Welcome to the last project of How to Quilt: A Beginner’s Guide. We’re making the All-Border Quilt, beginning to end. Last week, we made the quilt top. This week we’re doing some pre-quilting preparation, and next week we’ll quilt. Finally, we’ll finish with binding and quilt labels.
If you missed the instructions for piecing the All-Border Quilt, click here!
Merriam-Webster defines a quilt as “a bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding (such as down or batting) held in place by ties or stitched designs.” Quilters call the first layer of cloth, the one meant for display, the “top” and the second layer of cloth the “backing.” The backing is typically a plain, large piece of cotton fabric. Most quilters prefer a backing with a thread count similar to the fabric used for the top, like quilting-weight cotton.
There are 108″+ wide backing fabrics made just for this purpose to accommodate larger quilts. Typical quilting cotton is 40″-45″ wide, and that’s what we’ll be using for the All-Border Quilt. Using a single piece of fabric won’t be big enough, so we’ll piece our backing fabric.
3 1/3 yards – Backing
Cutting & Assembly Instructions
Cut the yardage in half to make two approximately 60″ x Width of Fabric pieces.
Press the fabric flat, use steam or a spray bottle of water to help iron out the center fold, in particular.
Trim off the selvage edges one at a time. Repeat for the other piece. Pay attention to keeping to the straight of grain, in other words, the weave of the fabric. Sometimes the selvage is pulled and warped out of shape in the manufacturing process, so it isn’t a reliable straight edge.
Once trimmed, place the two pieces right sides together and sew a 1/2″ seam allowance along the trimmed edge. Press in one direction.
Trim the sides square to the ends to complete the backing piece.
60″ x 70″ piece of Batting
Batting (sometimes called wadding) is a padding layer sandwiched between the top and backing of a quilt. Batting can be made of many different types of material, including natural and man-made fibers, or a mix of both. Cotton is a common natural material, and polyester a common man-made material used in batting. Batting comes in sheets, sometimes in pre-packaged sizes and sometimes on a roll. Battings also come in different lofts, often related to the type of fiber used. Loft refers to the thickness of the batting a high loft batting is thicker than a low loft batting. The higher the loft, the more space can be left between stitches that hold together the layers of the quilt.
We’re using a twin-sized 80% cotton, 20% polyester blend batting . It combines the breathability and supple feeling of cotton with the durability and lightweight loft of polyester.
For information about shrinkage, washing, allergies, and quilting specifics, always refer to the manufacturer’s information about a specific batting. Each batting type has specific traits based on its fiber content and construction, so following guidelines specific to the batting in question is your best bet when quilting.
The batting we’ve chosen is ready to use from the bag, so the only preparation we’re doing to it is to trim it to fit just to the inside of our backing piece by laying the batting on top of the backing and trimming with scissors. That bit of prep gets us to next week when we’ll dive all the way in to quilting.
Creating a Design
There are endless possibilities when creating a quilting design. Some ideas are simple to create and others take more time and tools. For this project, we’re aiming around the middle. We’re going to show you how to quilt on your domestic sewing machine using a walking foot.
A walking foot is an attachment that basically creates upper feed dogs. The walking foot and the feed dogs raise and lower at the same time to evenly move all the layers. Walking feet are great for quilting and bulky projects for this reason.
Because they feed the quilt through in a straight line, it’s best to keep to straight lines or very gentle curves while quilting with a walking foot, so that will inform our quilting design for the All-Border quilt.
Design Type #1: All-Over Straight Stitch Design
All-Over Quilting uses a repeating pattern. The pattern can take many forms. A very fast, easy way to finish a quilt is straight stitching with parallel lines running the length (or width) of the quilt in even or random intervals. This method avoids the need to feed the quilt through the throat of your machine, which is a great option if a quilt is too large to fit easily through that space. It also avoids the need to bury threads because you can start and stop quilting out in the extra batting.
Lines could also have a gentle wave, or you could hatch the lines to create a grid. Whatever you choose, all-over designs are an easy option.
Design Type #2: Custom
Custom designs use different motifs in different areas of the quilt. This variety allows for emphasis and can add a lot of visual appeal. We show custom quilting in the quilting video tutorial. To create a custom quilting design, it’s really helpful to draw it to test it out. We’ve made a pdf for you to use that has the All-Border Quilt picture ready to print, and a blank outline of the quilt that you can color with what your quilt looks like. Draw right on the paper or draw on a piece of tracing paper. Creating the design on tracing paper lets you take the quilt away and examine the tracing paper like a road map without distraction.
Several design elements are used in the video. Quarter Inching, when you quilt around a shape a quarter inch from it. Stitching in the Ditch, when you stitch right next to a seam. Organic, wavy lines following the print of the fabric. Stripes with Travelling, when you stitch back over an area previously stitch to reach a point from which you’ll begin quilting the next motif. And a continuous line Square on Point motif, when you sew intersecting Xs to create squares on point shapes. These are all options available to you.
