Hi everyone! I will be traveling for a bit so in this post and next week’s post I’m going to review my machine quilting techniques and tips for quilting a small project on your home machine. I generally quilt projects that are about 48 x 48″ and smaller. Anything bigger than that, I turn over to my friends who have long-arm businesses. It’s not impossible to quilt a large quilt on your home machine… I just don’t want to do it! So with that, let’s get started on this week’s installment.
This week, I will cover the steps I take to prepare the quilt top for quilting. These are my top tips. If you have some tips you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment. It’s always a good day to learn something new!
Preparing the Quilt for Quilting
Step 1: You prepare a quilt for quilting by making what is called a quilt “sandwich” by layering your quilt top with batting and backing.
For quilting a small quilt, 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 all three layers to its edges as you quilt it. Backing and batting that is cut to the exact size of your quilt top can cause you to have parts of your quilt top with nothing underneath it if the top shifts during the basting and/or quilting process. If you end up with an area like this when you’re quilting, you will be spending time picking out machine quilting stitches… and no one wants to do that!
**Bonus 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 the 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).
These threads can get caught in your quilting foot and send you off course from your design. Or they can get quilted down into your motif and cause you extra work having to pull them out afterward.
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 and backing stack. 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 my way out to make sure the quilt top remains smooth and flat. I also like to stagger the pinned rows (last photo) 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 along with 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.
Like I said in the beginning, if you have some tips for machine quilting a small project, feel free to share it in the comments.