Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ANATOMY OF A QUILT
PART...  hmmmm...  ummmm... 
I've lost track, and I guess it's not the end of the world!  Remember this one?  I set it aside so long ago, and I bet you all thought I had abandoned it.  Fooled you!  All of the embroidery on the palm trees is done...  HOORAY!  I had no idea what I had set myself up to do!  I used nearly 8 skeins of embroidery floss!  And now the fun begins!
After ironing the quilt face to make sure it was nice and flat everywhere, I sewed a four inch border fabric on all sides using .25 inch seams.  I want to quilt this all the way to the edge of the quilt, and the four inch border makes this possible.  This border will be removed once all the quilting is done.  So now it's time to put the quilt together.
There are three layers to a quilt - the back, the batting and the face.  I use my guest bedroom for this step in my quilts, as the bed is a great work surface!  There are some advantages to having grown-and-gone kids!  First, the material that is the back gets laid out flat on the bed, wrong-side up.  It's important to make sure that it lays flat.  Quilting a wrinkle into the back of a quilt is one of those things that will make me take it apart and do it over!
 
Next, the batting gets laid flat on the back.  I buy batting by the bolt...  that way, I always have enough and just the right size on hand.  I've learned over time that one thing you do NOT want to do is stretch the batting!  Doing this creates thin spots in the finished quilt...  another thing that will make me take it apart and do it over.
And finally, the quilt face gets laid on top, right-side up.  All the layers need to be straight to each other, too.  If the grains of the different materials are offset, the quilt just doesn't lay right when it's finished.

Once I'm happy that everything's lined up nicely and that I've got some excess around all four sides, the whole thing gets trimmed, the remaining backing fabric gets folded and the bolt of batting gets re-rolled, re-wrapped and put back in the closet. Then the whole quilt perimeter gets pinned about every four inches, and the body of the quilt also gets pinned every here and there.  Lots of people baste, but I'm not one of them.  The quilt gets pinned just enough to be able to move it without all the layers shifting.
My work table is a clever disguise for my quilt frame.  The piece of vinyl-covered Masonite shelving makes a terrific work surface and is easily removed when the quilt frame needs to be a quilt frame!  

Carefully, the quilt gets pinned to the padded rails of the quilt frame.  Even though it is pinned, it's not that secure.  I'm careful to check at this step that all the layers are still straight to each other.  I always hand-quilt the top edge of a quilt first.  I don't particularly like working on a quilt with the face upside-down, so doing the top first let's me quilt most of the quilt looking at it right-side up.  Once I have it quilted from side to side and about 6 inches down from the top, I'll turn the whole quilt around and continue working until I get to the bottom.

The other critical thing is that the quilt is flat and even.  The utilitarian purpose of quilting is to hold all the layers together without puckering or stretching it.  If it's flat when you start, it will lay flat when you're finished, even though there's hundreds (thousands?) of stitches traveling up and down through the layers.  Looking across the quilt, it looks flat and smooth.

My next post will actually have some quilting done!  If I get very brave, I may even shoot a little video, showing the actual process in motion.  Thanks so much for following this quilt with me!
 


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