Alan’s First Quilt

Alan’s First Quilt

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, we’ve been sharing snippets of #alansfirstquilt. Today, he’s here to tell the tale and share photos of the finished quilt. He picked an upcoming line of fabric from Fig Tree called Somerset (look for it in September). Here’s Alan!


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So I made my first quilt and put in the last stitch this last week (Sunday night actually).  A friend of mine, Adrian, was out in Missouri working for the summer with us and wanted to surprise her mom with a quilt and challenged me to make one, too.

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The buddy system worked really well for us, having one of us call the other and say, “Hey, let’s go quilt for an hour or two.” It helped us see our quilts to the end. But quilting really is a social thing, even if you’re just helping each other iron or both messing up on your 1/4″ seams together, it’s great to have a partner in the process.

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Now going through a quilt start to finish, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share.  My honest thought was that I would be a pro already.  I have watched every. single. one. of Mom’s tutorials. I’ve seen her do everything that touches quilting a thousand times (and then some) so I was ready to be a pro. I had it all worked out in my mind, so I was a little surprised that it wasn’t soooo easy. Maybe you’ll get a kick out of this story:

Both Adrian and I chose to do the Dresden Coin quilt tutorial. I was hovering on the churn dash because I love that one, but settled on the Dresden Coin because I thought it would go together a bit more quickly.

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So I needed two Layer Cakes (I’m a big guy) and my layer cake dresden template, I got those and hopped right in. My first obstacle was when I opened up the layer cake I broke the bands on it and was staring at this beautiful stack of fabric… but now what?  I just kind of stood there until I got the courage to start cutting, so I grabbed 4-5 at a time and started cutting my dresden blades.  Cutting fabric is a bit tricky, I kept trying to use the ruler / template as a guard, so I’d angle the blade into it and got some wonky cuts until I figured out straight up and down was my friend.  Game changer right there.

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The other hard spot was after I got them all cut, what next?  I had these big piles of dresden blades and struggled figuring out how to go from a stack to the quilt, so I grabbed two tables and started laying them out. It was turning into a big endeavor because nothing matched anything and it felt like there was no right place. I’d get one row set, then have to change it again because I’d see too much brown.

Then my sister Natalie suggested I just match up two blades at a time and sew them together, then put them into groups of four, then move around batches of four to make my rows.  It made it much more manageable, and I got a few spots of too much orange or too much red. I was too overwhelmed trying to get everything perfect before I sewed my first seam, so Natalie’s way was much better for me.

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This leads me to my next challenge. I had no idea how to thread my sewing machine or set it up. I sent mom a text, “Ma, we need to do a tutorial on the first time you sit down at your sewing machine. I’m lost!”  Thankfully, Natalie rescued me (again!) and showed me how to follow the numbers on our Baby Lock Melody sewing machine. Now I’m a pro! If you don’t know how to do it, maybe just get someone to show you once or twice and you’ll be set.  Then I tried Mom’s Baby Lock Jane (the super fast one she sews on) and broke the thread. I think I put four square knots in that thread before I gave up on it. Moral of the story; not all machines have numbers on them to help you thread that needle.  They should.

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So now got all my rows together and called Natalie. It went a little something like this:

Me: “OK. What do I do if my rows are different lengths?”

Nat: “Just make sure they have the same number of pieces, they’ll be the same length.”

Me: “I did. There is like a 3″ variance in length.”

Nat: “Haha, you’re a dork, Al.  I’ll help.”

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So, here’s how we fixed that. I cut my sashing to all the same length, then would pull on some rows and be loose on a few and that helped until I got the whole top together.  Then I had a top that had one great side, and one really wonky side.  So, we folded it in half 4-5 times until I had a 10″ strip by however wide my quilt was, then I just trimmed the one side about 1/2 – 3/4″ in and I had a straight edge again. I was ready for my side sashing and my borders.

