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The Art of Quilt-making, Part 6 
Getting Ready to Quilt --The Right Way
by Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs
A Seasoned Quilter Shares Her Tips

 

In this article, Mary Asper of Green Mountain Designs shares her tips for successful quiltmaking. Although it is written especially for the beginning quiltmaker, even more experienced artisans may find valuable information. See Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V for more tips. 

Mary’s Tip: Stretch the backing of your quilt when layering to avoid problems later!

Now that your top is all bordered and straight, you're ready to prepare it for quilting. I use this process for ALL quilts, from wall size quilts to bed size....

  1. Have a large, flat, sturdy surface on which to work. I have two 8 foot by 36 inch tables that I bought at Staples for $48 each - a truly worthy investment, I think. You can use a door set on two saw horses - a dining room table (cover it to save scratching!) or any surface that's large enough for your quilt. I drag my tables in and set them up when I'm preparing a quilt, then take them down again - lucky you if you have the space to leave them set up all the time!
  2. Prepare the backing for the quilt; it should be at least 4 inches larger all around than the quilt top. Mark the vertical center of the backing. (top to bottom, in the center of the two sides).
  3. Mark the vertical center of the surface you are using. I tape a long sturdy pin in the center at each end of the tables. so I can feel it through the quilt when I'm working.
  4. Lay the quilt backing RIGHT SIDE DOWN (make sure those seams are looking up at you!!) on the tables, lining up the vertical center of the backing with the vertical center of the table.
  5. Secure the backing in place. I have two methods I prefer:
    1. for smaller quilts and wall quilts, I tape the backing in place with heavy packing tape. This DOES fray the edge of the fabric when you rip it up - but that's partly why the backing is larger than the quilt top!
    2. For large quilts, I use 2 inch binder clips - available at office supply stores. Buy a couple boxes so you have plenty.
  6. Tape or binder clip one end of the quilt; then stretch the fabric taut as you tape or clip the other end. Next secure one side; then, again stretching taut, secure the other side. Your backing should be fairly taut, wrinkle free and STRAIGHT. Find the center of the batting. Line this center up with your other vertical centers (backing and table) so that the batting is even on all sides. Smooth the batting over the backing.
  7. Fold the quilt top in half vertically, right sides together (wrong sides out). Lay the fold along the vertical center of your tables. Open the quilt top and smooth over the batting.
  8. Gently run your hands over the whole *sandwich* to make sure there are no big lumps, wrinkles, etc. Visually check to see that everything looks straight.
  9. Use Quilter's Safety Pins (rust-free) or some other method to secure the layers of the sandwich together. Other methods include:
  10. Quilt-Tac - haven't used it because it's fairly expensive. It seems to me that the grid you can purchase to go underneath is necessary, to raise the quilt so you can push the little tags in with the gun.
  11. Hand-Basting - I do this in cases where I don't want to have to remove the basting as I quilt - like really complex piecing designs or delicate fabrics.
  12. Tying - a friend of mine first ties and binds all her quilts, then hand-quilts as she has time. She uses Perle Cotton to tie and has good success with this method.
  13. When pinning, I like to use number 2 silver-colored pins. I pin about every 4 to 6 inches, working from the center out to the edges.
  14. When the area on your table surface is completely basted, undo the clamps or the tape and , if necessary, move the quilt to one side and repeat the process. You will not need to align all the centers again; your sandwich is already straight and secured. Also, the weight of the sandwich will help keep the underlying fabric taut, so you may not need to clamp or tape all the sides.

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