Seeing as I'm a Swap Mama and all, I thought I should do something for the benefit of the swap. And it just so happens that I finished up a doll quilt yesterday, so while I was working, I made a mini tutorial of the process. I am by no means an expert and I probably do most things "wrong," but it works for me, so I figured it might work for you too. This is my first tutorial, so I hope it makes sense. Please post any questions you may have in the comments and I will try to address them!
1. The first thing you want to do, after you have made your front and back pieces, is to make a quilt sandwich. (I'm not going to tell you how to make your front and back pieces, because I feel that design is a personal process, but if you need some help, let me know! I will remind you that your back and batting pieces should be larger than your front piece. I usually go for about 1.5 - 2 inches wider per side.) First, lay your back piece down, wrong sides up and smooth it all out. If you have lots of different kinds of fabrics, with lots of different amounts of stretchiness, I suggest using that blue painter's tape to tape your back fabric to the floor or the table or something, so you make sure it stays nice and taut. (Just taut, not stretched.) Then, lay your batting onto your taut back fabric. Smooth it out and if necessary, tape it down, too. Then, lay your top fabric down, right sides up. This completes the sandwich. Smooth it out, too. You may find that the small size of the doll quilt doesn't require you to tape it down. Use your own discretion. I did not tape mine down, but the first time I ever made a quilt, I did. I like to follow the directions the first time, and then adapt them to myself.
2. The next step is to baste all the layers together. Some people like to use thread to baste, but I find this to be a big pain in the butt, because you then have to rip all that stitching out. Also, things shifted on me when I tried to do it that way. I far prefer the safety pin method. You can use regular safety pins, but I prefer the Quilter's Safety Pins. They are curved and it makes it easier to catch all the layers without having your fabric shift about. Also, they are easier to open and close, so they are easier on your hands.
Starting in the middle and working your way to the edges, pin all the layers together.
Use a lot of pins. Like, a lot. When I'm pinning, I don't close my pins until I get everything in place, just in case I need to readjust.
Once everything is pinned, you can carefully flip a bit over to make sure you caught the back layer and that everything is laying the way it should. Close up your pins! You're ready for the next step!
3. This step is optional, but I find that it helps me. Using one of those water soluble markers, I draw my quilting lines onto my fabric. This just keeps my sewing straight and sets my anal retentive mind at ease. If you're the more free and easy type, feel free to skip this step. I think it might be helpful for first time quilters.
4. Starting from the middle and working your way out -- following the lines you have laid out for yourself, or following some internal guidance -- begin to quilt. Don't forget to take your pins out as you go. I only remove pins if they are in the way of my sewing. It helps hold things together and prevents things from shifting.
Starting from the middle also keeps things from shifting. Just keep following your quilting pattern, removing pins as needed. You're doing great!
Don't forget to find someplace to keep all those pins! Max is all about non-traditional medicine. Acupuncture was right up his alley.
5. Now that your quilting is done, it's time to square up your work. Even doing everything "right," your fabric is bound to shift a bit. I use a rotary cutter, self-healing mat and a T-square, but you are welcome to use whatever method works best for you. Invoke the power of the old gods, if that's what helps you; the point is, when you're done, you should have a nice squared-up quilt.
6. Next, sew on the binding using this phenomenal tutorial. You can use regular bias binding you buy at the store, if you want, but I think this is prettier and it's stronger, too. Once you have it all secured, flip it and sew it to the other side.
I finished my binding off by hand this time. It was the first time that I have done so, and it looks soooo much better than machine finishing. Especially if you are me and sewing straight lines is not your forte. I don't think I'm very good at hand sewing, but I was able to make this look good enough for my high standards and it went pretty quickly too. I highly suggest giving it a try! I have faith in you!
And there you have it! You made a doll quilt! Way to go! If you are anything like me and your weather was anything like ours was yesterday, there will be many breaks to read blogs and check your email and to sit in front of the fan. But that's OK. Because otherwise, you might get discouraged or burned out or something and besides, reading blogs is good for you!
edit: My tags are from here. Also, Max totally digs on the pain. No long lasting harm was done.