Making the Quilt Sandwich and Quilting
How many times have you made a quilt top from a magazine or a commercial pattern and, after guiding you step by step thru completion of the quilt top, the next instruction is “quilt as desired”? Frustrating, isn’t it.
I will be the first one to tell you that I am not a great “quilter”. In fact, I am extremely challenged in that area. I, personally, quilt with the aid of a computer operated robotics system. However, I can guide you in the basics of quilting.
1. Determine the minimum size you need for your backing.
Measure the width and length of your quilt. If you are going to quilt it yourself on a home machine, add approximately 3 – 4” around the edge, so if your quilt measures 45” x 45”, your quilt backing should be 51” x 51”. This allows for quilt draw-up. If , however, you are going to quilt it on a long-arm, or take it to be quilted, you should increase the size by 6” – 8” to allow for the tensioning of the quilt on the quilt frame, so your backing would be 57” x 57”. (Note: You may wish to consult with your quilter to determine the minimum she needs.) Depending on the size of your quilt, you may need to piece your backing.
2. Prepare your backing.
Straighten your fabric. I prefer to tear my fabric in order to make sure it is on the straight of grain; however you may prefer to cut yours. If you do NOT need to piece the backing, leave the selvages attached as this strengthens the backing as you are quilting it. If you DO need to piece the backing, remove the selvage on one edge of each of your lengths and stitch the two pieces together using a 1⁄2” seam. You want the wider seam on the backing so that it does not pull apart during quilting, or during use.
3. Prepare your batting.
Cut your batting only slightly smaller than you do your backing as it will also draw
up some and, if quilting on a frame, needs to be tensioned along with the back.
4. Construct your quilt sandwich.
(Note: If you are having your quilting done by a “longarmer”, consult with her/him to determine exactly what they want you to do as far as making the sandwich.)
a. Be sure your backing, batting and quilt top are smooth and free of wrinkles; you can iron your backing and press your quilt top. The batting may be slightly steamed to release the wrinkles. For extremely large quilts, I sometimes put the batting in the clothes dryer with a moist towel and let the dryer remove the wrinkles. Remove the batting as soon as the dryer stops to prevent further wrinkles from forming.
b. Place your quilt backing “right side down” on a table, or the floor if your table is not large enough. Smooth the back out so there are no wrinkles and TAPE down, being sure to keep the tape along the edges so that it does not leave residue on the fabric any more than necessary and so that it will be easy to remove after the sandwich is prepared. (Note: I suggest using the blue “painter’s tape, residue will be minimal and the tape removes easily.)
c. Place your batting “wrong side down” (yes, there is a right and wrong side, consult your packaging to determine how to tell on your backing) in the center of your backing, smoothing out any wrinkles. You may wish to place a little tape along the edges of your batting also to hold it in place.
d. Place your quilt top “wrong side down” on top of the batting, centering it as much as possible. Smooth out any wrinkles.
e. Using “quilt” safety pins (available at quilt shops, also Joann’s and Hancock’s), carefully pin the three layers together, being sure to keep the layers smooth and wrinkle free. Begin at the center of your quilt top and pin outwards. Place the safety pins approximately 8” – 10” apart over the quilt. (Note: The safety pins are preferable to straight pins as they will not fall out.)
5. Quilt your quilt.
a. If you can do free-hand embroidery and quilting, indulge yourself artistically. I wish I could do it.
b. If, however, your are “free-hand challenged” as I am, you can still quilt your own quilt with the use of decorative and quilting stitches built into your sewing machine, or you may wish to “stitch in the ditch” using a straight or a decorative stitch. (See photos below of special feet used for “stitch in the ditch” sewing.
Note: Do not stitch over the pins; remove them as you get to each pin.
Below are screen shots of my Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 machine, along with stitch-outs.
Plain Straight Stitch (no screen shot):
“Stitch in the Ditch” Feet:
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