Fluff Pouf One

comments: 45

Quilt1

Quite pleased with my fluff pouf!!! I decided to keep it! :) It fits right in here and is warm and soft and cozy and wrinkled and creamy and cushy and sweet. I used an Ikea Myskgras to fill it and tied it quite minimally with some Anchor perle cotton #8 that I had.

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I got a question in Instagram when I posted a picture of the top about how I did this, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about it because maybe it will encourage someone else to make a quilt who might otherwise be intimidated.

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I came from a sewing family but not a quilting family. I learned to sew at home with my mom, but she sewed clothes and not quilts. Sometime in the early 1980s we had a pattern and we were going to make a biscuit quilt out of mint green calicos and I think we even got as far as to cut everything out but then . . . I'm not sure what happened. It didn't get made. How I wish I had those squares now! The biscuit quilt is getting popular again. I saw a bunch of them on Pinterest and they are so cute.

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When I was a junior in college I lived with my two best friends off-campus in a little white house on 8 1/2 Avenue. One night an older friend came over with a patchwork quilt she had been making for her sister for Christmas. She had cut a bunch 8-inch squares of all different kinds of fabrics (cottons but also corduroys and silky stuff) and had sewn them together and had put a border on it all and it was just gorgeous. (She was an artist so her color sense was awesome.) My friends and I were all inspired and I think all three of us decided to make quilts immediately. We didn't have a rotary cutter or self-healing mat and I'm sure we wouldn't have even known that those existed. But we did have a sewing machine and scissors, and we took a piece of cardboard and cut out a big square and traced it onto the backside of fabrics with a ballpoint pen and cut out all the squares with the scissors. We didn't have money so we went to the fabric store and bought bargain fabrics and calicos from JoAnn's or whatever fabric store we had back then in the Quad Cities; I don't remember what it was called but it wasn't fancy. At some point with a school field trip for religion class I went to a fabric store in a barn (I think?) outside of Kalona, Iowa, that was owned by Amish women. It was the best fabric store I've ever been to. They had Liberty Tana Lawn, and that was the first time I'd ever seen that fabric. They had so many beautiful fabrics. They had no electricity so it was really hard to see what you were getting. One time I bought fabric (I'm pretty sure now it was Lodden) that I thought was green and when I got it outside it was dark gray. I told my roommates about it and we went back several times over the next couple of years. So our quilts had bargain-table calicos and then pieces of exquisite Liberty lawn and that just makes me smile. Isn't life funny? I never dreamed I would be doing basically the same thing, thirty years later. (I've written about this Amish fabric store — I have no idea what it was called — before and someone mentioned that it went out of business long ago.)

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Anyway, cut to thirty years later. . . .

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My scrap basket overflows. I've made many things since I moved into this house in 2000. I've made clothes for myself and my daughter and quilts and I've made bags and aprons and other random stuff to sell and I've sold kits and, I don't know . . . I've made a lot of stuff out of fabric. I have a lot of yardage, still. But I have A LOT of scraps. I have a giant basket in my office and it is filled almost to the brim. I also had three big plastic bins into which we dumped out the giant basket a few times. The plastic boxes were in the attic but Andy brought them down for me a couple of weekends ago. I hadn’t thought about them in a long time but suddenly I wanted them. It was like opening a time capsule. I borrowed my neighbor's tabletop ironing board and put it on the sofa and ironed a bunch of scraps while watching TV in the living room.

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That’s how these quilts (I've made two this week and have started a third, but these photos are of only the first one) started. I reached into the plastic box and I pulled out a scrap and I ironed it flat. Then I did it again (and again) and started building a stack. The scraps are pretty random — some of them are cray shapes that got leftover after cutting out pieces for making clothes. Some of them are strips that have one straight edge and one raw, crooked edge, and are the last, wonky cuts from the hundreds of 4.5" strips we have cut for Calicozy kits. Some are strips of other sizes. Some are just random rectangles or squares from I-don't-know-what — old projects, old quilts, stuff I've found on eBay and at estate sales, stuff someone found in their mom’s basement and sent to me. It doesn't matter what they are. I ironed them flat if they weren’t  already and just put them in a stack. I don't arrange them by size or color because I literally don't have room to store anything in a fancy way like that. It's all going back into the plastic box, ultimately — well, it's going back into the plastic box if it doesn't get "chosen" for the quilt that's about to get made.

