A postage stamp quilt is a perfect way to utilize your old fabric scraps. You can turn them into something not only beautiful but functional too.
The first postage stamp quilt was made in 1935 by a woman from North Carolina named Mamie Dameron. During the Great Depression, people did not have much money to spare and came up with all sorts of resourceful repurposing methods.
Mamie’s quilt had over 11,000 different fabric scraps, and none were bigger than the size of a postage stamp, hence the name. This gained popularity throughout the 30s and 40s, becoming a staple in quilting competitions all over the country.
The main purpose of these quilts was to avoid waste. In 2020 where fast fashion dominates the news, we love to find creative uses for old fabric! This avoids them going on the landfill pile and helps you stay cozy.
What do I need?
- Fabric scraps
- Gridded fusible interfacing or blank interfacing
- Sewing machine
How do I make one?
Cut your fabric strips into roughly equal-sized squares. For a traditional postage stamp quilt, these should measure 1½ x 1½ inches, although this doesn’t need to be exact.
Postage stamp quilts work best if the fabric scraps you use are roughly the same weight. This will provide your design with more consistency, although this isn’t necessary.
The seam allowance on each square of a postage stamp quilt is traditionally ¼ inch, giving a final result of 1-inch squares.
If you are going to lay your squares out in a pattern, arrange these first. Lay them out as you wish them to appear on the quilt.
Align your gridded interfacing with your fabric squares. Iron the interfacing onto the back of the fabric squares, being careful not to knock them out of alignment.
Fold along the grid lines on the interfacing so that the fabric designs face one another. With a ¼ inch seam allowance, sew up along the interfacing. Repeat this along all of the vertical grid lines.
Trim away excess fabric and interfacing from the seams you have made. Cut close to the seam, and then iron them flat.
Repeat this process along the horizontal grid lines. If you are struggling to get the seams to lie flat, snip a little closer to the seam where the lines intersect. Take great care not to cut the actual seam, as this could cause the quilt to fall apart.
Iron the seams flat again. The interfacing and stitching mean that the quilt will stay together well and be very durable. You can do this in sections and sew together all of the blocks at the end.
You do not need to use interfacing for a durable quilt, but it makes the process much easier.
Block quilt design
You can make this process much faster by creating blocks within your quilt. These are small sub-sections that use the same fabrics every time. This cuts down on the time it takes to make a quilt.
The end result will not be a traditional postage stamp quilt as these do not have any repeated squares, but it will follow the same basic design.
To begin, cut strips of fabric that are all roughly 2x7 inches. For a 54-inch square quilt, you will need around 432 strips.
Sew together in groups of 4 along the long edges. Iron the seams flat, ensuring they are all folded over in the same direction.
Measure 2-inch intervals along the length of the fabric block. Draw grid lines perpendicular to the seams you created. Cut along these to create 4 strips of 4 fabrics.
You will eventually end up with 324 of these strips. These numbers work to create 81 16-patch blocks, measuring 4x4 fabric squares. It is wise to vary the design of each strip to keep your quilt interesting.
Sew together 4 strips to create one block. Iron all of the seams down flat in the same direction.
Arrange the blocks to form your quilt surface. Sew together.
Batting and backing
To finish off your quilt, you need to create what is known as a quilt sandwich.
Batting is a layer of material that adds insulation and cushioning - what makes your quilt warm and soft. You should lay your patchwork on top of the batting and cut with a 2-inch border all around.
The backing fabric is another layer of fabric that goes on the underside of your quilt. This gives it a nice finish and ensures your quilt stays together. Lay your batting on top of the backing fabric and cut around, leaving another 2” border all the way around.
Lay the backing fabric flat with the design facing down. We suggest taping it so that it does not slip during the layering process. Ensure you have smoothed out all wrinkles and creases in the fabric.
Lay your batting on top of this backing, ensuring it is fully centered. Lay the patchwork quilt design in the center of the batting.
Next, you need to pin baste the edges. This is simply pinning together the 3 layers using safety pins or a needle and thread. Baste from the center outwards, distancing the pins by 3-4 inches.
Sew around the exterior edge of the patterned top, and the interior, to create a border for your quilt.
Sew through all three layers to create the quilted effect.
Bind the quilt by folding material around the exposed edges to create a neat border. Measure the length needed to fit the entire perimeter and sew your strips together to make one continuous section of fabric.
Fold this strip in half lengthways. Pin one end of this strip to the edge of your quilt and fold around. Sew around the entire edge of the quilt to make a neat border with no exposed seams.
There are many video tutorials that explain this process better as it really helps to visualize the process.