How To Put A Quilt Together

Article Posted 27 August 2018

Marilyn Parker - Lindylou Kidsworld

Hi there, this is Marilyn from Lindylou Kidsworld.

I have been chatting to a lovely bunch of ladies for the Bunnycup Embroidery Group on Facebook. It is a great forum to share ideas, projects and discuss embroidery/sewing issues. If you would like to join us on the Bunnycup Embroidery Facebook group, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/groups/121517668545041.

As a result of some of these discussions, I am writing this “how to” blog on how to put your quilt together once the top layer of your masterpiece is done. On this particular quilt, I have used embroidery designs from Bunnycup’s Owls Applique and Country Flowers Quilt Blocks.

I am working on the premise the work measures 100 x 130 cms (39 x 51 inches) , so all measurements in this blog will refer to these (adjust for your own work). You need to pre-cut a piece of wadding (I use 100% cotton) & backing fabric that measures 110 x 140 cms (43 x 55 inches). The wadding and backing need to be at least 5cm (2 inches) larger than the top layer all the way around - to allow for wiggle room.

Ok, so we will jump straight to the point where you have finished the top layer and have given it a last good press with a steam iron. Make it as smooth as possible. Do this also for your backing fabric – this will be the last time you get a chance to iron it!

Lay your work face down on your working table, laying it as flat as possible. I always start with the top edge of the fabric lining up with the edge of the table, giving it a good straight starting point. Smooth it out a bit so there are no huge bumps or folds.

Place the wadding over the top layer (which is face down) staring at the top, bringing it two inches higher than your work. You will see with your wadding that there is a slightly fluffier side on one side.

Place the fluffier side down face down, and slowly smooth this out over the top layer. I start from the centre of the top row and fan my hands out and down. I work down the rows, smoothing as I go. Don’t be too fastidious with this step, as too much pushing and pulling tends to distort and stretch the wadding too much.

Once you are happy with this, lay the backing piece of fabric over the top of the wadding, keeping the top at the right end of your work and covering the wadding completely. Repeat the smoothing exercise here, and you can be a bit more rigorous here - this step is really important so that there are no weird folds and tucks when you are sewing the layers together.

Ok, so when you are happy with the smooth look of the work, pick it up from the outermost long side and flip it over. You can now see the quilt as it should look with the top layer, the wadding and the backing all sitting nicely behind each other. You do not have to readjust the backing fabric or wadding.

The top layer is now your focus. I start at the top of the work, and smooth out with my hands in the centre fanning out and down. Place a long ruler along the top border seam and start with this as straight as possible. [Pic6a] I work in 35 cm (14 inches) increments, and using safety pins, I carefully pin through the three layers of the SMOOTHED areas as I go. I put the pins approx. 15 cm (6 inches) apart. I only put the pins through the sashing.

You can also put some in the picture squares too if you want, but for this exercise we do not sew in that area. The pins need to be strategically placed so that you won’t run over them when it is time to sew! There is an art to this, as you don’t want to disturb the three layers too much.

Take your time and make sure you don’t see any bumps. I leave the safety pins unfastened, I find it much easier to pull them out as needed, and as noted, the least fussing around when doing the securing layers together the better. This is of course a personal choice of mine, and closing the safety pins as you go is probably a safer option.

Next step is to move your work over to the sewing area. You have already set your machine up with an extension table if your machine has one and change the machine foot to “walking” foot. This is a fabulous foot (some machines even come with a motorised version!). The walking foot has a surface on it that works similar to the feed dogs at the bottom of the machine, and the work runs through the machine at an even pace, pulling the top and bottom layers through together. I also, change the default stitch length from 2.2 to about 2.6 – makes it a bit easier if you need to unpick something later on!

I start at the top right hand corner (creature of habit!) and sew through all the seams. I do the horizontal lines first – they are shorter and there is less chance of movement and distortion. The pins can be wriggled out of the way as needed. After I have done the rows either side of the pins, I take them out.

Once the horizontal lines are all done, start again at the top and sew all the seam lines through the vertical sashing.

Hint:

I always use both of my hands on the work as I sew. There will always be a tiny bit of distortion. Adding a bit of even pressure on the work around the sewn area can help reduce this. There are special quilting gloves on the market, made of knitted cotton which some people swear by. They help with the grip and flow of the fabric. I don’t use them, I find my skin is enough. As you do more, you will find your own personal best way to do things.

