Layered Patchwork

There was a request yesterday to share the process of this technique, so here goes… 
I love this method because of the way it combines layering and piecing, raw edge and turned edge.  To me it is like the gathering of memories: piecing experiences together, engaging many layers of senses and emotions that might be a little ragged around the edges.  A blurring of boundaries between times.
To begin:
This little cloth is a simple four-patch, but you can do the same technique with any number of squares or rectangles.  This is the same method I used on the large Friendship Cloth, which consists of twenty-five 10″ squares.

Prepare the backing fabric: mine is a sea-green medium weight woven cotton (furnishing fabric, originally I think for curtains), about 10″ square.  You will need squares of lightweight fabric to use as foundations on which to layer fabric.  I used four 5″ squares of lightweight shirting cotton.
Gather together a selection of fabrics to use as the layers.  My theme in this cloth is sea and sand.  I like to use a mixture of cotton and silk fabrics together; I like the contrast in textures.
Cut or tear small pieces of fabric and place them on top of the foundation squares until the whole square is covered, making sure that each fabric overlaps by at least 1/4″.
Pin fabrics to foundation when each square is fully covered.
Tack (baste) all layered fabrics to foundation square and remove the pins.  I like to press it with the iron at this stage (from the back) to make sure the tacking stitches are loose enough for the fabrics to lie flat.
When all the layered fabrics are tacked to the foundation squares, flip the foundation square over and trim excess fabric flush with the edge of the square.
Arrange the trimmed squares as you wish.  You get a surprising variation in effect just by moving them round and rotating them.
Sew top two squares together, right sides facing, matching edges and corners and with 1/4″ seam allowance.  Repeat for the other two squares.
I like to press seam allowances open rather than pressing them to one side, as is usual in quilting these days.  I don’t like the ridge that builds up from having all the seams on one side.
You should now have two sets of two squares with seams pressed open.  Sew these together along the long edge, matching seams, edges and corners and again with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press seams open.
Layer pieced top to backing; pin and tack in place.  I don’t use wadding (batting), but this is the point at which to insert it if you’re using it.
Gather together a selection of threads for quilting.  I like to use quite fine quilting threads, but I also use silk thread and cotton perle threads here and there for a bit of textural interest.
Quilt through all layers to attach the top to the backing, working outwards from the centre.  I don’t use a frame or hoop; I prefer to support the work on a table top and hold it in my hands.  This is the reason I don’t do perfect stitches.  They are neither evenly spaced, nor are they evenly sized, but I prefer them that way.  I think stitching is like handwriting, and is just as expressive and individual.  If I wanted perfect, even stitches, I would use a machine. 
You can either quilt each square individually, as I have done, or you could treat the whole pieced cloth as one square and quilt a design over all of it.  I like the fragmented, pieced-together collage effect of treating each square differently.
This little cloth took just over seven hours in total.
Sea and Sand – complete.
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18 Responses to Layered Patchwork

  1. Victoria says:

    Really interesting! Even though we are both exploring similar paths, our methods are different. (However, I also don't use a hoop.) I love how you compare hand stitch to handwriting. I've never thought of it that way before, but from now on I will, as it really resonates. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Karen Turner says:

    Victoria, I thought the same about our work – similar paths but different methods. Thanks for your insightful comment 🙂

  3. Victoria says:

    P.S. I like that you shared the time involved… I often wonder if people realize how much can go into this type of work.

  4. Dotti says:

    I've been following this blog for awhile and still have not started my slow cloth. I think this tutorial has finally set my creativity on fire! I have an order of silks for painting and dyeing due to arrive today! Their arrival and your blog post may have been the perfect storm! Thank You!

  5. Amo House says:

    Lovely demo Karen. I like the free form of your work, mine can be far too structured! I think I need to take a leaf out of your book and go with the flow. Thanks for sharing.

  6. maggi says:

    Thanks for this demo Karen. I want to make a fabric book for someone who is expecting a baby and this would be a lovely technique to use. Fortunately I have plenty of time to do it.

  7. ancientcloth says:

    Thank you for sharing your technique."Sea and sand" is a lovely piece.

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial! It really is a help for me to visualize what you did. Now it all makes sense. Do you like to use a binding or another type of edge finish? Beautiful!

  9. Sandra says:

    I'm new to your blog site, love it. thank you for sharing your process and thoughts, both are very inspiring and sooothing. love your perspective of this our wonderful world of creativity. I will drop by often : )Blessings, Sandra in AZ

  10. Karen Turner says:

    Thank you! And welcome, Sandra :-)Kristin, I don't normally use binding on this type of cloth, unless I know it's going to get a lot of wear or is going to need frequent washing. I like the raw, slightly fragile edge. But you could easily add a binding, or you could embroider along the edge. Or you could turn the edges under and just oversew them together. Or sometimes I fold the edges of the backing over onto the front and stitch it down to make a border.

  11. jude says:

    thanks for sharing. handwriting. exactly.

  12. jenny says:

    fantastic guide & such a beautiful piece, thank you for sharing your work!I agree with Victoria about the time put in to the piece, really important to understand how long you really need to give things.I have really been wanting to do more slow stitching and this may be a great project to start with . Thanks for your support over in my world xxxx

  13. Deborah says:

    Thanks for sharing! I only do handwork and don't own a machine. It's nice to see others appreciate this approach. "Sea and Sand" is gorgeous!

  14. this is brilliant – just love the colours and textures

  15. Sharon says:

    thanks for sharing on your blog. so many blogs are turning into online classes that charge $ for tips and techniques. I love it when artist's are generous with their ideas and inspire others.Sharon at e14studio

  16. twhIch aye says:

    really love the colors and your stitching is just beautiful.

  17. julochka says:

    i love this little tutorial. and i also iron the seams open..it's what my grandmother taught me to do and tho' i've tried doing it to one side, but it felt totally wrong.

  18. Karen Turner says:

    Yes, I've tried ironing to one side in the past (when I used to follow instructions!), but didn't like it at all. I'm glad I'm not alone 🙂

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