A Quilt Sandwich

February 18, 2008 § 13 Comments

What would you like for lunch? How about a quilt sandwich? Ha. Now I’m just getting loopy with delirium as I try to finish up things that need to get done this week. Sorry.

Let’s talk about finishing those quilts. Once the quilt top is pieced, it’s time to make a quilt sandwich. Traditionally, a finished quilt consists of three layers. 1) the quilt top, 2) batting, and 3) a backing fabric. That’s not always the case, but generally this is how quilts are finished. Some exceptions may include:

  • preemie blankets (usually just a cotton layer and flannel layer of fabric and no batting)
  • kids quilts with fleece or minky on the back (the fleece or minky is thick enough that batting is not needed)
  • and table toppers for side tables rather than a dinner table (better drape without batting)
  • or even curtains (a little bit lighter is good).

Steps to making a quilt sandwich, or at least how I do it. I sandwich my quilts on the floor and it can be hard on the knees. You can also do this on large banquet tables with those big office clips. If you don’t have enough room, check with your local quilt shop about using their class room space. Many will let you come in when it is not in use to pin baste your quilt.

1. Prepare the backing fabric. Sew pieces together if necessary and press. Lay the backing fabric right-side down onto a clean floor.

2. Using wide masking tape, tape the four corners while gently pulling the fabric taut. Then, tape between the corners every 5 or so inches.

3. Spread out the batting onto the quilt back. Make sure there are no wrinkles, smoothing with your hands.

4. Press the quilt top and lay right-side up onto the batting. Use your hands to carefully smooth out wrinkles. Also, check that the rows of the quilt are straight and not wonky and smooth the fabric to straighten the rows. This is where precise piecing becomes more important. Make it a goal to work towards even and precise sewing. It will save you some trouble in the end.

5. Pin baste the quilt using safety pins. I use the #2 (1 1/2″) straight pins and the Kwik Klip tool to pin the quilt. The Kwik Klip tool will save your fingernails from being chewed up. There are also bent safety pins that are easier to open and close. Try out a friend’s supplies, if you can, before you decide which you prefer. Pin about every 5 or 6 inches depending on your quilt. Start in the middle and work your way out to the edge, smoothing the fabric as you go if any wrinkles still exist.

6. Trim the batting and backing down to about 2-3 inches beyond the quilt top. Less than that may be hard to work with as you are quilt. And more than that can be cumbersome.

7. Quilt on your sewing machine. (Hand quilters generally don’t pin baste their quilts, but baste with thread – a whole ‘nother post) As in anything, try these suggestions and then modify or adapt what works best for you.

Any finally… the real question may be, “Do I want to quilt this myself?”. Large quilts are indeed difficult to quilt on a home sewing machine.

You may want to send a bed-sized quilt out to a longarm quilter. Referrals from your local quilt shop or other quilters is best. Ask for references and samples of their work. Some longarm quilters have a preference for the type of work they do.

Baby and lap quilts can fairly easily be quilted on your home sewing machine. My limit is somewhere around 60-70 inches in size. After that I really struggle with all the fabric bunched up around my sewing machine.

If you have an old quilt top (possible inherited from your grandmother) you may not want to machine quilt it. Hand quilting is often preferred for older or antique quilts. There may be someone in your neck of the woods who does hand quilting for a service. But beware that hand quilting can be costly. One way to cut down on the cost is to look for a church group that quilts as part of their functions. And… I have heard mixed reviews about Amish quilting services. Some folks have had great success, while others where not as satisfied. Ask around for referrals.

Keep on quilting!

§ 13 Responses to A Quilt Sandwich

  • calegar says:

    Thank you for this post! I sandwich mine on the floor, but never thought of using tape! What a great idea!

  • Monica says:

    I am glad to know that the 2 baby quilts I did make I did correctly : ) I will have to check into the cost of having the quilting done. Thanks for the tips

  • KT says:

    I have the Kwiq Klip but have yet to use it! This tutorial was great as I have many tops but get a bit freaked out about making the sandwich, let alone quilting it. There is so much great information on your site- thank you!

  • Maria Alvarado says:

    I am glad with yours informationa bout quilt sandwich , its very easy .Thank you!

  • Louise Visscher says:

    Hi – I am just starting a small baby quilt with odd squares which were sent to me. I made the center all right but now I’m doing the binding. I am so glad to be reading your article so will try to do it correctly. Louise

  • charlee says:

    I have a lot of tops but have a hard time sandwiching them. Never thought of taping to the floor. What a simple yet effective idea. Thank you so much

  • Sonjia Sweedem says:

    Thank you for information. I am on my very first quilt so will have many mistakes. Getting everything cut straight is a biggie for me but I will use this information. Thank you

  • Jane Glass says:

    Cannot help but notice you have wood floors . . . are you not concerned about damage from the pinning process? No scratching occurs? I have hard wood floors and several quilt tops ready to baste, but was afraid to use the wood floors, was wishing I had some tile or ceramic flooring to use. Thanks for your answer.

    • Tina Lorusso says:

      I, too, didn’t think of using tape. Great! I have used spray fabric adhesive with success instead of pins. Thanks!

    • Anita says:

      Our floors are actually Pergo laminate that look like wood. The pins don’t hurt it. But I also try not to “dig” too much when pinning and just try to catch the bottom layer.

  • Phyllis Wallace says:

    I also wondered about the pins scratching the floor.
    My husband rigged up 4 boards and 2 saw horses and screws them together the size of my quilt top, then I use large tacks to secure the bottom layer and lay the batting over that making sure they are 4 inches wider than the top, then I add the top and tack it to the boards. When I cannot reach the middle with my safety pins , we untack along one side and roll the board and the quilt in toward the middle. I have to rest quite often but hard to get down on the floor anymore. Hope this helps anyone.

  • jan says:

    You have been very helpful. I have been quilting for about a year. So every bit of advice is usable for sure. thank you again

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