Solving NotQuilt Design Problems



This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

The link below takes you to the Balloon Notquilt project.

This week, we’re work at solving some NotQuilt design problems.

Last week, we washed the bedspread, ripped out the hem, and ironed the edges. Now I have to figure out how to take this too-long and not-wide-enough twin-size and make it fit a larger mattress.

I spent some time working this out on paper. I drew my picture of the curved bedspread and wrote down the measurements. Then I drew the picture again, with the final measurements, after the hems had been ripped out and ironed flat. I gained several inches in width and length by doing this.

solving notquilt problems

The bedspread is both too long and too narrow. So how do we make something too long and too narrow wider and shorter? Answer: Cut off the top portion and reattach it to the bedspread to make it wider.

But how much do we want? How and where do we sew back the part we cut off?

This is where working on paper is so useful. I drew my picture and there were the two curved edges. I want to keep those, both because I want nice curved corners and because if I cut them off, I have to remove a lot of the bedspread to make what remains square.

You have to have a compelling reason to make a NotQuilt smaller. If you have a large blanket, then make a large NotQuilt. If you want a baby-quilt-sized finished product, then start with something that is the same size.

Keeping the curves determines where I cut. I know I need to take a portion of the bedspread off of the top, along the straight edge. Then I’ll cut the remaining bedspread in half, down the middle from top to bottom, and sew the cut-off piece there.

Will this work? I know it will because I tested my idea on a standard sheet of paper, 8½ inches by 11. The proportions are similar to my bedspread. I rounded the bottom edge of the sheet of paper to simulate the bedspread and also show what would happen to the bottom edge (if anything).

I took the sheet of paper and measured down 2½ inches (the difference between length and width). I cut that part off. I divided the remaining sheet in half, down the middle from top to bottom. I laid both halves on the table, spread them apart, and inserted into the middle space the cut-off portion and, my word, it fits perfectly. The concept works.

Stage 1

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 3

Doing this with a sheet of paper also demonstrated that I would end up with a pretty darn wide NotQuilt and one that didn’t hang over the end of the bed like it should at all.

I drew several more pictures in my notebook, with different amounts of bedspread cut away. The most I could cut off was 27 inches; more than that meant that the excess would hang out over the top of the new top edge, useless.

I took my trusty 120-inch measuring tape and laid it out on my queen-sized mattress to test this version, seeing where the tape lay. As expected, cutting off 27 inches and sewing it into the middle would give me a NotQuilt that fell to the floor on the sides and barely covered the foot of the bed.

So I need to cut off less bedspread. Would 20 inches work? On paper it does. However, measuring it on the bed demonstrated that yes, I still have too much on the sides and not enough in the length.

I decided on 14 inches. That should give me an even overhang all the way around. It will NOT give me enough length to tuck under the pillows but I don’t plan on using this NotQuilt as a bedspread on a made-up bed. It is going to spend most of its life folded up in a closet and come out only when needed.

Keep in mind that these are not exact measurements! I eyeballed the tape measure on the bed, both width and length, so I might be off by an inch or so. This is not a concern for this utility NotQuilt.

If I had to make a NotQuilt that was used as a bedspread, tucked under the pillows when made up and that hung just to the floor on all three sides, I would have to a) measure much more carefully, and b) know not just the size of the mattress but the thickness as well, and how high up off the floor the mattress top sits.

If you have to make a specific size of NotQuilt, make sure you keep in mind the thickness of the mattress and box spring. The width may be a standard queen or king, but the thickness of mattress and box spring can vary by as much as a foot. Add in the bed frame supporting the mattress and box spring and you will have to add still more inches of fabric to the NotQuilt in order to reach the floor all the way around.

The arms race in mattress thickness is, by the way, the reason why so many sheets are turning up at the Goodwill. You buy a new, thicker mattress and none of the old sheets fit anymore, whether fitted or flat. This is also the point of a dust ruffle. It hides the gap between the bottom of your old bedspread and the floor.

But I digress.

I decided to cut a 14-inch strip off of the top of the bedspread. I laid out the bedspread on the (clean) carpet, measured down 14 inches from the top edge, and snapped a chalk line.

snapping chalk line

Snapping a chalk line (from later in the process).

A chalk line marker is a very handy device and I use my dear husband’s more than he does. If you make a lot of NotQuilts or large drapery projects, a chalk line is invaluable. You can make nice, straight, accurate cutting lines. They are available at any hardware store for a few bucks. There may already be one in your toolbox. If the chalk line marker doesn’t seem to be making crisp, clear lines anymore, it needs more powdered chalk. The hardware store will sell you some. It comes in colors and I use the standard bright blue, as it is very visible.

Younger son and I snapped the line and I cut off the 14-inch section. We measured the width of the bedspread, divided it in half, snapped another chalk line, and cut the bedspread in half, right up the middle.

The three sections were laid out onto the (clean) carpet and you will notice at once that the section I cut off isn’t long enough to extend from seam to seam.

A piece of white batting was used to fill in the rest of the bedspread.

A piece of white batting was used to fill in the rest of the bedspread. (Taken from the back side of the bedspread, which is blue.)

balloon notquilt bedspread

The bedspread after it has been widened, a process we’ll talk about in the next post.

That’s okay. I will take a piece of old blanket or quilt batting from the stash and splice a piece onto the 14-inch long section. As long as the weight is similar and I make it long enough, there won’t be any problems. When the NotQuilt is done, this will all be hidden. They’ll also never know that I took a salvaged bedspread and cut it up radically and sewed it back together. All they will see is the finished project.