Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Shelf Themed Table Runner

Trina Devanney is here to show us how to sew a bookshelf autograph quilt. The book “spines” can hold your favorite author’s signatures or maybe the autographs of each of your book club friends.  

My not so secret hobby is quilting. Life can be very hectic and to calm down, I love the rhythmic sound of the sewing machine.  Of course, I am a great fan of mysteries.  What better way to combine both of these loves than to make a bookshelf autograph quilt. 

You can make this by hand, but it is much quicker on a machine. I like to start a quilt project with a sketch. The original inspiration for this quilt came from Dru Ann Love of Dru's Book Musing. She made a very lovely bookshelf quilt.  I decided to add a little a Mardi Gras mask to my version in honor of Bouchercon 2016 which was held in New Orleans. While, I was not able to make it to Bouchercon this year, I made a few of these quilts for my attending SleuthSisters.   

Pic 2

Sewing Machine
Rotary Cutter
Pins (optional)
Steam a Seam
Coffee Filters

The quilt consists of three panels. The two outer panels have of different widths and lengths of books standing on end and tucked into a bookshelf. The middle panel has a few books lying on their sides with a Mardi Gras mask appliquéd to the top of the stack of books.  

Step 1: Cut Fabric
Books come in all different colors, lengths and widths. “Books” in a bookshelf quilt do as well. Choose a consistent neutral fabric to act as the background of the book shelf. I chose a cream color, but you can choose any color you like. This quilt will be used for autographs so most of the fabrics for the books will be light in color.  (There are a few darker fabrics for a bit of color texture.)

Step 2: Sewing the Book Block (light fabrics)

In this project, the colored fabric can be cut to any height (for example, 4, 5, 7 or 9 inches) and any width (for example 1, 2 or 3 inches).  Sew each colored piece to the same width piece of neutral color using a quarter inch seam (1/4” seam). This will make the Book Block.  In this project the overall Book Block height was 12 inches. Sew as many of these blocks together to create a panel.  You could create the entire quilt using this method. 

Step 3: Sewing Dark Book Blocks 

While the entire quilt can be made using lighter colored fabrics, adding a couple of dark fabrics for a little contrast could be fun. As you can see above, you will use the same method of cutting various widths and heights of fabric.  Once you cut your dark fabric, sew a light piece of fabric in between two darker pieces (this is called a “rail fence unit”).  Then add a “cap” of dark fabric to the top and bottom of the rail fence unit to create the dark book. 

Finally add enough of the light fabric to the top to make a Book Block of 12 inches. Now you can use these blocks the same way as the light colored Book Blocks to create a panel.


Step 4: The Tilted Book

While a complete fantasy in my bookshelves, often people have enough room on their shelves to allow a couple of books to lean or tilt against another book.  This block is a easier than it looks. Simply cut your colored fabric as instructed above.  Then sew a few inches of neutral fabric to all sides.  

This block is all about the cutting.  Angle the tilted block until the tip is against a tall book block. Place your ruler on a straight up and down line with the right tilted corner and cut off the remaining neutral fabric. (only the tip of the colored fabric should be on the cutting line – the rest of the fabric to cut will be neutral).  Select your width for the overall block size and cut the other side of the block to match. (In the picture above, the colored fabric was 1 ½ inches wide. The overall block size was 3 inches wide. – once the tilted side was cut, I measured three inches and cut the other side along a parallel line.) Then simply trim the top and bottom to create a 12 inch tilted book block. 

You now know how to make all of the books in the two outer panels. You can make your outer panels as short or as long as you like.  My overall project will be about 40 inches long so I made each panel about 12-13 inches in length.  

Step 5: The Stack of Books

The stack of books in the middle panel are made the same way as the rest of the books with the exception that some of the 12-inch book block units will have neutral fabric to both the top and bottom of the block. Sew a few of these book blocks to create a stack. Next, sew on enough of the neutral fabric to the top of the stack to create a 12-inch panel unit.  Voila, your stack of books.  

It is very important throughout this entire project to iron between steps. (I personally hate to iron, but the project will not turn out well if you don’t). 

