I like to machine quilt my small projects on my home machine. For me, I consider “small” anything about 48 x 48″ and smaller. You may decide what you consider small to differ from my idea. For anything larger than my size parameter, I hire a long-arm quilter to do the job. It’s easier for them to work on the larger projects because they have those large machines, of course! Anyway, I thought I’d share my tips on preparing a quilt top for machine quilting.
To make my quilt sandwich, I like to cut my backing and batting about 1-2″ larger on all sides than my quilt top. This guarantees that my whole quilt top will have coverage. If you cut the backing and batting exactly to the size of your quilt top, you could accidentally shift things while basting and/or quilting and 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!
If you need to seam together fabric for your backing, be sure to iron the seam open and flat to relieve bulk.
There are a few steps to prepare your quilt top before “sandwiching” it. Make sure all your seams are all 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 below).
When starting the quilt sandwich, make sure creases and wrinkles are ironed out of the backing. 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.
Once the backing is secured, lay the batting on top, smoothing it out. Be careful not to wrinkle the backing below.
Finally, center the quilt top on top of the batting. Smooth carefully so wrinkles are not created in the batting and you do not stretch the quilt top out of shape.
Now it’s time to baste the quilt top.
Method #1 – Thread Basting: 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.
Method #2 – Pin Basting: This is the method I use. I pin 3 to 4″ apart, starting in the center of the quilt top and working out. I also like to stagger the pinned rows. I like to use curved safety pins made specifically for quilt basting.
Once the quilt top is basted, it’s ready for quilting! Like I said earlier, this is the way I prepare to machine quilt my small projects. There are many, many great resources for machine quilting. Try my tips… try other’s tips … try mine and other’s together. This will help you to find the right way for you!
I will cover the actual machine quilting in next week’s post. Comment below on some of your favorite machine quilting tips, and/or what you think of mine, to be entered into the ongoing pattern drawing for my pattern Warm & Wooly Welcome.
The drawing will be on Monday, March 2nd. Until next week…
***We have a winner! Congrats, Debbie Gross!***