How to Make a Lap Quilt

Many times I have gone to craft shows, or to tourist areas which featured handcrafts by the locals. This is especially true in Lancaster, PA., where the quilts made by Amish women are exhibited and sold. The prices are in the $900 to $1,000 range. But following my instructions you can make yourself a lap quilt with all the color and beauty of an Amish quilt for a fraction of the cost. All you have to do is just choose a best sewing machine for quilting and get some essential accessories and materials to complete the project.

Suggested size 40″ wide by 50″ long.

Simple steps:

  • Go Shopping to a fabric store!

You need cotton blends. This material is wash and wear. 100% cotton requires ironing which can ruin your quilt because it flattens the batting.

You only actually need two yards of material, but I prefer to buy three to allow for extra. The reason? Mistakes happen! Also, the extras can be used to decorate a matching pillow.

I like colorful quilts. You must decide on your own color scheme. You need a mix of light and dark fabric. Amish quilts are all solid colors but you can choose a mix of solids and patterns. You need at least 1/2 yard of each fabric you choose. That would give you six fabric colors and designs to use. You can choose a more monochrome color scheme such as shades of brown, or blues. Whatever is best for your home.

You need batting. The best is to buy the roll out kind in the size you need for your quilt. Crib size is about right for a lap quilt.

You need a backing. Now, you can buy fabric, turn under the edges and have a nice backing. I like to take the easy way. I buy a crib sheet. My edges are finished for me. Be sure to check the packages to see if the size corresponds to the size of the quilt you are making. Your quilt top will be slightly larger than the quilt bottom because you have to turn in the edges or add a trim to turn under the edges.

  • Now for the fun part.

Pick out a design. As a beginner I suggest you go with the simplest design. That is squares. Don’t give yourself a project such as piece work for your first quilt. The squares allow you to be creative with colors and patterns. That is enough to start.

Cut out a template. A template is another name for a pattern. I use heavy cardboard. Lay out your material. Place the template down on the wrong side and trace. Don’t use a magic marker. It will show through. There are special fabric markers you can buy at the fabric store or use a pencil.

Cut out your squares. For jewel-like colors use a small square of 4 1/2″ (the extra 1/2″ allows you 1/4″ all around for sewing.) Use a larger square for a big bold quilt.

I made my friend’s son a quilt with ships on it. I bought red, white and blue fabric and a design with ships on it.

I also made a butterfly quilt with solid colored blocks separated by blocks with a butterfly print. These comes out very pretty.

After cutting out all your blocks: Separate by color and pattern, and then make a paper design of your finished project. For instance you might want a combination of red-white-blue. The first row would follow that pattern, the next row would alternate, otherwise you’d get a vertical strip of all one color or pattern.

After you cut out your squares you are ready to sew by machine or by hand, allowing 1/4″ all around.

This is a perfect vacation project because you can sew the squares by hand while sitting at the beach or relaxing on the deck of your vacation home. For faster quilt making, use your machine.

Once the squares are all together you are ready to layer the three pieces.

You need a flat surface such as a dining room table, or wooden floor. I’ve also used a ping pong table. Lay out the crib sheet first wrong side up, then the batting. Yes, the batting will hang out longer. You can cut it later. Then top with the patchwork wrong side down.

Make big, and I mean big, basting stitches through all three fabrics but don’t finish the edges off yet. This is to hold your quilt together while you finish it. You’ll pull these stitches out later.

You need a big quilting hoop or frame. The quilting hoops are the most economical way to quilt and easy to use. Even if you are just making a tie quilt, it is good to have a hoop.

You put the hoop through all the fabric layers starting in the middle. You work from the middle out so the batting squeezes out the open sides.

You can do a small running stitch which is the same as a quilting stitch. You can do a simple X in each block from one end to the next.

Easier: Tie quilt. Use cotton embroidery thread or acrylic yarn (not wool as it shrinks). Make a tie in each corner of the block. Allow enough thread to tie a bow. This is a simple thread in, thread up, tie and make a bow.

When all this is done, cut off the extra batting. Using the sheet fabric turn it over the quilt top and stitch with a hem stitch keeping the stitches small. You can do straight corners or miter them but straight is easier, and miter is neater.

And then you are done. Your quilt is washable. It will keep you warm on cold evenings and be a beautiful decoration over the back of your couch.

Once you succeed with one, you’ll want to try something more difficult but that is for another article.