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.