Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finishing School IV ~ Quilt It!

Quilted pillow topper
~ Quilted Pillow Topper featuring Sweet Nothings by Zoe Pearn for Riley Blake Designs ~ 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the words,
"Layer, Baste, Quilt as Desired"??
The aim of our class today will help us recognize
the true value of these quilts we're creating,
along with a few hints and tools for creativity
as we finish our quilts and bring them to life. 

 Does this describe you?
  • You have a personal relationship with fabric.
  • You've spent hours and hours admiring fabric, petting, folding, envisioning the possibilities, designing, re-designing, cutting it out.
  • You've spent even more hours sewing it back together... bent over the sewing machine; sewing, unsewing, re-sewing, getting it just right.
  • You've invested more than blood, sweat and tears (and $$).  You've given a part of yourself, your taste, your style; you've infused the quilt with your love.
  • You've recorded a portion of your life in cloth.
It may not be perfect, but you've created a warm hug from yourself to your loved ones that will envelop them in your arms even when you are not there.
It's more than just a quilt.
You've created a Treasure*.

It deserves to be finished, used, loved.
Quilting the Quilt

It's a new generation of quilting.  We niether have the time nor the relatives close by, and in a lot of cases, we don't have the room to "put on a quilt" as our foremothers did.  Instead, if we quilt with a needle and thread, it is in a hoop or on a lap at a soccer game, on a sewing machine at home, perhaps a mid-or longarm quilting machine, or sometimes... we quilt with our checkbook (I can help with that ☺)

"How do I quilt this??"  Consider these factors:

  • How will the quilt be used?
  • Who is it for?
  • "Envelope Finish" the edges - No Binding.  ILLUSTRATED INSTRUCTIONS
    Prior to quilting, stitch quilt top and backing right sides together.  Leave a 6" to 8" opening to turn quilt right side out.  Roll out batting, lay stitched quilt top/backing over batting; trim, pin, and stitch along the same lines.  TURN quilt right side out.  Try my favorite "No-Clip" method to get corners square (see video ↓) 

    Hand-stitch the opening closed, or edge-stitch by machine.  Press lightly, and you're ready to quilt or tie (my family's favorite way to make charity quilts).

  • MarkYou may wish to mark your quilt for even placement of stitches.  Pins, a chalk pencil, a washable or air soluble fabric marking pen can also be used.  My favorite marking tool?  Cheap white school chalk (sharpened somewhat). Brush off or use a damp cloth to remove chalk dust.
    Marking tools
  • Layer & BasteIf you plan to bind the quilt after quilting, lay out the quilt backing, wrong side up.  If not using a frame, secure backing to a solid surface with masking or painter's tape to keep flat.  Lay batting over backing.  Place quilt top right side up over batting. 
    Baste using curved safety pins every 3 to 4 inches, long running stitches, or try a spray adhesive such as 505 , or PAM'S to spray-baste.
    Spray Baste

  • TieThe quickest way to finish a quilt is to tie it.  Use yarn, perle cotton, embroidery floss, etc. and a large-eye needle to secure the layers (top, batting, backing) together.  Take one stitch at regular intervals, usually 4" to 6" apart so the batting does not shift, and tie a double square knot.  Trim the threads to an even length, about 1".
    Stitch through all layers
  • Don't like the look of ties?  You can "tie" it with your sewing machine.  Instead of yarn, use a zig-zag satin stitch to tack the quilt together.  Take a stitch, bring up the bobbin thread.  Take a couple of stitches in the same spot to secure, then zig-zag four or five times.  Another couple of stationary stitches, clip threads, move to the next marking.  Done in no time! 
    Quilt it!
    Envelope finish, marked with straight pins to tie
(Oh, no, here it comes now...)   QUILT AS DESIRED!!
  • Hand-QuiltLike many quilters today, I grew up under my grandmother's quilt frames.  When I was old enough, she let me help quilt the whole-cloth tricot quilts she made for wedding gifts.  I think mine was the last one she made.  I've hand-quilted one item since then.  That was 26 years ago.  Here's my advice:  Ask your grandma to show you how.  Short of that, find a friend or quilter in your guild to give you some basics.  Take a class.  Practice.  Find the size needle you love, size 10, 11, 12.  Get a great thimble.  Don't let hand-quilting become a lost art!
  • Machine Quilt
    HELPFUL TOOLS for quilting on your Home Sewing Machine:  A good pair of rubberized gloves for gripping, a walking foot and stitch-guide bar for straight-line stitching, darning foot for freemotion quilting.  Most machines have a darning foot.  The walking foot has teeth on top of the fabric just like the feed dogs to help move the quilt evenly as you stitch.  Support for the quilt is important, too - such as a table top or extension table.

