Mini-Tutorial: preparing a quilt sandwich

I was recently asked to do a custom quilting job for someone else’s quilt top, so I thought I’d put together a mini-tutorial on preparing a quilt sandwich – getting the 3 quilt layers lined up and ready for quilting.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a really big dining table (or even luckier, an enormous workbench!), you’re going to be working on the floor. So here’s top tip number one: even if you just cleaned the floor yesterday, clean it again before you start. There are few things more irritating than picking fluff, thread and the odd cat hair offthe back of your quilt when you’re done!

Top tip number two: iron both the backing and the quilt top before you start – they’ll be much more co-operative that way πŸ˜‰

Before you start, you need to check that your quilt is ‘true’ – i.e. you have right angles in the corners, and the lengths are equal etc …. if it isn’t, use either a quilt square or set square (why is a set square a triangle? I’ve always wondered about that) to true it up, mark it with chalk and either trim or iron the edges.

First off, spread your backing (cut to size) out on the floor. Smooth it out, so that it’s nice and flat and wrinkle-free, and fix it down with tape – I use masking tape, because it sticks well without damaging the fabric, even if you’re using fleece, as here. The tape should be holding the fabric flat and smooth, and taut enough that it can’t move, but without stretching.

Next, you’re going to lay the batting over the top, and repeat the process. If you’re using a fleece backing, you get a little bit of bonus help, because the fibres will naturally stick together, but if you’re using a cotton backing, you do need to make sure the batting can’t slide around and ruck up when you put the quilt top down.

The quilt top goes down in the same way – check that it’s nice and smooth over the top and tape it in place.

Now you’re ready to start pinning. There are pros and cons to using both safety pins and regular pins here. Safety pins are more secure – you won’t be quilting to an accompaniment of tinkling pins dropping out onto the floor, and there’s less chance you’re going to impale yourself on a pin you didn’t see as you’re wrangling the quilt through your sewing machine. On the downside, safety pins tend to be larger than regular pins, so if you have a delicate fabric on your quilt top, safety pins are more likely to damage it. Also, if you’re doing anything more than stitching in the ditch, it can be tricky wrestling safety pins out as you reach them during the quilting process. I use a mixture of both … a scattering of safety pins for overall security, then supplemented with regular pins as necessary.

Once you’re pinned, you can remove all the tape ….

And …. checking that you’re still straight (I know …. but I can’t help myself).

You’re good to go.

On this quilt, all I was asked to do was a straightforward ‘in-the-ditch’ along the seams ….

Et voila ….

Front …. (OMG, I just love that fabric!! the gnomes are so cute!)

And the back …. no nasty wrinkles on the seam lines πŸ™‚

This piece of work was done for a lady who enjoyed the patchwork process, but not the quilting part of things …. if you’re in the same boat, and are interested in my custom quilting service, please do get in touch

One response to “Mini-Tutorial: preparing a quilt sandwich

  1. Your quilting is absolutely beautiful. You truly are a pro! The back looks as beautiful as the front. Your client will be THRILLED!