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Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to prepare a quilt sandwich

In order to prepare a quilt sandwich you need space. The best is a table, big enough to fit the whole quilt on it. If the table is a little bit smaller, it can be done, too. Otherwise, you will need to do it on the floor, which is less comfortable, but at least you will be able to do it well.

Preparing the sandwich is the basis for quilting. If it is done badly there will be creases, because the fabric is not distributed evenly on all sides. Therefore, take your time for this task, in order not to compromise the quality of the finished quilt.

Now, this is what you need:

Finished quilt top
batting of your choice, slightly larger than the quilt top
backing of your choice, slightly larger than the quilt top
Pins (the best are curved safety pins), lots of them

Iron your fabric layers in order to eliminate creases (pay attention to the batting, cotton or other natural battings may be ironed, but they doesn't crease easily, so it isn't always necessary. If you have polyester batting do not iron it, it will melt and stick to your iron).

Start by placing the backing right side down flat onto your work surface. Spread it out carefully and eliminate any bumps by stroking the fabric against the surface from the center outwards.

When the backing lies completely flat, place the batting on top. Align the edges of the two pieces and make sure the batting, too, lies completely flat on the surface.

Now add the quilt top right side up on top of the other two layers and, again, pay attention that it lies completely flat. The top should be a little smaller than the other two layers. Place it in the center of the batting, leaving about the same margin all around the quilt top.

It is better to fix the layers in some way before proceeding, in order not to move any of them. If you are working on a table that can be done with big clips.

If you are working on table that is a little smaller than your quilt, start by spreading as much of the quilt as possible on the table (it should be at least half of the quilt that goes on the table, if it doesn't go find a better location), make sure all layers are completely flat, and clip them in place. Then proceed as explained below and return to this point to work on the second part of the quilt, only when the first part is finished.

 As you see, and like so often in quilting, the problem is how to handle the bulk. The sampler quilt I am using for this tutorial is small and thus easy to handle. The blue quilt in the picture above is bigger and I am lucky enough to have a special table that I get out only for preparing quilt sandwiches of bigger quilts.
If you are working on the floor, or can't use clips for any other reason, place books or some other heavy objects in different places around the quilt in order to weigh the layers down.

Now pin the three layers together starting in the center of the quilt. Slowly move towards the outer parts of the quilt and don't forget to make sure you don't move any of the layers. This will be easier when you are working on a table and more difficult on the floor, especially if you are making a big quilt, because you might not reach the center without kneeling down on the quilt. In that case take care to flatten all three layers again, when you have finished the inner part and are about to start pinning an area that you have been moving on earlier.

Don't be frugal with pins. I know it's annoying to put lots of them, but it will pay off in the long run.

Now the three layers are lieing undisturbedly together, now is the time to fix them together like that. Once you pick the sandwich up to start quilting, the layers will move, and the better they have been pinned together, the better they will stay together during later handling. So, pin the layers together and then put some more pins just to make sure.

When done,  turn the quilt around and check that the backing is pinned to the other two layers without bumps or excess fabric caught between any two pins. If there are, get the pins out up to that point, flatten all three layers, and start over from right there. I know it's annoying, but believe me, I've learned the hard way.

In the two pictures above you see ugly creases that happen, when the fabric is not distributed evenly. Putting some more pins reduces the risk of this.

So, eventhough preparing the quilt sandwich might seem a tedious task, especially as it doesn't produce any real progess in the making of the quilt, it is crucial for the success of the actual quilting. So take your time and pin the layers together carefully, and you won't have any ugly creases.

Have you made a project following this tutorial? Let me know what you think. Did you like it? Was it easy to understand and to follow? Do you have any suggestions?
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