Chenille Quilt Tutorial

Chenille Quilting: An Easy Quilt Tutorial with Rob Appell of Man Sewing. Rob shows us how he creates his own chenille fabric out of layer cakes (10 inch squares of precut fabric) and uses it along with some pretty yardage to make a super soft and cozy rag-style quilt.

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Transcript (Downloadable PDF Here):

Hey, it’s a cuddly, cozy day here at Man Sewing. I’m going to teach you how to make this awesome Chenille and kind of rag quilt combo we’ve been playing with. We want to do it for you in a couple of different ways and before I show you how to put the two different kinds of blocks together, let me give you the rundown of supplies. So I started with two of these awesome layer cakes. This is a Fairy Frost. It’s kind of a basic from Michael Miller. This particular one is called It’s a Girl Thing. You can see by the colors behind me, I think that’s a nice title. I also have backing on all of the blocks as we go. So I used this smaller fairy. It’s a flower fairy print. And this one I used two and a half yards of. And then for the variety of these, a, for the front I used about ¾ of a yard of each of them. A couple of notions you’re going to need. Now, a fun little, this is a plastic wire brush. I’m going to use this to tease the chenille. I have a spray bottle handy. This ultra cool rotary cutter that’s made for chenille. And the reason I say it’s made for chenille, it has this pad on the bottom. And with that pad on the bottom, it’s going to allow me to slide it through the layers. A wash-a-way marking pen. You may want to have some scissors in case you decide to do this manually but after one block, you’ll decide to go out and get yourself a chenille cutter. I promise you, I did. And then of course your basic sewing supplies. The machine, the iron, the ruler and another cutter which I stashed back here in the SewMando Vest. Beautiful. Now I’m ready to go.


Ok, so to get started, the first series of the blocks we’re going to make are the batted blocks. And the batted blocks are just like a rag quilt. If you’ve done a rag quilt, you know exactly what you’re doing here. And this is one of my final samples. Actually it’s such a final sample that I ran out of fabric to show you on the sample in just a second but you’ll be able to follow along, no problem. So I used my Flower Fairies as the backing all of the blocks that you see on the quilt here. Let me see if I can get you a nice show off there. However, I do think I forgot to tell you about the batting you’re going to need to go inside. So if you’re using your scraps, just figure about 10 inches for every block. They’re truly going to be cut down to about 9 ½ square though. Because the fabrics are 10 inches. If you want to go out and grab a bag of batting, a baby bat would be plenty to do the quilt the size of the one behind me.


So let’s get ourselves started. Like I said, we’re going to make one of these batted blocks here. But I’m going to use, on my background, one of the larger flower fairies as well. And so with that flower fairy, I’m going to set it down, and this is a directional fabric so I want to really pay attention to which way the heads of all the fairies are facing. Then I’m going to drop my batting in there. And then I’m going to lay on top the next block just like yay. So that both of the heads of the fairies are facing up. The easy way to do this is to pull out your ruler and make yourself a mark. But I’ll tell you, I kind of cheated and I got to the point where I felt pretty comfortable to just sew. So I’ll try to show you that trick. But if, if you’re not feeling confident in your sewing today, just go ahead and make your marks. You’re going to want one going in both directions. And I’m making them nice and light. And please, please, please, test your wash-a-way tools and markers on anything you plan to use. I would hate to tell you to use something that didn’t wash out. And every now and again, that can happen. So just be real cautious. Once my markings are from corner to corner though, it’s real easy. I’m just going to run over to my sewing machine here. And now this is my trick. My needle is actually set in my center of my needle position. Or the center of the foot position, however you want to say that. Then I grab my corner that I have and I basically have it in my thumb and my finger, and I’m just kind of pointing my thumb at my needle. And I’m just going to let the machine start to do the work. And I’m basically just steering from the backseat like I always do when my wife’s driving anyways. So I just run it right through. Easy as can be. And then I’m just going to do a quick rotation and do the same thing on the other side for us.


You’re probably already doing the layout math behind me. So I have basically a checkerboard quilt or every other block is going to be one of these batted blocks. And every other block is going to be one of the chenille blocks. So in my 30 block quilt, I have 15 of these and 15 of the chenille blocks, ok? And this is going to create a little bit of loft and a little bit of pucker. This quilt here has already spent a little time in the washer and dryer. So it’s already got some of the loft  that’s starting to show through. We want that to happen because there’s going to be no additional quilting that happens in this project. So this is a quilt as you go, rag quilt. This is a done, finished piece, basically already. So what I did to get myself warmed up is made all 15 of these, set them aside. And got ready to start doing the chenille. Are you ready to do the chenille because this is really cool. I’m telling you what.


