How to make and hang your own quilted wall hangings

Quilts can make great decorations for your home. Any quilt can be hung on a wall, with special quilt hangers that won’t damage the quilt. But, if you want something smaller than a bed-size quilt hanging on your wall, you need to make a quilted wall hanging.

The first thing you need to decide is how big you want to make your wall hanging. Then you need to decide on a pattern and color scheme. You can find many quilted wall hanging patterns in quilt magazines and books. They will tell you how much fabric to buy, and will usually have step-by-step directions. But it is often even more fun to design your own. We will discuss two types of wall hangings. The first is made of traditional pieced quilt blocks, and the second is made with machine applique.

To make a wall hanging with traditional pieced blocks, choose a block or combination of blocks that you would like to use. If you search on the internet, there are many sites that offer free quilt block patterns. One option is to use four blocks, surrounded by one or two borders. Another option is to make one large block, and turn it on point, meaning the corners are pointing towards the top and bottom of the piece. You would then add triangles to the sides of the block to make the center of the wall hanging a square, and then add borders.

Wall hangings don’t have to be square. You can arrange your blocks in any configuration that looks good to you, and that will fit the space where you want to hang it. You could use six blocks to make a horizontal or vertical wall hanging, or even use several blocks in a vertical row to make a long, thin design.

It is a good idea to draw a plan of what you are going to do on graph paper. Using one square per inch, you can figure out how big your blocks and borders will need to be to get the finished size that you want. Using colored pencils, you can also get a feel for good color combinations for the design that you’ve chosen. After drawing your design, you need to choose your fabrics. Cut the pieces for your blocks, leaving a seam allowance. When sewing the pieces together, be sure that you are sewing an accurate, straight seam every time. You must be accurate in your measuring, cutting, and sewing, or the pieces won’t line up correctly.

To make a machine-appliqued wall hanging, you need to start with a design. This could be something you have drawn, or even a photograph that you want to copy. If you are a beginner, you probably should choose something with simple shapes that don’t require too much detail. Draw your design on your graph paper, again using one square per inch. Or, you can use a computer drawing program. Remember that each shape or piece of a shape you draw will be made with a different piece of fabric. Very small things, such as facial features of people or animals, can be embroidered after everything is pieced together.

You will need to choose fabrics for each element of your design. Depending on the size of the pieces, you may be able to use scraps that you have on hand for much of it. If you don’t have the appropriate fabrics, there are thousands of fabrics available, with many creative designs. There are fabrics with flowers, grass, trees, feathers, clouds, rocks, bricks, sand, fur, etc. Whatever you choose to put in your fabric picture, there is a fabric somewhere that is just perfect for it. Depending on the look you want, you don’t have to be so literal in your fabric choices you may want to use fabric with some other design for the feathers on a bird rather than one with a feather design.

After you have chosen your fabrics, you need to cut out the pieces. The easiest way to do machine applique is by using a fusible backing. This comes on rolls at fabric stores and has a paper backing. The heavier the weight, the stiffer your appliques will be. To transfer the pattern to the fusible backing, you can make a 1 grid on the paper side and copy the different pieces from your graph paper drawing. Or, if you drew it on a computer, you can print your drawing on regular paper at the size you need it, and trace it onto the fusible backing.

You will need to make each element a separate piece. For example, if you have a hill with a tree in front of it, you need the hill to be one whole piece, the trunk of the tree is one piece, and the leaves may be one piece or many pieces. Since you will be attaching the pieces with machine applique, you do not need to add seam allowances. The paper side of the backing will be the backside of the appliques, so the front side will be a mirror image of what you printed. Cut out the pieces, but leave extra paper around each piece. Following the manufacturer’s directions with your fusible backing, press the pieces onto the BACK side of the fabric. Now cut out each piece on the lines.

Start by laying everything out, without fusing it together. Begin with the background. Use one large piece of fabric as the basis for everything, even if you will have other background elements. You might start with a fabric that looks like the sky, adding pieces for hills, grass, water, etc. When you have the background to your satisfaction, start adding the other elements flowers, animals, people, whatever. Layout all the pieces and make sure it looks the way you want it. Now you can begin to put it all together.