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When I'm about to actually make a quilt, I pull out part of a stack. I start going through it, piece by piece, and picking out the fabrics that I want. Sometimes I have a color-scheme in mind (the quilt pictured here was pretty random, but one I made after it was "purples, light blues, and creams"). The one I worked on today was pinks and greens (no blues). Inevitably, they all have pink, they don't have red or most primary colors (I just don't use a lot of those colors in what I sew), they usually have a few dark patches that ground them and just . . . I don't know . . . tie them into the stuff of the rest of the house. The doorknobs, the TV screen, the fireplace. Just a little bit of dark to hold them in place and give them some depth and dimension.

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Then I will take that edited stack — and I just kind of eyeball how much I think I'll need for a quilt top (lately they've been a generous throw size, about 58" square) — and only then will I start trimming those pieces into the largest kind of rectangle or square I can get out of each piece. If it's a strip and it looks pretty even, I'll trim off the selvedges. Then I'll take that stack and throw it on the table next to my sewing machine, literally throw it, just all in a big, messy pile. To start sewing (I use cream-colored thread, or whatever's generally close to the color scheme, and I wind up a few bobbins because you need three or four to get through the whole thing), I just start looking for two smallish pieces that each have an edge that is roughly the same length. I sew those two edges together with a 1/4" seam. I'll finger-press the seam open and then look for another piece that has an edge that might work if it goes perpendicular to those two pieces. If it's a little bit bigger that's good, but if it's a little smaller I can always trim that first pair. When I get three or maybe four pieces put together this way, I'll take them over to the ironing board and press them all flat. I usually just press the seams to one side or the other, however they most want to fall.

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Do you know how to make a log cabin quilt block? I do it the way my friend Susan taught me because you do it with strips, not fussy-cut pieces. I basically put "blocks" together using the same method. That is, I sew a few pieces together, and then just keep adding strips along the side. Sew on a strip, trim it (with scissors, if it's easy enough), press it. As the block (and, just to be clear, it's not really a block in that it's not going to be square — it's just going to be a piece that gets bigger and bigger) get bigger you can trim it with your rotary cutter so that it has nice straight sides and right angles. As the piece gets bigger (maybe a third of my "target" total width, or somewhere around there), I hang it up on my wall (which is in front of my sliding-glass door — that's the only empty wall I have in my studio) and let it rest there and start another one. When I get a few pieces, I measure them and see how wide they are together.

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Once the pieces start getting bigger, you can shift them around and see how they work together. Think about whether you need a color, or a color value (dark/light) to go somewhere. Add strips or small collections of blocks to start building pieces that will be the same length, always keeping your target quilt length and width in mind. It gets a bit fussy as you get near these target measurements. You'll start doing more trimming (and your edges will get longer, so it's a bit tricky) and measuring. But before you know it, you'll have a quilt top. And you'll have very little wasted effort or fabric. Piece some stuff together from your pile and add a label in there (I cross-stitched mine, on gingham evenwweave fabric) to get a backing piece.

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After I stuff and turn and tie it, I wash it in warm water and dry it in the dryer. I like it to get all wrinkled and smooshy and soft. It gets softer as it gets older. A few people over the years have asked me about the Myskgras and whether it can go in the dryer. I have dried mine many times and it comes out perfectly fine. It is polyester, so it's not a natural material, and if that's important to you I've found that wool batting can have a similar loft and be really wonderful and warm and awesome, though you'll probably have to tie it a lot more so that it doesn't come apart inside (the label on the batting will tell you how far apart you can quilt or tie). I use comforters as batting because I'm basically making a duvet with a non-removable cover — I don't like duvet covers shifting around everywhere and I do like the simplicity of comforters.