These ones you may have not seen before so I’m going to try to slow it down a little bit and make it easy. I’ve got my layer cakes. And remember I had two of these and with these Michael Miller Fairy Frost layer cakes, you actually end up with, I think there’s eight or ten different colors but there’s 42 pieces so there’s not an even count. So what I first started doing was I just unpacked the layer cake and I laid them all across a nice big design table and started seeing all the different colors I had developing. And then as I saw that, then I started stacking them back up. And I’m going to make five stacks of the Fairy Frost, excuse me, five fabrics in a stack of the Fairy Frost. You need one stack for every block that you choose to make. And as I start stacking these back up, it’s really important that you keep all of the print sides up as you go, right? We’re going to keep all of the print up. And then as I put this in here, I’m going to flip it over really quick and then on the back side, I’m actually going to put my Flower Fairies again. So the Flower Fairies are on the back and they are now print side down. So backing down. All my other prints are up. And there’s no batting whatsoever in this. This is a finished piece as well. This is all quilt as you go. So you’re not missing the batting at all. And then once you have this the way you’re going to do it, we’re going to do our diagonal markings the same. But you only need one this time. We’re just going from one corner. And then the stitch line becomes the marking for the rest of the stitches.


Oh, it looks like that’s a little hard for us to see so let me show you another trick. Let’s say you’re trying to mark some of your squares and your marking tool is not working for you or the shades are just not right. You can take your piece of fabric, you’ll only need to do it to the top one. Bring it right over here to your ironing board, and then we’re going to give this a nice crease like yay. I’m just going to let that sit and cool for a minute. I’ll, I’ll teach you this real quick trick because I am stalling. Fabric has memory, so you want to let it sit in its place until it becomes cool again and that way it will bond or stay in that position. Because if not, it will go back to its last state. So fabric has memory meaning that it will go to the state it was last cool. Now you can see that awesome stitch line. Makes life so easy there. And now we’re just going to get into the machine for the stitching, right?


Just like I did before, I’ve got my needle at the corner. I’ve got that nice creased or drawn line to follow. And I’m just going to go from tip to tip. Now this particular set of sewing here, I’m going to do one stitch line and then what I chose to do, is I kind found myself doing was kind of rotating the block or spinning the block 180 degrees. And then I just put the stitch line along the edge of the presser foot here and I’m going to make another series of stitch lines. So my stitch lines here. And I work, I’m going to say, maybe seven, eight, long stitch lines on either side of the center and then I just stayed on one side. It didn’t really matter. I didn’t see any real shifting. These are going to be waffly, cuddly, curly blocks anyways so it is ok if we get little bits of pucker or loft in our stitching. But basically I’m just going to sit here and sew and sew and sew. You know this is one of those wonderful projects to have on hand, as a matter of fact, if you like to just have something going in your studio at all times. You could walk in a maybe stitch a block or two and then come back to it later. You don’t have to stay too organized mentally for this project. You  just kind of, it’s a lot of little leg work here.


Ok, we’ve edited out all the commercials, but while we were on commercial break I did all the stitching for you. And brought back a finished sample so you could see what happened. Now this here has all the stitching. And I’ve actually already made a cut. Actually the truth of the matter is when you see it in the blooper reel at the end, you’ll see what really happened here. But we’re going to cut you a nice smooth cut here in a second. But I want to show you, thinking backwards, get your mind really ready for this. This is one of the blocks that I’ve been playing with a little bit. And you can start to see through the layers here, let me see if I tip it and fold it like this. You can see in all of those layers that I did not cut the bottom layer of Fairy Frost. And I certainly did not cut through the backing fabric at all. So when I start to slide in my rotary tool, here to make all of these nice cut lines as you see. I am sliding it through but I am leaving it on top of the bottom two layers, the Flower Fairies and one Fairy Frost layer. Now this cutting tool is really cool. It’s a little bit difficult to get it in motion and once it’s in motion to keep it in motion is what I have found. But these are the tricks I’ve found so far. The blade doesn’t seem to rotate like a normally rotary cutter does. It’s got numbers on it so it’s adjustable. And I think that’s in case it starts to get a dull spot. It has a two-part trigger for safety so I’m going to pull up and press the little button in to help. And there’s different widths of feet for this. And you want the width of foot that’s going to fit right in between your stitching lines here.


