This is one of three Little Gem Quilts I made for the Quilters Guild Tombola at the Festival of Quilts 2009 (see previous post for details)
The secret of making an attractive little quilt without having to have extensive quilting skills lies partly in choice of fabrics. It's worth using interesting fabrics because you get interesting results and with Little Gems being so small (A4 size) you can experiment with fabrics and still have plenty left over for another project, so it's a good way of trying out ideas about combining colours/prints and so on.
So the first stage is to audition your fabrics: if you're a perfectionist who can take three weeks over this, set a time limit.
There aren't many short-cuts which include coffee-breaks but this is one. When you can no longer see the fabrics for looking, leave them out and go and have a cup of coffee somewhere where you cannot look at them. When you come back you will see instantly what works and what doesn't.
After you've removed the cat, that is:
The next stage is to decide how to divide up the surface of the quilt. I like asymmetry (it also helps to make a very simple design look more interesting/complex). There are many ways of producing a sort of balanced asymmetry (of which more in a later post) but a useful one to start with is to divide into approximate thirds, which will give you a vertical division of between 3 and 4 inches.
Cut an oblong of one of your more interesting fabrics in the chosen width or a little wider (plus half an inch for seam allowances) for your narrower section and a length somewhere in the region of two thirds of the length of the finished piece (don't worry about exact - approximately eight inches works well) plus half an inch seam allowance. Add on narrow strips of fabrics that blend or pick up individual colours (small prints, solids or less defined patterns are useful for this) until you reach 11 5/8 inches (or a bit more - it can always be trimmed back later): stitch together using a quarter-inch seam allowance.
For the larger section cut one or two pieces of more interesting fabric the size you want, plus narrower strips of toning or contrasting fabrics. Join together to match the length of your first fabric strip.
Decide how you want to arrange your two strips of fabric, and whether they need a further strip down the middle ot not. Press each strip, pressing seams to one side, going one way on one strip and the other way on the other. Either join your two strips of fabric together as they are, or join to a vertical strip. Press again.
Cut a fabric backing slightly larger than a piece of A4 paper, plus a piece of wadding the same size. Lay your Little Gem on top, and then either pin or stick the layers together using a spray fabric adhesive such as 505. Quilt in any way you like. Free-machining is good but if you feel nervous about that, straight or gently-curved lines with a normal foot is fine too.
Place your Little Gem on a cutting-mat and place an A4 piece of paper on top parallel to the edges. Using the paper as a guide, placing the ruler on the paper and lined up along the edge of it, cut to trim to size. Make sure the paper is lined up on the cut edge(s) before cutting each side in this way. If you don't have a rotary cutter you can pin the paper to the Little Gem and cut round the edge of the paper with scissors.
Finally bind the edges (see Little Gems website for links to sites telling you how to do this).
Have fun with it - it's a great way of experimenting with fabric-combinations!