Hi everyone! I will be on the road for a bit so I thought I would cover a topic I’ve done before: small project quilting on your home machine. For the most part, I hire out quilting on my quilts that are larger than 48 x 48″. My long-arm quilting friends, who quilt large quilts as a business, definitely do a better job on anything larger than that.
So, this week’s and next week’s posts will guide you through machine quilting those smaller projects yourself. I hope to give you the confidence to give it a try and have fun doing it! Read on for my tips. This week, I will cover how to prepare the quilt top for quilting.
Preparing the Quilt for Quilting
Step 1: To start, you need to make what is referred as a quilt “sandwich” by layering your quilt top with batting and backing. For home quilting, my first tip is to cut the backing and batting about 1-2″ larger on all sides than the quilt top (photo below). This guarantees that the whole quilt top will have coverage to the edges. If you cut the backing and batting exactly to the size of your quilt top and it shifts during the basting and/or quilting process, you can end up with an area along the edge of your quilt that does not have batting and backing. Believe me, you don’t want to pick out machine quilting stitches!
**Extra Tips: For your large quilts you are sending to the long-arm quilter, be sure to ask them how much overlap of backing (and batting if you have to provide that) they prefer. 1 -2″ works for a small quilt top on a home machine, but they generally require more. I cut my backing 6″ larger on all 4 sides for a quilt that will go to my long-arm quilter. Also, if you need to seam together fabric for your backing, be sure to iron the seam open and flat to relieve bulk (photo below). This is a backing tip I received from my long-arm quilter.**
Step 2: To prepare your quilt top to be “sandwiched”, make sure all its seams are pressed flat, whether you press them to to the side or open. Flat seams make for a flat, less bulky quilt top for quilting. Also, remove any stray threads from the quilt top. Especially the ones that are in the seams. When you’re piecing a quilt top, threads often get caught in the seams (see circled areas in photo below).
Step 3: Next make sure your backing is pressed and as wrinkle-free as possible. Find a large table and tape the backing, right side down, to the table top to keep it smooth and tight without stretching it out of shape. Start on one side and make your way to the other side while smoothing out the backing as you go. If you are lucky enough to have a large, hard floor space to do this, that works too.
Once the backing is secured, lay the batting on top, smoothing it out. Be careful not to wrinkle the backing below.
Step 4: Center the quilt top on top of the batting. Smooth carefully so wrinkles are not created in the batting and the quilt top is not stretched out of shape. Use a ruler to make sure you did not stretch it out of shape. To do this, place the ruler on the corners as shown below. If the quilt top has not been distorted, you’ll have a nice 90 degree corner that matches the ruler.
Step 5: The final step in preparing the quilt for quilting is to baste it together to hold everything in place. You can either do that with thread or with safety pins.
- Thread Basting Method: You can use white thread and a long running basting stitch in a grid pattern. Space the stitching 4 to 6″ apart. Start in the center of the quilt sandwich and work your way out. Since the stitches are long and widely spaced, you can clip and remove the basting from each section you are quilting as you go.
- Pin Basting Method: This is the method I use. I pin 3 to 4″ apart, starting in the center of the quilt top and working out to make sure the quilt top remains smooth and flat. I also like to stagger the pinned rows and I use curved safety pins made specifically for quilt basting.
So that is how you prepare your quilt for machine quilting at home. Now you are ready to head to the machine and quilt it! Next week, I will share tips on the quilting process and my mini video tutorial that demonstrates it. My main goal with this post and next week’s installment is to make machine quilting on your home machine a bit less intimidating.
Share your questions and tips below in the comments. If you are a home machine quilter, do you have some advice to share? I am going to do a drawing among the commenters for a pair of machine quilting gloves that I like to use.
The drawing will be from comments from this week’s and next week’s posts so it will take place on Monday, February 6th. **We have a winner… Congrats, Marsha Thornburg!**
JoAnn Borges says
If I’m doing a small quilt, I will iron it on both sides once the quilt is sandwiched, it helps the layers stick together for quilting.