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These are not the best pictures because I took most of them on my phone and the light has been pretty dim here lately. But you get the general idea. I'm making more and I'll have more pictures of them. If you have questions about this process just let me know and I will answer them.

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I think this is a pretty good way to use up scraps, and I also think it's a good beginning project (though, obviously the way I do it does involve already having a lot of scraps, and if you're a beginner you might not have those yet). And if you're a beginner and you want to make a different kind of quilt, or one with an actual pattern, just don't be intimidated by quilting blogs. You will see they have a lot of advice and a lot of rules and might make you feel as if you can't take a piece of cardboard and trace around it and cut out some squares with scissors and sew them together if you want to. But you can. Don’t even worry. You really can.

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Me, Martha, and Ann on 8 1/2 Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois. Taken by our friend Kurt, May of 1990.

45 comments

I WANT ONE!!!

And if you're a beginner and you want to make a different kind of quilt, or one with an actual pattern, just don't be intimidated by quilting blogs. You will see they have a lot of advice and a lot of rules and might make you feel as if you can't take a piece of cardboard and trace around it and cut out some squares with scissors and sew them together if you want to. But you can. You really can.

SO MUCH THIS!!! There is an incredible amount of gatekeeping in crafts, I love your encouragement to just get stuck in <3

I used to love quilts but now I really don't. I find it weird that people buy hugely expensive beautiful fabric, cut them into often tiny pieces and then sew them together. The beauty of the fabrics is lost and it becomes a nasty exercise in geometry instead.

I do however still love simple quilts, with nice big random squares that show off the fabrics. I mostly like those from gathered fabrics, because that is what quilts originally were before it all got rather precious - ways of using what you had to make something useful and pretty. I also don't much like machine quilting and as long as I want to keep my hands intact I won't use a rotary cutter. It's too easy to make mistakes and cut a whole load of fabric the wrong way up or something. I don't want it to be fast and I want it to be squidgy and soft and handmade. I actually prefer crochet blankets now, for that reason.

What you have made reminds me of eiderdowns, which were pouffy quilts like duvets but all in one. My grandmother used them. I think your quilts are lovely and go back to the roots of it all. With any crafting you can do just what you want. Including of course what I personally don't like. Quilters can be very intimidating with all the rules.

Thank you Alicia for all your writing and beautiful pictures. Thanks for taking me around your home and special places. I've popped onto your blog for years now for the pics and the words and the lovely visit to another hemisphere and city.
This latest post made me so happy. It describes the way I quilt - no patience for exact craft work in embroidery or knitting or crochet or cutting and measuring. For years though, I've relished hunting op shops for material, sorting & washing it, playing with colours and the fun of finally all the stuff just falling beautifully into place.
It's summer here and so it's washing and sun-drying time. I'm even trying some dyes from plants I grew last year. So good to think of you and your scraps sewing away through the northern winter.


I love this- I am a very basic sewer but I feel like this is a quilt I could make. I would love to see part of it on youtube. Are you sewing it on to the duvet or is it lose like a duvet cover?

Oh my goodness, these are beautiful! Looks so cozy and lovely! The only quilts I made are the ones from the kits you sell. I have never learned to make anything else. I feel intimidated by the whole process. You are a great inspiration Alicia!!

This is what I think of when I think of a quilt: scraps of all sorts of fabric of various sizes sewn together to form the quilt top. This is lovely, Alicia.

Wow! Great picture of the three of you! I loved the story of how you were inspired to start quilting.

Hi Alicia,
Oh this is just so inspiring and encouraging, thank you! It's the way I like to make quilts, just simple shapes sewn together....I recently started to use a duvet cover as the backing for a top, preferably from a thrift shop! Much cheaper than the "real" quilting fabric...
I have just finished 2 tops for our boys ( young men, haha) and used little shirts they used to wear...I'm sure you have thought of using clothes that Amelia used to wear....
Anyway, I LOVE reading about your life, what you do etc, and send warm wishes to you and your family, from Holland...
Take care and stay safe!
Nicoline

Really lovely.