Lay your background piece flat on your ironing board. Take the next piece of the background, and peel off the paper backing. Position it where you want it on the background fabric. Following the manufacturer’s directions, press the piece into place. Do this with each piece, working from the bottom layer up. Make sure each piece is exactly where you want it before pressing it.

When you have your whole picture fused together, it is time to stitch the pieces down. You have several options. You can sew a satin stitch around each object, matching the thread to the object, or you can sew a decorative stitch, such as a buttonhole stitch, around them. This works better with very simple objects. For a landscape, it often works well to use invisible thread and sew either a very narrow zig-zag stitch or a straight stitch around the edge of each piece, just inside the edge of the fabric. Or, you can even just leave it fused, and “stipple” quilt it at the end to hold everything in place permanently. For a wall hanging, it is not as important to make sure every edge is sewn down, as it would be in a quilt that will be used for a bed covering.

When you have the center section of your quilt done, you need to add a frame or border. Sometimes this is done with a single fabric, and sometimes a pieced border is used. Often a good effect can be obtained by using a border print fabric. Whichever type you choose, make it or cut it to the correct size, leaving a few inches extra in the length. Remember that two of the borders need to be long enough to include the width of the first two borders. Pin the borders onto two opposite sides either the top and bottom or the left and right. Be sure everything is laying flat, and don’t stretch the fabric when you pin. Sew these two borders on, and cut the ends even with the center section. Press the seams to one side. Pin the other two borders on, being careful not to stretch the fabric. Sew the borders on and press the seams to one side. Trim the ends even with the first borders.

Now you are ready to quilt your wall hanging. Choose a fabric for the back and hanging sleeves. Cut the fabric to the correct size for the back of the quilt it should be a few inches larger than the front all the way around. If your quilt is too big for one piece of fabric, you can sew two pieces together to make the back. For the hanging sleeve, cut a piece of fabric the width of your quilt by 8”. Machine-hem the ends. With the right sides out, pin both long edges of the sleeve to the top edge of the backing piece, on the right side. Sew across it, with a scant seam.

Sandwich the front, batting, and backing together. Make sure your batting is a little larger than the front of the quilt. You can pin-baste with safety pins, thread baste with needle and thread by hand, or spray baste with one of the spray adhesives made for quilting, but somehow you have to get the three layers stuck together so they won’t shift when you quilt it. Be sure the top edge is lined up exactly, because of the sleeve. Everything else can be trimmed later. Fold the sleeve out, to keep it free from all the basting and quilting.

Quilt in whatever pattern you choose, by hand or machine. For a pieced top, you can outline each piece, or stitch on the seam lines, which is called “stitching in the ditch. Or, you can choose your own pattern. For landscape quilts, it is common to stipple quilt all over, or choose a wavy pattern for water, a fluffy, cloud-like pattern for the sky, etc. Be creative! If you are machine-quilting, be sure to make a test piece using the same fabrics and batting, so you can adjust the tension on your sewing machine.

When you get it all quilted, trim the excess batting and backing all around the edges, making sure the corners are square. Now you need to sew binding around the edges. Using bias binding you make yourself or store-bought binding, sew it on with your preferred method. Some people sew it to the front, flip it over and hand-stitch it to the back. Others sew it to the back, flip it to the front and use a decorative stitch to sew it down. Others sew it to the back and carefully sew along the edge with a straight stitch on the front.

After your binding is on, you need to hand-sew the hanging sleeve down on the back. Lay everything flat, with the back of the quilt up. Smooth the hanging sleeve flat. Now fold it up 1 and pin it. Hand-stitch along the folded line, being careful to catch only the bottom layer of the hanging sleeve and only the backing of the quilt. Your sleeve will puff out a little, leaving room for a hanging rod to go through the sleeve without distorting the quilt.

Now, hang your quilted wall hanging on the wall with a curtain rod or dowel, and enjoy!

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