Welcome! I thought this would be a fun topic for the next few weeks. We have all struggled with getting our quilt tops quilted. If you have access to a lot of long-arm quilters in your area you are so lucky! But many of us are in areas where there are not a lot of long-arm quilters available. That’s my problem. Scheduling in a quilt takes some time because the quilters are so busy, especially if they are really good at it! I reserve using my long-arm quilter for my large projects. So what do I do? I quilt anything that is under 48″ x 48″ on my home machine! That’s why I decided to talk about quilting smaller projects on your home machine. Now, you may not want to set your maximum quilt top size as high as mine and just stick with quilting tops that are smaller. That’s up to you. For those of you who are up to the challenge, this is the series for you. So let’s get started!
Preparing the Quilt Sandwich
To start, you need to make what is referred as a quilt “sandwich”. Funny name… but this is what quilters call it when you layer your quilt top with batting and backing. When doing this, I like to cut my backing and batting about 1-2″ larger on all sides than my quilt top (photo below). This guarantees that my whole quilt top will have coverage to the edges. 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!
**Extra Tips: If you are not going to quilt your own large quilt, confer with your long arm quilter on the amount of overlap of backing they prefer. I generally cut a backing 6″ larger on all 4 sides for a quilt that will go to my long arm quilter. And 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.
To prepare your quilt top to be “sandwiched”, 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).
Moving on, 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.
Now, 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. Use a ruler to make sure you did not stretch it out of shape. Place the ruler on the corners to make sure they are still 90 degrees and not stretched.
The final step in the sandwiching of a quilt 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. I like to use curved safety pins made specifically for quilt basting.
So that’s the quilt sandwich. Now you are ready to machine quilt your project. Next week, I will share tips on the quilting process and my mini video tutorial. My main goal with this post and next week’s installment is to make machine quilting on your home machine a bit less intimidating.
Comment or ask questions below. You will be entered into a drawing for my quilt pattern, Twinkle, Twinkle!
The drawing will be on Monday, April 18th so you have 2 weeks to enter! ***We have a winner! Congrats, Sharon M!***