So basically I’m going to start by really carefully sliding this in between two layers just like that’s what I want you to do. So slide it in there between those layers. Make sure you’ve got the bottom two layers unattacked and then just slide. And so I’m getting a lot of nice pressure here through my finger and I can kind of feel it in my forearm. And that’s helping me make those cuts. So I’m going to try one more just to show you it’s a lot easier than I made it look. And then we’ll move on. See just like that. Whew! Ha ha! Now one of the keys to this is though, like I said earlier, this has been washed and dried. But let’s say you don’t want to put it in the wash for some reason. Or you want to kind of pre-curl or pre-chenille these blocks, the next thing you can do, this is why we had our spray bottle handy. Is you can just basically just take a little mist, not too much because you’re going to get everything wet around it. But just a little misting. And then you can get one of these nice, now this is plastic, be careful not to get one or use a wire version. And then what I do, is I just kind of go across the grain of my chenille or my strips. And I’m just going to kind of tease it like this. This also helps pull some of the fuzzy, fuzzies off. So after doing this to the entire quilt that’s behind me, I had kind of fuzz everywhere which was kind of really fun. So I’m just going to tease, and that moisture really helps. So we just tease and tease and that starts to do its thing. A little more moisture going that way. And you’ll also notice, I’m not teasing a ton around the outside edges because in just a moment, when all your blocks are done and created, all you’re going to simply do, like I said, this is quilt as you go. You are done, once it’s assembled.


So you would take your batted blocks like yay. And you’d take your chenille blocks. Here we’ll just pretend here for a little bit longer. Slide this up. Slide that like that. And this like this. So therefore, that’s going to be your layout. So let’s talk about what this is going to happen here. Next thing I do is I check for my orientation of my ladies or my fairies in there. I want to make sure that everyone’s head is up that way. I’m going to go every other block is going to be a chenille, then a batted, then a chenille, then a batted so to speak. And then when I go to sew these together, instead of sewing them right sides together like that, I’m actually going to sew them backings together. So when I stitch my backings together like that, that brings all of my seam allowances up into the front of the quilt like a rag quilt would be.


Ok so just as an example, I’ve got them in my hand, let me take a moment and show you how we’re going to sew these together. Just to reiterate, backing to backing. I’m making sure my orientation is correct. And there’s one other thing I kind of want to point out here. I’m going to keep the chenille on the up portion of the presser foot. And some machines, if the foot gets too high, it starts to open up your tension and you start to have poor tension or no tension at all which causes thread jams. So just make sure that when your foot is down, you have tension on your thread. And here’s the test for that. I’m going to go ahead and lower my presser foot, I’m grabbing the thread from my needle and I still have full tension. So I’m very happy there. And now I just going to begin doing basically a quarter inch seam allowance. Trying to keep my chenilles laying flat as possible at that seam allowance. There we go. And then I’m just going to start to assemble these as I go. Basically row by row. So the next stitch would be here. Backings together. I can rotate this. Go to the machine. So it becomes just like chain piecing all over again. So the last question you’re probably thinking to yourself right now is, gosh, I wonder if he’s going to take the time and the soreness in his hand to clip all of the those like he would if he was making a rag quilt. And the answer is, absolutely not. We did not take the time to do that. We didn’t see where that would be a real benefit. We can finish this on another time. So when we got into these sections here, we found that there was so much curling and things going on, we did not find it necessary to go ahead and clip like you did a rag quilt because you’re already getting the texture from in the chenille. One of the last steps I like to do with this kind of thing is I’ll just take my little scissors out, they didn’t give me a tension in cutting the chenille, and I’ll go through and I’ll kind of get the clumps of thread and I’ll trim those out. And one of the major reasons you’ll do that, is let’s say you’re going to put this in with a baby or an infant, you know, we want to make sure we don’t have a bunch of loose threads that can get things caught, wrapped around their fingers or what-not. So do be careful if you’re thinking of that.


I got to tell you though. So fun. So easy. This chenille technique works for all kinds of different projects. So you can take that method and carry it into your own creativity. Make a real simple easy cuddly quilt like that. And then of course, we want to know what you’re doing with your chenille. So enjoy the blooper reel. Send us your comments and your photos of your chenille. And we’ll see you next time at Man Sewing.


posted: Intermediate Quilting Tutorials, Layer Cakes, Quilts and Quilt Blocks, Tips and Tricks | tagged: , , , , ,
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