Cheating! Didn't Mom always say, "Cheaters never prosper?!" This is one kind of cheating she would totally approve of, possibly giving you a cookie for figuring it out. A cheater quilt is one in which the quilt top is pre-printed with a patchwork design, allowing you to skip the piecing and instead, simply layer front, batting and back, bind and add your quilting stitches. It's super fast and easy, and when the fabric is beautiful – like our amazing Rouenneries Duex by French General from Fat Quarter Shop, you have to get up close and personal before you realize the design is printed rather than pieced. We decided to cheat even more by assembling our layers with a piped edge rather than traditional quilt binding. Mom knew she raised some rebels.
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, to take the time to measure once, twice and three times both horizontally and vertically to insure the most beautiful results.
Our cheater quilt is made of fabrics from the Rouenneries Deux collection by French General for Moda. We have been fans of French General for a very long time. We used their original Rouenneries collection in our Noel Home series a few years back. Our good friends at Fat Quarter Shop have a very nice selection of Rouenneries Duex in both yardage and pre-cuts.
There are many other designers who have patchwork motifs that would be lovely as a cheater quilt. We were drawn to Annie's Farm Stand by Holly Holderman for Lakehouse Dry Goods, Stitch Organic by Betz White for Robert Kaufman, Ohh La La Patchwork by Bunny Hill Designs for Moda, and Redwork Renaissance by Chloe's Closet for Moda. Browse online or at your favorite retailer for more ideas.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome 3160 Quilter's Decor Computer)
- Zipper foot or Narrow Base Zipper foot
- Optional: Walking foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 44-45" wide "patchwork print" fabric for the quilt front; we used Rouenneries Deux by French General for Moda Fabrics in Faded Red Patchwork from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1¼ yards of 44-45" wide coordinating print fabric for the quilt back; we used Rouenneries Deux by French General for Moda Fabrics in Faded Red Fleur De Lis - this color is currently out of stock at Fat Quarter Shop, but Turkey Red, Roche and Pearl are still available. FQS tells us that the Faded Red Fleur De Lis will be back in stock in late April.
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide coordinating solid fabric for the piping; we used Rouenneries Deux by French General for Moda Fabrics in Faded Red Texture from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1¼ yard of 44-45 wide medium weight batting; we used Warm & Natural cotton 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 ¼" diameter cotton cording
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Contrasting color thread for quilting, optional
- 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 front (Patchwork Red in our sample), fussy cut ONE 41" x 41" square.
- From the fabric for the quilt back (Faded Red Fleur De Lis in our sample), cut ONE 41" x 41" square.
- 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. 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 (probably the floor), place the quilt front right side up on top of the batting. The batting will extend beyond the quilt on all sides.
- Safety pin the two layers together 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.
Cut and join the bias strips for the piping
- On your cutting surface, lay out flat the fabric you've chosen for the piping (Faded Red Texture in our sample), right side up and with the selvage running along one side.
- Fold the fabric back diagonally so a straight edge is parallel to the selvage, creating a triangle with your folded fabric.
- Press the fold and use this crease as a guide to mark your parallel lines.
- Use a straight edge to make continuous parallel lines 2½" apart.
- Cut along these lines with a rotary cutter and straight edge.
- Join the strips to make one finished strip the necessary 170" long.
NOTE: This amount is figured by adding up the length of each side (41" x 4) and adding 6" for an overlap to finish the ends.
- 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 that is 170" long x 2½" wide.
Insert the cording
- Place the 170" bias strip right side down on a large flat surface.
- Lay a 170" length of cotton piping cord in the center.
- Fold the fabric over the cord, keeping the cord centered and matching the raw edges of the fabric.
- Pin to hold in place.
- Carefully move to your sewing machine and adjust the piping so the raw edges line up on your seam allowance marking, and cord pokes out to the left of your foot.
- Using a Zipper foot, 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.
- Cut one end of the cording so it has a sharp, flat end.
Stitch the piping to the front
- Starting in the middle of one side, and with the end of the piping that you cut flat, pin the piping around all four sides of the RIGHT side of quilt front, which is layered with the batting. The piping should be facing the middle of the fabric and 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, clipping as you go. Make as many little clips as you need to make a smooth curve. 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 to expose the cording underneath.
- Trim the end of cording tail so it exactly meets the cut end 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 the sewn down raw edge by about ½".
- Using your Zipper foot or Narrow Base Zipper foot, attach the piping to the front by stitching in place with a ½" seam allowance, removing the pins as you go.
- As you stitch around the corners, you may need to gently ease the fabric as you go. This means it might ripple slightly. That's okay.
- 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 layered front/batting with its piping attached right side up on your work surface. Lay the back piece over the top right side down.
- Pin around all sides, leaving a approximately 6" opening along one side for turning.
- Using a ½" seam allowance as your guide, but staying as close to the edge of the piping as possible, stitch around the entire quilt, leaving just that 6" opening for turning. Remember to lock your seam on either side of the opening.
- Clip the corners at a diagonal and turn right side out through the opening. Push out the corners with your finger or a blunt tool to smooth the curves.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam and right up against the piping.
- Hand stitch the opening closed.
- Lay the quilt flat with the quilt top facing up. Remove the safety pins, then replace them again, but 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 decorative stitch pattern between each square. We used this as our guide, stitching down the exact center of the motif both horizontally and vertically across the quilt. We used our Walking foot for this process.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas and Liz Johnson
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild
Other machines suitable for this project include the Baby Lock Tempo and the Brother Laura Ashley Innov-is NX2000.