    Take one stitch and bring up your bobbin thread (that way, you don't have to spend hours hunting for threads on the back).  I always begin by stitching a basting line around the edge of the quilt.  HINT:  Wind several bobbins before you begin quilting.

walking foot, stitching bar, rubber gloves
using a walking foot with a stitch guide bar

  •  Straight Line Stitching (walking foot)
    You can Stitch in the Ditch, outlining your piecing.  It is always helpful, however, if your seams are all pressed to one side, points match up and the quilt lies flat, allowing you to find the DITCH.  Or you may want to try an Outline Stitch, with your stitching lines 1/8" to 1/4" away from the seamlines.  You can mark your quilt, or just make registration marks where you want a line to land.  One of my guild sisters marked and quilted her quilt with random straight lines at different angles.  It's adorable!  

    One of my favorite things to quilt in squares is a Continuous Curve.  It can redefine points and it's not necessary to stitch in the ditch or on seamlines.  Plus, you end up where you start.  Instead of quilting a straight line, you quilt a curve to each corner of the square/triangle.  You can use a walking foot or free-motion darning foot for those. 
  continuous curves
  •  Freemotion Quilting (Home Machine or Longarm - darning foot)OK, now we're getting into familiar territory for me.  I'm a doodler.  And I especially love doodling with my giant sewing machine, but the principles apply to quilting on a home machine as well - instead of pushing the quilt under a stationary machine, I "drive" my machine over a stationary quilt.  But it's still doodling.  Here are some guidelines I try to use:  (My own personal preferences, of course!)
  • Drop the feed dogs, set your stitch length to zero.  Take one stitch and pull up the bobbin thread.  Start doodling with thread.  There are a ton of great sites out in the cyber world that can get you going (see → FREEMOTION QUILTING ←) And more sites can show you some fun and incredible designs to put into your quilt (check this one → FREEMOTION QUILTING PROJECT ←) 
  • Practice, practice.  Start small (mug rugs, pot holders, table toppers, etc...)  I buy newsprint bolt ends from the local newspaper, roll it out across the kitchen table, grab a marker and "practice" my doodles (stipple, swirls, curlicues, leaves, roses, feathered vines).  Helps with muscle memory.  What you can doodle, you can quilt!  I even draw on the steamy shower door.
    practice doodling
    Practice machine quilting by doodling
  • Allow the quilt speak to you.  The quilting should never overpower or compete with the quilt (design, piecing), but only enhance it.  Sometimes, the quilt will tell you how it needs to be quilted.  Take clues, and listen! :)
  • The quilting should balance the difficulty/design of the construction.  For example, if you've gone to all the trouble and effort of applique' or embroidery, make the same effort in your quilting.  (It is against my religion to quilt through applique'!).  Outline motifs to give definition, then quilt lines that follow or enhance the design.  If the quilt is just a large piece of fabric, an overall pattern will still give the quilt texture and bring it to life.
  • Let the fabric speak to you.  If your fabric has a certain flower or curlicue, by all means, mimic that in your quilting.  If the print is so busy that nothing you quilt will even be noticed, any texture will bring the quilt to life.
    Quilting texture
    Tied, straight line, and paisley echo quilting texture
  • Try to keep an overall consistency and balance of quilting density throughout the quilt.  Ex:  Don't micro-stipple in one corner, and leave large, fist-size unquilted areas in another corner.  You will want the quilt to get the same wear throughout. 
  • Stay healthy.  Sit up straight, relax your shoulders.  Arms should bend at the elbow, and stay close to your sides.  Rest/stretch every 45 minutes, or every bobbin change.  Remember to blink, breathe, swallow. 
Now go.  Quilt.  We are stitching the world together. *treasure story

...p.s. When you've quilted the quilt, be sure to check my Binding Basics

photo tutorial here at Cutting Corners College for a fantastic finish!!
oh, p.p.s.  If you do happen to quilt by checkbook...
Here's a list of  DOs and DON'Ts to help you prepare your quilt for machine quilting. 


  1. As always, you do a grand job of explaining and teaching and you do it so clearly. I think teaching is a natural ability and you have that in spades. Thanks, Deonn.
    by LJ
    May 08th, 2012 at 11:55 a.m.

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