And I completely agree with Sara’s comment about people taking beautiful fabrics and cutting them into tiny pieces, and it being an exercise in geometry. I’ve always wanted to quilt, but the rules and the amount of kit that you need to buy puts me off entirely! And now I see that that’s not even really necessary. I’m still not sure I’m going to make one, but I feel that maybe I *could.*

Hi Alicia,
I don't get how you tie your comforter with the fabric!
I am so excited about that, I was really looking for a solution for a fluffy quilt, I did one (that is awfully flat) it is beautiful because I used all kinds of scraps but it really is not fluffy... nobody uses it...
So Thank you for the inspiration... and for the solution!! I am so thankful if you could explain the tying way. Hello from this side of the ocean.

Thank you so much for the inspiration! Can I ask about the back and ‘tying’ please, what does that mean exactly? You’ve got your quilt front (or top) but how do you then make that it into the finished object? Sorry if that’s a really thick question!x

This is such a lovely read when I first wake up. And I’m sitting under one of the quilts I made from one of your kits while I read it. I have always loved the fabrics and colors you chose. Such a beautiful quilt and post! I extra love the last photo.

Oh my word - you've done such a lovely job! Truly - you have an eye for this stuff!! :) Your colors are perfect together and I love how you alternated stars with pretty little rectangles. And the POUF! SWOON!!

Also - I'm a BIG fan of Liberty Tana Lawn. I'm working on a handsewn quilt made with only Liberty fabrics because: florals. Here's a link to my most recent blog post about it: https://katiegilley.com/2021/11/12/a-rainy-fall-friday/

I hope you have a great week, Alicia!!

How gorgeous and delightful is your smooshy quilt?! You have really captured the original spirit of quilting, which is: make something beautiful out of what you have. Isn't that what our fore-mothers did? I often think about the beauty of Gee's Bend quilts. As lovely as the current quilting trends are, they don't hold a candle to those.

I am a terrible quilter. There's something about lining up corners, especially triangles that just doesn't ever work out for me. But! I keep at it. Maybe someday those seams will line up...

Anna Gerard says: February 08, 2022 at 06:14 AM

Hi Alicia, that is a beautiful quilt! My question is, do you have to cut down the comforter before you sew it to the quilt..or do you just sew it and then trim it off and then turn it al out right? Hope that makes sense. I have an old ikea comforter that needs to be a quilt. I’m excited to do it. I have some log cabin blocks that I will use and then be random with scraps as well..like your approach.

Thank you for your simplicity, thank you for not having RULES, and especially thank you for the photo of the lovely girls at the end. I've got myself into trouble with a rainbow quilt that uses 1-1/2" wide strips (but no triangles or seam matching) because the creative fun has gone out of it. So I'm going back to my piles of fabric for that quilt to try something else. Thank you again for the inspiration.

Janet Klockenga says: February 08, 2022 at 12:43 PM

I've been quilting for 35 years, and I couldn't agree more with the comments I see here. So many go about it all wrong. Quilting should be a joyful and creative venture, not a dull series of steps bound by so many rules.

Love the quilts that you have created! I love your commentary just as much!

Melinda Tillotson says: February 08, 2022 at 02:36 PM

Visiting your blog is always such a peaceful and beautiful experience. I completely agree with making scrappy quilts - they capture the spirit of quilting without the complicated geometry stuff. I do have a question: what do you do with quilts that get worn out? I have a few that have been loved and repaired to death. I have them folded up and enjoy looking at them, but I would love to repurpose them somehow. Any ideas?

Michaelanne says: February 08, 2022 at 03:15 PM

I absolutely love this Alicia! Your choice of colors and patterns always inspires me!! I have made many quilts..and I am learning more about knitting now. Crafting is a journey! I am so happy you allowed so many to travel along your journey. You are a wonderful inspiration...Keep up the good work!

How often do you wash your quilt in the machine? Does it wear out the quilt/comforter?

Alicia- this is the cozies post!! Do you always make quilts to the IKEA comforter size? Have you cut the comforter before--does that work? I love random patching and incorporating quilt blocks that I just tried out. Thank you!!

I’ve just started wanting to make quilts, and this could be the perfect beginning. Thank you for explaining your method!

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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