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Borders were hard to pick! I wanted an orange one from the line, because I like orange. But it made the quilt too soft, so I went with a brown one. It was hard to let my orange go, but after auditioning the fabrics (as mom would say), I knew I was making the right choice.

This was all still work for me at this point.  I kept making the comment “I can’t believe people pay money to do this! It’s so hard!”

Then I went to the quilting department and got our great girls Sandi and Danielle to help me quilt.  Once we got the quilt pinned on, I think I giggled a little. It was happening!  I was so tickled with myself for making something. For doing it!


As we quilted, that’s when it started clicking for me.  Sandi was there with us until almost midnight (Thanks, Sandi!). We got it done, and then were off to binding.

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I watched the binding tutorial a few times and got to work.  I kind of found my own stitch that worked for me. Mom said it was a slip stitch and not a ladder stitch, but it looked good and worked fine for me.  I don’t mind a knot or two showing on my backing. 🙂  When I finished, I texted mom: “I’m done with the quilt!” Her first response was, “What?! Who taught you how to bind?” I laughed. “You did! Via YouTube!”

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What an awesome feeling to have made a quilt.  I know where each mistake is. I know the sashing is wavy and the borders don’t match perfectly.  I know my binding is fudged in two parts cause I didn’t sew it onto the quilt right. But it’s done, and it looks awesome (I think!) and I’m so excited to have made something that just a few weeks ago I didn’t know how to do.

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That’s the greatest feeling to me. It’s making something that takes time.  Amazon can’t deliver this. When I give this quilt away, someone will have 20-30 hours of my life, and that’s something I haven’t given anyone for a long time.  Thanks, quilting!

  • Kathy J. Thomas

    Thanks for all the great pics and the tell all! Yes, I agree with everyone else… really must keep this one! Great job Al!!!!
    Oh yeah……the back please, can we see the back?!

  • Tvbvnvmv

    Alan, give that quilt to your mom!! It will be priceless to her!!!

  • Tracy Jones

    Hope you put your name on the back somewhere! Especially if you plan to give this quilt away. But- I agree with some other comments… the first quilt is always special and should be kept by whomever made it. Plenty of time to do another one to gift someone with… now that you know everything about quilting and are a “Pro”! Love this Alan!! Great job!

  • lisaw1225

    Great job, Al! It is encouraging to us “normal” folks to have someone recount the challenges encountered along the way, so we realize we’re not alone when something doesn’t go just right the first time through.

  • Judy in Indiana

    It’s good to know that you had the same problems we do as we are assembling. Is there a tutorial on how to correct things, like you did to even up your edges? We need one since we aren’t as experienced as your mom and sisters!

  • Sonia Cazarim

    Awesome!! Congratulations!! It’s a beautiful quilt!!

  • drbillnye

    the quilting love story commences! 🙂

  • drbillnye

    That sounds awesome, I can’t wait!! 🙂

  • Kimberly Maynard

    Awesome job !!! 🙂

  • Raedian

    I agree. Mr first quilt was a baby quilt that I gave to a friend who was having a baby. After I gave it away, I wished I could have kept it :).

  • GrandmaJim

    Congrats on a great looking quilt – I can see the ladies coming out of the woodwork now that you’re “one of us”. They’ll be travelling to Hamilton to see YOU!

  • Carol Bell

    Wow! You did it Al! I’m so happy for you. Loved the story of your adventure. But I agree with Sandy Navas – you’ve given us quilters so many hours of your life in what you do with the company. And now, in addition to being the computer geek, you are now the geeky quilter!

    If you don’t give it away, it surely deserves a spot in the retreat center hanging proudly on the wall!

    But wait! There’s more…. where is the label??????

  • Linda g


  • Jennifer Jenson

    Hey Alan! Could you explain to my hubby the feeling you had? He might let me spend more on fabric! Way to go!