Step 6: The Appliquéd Mask

The mask was a lot of fun to create. Draw a mask (or any other item you would like to see on a stack of books – a coffee cup, a cat, flowers, a lamp, etc) on regular paper and cut it out.  This is now your template for the appliqué. Since Bouchercon was in New Orleans in 2016 and this project was headed to Bouchercon for autographs, I wanted some traditional Mardi Gras type colors for the mask.  Sew your selected colored fabric together any way you like. The more haphazard the better. (this method of sewing fabrics together is called crazy quilting). 

Iron on Steam a Seam to the back side of your “crazy quilt unit”. Use a pencil to trace your paper template pattern onto the paper backing of the Steam a Seam and cut out the mask shape. (Do not remove the paper backing until you are ready to iron it onto the top of your stack of books – Steam a Seam is a type of iron on glue). 

Once you have your mask, peel off the paper backing and iron onto the stack of books as shown above. The final step to this panel is to sew down the mask.  The Steam a Seam will keep the mask in place, but unless you sew down the edges, over time, it will fray. You can sew the mask down in any manner you like.  Personally, I like to do a light embroidery around the appliquéd item.  

It is very important to use a stabilizer when doing any kind of embroidery. This will prevent stitch puckering.  An old quilter’s hack is to use coffee filters as the stabilizer. The filters will tear away from the stitching when you are finished with the embroidery.  

Once your middle panel is complete, sew it in between the two outer panels.  You will want to add a border fabric around all of the panels.  I used a two-inch wide brown fabric that looked a little like wood to give the project more of a bookshelf feel. 

Step 7: Quilting

After your three panels are sewn together and you have added your border fabric, press the project well. The sewn panels are called your quilt top. It is now time to quilt your project.  You will need to have quilt batting and a backing fabric. Sandwich the batting between the quilt top and the backing fabric.  The batting and backing fabrics should be several inches larger than the quilt top on all sides. If you have a walking foot, you can quilt the project quickly. (I don’t like my walking foot and like the rhythm of quilting.) If you have the ability to do so, use an open toe foot, drop your feed dogs, hold on tight to your sandwiched materials and try your hand at free motion quilting.  

Once you have secured your project in several places, either by stitching in straight lines or by stippling or other design work you are ready to finish your project.  

I’m not sure what it is about cats and quilts, but they seem to go together. This is Boo Boo Kitty. She watched my project progress. 

Step 8: Binding your Bookshelf

Binding is a tricky thing. Binding is a way of covering or hiding the raw edges of your quilt so that the batting inside the quilt will not fray. It is also used as a frame around your project. An easy way to bind a quilt is to use the backing material, fold it over on top of the edges of the quilt top and sew it down.  Unfortunately for this project, I picked border and backing fabrics that did not complement each other. I needed to add a different kind of binding. You can always purchase rolls of binding at your local craft store, but it is fairly easy (although, a little time consuming) to make your own. Select your fabric and cut 2 ½ inch wide  strips on the bias. Sew the strips together. Fold wrong sides of the fabric together and iron well.

Sew the raw edge of the binding fabric to the top of quilt as shown in the picture. (The corners are a little tricky.) When you are around ¼ of an inch from a corner, stop sewing. Fold the binding fabric upward to create a diagonal fold. Then bring the fabric back down onto of the fold and continue sewing the binding on the next side. Do this for all sides. When you bring your binding back to the starting point, overlap the binding a bit. This will prevent any holes in your binding.  

The next step is to flip over your quilt and bring the folded edge of the binding to the backside of your quilt. The neatest way of finishing your project is to hand sew the binding to the back of the fabric.  I sewed mine with the machine but tried to be very careful to sew within the binding. 

You’re done, now you have a bookshelf autograph quilt.  As you can see in the pictures below, you can make the entire three-panel project, or just one of the panels. 


  1. I am fortunate enough to have one of these smaller quilts which I had autographed at Bouchercon in NOLA. Trina, I cannot thank you enough. I absolutely love it. Everyone, including authors, remarked how incredible and what a brilliant idea.

  2. I love this! So fun and fabulous. Thank you for telling us how to do it Trina!