Tag Archives: quilting

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Elemental Quilt

I often take my workbag out and about with me, so that I can work on personal pieces during the ‘in-between’ times – waiting for children whilst they do their various out-of-school activities, train journeys, and so on. It always surprises me how many people will come up to me to have a look at what I’m doing and to have a chat about it … but what surprises me most is that the comment I’ll get from almost everyone is ‘it must be so therapeutic’.

Sewing as therapy?

I’d never really thought of it in those terms … it’s just something I love doing. But I’ve been reflecting a little bit on those comments this week, because it’s been a tough one. It started on Monday, when a regular visit to the dentist turned into an injection+filling nightmare that left me numb, sore and semi-conscious on the sofa for most of the afternoon, and got followed up with the start of a heavy cold (or possibly intense hay-fever) during the early hours of Tuesday morning. Between a thick head and exhaustion (sleeping is hard when you can’t breathe), I’ve not had much energy for anything, and have felt myself retreating firmly into my comfort zone.

Which has mostly involved picking up again on the Elemental Quilt, and starting to lay down some of the embroidery for the four corners – the four elements – in the kufic script I wanted.

And as I’ve been going along, it’s struck me that sewing is kind of therapeutic – in that, for me, it’s a refuge when things get tough. It’s where I go to get away from it all – a mini retreat, if you like. There are a lot of different pieces I want to do banging on the inside of my head wanting to get out, but when I’m actually working on something, all that disappears. So does the day-to-day to-do list, and all the other concerns and aggravations and worries that, individually, aren’t a big deal, but, taken together, threaten to become overwhelming.

Nothing matters but this stitch. And when it’s set, nothing matters but the next stitch. And on, and on, and on, until the piece starts to come together under my hands, and I can see the traces of my thoughts in the work I’m leaving behind. It doesn’t matter how long this is going to take to finish, because getting it right matters more. It doesn’t matter what else is happening, because this is what I’m doing NOW. When I’m sewing it’s just about the only time I’m fully in the present, in the moment, and not with half a mind on what-else-must-I-do – the process absorbs me.

It’s funny where the process leads you. Arlee Barr posted a fabulous tutorial on her blog, some time ago now, covering raised stem-bands (or raised buttonhole stitch), andย I said at the time I’d seen a similar stitch, but with chain stitch, and that I wanted to use it …. and so when I was looking at translating the script into stitch, and knowing that I needed to use a surface stitch to show up on that blond chenille I auditioned several different stitches, but it was the raised chain stitch that won – the texture is just perfect both against the chenille, and for the character of the quilt overall.

Here we are with the ‘scaffolding’ in place to anchor the stitches – a fairly widely-placed row of buttonhole stitch, running in both directions to turn the corner.

And a finished section of the script.

It is a slow process, setting down that level and size of stitch across such a relatively large area, but speed is unimportant. The quilt is all that matters, and it will take its own time to finish.