Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quilting 101: A Beginner's Experience, Pt. 2


Assuming you read my previous quilting post, when we left our intrepid seamstress, she had triumphantly completed piecing the front of her very first quilt!  Then, as these things often do, the project stalled out due to a lack of patience in trying to figure out the rest of the process.  With J's promise to help and the project's deadline fast approaching (how dare my friend have her baby early!), I finally scrubbed the kitchen floor and turned it into quilt-making central!

To make the quilt sandwich, I started by taping the quilt backing to the floor, right side down.  I made sure it was good and flat, but worked not to stretch it in any particular direction.  This process is harder than it looks.

Once the backing was down, I laid the next layer, the batting, on top of it, making sure that there was enough overlapping all of the edges to trim back later.  Then I folded the quilt top in quarters, centered the fold on the sandwich, and carefully unfolded it to finish the sandwich.  The most important part of this process is making sure the backing and batting are both larger than all edges of the quilt top.

In the picture below, you can see a pattern of safety pins holding the whole thing together.  I started in the middle and placed pins no more than 6" apart.  The book I was using suggested 4", but I'm lazy and stubborn.  For the small size of the quilt, 6" worked just fine.  As you can see, I used more around the edges to keep anything from stretching or shifting awkwardly.  The pins keep everything properly together while the quilt is being tied.

Full quilt view

Up close and personal

The book I used directed me to work my ties from the center and spiral out from there.  Once again, stubborn as I am, I didn't do as directed.  I wanted two different colors of ties; therefore, I tied across the quilt diagonally to keep my organized color pattern.  Once again, this worked for me, but I don't know if that was luck or because the other process is unnecessary.

For each tie I used embroidery floss and a basting stitch in the corner where several pieced areas met.  I left long, non-taught spans between stitches which I cut later in order to tie the knots.  These spans made sure I had enough tail on each stitch to tie a proper square knot.  Honestly, tying the quilt was the easiest part of the process, save for the fact that my knees don't like my tile kitchen floor.

Once the basting stitches were complete, I cut each stitch leaving long tails on either side.  The tails were tied in square knots and then snipped to approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inch.  This is what it looked like after the ties, but before I had removed the safety pins.

Full quilt view
Up close and personal

With the tying process finished, I could move the quilt off the floor and away from Cat, who was very angry with the amount of water we had used to spray him for walking on the quilt while I worked.  It was time to create my own binding, yet another process I had never attempted!  Being instructionally challenged, as those who know me have heard me explain many times, J helped me decipher the 2-D instructions into 3-D language.  The short answer for this process is that it's much easier than it looks.  Also, now that I've learned how to make binding, I plan to use creative fabrics to bind future projects instead of settling for boring bias tapes and such for edging.

The only tips I have for making binding are to pick a fabric that you really like, since it will encircle your quilt, and to carefully measure, cut and press everything.  If your edges are straight and your folds even it will make the actual binding process much simpler and quicker.  For a step by step on making binding, check out the book I was using.  It, with J's help, was a pretty good teacher.

A little more binding than I needed for a baby quilt,
but only by a little

The importance of the photo below is that this pointed tail is the end you start with when you attach the binding to the quilt.  Make sure to start with this end about 1/3 the way down one of the long sides of the quilt.  This will be important as you come back around with the other end and want to tuck it into the opening made by the diagonal fold.

So, as you can see below, sew the binding's raw edge to the edge of the quilt top.  If you're like me, your quilt top may not be perfectly squared with straight edges.  The reason you see some quilt top coming out from under the binding is that I had to use tailor's chalk and mark where the edge should've been, to ensure the quilt will look right after it's bound.  So, I guess I should say sew the raw edge to where the edge of your quilt top should've been.

When you get to a corner, fold the binding to make the 90 degree turn and crease all excess corner fabric upward so that it won't get caught in the stitching.  That excess will be needed to turn the corners when you roll the binding to the back of the quilt.

Here's where it really starts to get exciting! Or at least it did for me.  The binding has been stitched through all layers and trimming the excess fabric and batting makes it really look like a quilt!  Trim through all layers by using a rotary cutter and straight edge laid exactly on the raw edge of the binding.

From here on out it's just you, a needle and a lot of thread.  As for myself, it also included a television and a couple episodes of Covert Affairs.  Episodes I'd already seen, since I wasn't able to actually watch much, just listen and focus on not pricking myself.

Roll the binding to the back of the quilt and attempt to do it evenly so that it covers all previous edge stitching and layers.  Then handsew it down with a million tiny stitches.  When you get to the corners, you should be able to origami them to cover the corner while hiding excess fabric.  If you can't figure it out (because I struggled, honestly) check the instructions in the book or online.  Once again, if you can figure it out once, it's really not that difficult.

At this point I'm going to apologize that this wasn't really a tutorial in quiltmaking.  As this was my first quilt, I have no business in trying to teach others how to make something so complex, especially via blog.  My hope, in all of this, is that by reading my quilting experience you might be inspired to tackle a quilt of your own.  I'm already planning my second, and contrary to my expectations, making this quilt did not in fact scare me off of quilting forever.  The accomplishment I felt upon finishing it, and the joy I felt when I gave it to my friends and their newborn was more than worth the time and effort.  In fact, quilting may be one of the most rewarding projects I've attempted to date.

Happy Birthday, Baby Q!

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