Charmed I'm Sure


  • As many different 5in squares from mum or dad’s stash as you can find
  • Sewing machine, hand or electric
  • Thread
  • Wadding
  • Fabric for backing

Note: If you used fleece for backing you would not need wadding

A charm quilt is one where each piece of fabric is different. They are usually one patch designs like pyramid triangles or squares. Charm squares are sold by many quilt suppliers and are ideal projects for children to work with, as there is no cutting. If you don't have a ready supply you can make your own by cutting some squares off each piece of fabric in your stash or swapping with friends. There were many international charm swaps organised for the millennium with quilters trying to find 2000 different fabrics to use in one quilt.

Childrens Project

The delight in working with children is that they are not aware of right and wrong and do not get hung up about seam allowances or neatness. At first sight a hand turned machine may appear to be a good idea but in fact the children have less control of the fabric as they are turning the wheel with one hand. An electric machine however would sew through a finger very quickly so you have to find the right balance for the child you are working with. Sam started off when he was four by pressing the foot pedal on the electric machine and his mum had to shout stop and go - which she said was a bit tiring! Then he progressed to an antique hand turned machine.

When he was seven she started letting him use her machine while she watched. He is still too young to use the iron though. Rosie who is six likes using the hand turned machine, as it is quieter.

Many children can sew a running stitch if you give them a drawn line to follow. If you find the needles keep getting unthreaded then work with a doubled thread.

Figure 1: Arranging the layout
Figure 1: Arranging the layout


  1. Lay all the squares out on a sheet on the floor or a table until you find a nice arrangement of colours and patterns.
  2. Ask a grown up to safety pin the squares in place to keep your arrangement safe.
  3. Take two squares and match them RS together and sew the seam from top to bottom.
  4. Ask a grown up to press the seam and put back in position on the sheet.
  5. Keep going like this until all your pieces are joined together. Note: Grown ups mustn't unpick anything. It is not meant to be perfect, it is meant to be their work. Sam's quilt has seam allowances from 1⁄8in to 3⁄4in, often on the same 5in seam.
  6. Carry on until all the squares are sewn into pairs. Now start joining the pairs into fours. You can join into a long line or to make a larger square. It depends on the shape of your final piece which would be best for you.
  7. When your squares are all joined together this is now called a quilt top. Ask your helpful grown up to press it for you.
Figure 2: Turned to front binding
Figure 2: Turned to front binding

Finishing the Quilt

Quilting is slightly more difficult. The alternatives are tying (by hand or machine or with buttons), straight stitch on the machine or running stitch by hand.

  1. Lay the backing fabric WS up on the floor and put the wadding on top and smooth it out so there are no wrinkles.
  2. Put your quilt top on the top and gently smooth it out. The backing and wadding should be a bit bigger all round.
  3. Safety pin all three of the layers together.
  4. Quilt by stitching either in the centre of each square or at the corner where four squares meet. Sam found hand stitching through all the layers too difficult so he has used a single S as a tie. Set the machine for single repeat if possible. Stitch one pattern and then lift the presser foot and move to the next position. If you do not have a pattern just use a zig zag set to satin stitch and work a few stitches in one place.
  5. Cut all the threads off at the end. If using hand ties you can have the knots on the front or back of the quilt.
  6. Trim the wadding carefully so it is just a bit larger than the quilt top (use scissors). Then trim the backing fabric so it is about 1 1⁄2in larger again.
  7. Fold the backing fabric on one edge towards the quilt top and then fold again so that all the wadding is covered. Pin and stitch with a straight seam. See Figure 2.
  8. Repeat this with the opposite edge. Finally fold and stitch the last two edges and your quilt is almost complete. Sam calls this a stuffed crust quilt top but it is also known as turned to front binding.
  9. Write some details about your quilt and yourself on a piece of fabric with a fabric pen and sew to the back with your smallest stitches.
  10. Take it into school and show all your friends - you have made a quilt.

The Quilters Guild of the British Isles has a young quilters section and each region of the guild tries to arrange events and workshops for young quilters.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 13 Number 2 - February 2003