Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Quilt Sandwich

  When I learned to hand quilt many years ago, the first step in doing so was to learn how to prepare the quilt elements for the quilting process. My early practice quilts were simply pieces of fabric and some batting. The design wasn't important (I didn't know how to piece yet). Later I was introduced to cheater (preprinted) quilt cloth and used them for my practice quilts. Whichever type of quilt top you use, there has to be a quilt sandwich before there can be quilting. Let's get started.
   Prep the fabric. The very first thing I do with my top and backing is press it. Press is the key here..we are not ironing or stretching the fabric, only pressing it. Fabric that has been pressed is much easier to cut. Once pressed, I cut it to size and press it again. I don't starch quilts that I hand quilt because the fabric needs to be supple and soft. Another note, if the fabric seems prone to fray I will serge or zig zag around the edges before basting.  When cutting backing and batting for a quilt I prefer to give two extra inches all around. This allows for shifting and puckering .. no one likes to end up short in the middle of a project..believe me..I've done it. One tip shared by a reader: If the batting is creased spritz with water and toss in the dryer a few minutes.
   Once my fabric is pressed it is time to decide whether to mark the quilt for quilting or if I will free hand the design. This project is to be 'cross hatched' which requires straight lines of equal distances, so marking seems the best choice. My personal quilt scale preference is two inches, so here I have my two inch wide ruler and a chalk marking pencil. Starting corner to corner I line my ruler, mark the sides and work toward the edge with straight diagonals.
   Then it's time to cross the diagonals by going the opposite direction. My lines meet every two inches guiding me to quilt a nice motif across my quilt piece edge to edge.  It is important to note..once a quilt is marked it does not get ironed again. This could permanently set the marking medium damaging the quilt.
   Secure and baste. The elements are ready. Place the backing right side down onto a surface and secure it tightly (but not stretching it) to the surface. Lay the batting on top of this and smooth it out, starting in the center and working toward the edges. Finally the top is placed right side up and, again, smooth it from the center outward. For a large quilt, I also secure the top..but with this small one I have only secured the bottom.

   Two primary basting method I have used are thread basting and pin basting. To thread baste we simply make large stitches starting in the quilt center and moving toward the edges. I generally pin baste with small safety pins..again starting in the middle and working toward the edges. One wonderful help in basting is this Kwick Klip tool. It provides a surface to catch you pin (or needle) with saving your finger from a lot of pain.
Before this nifty little thing came along I used a kitchen spoon- which, by the way, can leave nicks in the spoon.
   Working from the center, I pin hand's width apart smoothing the layers as I go to prevent wrinkles along the way. Here is my pin basted quilt piece completely basted and ready for the frame. Large quilts would be loaded onto my frame, but since this is a small one it will be quilted with a hoop. Quilting hoops are not the same as embroidery hoops. An embroidery hoop is narrow and would not hold up to the quilt layers. A quilting hoop is thicker and a little heavier.
   Embroidery projects need to be taut in the hoop; not a quilt. A hand quilt in a hoop needs enough slack to work through the quilt motion. Here is my small quilt practice sandwich marked, basted and set in the hoop ready for quilting.

   If you are interested in joining me in stitching the cross hatch sample, we will be setting down and starting the stitches next week. Have your sandwiches ready, some quilting thread with a good needle and a comfy thimble.

   Questions, tips or experiences to share? I love hearing from you!

    Let's make something beautiful!



  1. The picture of the blue Dresden is a pieced block, my basting example (yellow floral) is not, simply for the purpose of seeing the quilting lines. In general, the top is the pieced part of the quilt. Hope this helps.


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