 27, 2013:
Fantastic tips! I'm working on piecing a quilt top right now, but I will definitely be checking back on your quilting/backing tips.