Making your own down top quilt - Part 1

Posted on 08 December 2014DIY

With a trip coming up to the Walls Of Jerusalem with some of my family and knowing my brother did not have any camping gear whatsoever that would be useful, I thought it was about time I turned my hand to making a top quilt.

The objective was for this to be a learning experience for future top quilt builds, and to ensure my brother would not freeze to death, so I wanted a temp range down to about -5 0r -7 degrees Celsius. Given it was going to be a cold weather quilt the plan was just to sew the footbox rather than having it cinched and able to be opened out.

It turns out the build was quite straight forward but time consuming. I also wanted to complete the whole quilt using my wife's 1941 Singer 201 treadle sewing machine. This really is a sweet machine, and I sew just about everything with it now. Once you get the hang of the foot treadle it is easy going, though it does take practice - I still feel like I am in practice mode at times!

For the materials I started with:

  1. 4 metres of 1.1oz ripstop nylon in black. I was tempted by the Argon but I wanted to save that for when I actually knew what i was doing.
  2. 450grams of 850 fill power Canadian goose down (1 pound or 16oz)
  3. Precut 2.5inch width noseeum mesh baffle material
  4. I used Gutermann SewAll thread that I had from previous projects, and wanted to use up. I have now moved to using Guttermann Mara 70 for all my projects.
  5. Some 13mm grosgrain for the neck closure
  6. A short length of 3mm shock cord with 2 cord locks for the cinched neck closure

First step was to cut out the fabric. I used a rotary tool for all my cutting, I find that it is just more accurate for me.
Then I marked out the baffle locations, I used a spacing of 14.5cm. I also left a hem allowance at the bottom and room for the end channel at the head end for the shock cord to pass through.

Baffles marked out

Next was marking out the shape of the quilt. Given that I turn a bit in my sleep, as does my brother, I went with a half taper. The taper started funnily enough about half way down the quilt length and came in about 6 inches from each side at the bottom.

Baffles and taper marked out

After cutting out, the next step is replicating that on another bit of fabric, so you now have a top and bottom with identical lines marked out. Once it is all cut out it's time for sewing the baffle material along the lines you have previously marked clearly.

Baffles laid out unsewn

For the baffle material I chose to use pre-cut 2.5 inch wide noseeum mesh. I simply laid out the baffle material and cut roughly to size ( I trimmed it later), accounting for a hem allowance on each side. I think mine was about a 3omm allowance. This was very simple to use and saved quite a bit of time, instead of cutting widths of mesh or cuben fibre as others have done.

I simply held the mesh to the fabric and sewed along the line, which I could see through the mesh, keeping a nice even pressure on the fabric whilst not overstretching the mesh. Sewing a single line about 10mm or so from the edge of the mesh. This was time consuming but simple.

Baffle close up

Baffles sewn, untrimmed

Now it's time to get your head around sewing the baffles to the other piece of fabric that you already have cut out and marked. Once you get it set up its a simple process but again takes time. I guarantee the way I am about to describe it you will not be helpful but basically you roll one of the pieces of fabric up with the mesh baffles facing out, and then you roll the other piece of fabric up in the opposite direction, with opposing bits of fabric on either side of the sewing machine foot. You then unroll both pieces and bring the baffle from the sewn piece to align with the marked baffle lines on the other piece of fabric and sew. Repeat this step numerous times and your done. Clear as mud!

Sewing baffles to other layer

Ready for stuffing down

Once finished you are ready to sew up 3 sides and get ready for stuffing the down.

I will come back and finish this in part 2 but the hard work is done - kind of.

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