Ok, now all those sashing seams are all stitched through and the quilt is a bit more sturdy. Pick it up and lay it out on the sewing table. Check it out for straightness of line, and any folds (oops). Flick it over and check out the back. It should be pretty perfect. If you feel you need to adjust anything, then unpick and fix. This can be really arduous though, and it will depend on how hard you want to be on yourself. The child you are making this for will love it regardless xx

Sometimes, if the embroidery or applique is really time consuming, and I feel I have put enough hours into the project, I don’t do any more embellishing, and cut, trim and bind the edges, and it is all done. BUT, other times, I will look at it and think “yes this needs a bit more”. One of things I like to do, if I have used a million 2 ½ inch squares to make the sashing, is to do diagonal stitching through these. You can do all of them, or as I have done on this one- just stitch through the outer edge borders.

With this quilt, I then used machine quilting designs, centred in between the blocks. With a 12 square quilt, I only need 6 designs to cover the inner most intersections. Hooping them is tricky, and I often have strong words with my hoop. So, I lay the hoop (with the screw extended nearly all the way out) behind the area I want to embroider, and place the inner hoop on top. I line up the area using the 2 ½ squares spacing as a guide, and line up the raised bits on the inner hoop so that the centre of the little squares of fabric line pretty well. Push the inner hoop down and tighten the screw as much as you can. Now hold your breath, and move that to the embroidery machine, without the work popping out! It is awkward, but it is worthwhile if you can do it.

I know some people do this part by NOT hooping the quilt, as the layers do make it a challenge. They pin it to a wash away stabiliser that is hooped. I have never tried this. There are articles on YouTube that you can follow if this interests you. (And then of course, you can share your experience with us all!)

The results of the process are here for you.

White on white is hard to see. Here is also work that I did on another project (also on another blog) – you can see the stitching clearly here, and it looks really effective.

So, once all that is done, you can step back and admire your work! All of the above took me 8 hours xx with coffee stops in between.

Now to the trimming, squaring and binding part:

Ok, now to trim and square all your edges. Laying the quilt out on your work table, smooth it out to make sure your edges are sitting where they should be. I use my long quilting ruler and a rotary cutter, placing the area I am going to cut on the cutting board. Trim all the edges back, making sure that the corners are true squares. Losing a tiny bit of your squares in this process is ok. The overall effect is still wonderful.

For the binding, you can use either a full piece of fabric that coordinates with your work (60 cms -24 inches - should do it nicely). Cut this piece of fabric into 2 ½ inch strips from selvedge to selvedge. For this blog I have use jelly roll strips left over from the quilt top sashing. You need 4 ½ of these plain fabric or jelly roll strips. Cut the selvedge edges off all the lengths, then sew them end to end. The strip needs to be the height by the length of your quilt plus 7 cms. So for this quilt it will be 100 x 2 plus 130 x 2 plus 7 cm = approx. 467 cms (184 inches)

Fold the strip in half lengthways. I have found that overlocking (serging) the raw edges together down the strip the best way to hold the two layers permanently together. At the end of the day you are now going to sew 5 layers of fabric together with a ¼ to 3/8 inch seam, and the less movement the better.

I start just off centre at the bottom of the quilt edge. I fold the end over and pin it in place.

Note:

I use a “knot” stitch to lock the start and corners of the work. See what your machine has. The plain straight stitch isn’t enough and the back and forward stitch is too long for this process.

Stitch along the edge till you get to within a ¼ inch of the corner. Lock the stitch, turn the work, put the needle up, and fold the binding strip so that the seam continues to run down the quilt edge, with the folded corner then be able to be used as a neat right angle corner.

Continue this process till you get near the end, cut the binding strip about 6-7 cms past the start of the sewn binding, and bring it in a bit so that it is smaller than the underneath piece. This helps when you fold it over to sew the binding down.

Now, there are two very different opinions re the sewing down of the binding. I machine everything I can, and it works fine for me. I sell all of my quilts, so need to save a bit of time and energy of the job. (Imagine hand sewing the binding on a queen size quilt!) Other people would die before they would machine sew it. So, up to you as to whether you machine or hand sew your binding down.

Here are some pics of the binding as I do it, showing the corners with the little right angle points. And of course the completed quilt.

Congratulations ladies, if you have gotten this far. Hope this blog enthuses you to get any of your projects completed. With 14 blogs already done – I have three quilts and two table/bed runners to help you on your way. And this blog on how to put your quilt together should give you some guidance on how to finish them off.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to share – this blog and most importantly, your work!

Love and hugs,
Mazza xxx Lindylou Kidsworld

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Yours is the best site for beginners! I have only had my embroidery machine for 1 month and testing out your retired sets has been the best way for me to get to know it without going to too much expense! Plus where could you get cuter designs than these - I've searched and still yours is the No.1 site I tell EVERYONE about. Thanks for all your hard work and getting me started! Yours always, Becky
Becky - Launceston, Australia