Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lifetime Quilt Sandwich

The top is done and it is easy to consider the final steps as mundane and tedious.  But are they really any more tedious than sewing all those log cabin blocks?  Not really, just different.  This is what I love about quilting:  there are so many steps requiring different thinking processes and skills.

 First of all you need to purchase batting, after you decide what kind to buy.  Batting comes in cotton, polyester, cotton/poly, bamboo, and wool, in high, medium and low lofts.  This is not specifically a post batting because there are numerous websites that go deeply into the qualities of each.  An individual's choice is very personal based on their own research and experience, and what they envision will show off their quilt to best advantage.  Way too many variables!  For my Lifetime quilt I chose medium loft cotton batting as a supremely safe choice for a relatively new free motion quilter.  It was a good choice.

Next, you need backing.  You spent a lot of time and money planning and working on the front of your quilt so choose a good quality fabric for the backing.  It can be plain or busy, but should coordinate with the color and quality of the quilt top.  My quilt is made of cotton fabric and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the back.  I also had a substantial stash of blue fabric so I pieced the back with a huge log cabin block using strips 5 1/2 inches wide.

Log cabin backing for "Lifetime."
Pardon the fluff in the lower left.  That is the tail of my canine supervisor.

TIP:  If you are new to free motion quilting you may want a busy fabric for the back so any imperfections in your quilting are less visible.

Now you are ready to assemble the "sandwich."  You can watch a series of online videos on preparing your quilt for quilting.  I have a special top for my ironing board made of a rectangular piece of plywood (60x22 in).  This limited space is all I have for assembling my quilts so I will share my process for those of you who are also space challenged or want to save your knees and back:

1.  Remove the ironing cover so you are working on the plywood (or suitable table).

2.  Center the backing on the plywood.
TIP:  I have marked the center of my plywood on all four sides and in the center.  This makes it easier to be sure the layers are all centered correctly before I start.
TIP:  Tape two pins perpendicular to each other at the center of the plywood or table.  You will be able to feel through the fabric and batting to center them over the pins.

3.  Smooth the backing and clamp it to the plywood on all four sides with clamps (I use large office clamps).  Clamp the fabric snugly, but do not stretch tight.
TIP:  If your quilt is small and doesn't reach to the ends of the board or table, you can tape the ends down with masking tape.

4.  Center the batting on the backing, making very sure that it is straight, and gently smooth any rumples without stretching.

5.  Make sure there are no loose threads on the back of your quilt top, center it on the batting keeping the edges straight, and gently smooth it onto the batting.
TIP:  Batting is a magnet for loose threads so you can clean up the back of your quilt top with a piece of scrap batting or use a lint roller.

6.  Baste.  You can use safety pins, thread or straight pins with Pinmoor point covers.

7.  Baste from the center out and when the visible quilt is done, release the clamps.  Fold back the batting and top, carefully move the quilt toward you, and reclamp the backing onto the back side (away from you) of the table, making sure it is snug and smooth.  The weight of the pins at the front will hold the front part of the quilt and keep it all snug.  Smooth the batting and top over the backing and return to pinning.  Repeat as needed for the rest of your quilt.

At last, ready to quilt.  This was the biggest quilt I had done so I approached the quilting with trepidation.  Stay tuned.


  1. Sandwiching and quilting is the worst part for me......
    can't I just make the tops?

    Is that a large log cabin look for the BACK of your quilt? If so, that is too cool.

    1. Yes. I rifled through my stash and found suitable fabrics without spending a penny!

  2. What a great idea for the backing. Thanks for sharing your tips for making the sandwich. Sandwiching the quilt is the hardest part for me. The plywood is a great idea. I have been using the floor. This means crawling around on my hands and knees to pin.

    1. Not only does it help your back and knees it makes a wonderful, big ironing board when properly covered. It is both table and ironing board, and can be raised or lowered to whatever height you need.