Marsha Thornburg says
For small things, I like to use basting spray. No fighting with pins. Use in a well ventilated area and cover things you don’t want to get sticky with overspray!!
I actually used that on my daughter’s quilt that was a bigger on I quilted. It does work great. Definitely need to spray it in a well ventilated area!
Lynn Hyman says
I like to use fusible batting. After getting the three layers centered and smooth, use the iron to press over the entire quilt top side of the sandwich and then turn it over and press to fuse the back.
I haven’t tried that type of batting yet. On my next small project I will.
Ginger Michael says
I find thread basting much faster than pinning and less painful. I use basting thread and a long basting needle.
Vicky Miner says
When pinning, I alternate the directions of the pins. Some are pinned horizontally and some vertically. It seems to help prevent any small shifts in the fabric.
I like that idea! That’s the thinking behind me staggering the pins from row to row. I’ll have to try your idea as well.
Thanks for all the great tips and even those from comments. I vary between pinning and using quilting safety pins. Safety pins helps to hold things that are larger or heavy together better,
Janet Gluesenkamp says
I reuse my basting thread. I use long long long lengths of thread. It’s stored on an empty spool after removal, ready cut for the next quilt.
Good idea to not waste that thread.
Julie Fairbanks says
Great tips I hope to try machine quilting soon on a small quilt. I got a new machine for Christmas. I was hand quilting smaller projects. Can’t wait til next weeks tips! Thank you
Peggy Salz says
I am getting good advice from all those tips. I worry that spraying will make the quilt stiff….although it is easier than pinning. Also… wonder if I should press the batting before using it so that it is wrinkle free and smoother. I am eager and new to all quilting after years of wool applique…..and proud owner of new sewing machine.
Jenedel Wilcox says
I spritz the batting (before doing the sandwich) with water and put it in the dryer to get out the wrinkles. If there are some big wrinkles or folds, put a little extra water on those places. I dry it on hot.
I like that idea for getting the wrinkles out of batting. I’m going to try it next time.
Nancy Bemis says
I have used the fusible batting and the fusible spray many times on small projects, but I just finished a 58″x68″ quilt and plan on using the fusible batting. I will be doing a diagonal grid. Anybody have any thoughts on whether or not I should also pin or baste due to the larger size? Normally I don’t with the smaller projects.
Let’s see if anyone else answers too. But as for me when I quilted my daughter’s quilt last year, it was about that size and I only used the spray basting. It worked well without pin or thread basting at all.
Donna S says
I recently tried the pool noodle method of rolling each of your quilt sandwich onto a pool noodle & then unrolling them on top of each other. I found this to keep layers smooth & without puckers. I use Kwik Klip tool and safety pins with grip covers to fasten the layers together. The tool makes it easier to fasten & unfasten the safety pins & the covers on the safety pins give you more to hold on to. Thanks for your tips.
I’ve seen the pool noodle method but have never tried it. I’ll have to give it a go next time.
Helen Bowie says
Thanks for the tips. I have quilted my smaller quilts and free motion quilted on quilts up to a single bed size. I got away from it and now have to kind of start all over again. I find the hardest part for me is keeping that back from getting a wrinkle while quilting. I have tried everything.
I also free motion quilted a nice panel wall hanging and it got wavy in a few spots as I was trying to stipple in small areas and it went wonky. Definitely it takes lots of practice.
Sharon M Aurora says
Thread basting is a whole lot easier for me. I also find that the layers don’t shift as much using this method. It is important to keep smoothing it out as you baste.
Karla Larkin says
I have been practicing free motion on small projects. I’m excited to see your next step!
Teresa Romzick says
I am currently quilting a full size quilt on a home machine – is definitely quite a challenge!
Great tips! I am still afraid to do much machine quilting if it’s not straight line quilting and if it has any size to it. Looking forward to your next installment. And…. I am looking forward to meeting you in person when you come to Heritage Needlework Guild (Nebraska City, NE) later this year.
Brenda Tucker says
I’m a newbie, so I’m getting sooooo many tips & good ideas, I just got some pool noodles for when I ever finish a quilt. Thank you, I always learn something from your blog!!!