Play with design ideas until you settle on something you like. And remember, this quilt is for learning and practice, so have fun with it!
Marking the Design
Once you’ve settled on a design, it’s time to mark the quilt. Use whatever marking tool you prefer. We use a water soluble pen and marker in the video and will remove all the markings with water after quilting. We pretested on our fabric per manufacturer’s directions. Chalk marking tools are a great option if you’re at all worried about getting the markings out later because you can brush the chalk away.
Use a ruler to mark any straight lines and follow along with the video for specific guidance on what is helpful to mark, and what doesn’t need marked.
Once your quilt is marked, it’s ready to baste. We spray basted our quilt using an adhesive craft spray; it’s a great option for a project that will be quilted over a short period of time. The folks from The Sewing Studio show how to spray baste a quilt so the top, batting, and backing are smooth and secure.
Quilts can also be basted with safety pins or large stitches. Safety pins are fine to store over a longer period of time than spray basted quilt, like a year or so, just be aware there is an increased risk of rust stains over longer periods. Large stitches are easy to do by hand and can be left in safely for as long as is needed. It’s important to consider how long a quilt will take to be quilted when considering your basting options.
If you pin or stitch, start in the center and secure in the shape of a plus sign, and then an X (teal lines). Finally, secure in a grid (green lines). This creates a basting structure that evenly supports the layers of the quilt. Pins will be removed during quilting, large stitches can be removed during quilting or after.
Choose a basting method that works for you. Use a large, flat surface to lay out the prepared backing piece, wrong side up. Lay the batting over the backing. Center the quilt top over the batting. Check that the grain of the backing is square to the quilt top and there is plenty of excess backing and batting around all edges of the quilt top. Secure using your preferred basting method.
There is a wild rainbow of thread options out there, especially when choosing a thread for quilting. Here are three things to consider.
- Color/Value – Neutral threads that match the “background” color of a quilt or the match the lightness or darkness of a quilt will melt into the overall look of the quilt. Bright or contrasting colors and values will make the quilting pop and stand out. You can use different colors for different sections (we used two!), or a variegated for a unique effect.
- Weight – Threads come in different weights, or thicknesses, identified by numbers. The higher the number, the thinner the thread. Most of the time for piecing, quilters use 40- or 50-weight thread. 40-weight is nice for quilting because you can see the stitches, but it’s thin enough to easily quilt through the layers of a quilt. 50-weight really lets the stitches sink in. 12-weight is a very thick thread that fun to use to really make quilting pop, but you’ll want to use a thicker needle to help sew through the layers of the quilt.
- Fiber Content – Threads also come in a variety of fiber contents. For quilting, the basic options are cotton, polyester, or a cotton-poly blend. Cotton thread is considered an heirloom choice, because it will wear at a similar pace to the quilting cotton fabric used to make the quilt. Polyester is a low-lint choice and often shinier than cotton thread, but it can wear down cotton fabric over a long period of use. Cotton-poly blends, similar to batting, offer a best of both worlds option. Look for thread that works for you and know that the choice you make is the right choice for your quilt.
Install a walking foot onto your machine using the manufacturer’s instructions for specific guidance. If possible, wind a few bobbins in advance so you don’t have to stop quilting to wind one. Install a needle appropriate for quilting, like a size 90 Machine Quilting needle, or a size 90 Universal needle. Set your needle to the center position, if needed. Make a little quilting sandwich (fabric, batting, fabric) from some scraps and quilt a little to get a feel for the walking foot and check your stitches to ensure your machine is ready to quilt.
Quilt from the center out. This creates stability as we quilt.
When starting a new line of quilting stitches, start with the presser foot in the up position and bring your needle down into the quilt and back up, grab the tail of the thread and pull at it until a loop appears of the bobbin thread. Hook the bobbin thread loop and pull it until the tail appears. This is called pulling the thread to the front. Repeat this same process at the end of a line of stitching. We do this so all the tails are on the front of the quilt where we can move them out of the way if needed. Leave yourself 6″-12″ of thread tails. Bring your needle back down in the spot where you brought the bobbin thread to the front and lower the walking foot to begin quilting.
Follow your markings and plan for quilting. Watch the video above for guidance on quilting techniques line wavy lines, pivots, stitching in the ditch, and travelling.
When you’re ready to bury the thread tails, grab a hand sewing needle. I like to use an embroidery needle because it’s easy to thread the large eye. Thread the needle with the tail to be buried. Wrap the thread around the needle once and slowly start to pull to create an overhand knot. Before the knot is pulled tight, place the needle where the thread is coming up out of the fabric and poke it through the middle of the knot loop. Pull the knot tight around the needle, extract the needle and finish tightening the knot. Take a small stitch through the top layer and come up a short distance away. Pull until you feel or hear a small pop of the knot going into the fabric. Trim the thread even to the fabric to finish burying the thread.
Join us next time!
We’ll be finishing up the All-Border Quilt, and How to Quilt, with binding and a label on May 15th.
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Join the How To Quilt AQS Facebook group. We can’t wait to see what you make!