A cheater quilt is one in which the quilt top is pre-printed with a patchwork design, allowing you to skip the piecing. Instead, simply layer front, batting and back; then quilt and bind. It's super fast and easy, and your quilting stitches can follow along in the lines of the motif. As a fun twist on the traditional baby quilt, we did a soft piped edge rather than traditional quilt binding. Once completed, you have to look pretty closely to be able to tell you "cheated." It makes a great baby shower gift or go up in size and send a new college student off to the dorms with a personalized quilt.
One of the most important parts of any cheater quilt is to carefully fussy cut the top fabric so the printed patchwork design is straight and perfectly balanced side to side. It's worth buying a little extra fabric so you can fussy cut exactly as you'd like. And, take the time to measure once, twice, three times both horizontally and vertically to insure the most beautiful results.
Our cheater quilt is made of fabrics from the Storybook collection by Kate and Birdie for Moda Fabrics. We used Patchwork for the top, Castles for the back, and Birdies for the piping – all in Aqua. This collection is from 2014, but we found a nice selection available from our friends at Fabric Depot. They still have prints in several of the colorways.
One of our favorite things about the Storybook pattern was the dashed lines framing each of the patchwork squares. When everything was assembled and we stitched carefully along these lines, it almost looked like the quilting had been hand-done thanks to that pre-printed stitch pattern.
Cheater patchwork panels are quite popular and come in designs from fanciful to elegant. We like Pam Kitty Garden by Lakehouse from Fabric Depot, as well as Edith's Patchwork from the Downton Abbey collection for Andover from Fat Quarter Shop, and we discovered a surprisingly large selection of cheater quilt fabric from all the independent designers at Spoonflower.
Our patchwork fabric resulted in a finished quilt size of approximately 39" x 40½", including the piping.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome Skyline S5)
- Zipper foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful for the final quilting
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1⅓ yards of 44"+ wide "patchwork print" fabric for the quilt top
- 1⅓ yards of 44"+ wide coordinating fabric for the quilt back
- ¾ yard of 44-45" wide coordinating fabric for the piping
- 1⅓ yards of 45"+ wide low loft batting
NOTE: If you don't have access to batting on a roll, you could use a crib size cut (45" x 60").
- 5 yards of ½" diameter cotton cording
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- Seam gauge
- Large safety pins for basting
- From the fabric for the quilt top, fussy cut ONE approximate 41" x 41" square, following the patchwork lines of your chosen motif.
- From the fabric for the quilt back, cut ONE 41" x 41" square (or whatever size you actually cut the quilt top).
- From the fabric for the piping, cut FIVE 2¼" strips on the bias.
NOTE: If you are new to working with bias strips, check out our handy tutorial on bias binding.
- From the batting cut ONE 43" x 43" square from front and back fabric.
NOTE: This measurement is approximate; you want the fabric to float on the batting with about 2" of batting extending beyond the fabric on all sides. As above, adjust as needed to fit your cut. The excess batting will be trimmed flush prior to finishing.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Layer the front and the batting
- Press all the fabric pieces.
- On a clean, flat surface (the floor will work), place the batting square.
- Place the quilt top right side up on top of the batting. The batting should extend beyond the quilt top fabric on all sides.
- Safety pin the two layers together, placing the pins sporadically across the top (this is known as pin basting).
- Trim the batting so it is flush on all four sides with the top of the quilt.
- Find the five 2¼" bias strips.
- To join the strips, take two strips and place them right sides together at right angels to each other.
- Draw a line corner to corner
- Stitch across the drawn line.
- Trim the seam allowance back to approximately ¼" and press open.
- Repeat this until you have one bias strip approximately 170" long.
- Place the bias strip right side down on a large flat surface.
- Lay a 170" length of cotton piping cord in the center.
- Wrap the fabric over the cord, keeping the cord centered and matching the raw edges of the fabric. The fabric should be right side out when wrapped around the cord.
- Pin the wrapped fabric in place.
- Attach a Zipper foot. If your sewing machine allows it, move the needle position to the left.
- Stitch slowly, staying close to the cord and keeping your seam allowance as consistent as possible. Remember to remove any pins as you go so you don't sew over them.
Stitch the piping to the top
- Cut one end of the piping so it has a sharp, flat end.
- Starting in the middle of one side, with the end of the piping you cut flat, pin the piping around all four sides against the RIGHT side of quilt front, which is layered with the batting. The raw edges of the piping's insertion fabric should be flush with the raw edges of the quilt top fabric/batting.
- Curve the piping around the corners.
- Once pinned, you can clip the curve for the smoothest result. This is called "easing" - the little cuts give the otherwise rigid line the flexibility to curve.
- Your length of piping should be enough to go all the way around and to leave several inches free at the end when you get back to your starting point.
- With a seam ripper, peel back the fabric on the tail end of the piping to expose the cording underneath.
- Trim this end of cording tail so it exactly meets the cut end at the head of the cording.
- Fold under the end of the loose fabric to create a clean edge, adjusting and wrapping this folded end under and around the loose piping tail so it overlaps about ½".
- Using your Zipper foot, and with the needle moved to the left if possible, baste the piping in place.
NOTE: If you are new to piping and these steps went by really fast, we have a great tutorial you can review: How to Make and Attach Your Own Piping.
Stitch front to back and quilt layers
- Lay the quilt top right side up on your work surface. Lay the quilt back over the top right side down, sandwiching the piping between the layers.
- Pin around all sides, leaving a approximately 8" - 10" opening along one side for turning.
- Staying as close to the edge of the piping as possible, stitch around the entire quilt. Remember to lock your seam on either side of the 8" - 10"opening. We continued to use a Zipper foot with the needle in the left position.
- Trim back the excess fabric from the corners. You can also clip the curves if needed.
- Turn the quilt right side out through the opening. Push out the corners with your finger or a blunt tool, such as a chopstick or long knitting needle, to smooth the curves.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam and lay right up against the piping.
- Place the quilt flat with the quilt top facing up. Remove the safety pins, then replace them again, this time pinning through all three layers.
- Determine where you want to place your lines of quilting; it will depend on your patchwork motif. Ours had a lovely faux hand-stitch motif between each square. We used this as our guide, stitching along these lines both horizontally and vertically across the quilt. Your quilting should start and stop approximately ⅜" - ¼" from the piping. We used our Walking foot for this process.
- Hand stitch the opening closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas and Liz Johnson
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild