Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Year of the Quilt 5 :: A Baby Quilt :: Sandwich anyone?

At quilting on Wednesday I made my quilt sandwich and started hand quilting. I've run out of thread, so need to get more before I can go any further. Big ups to Louise who's just finished her first quilt top- it's gorgeous. I thought I'd get this post up in time to give her some tips I wish I'd known when I quilted my first two quilts.

The first thing I learnt on Wednesday is why my borders were wavy. When I added my borders I cut strips of fabric the desired width, sewed them onto the top and lopped off the two ends. Easy right? Turns out there's the easy way and the right way. What I should have done is measure the length I wanted the border, cut my strip to that length and pinned and sewn it, to prevent the fabric pulling, which caused the wave. Because I had two borders this was noticeable, with just the one it wouldn't be so bad.
If I was a more conscientious quilter, I would have unpicked it, however Faye reassured me it would "quilt right out" and I carried on. Sometimes I prefer to learn from my mistakes, than fix them!

So cut your backing fabric to size, a bit bigger than your quilt top. Cut your batting to the same size as your backing. You don't need to be exact as all the extra bits will be cut off in the end anyway. Just make sure the fabric is square- Faye ripped off the bottom of mine to make sure it was right.

You can see my batting in the background of this picture. I bought 100% cotton batting for this project, which was $20 a metre. It should come on a roll long enough for any quilt (mine was twice as long as needed) so the batting for this project cost $10. The other option was a crunchy 'lo-loft' filling- some sort of man-made fibre, or wool. I used wool batting in my first quilts, and it is a dream to sew and work with, but I thought not the best choice to give to a new mum in the form of a cot quilt. And the lo-loft? Despite it's $5/m price tag, I'd much rather pay for the soft natural fibre in this (or any) quilt. (One time I might make an exception would be for a wall hanging, where the extra structure is helpful.) While I know nothing about these things I feel qualified to say don't choose a cheap option just because "it's my first quilt" or "I didn't do a good job on the top". A nice batting can make a quilt soft and snuggly!

Doing this at school was great, as we used the big tables in the home ec classes to stick the fabric to. At home the lino floor, or maybe the deck would be a good place to do this. Lay your fabric out on a smooth, flat surface and using masking tape stick it down taut. Start with the four corners, pulling them tight, and then go around the sides. This step helps ensure you don't get all the tucked up bits I got on the back of my first quilt. (However I can't vouch for it's effectiveness because I haven't finished quilting this one yet.)

Lay down the batting, then the top. This is your "quilt sandwich". Neither of these are stretched out. Using curved safety pins (available from any quilting shop for $5-$6 for 50ish) pin through all layers. The curve in the pins make it easy to pick up all the layers. Chances are you'll need to make a trip to buy the batting, so pick up a couple of packs of these as well. Faye recommended pinning a hand's distance apart, but I went through and added the same number of pins again, just to hold all the layers in place! I don't think you can use too many, though you may have to take them out as you go in order to quilt past them!

Then the tedious bit, which passed more quickly when Faye told me I could use bigger stitches. With it all still taped to the table, sew around the edge of the top trough all three layers. This will keep the edges all together while you're quilting. Use big basting stitches.

Now pinning again- this time with straight pins. This is to hold the lines in place while you quilt them. Faye told me that if you put your pins in straight you can sew over them, (and I'm sure you can) but I haven't sewn over pins in years, so we'll see how I go when I get to that bit! Apparently "hot food should be served hot, and straight lines should be quilted straight". We'll see! So I guess the intention here it to pin every line you plan on sewing with pins placed about 1" apart. I must buy a new wheel of pins every time I go to the sewing store!

So here I leave you. I will be back in the not too distant future with musings about quilting patterns and how they change your quilt top into a finshed quilt.


  1. How very timely that posted about this just as I am about the put the binding on my quilt. Had I not read this I would definitely have done the easy way and not the right way.
    LOVE your quilt by the way, love the colours and the SQUARES.

  2. Thanks! MUST start a baby one... or one that can drape on the back of something...