This is the second post in a series about my first quilt project. In a previous post I described how I assembled four patchwork panels. Here I will describe the process of merging them into a single “sheet”, which will later form the front side of a quilt, and how this sheet is then fused to the warm batting and a simple back layer.
Once I had finished my patchwork panels and had to think more seriously about how to make them into a proper quilt, I started reading more about quilting. Even through the principle is really very simple, at first I felt a little overwhelmed by a rather specialized terminology, which was — to my surprise — pretty distinct from swing terminology. Maybe this is also just a problem with English not being my mother tongue. Fortunately, there are nice resources online to help resolve the confusion. As a very practical guide I liked these instructions. They do not only feature a lot of photos, but also a cute cat.
Briefly, here are some important lessons I learned about quilting from the above and other sources:
- The layers of a quilt are called the quilt top (the layer with the fabric mosaic), the batting (the padding or wadding — what a cute word! — in the middle) and the backing fabric (typically a simpler fabric).
- There are lots of options for the batting material and whatever you choose will determine the thickness, weight and warmness of the final quilt. Keep in mind that a thick batting for a large quilt can make for a rather difficult to manage piece during quilting. I underestimated the final stiffness, because the “naked” padding behaves quite differently compared to the three fabric layer “sandwich”.
- Before actually quilting the three layers, you probably want to loosely attach them to each other — either with pins or by loosely hand sewing them together. This step is called basting.
- The process of properly fusing the three layers to a sandwich is called quilting. You should probably keep in mind how you are going to fuse the three layers at the time that you are designing the quilt top. What I mean is, that the quilting will cause in itself a visual effect and you should think about how this effect will interact with the fabric and patchwork pattern of the quilt top. You can do the quilting either with a sewing machine or by hand.
- The final step is finishing up the edges with a nice binding, i.e. hiding the raw edge of the quilt with a long strip of folded fabric that wraps around the edge. Again, there are several options. You can buy bias binding (rather expensive), you can make your own (either bias binding, which is good if you want to cover a curved edge, or simple straight binding) or you finish the edges with some excess backing fabric (this is what I opted for, but I haven’t gotten to this part yet).
Now, back to the project. First, I got two simple solid green fabrics — an olive green cotton and a vibrant may green linen — to frame the patchwork panels and combine them into one large rectangle [see photo below].
For the batting I chose a medium material made from bamboo fibers (just because I was curious about how this plant-based material would behave). As backing I chose a thick cotton fabric with a small scale, irregular ochre stripe pattern [see photos further below].
Then it was time for basting the three layers together. I made some space on the floor, ironed out any folds in the backing fabric and fixated the backing fabric to the floor with tape. Then I carefully placed the batting on top and ironed again. Finally, I placed the top layer and ironed all layers another time. Ironing really helped getting the three layers lay flat. Then I basted everything with a few safety pins and a lot of hand sticking (the black lines in the photo). Finally I cut away the excess batting and backing (that’s the step at which the photo below was taken).
The basting took a fair amount of time and I thought that now I was finally moving toward the finish line with this project, but actually the quilting is what has taken me the longest so war. It’s still going on and progress is rather slow, because the whole piece is quite big and heavy now and my sewing machine isn’t super large so that I have trouble moving the piece around while sewing. Below are two photos showing the current state of the project. On the left you can see one of the green bars, which I quilted with semi-regular parallel lines, and parts of two mosaic panels. The bottom panel is already quilted, to top has yet to be done (that one is harder to access, since it sits more toward the middle of the quilt). The photo on the right shows the back side. Here you can also see the fine stripe pattern of the backing fabric that I mentioned earlier.
When I started the quilt, I hadn’t considered the shapes the actual quilting process would create both on the front as well as on the back. This is certainly something I will think more about before starting my next quilt.