  • Sharon Caplinger Green

    What a wonderful quilt! Every quilt has a story and I loved reading yours. I was amazed at what a huge quilt you chose for your first one, but then I remembered you are one of those big n tall guys. I have to make huge quilts for my sons who are trees and now grandsons who are twigs becoming trees. I am looking forward to the next Alan Quilt.. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  • JenniferMSQC

    That’s awesome! Be sure to share pics of your grandson’s work. We’d love to share it and give him some MSQC love!!!

  • JenniferMSQC

    He’s kind of a go big or go home kinda guy!

  • JenniferMSQC

    HA! We’re happy to help!

  • JenniferMSQC

    That’s a great suggestion, Judy. We’ll see what we can do. I’m right there with you!

  • JenniferMSQC

    We all struggle through, we just don’t always film it. 😉

  • JenniferMSQC

    We’ll ask him to share the back and update us all on whether he keeps it or not.

  • Emi Ishino

    Great job! I can’t believe she called you a dork. Still making me laugh.

  • Kathy J. Thomas

    Thanks JenniferMSQC !

  • Louise Hornor

    Your Mom always makes me laugh, but this post made me tear up a little bit because it is so sweet! Thanks for sharing your quilting journey.

  • Davina

    Well done Alan; wonderful work! I love your Mom’s tutos and will be starting my first quilt as soon as my holidays start in July. Excited and nervous too! You’re SO lucky to have MSQC and Natalie to hand! Keep the quilt – now you know you can do it, you can do another one!

  • Kerry Atkins

    Alan, you truly are a Renaissance Man! Congratulations on your first quilt!

  • Lori Jones

    Impressive! Keep up the good work– we have so much more to discover and learn. Alan– you’re a ROCK STAR!

  • JenniferMSQC

    He is a ROCK STAR!! Thanks for following along, Lori!

  • Janet

    Great quilt. Keep up the good work with the quilting and the online video’s, we love them.

  • Wwena

    This was such a joy to read! I can totally relate to everything and then some! 😀 😀 Thanks for sharing your experience with us Al and keep up the good work!

  • Leanne @ Cottagetails.blogspot

    Totally awesome well done Alan

  • Naomi Campbell

    What an awesome job- I showed my 15 year old and he said that if you could do it so can he – he wonders what I get up to in my own shed ‘Nays Place” and now he knows and is keen to get started – problem is – not a lot of choice for a 15 year that doesn’t like brown/beige and I think all black is a bit too dark – like your idea of the orange perhaps I could mix this with black grey etc

  • Deanna

    This was so inspiring, I laughed and totally understood all the frustration! Amazing job Alan! I am loving it!

  • MissouriQuiltCo

    He did a great job! Glad you love it 🙂

  • alma

    In my tradition when people get married they get hand made items , ike crochet. Items or knitted items like dorry said give it to your bride and then she can pass it on to your kids and your kids to their kids and so on just imagine where your quilt could be in like 100 years pretty awsome huh… I am from boston and they just found a time capsule that had quilts in there over a 100 years old still in tact they do need dry cleaning tho …… see you may want to make a time capsule and hide it somewhere at MSQC for someone to find later in life…… proud of you thats a best man made quilt I have ever seen… good job Alan ohh onether idea I am veteran I did 4 tours to Afghanistan you can donate it to acheraty or organization that send them overseas it could make one of our brave man or wemen very happy


  • Cassia M.

    You are amazing!!!! Congratulations on your “quilting adventure”!

  • Stacey Stramel

    I love your story Allen! Its a great feeling to be finished but only you know all the sweat, tears and even blood ( watch those seam rippers they bite sometimes) that went into it that finished product- but no matter how many fights you get in with your fabric, or sewing machine; when you give that finished quilt to someone special in your life you know that its a part of you that will live on long after you are gone – and its a truly priceless moment. And don’t worry I fudge my binding up all the time 🙂

  • Mathew groves

    Hi ya my name is Mathew, in England you sent me the link to this and wow I see how easily mum gets inspired… it looks so, so cool you have given me a wicked idea (like you a little mum back up maybe required) but its awesome and I shall be cracking on who knows I may send you a pic. 🙂