I don’t know about you guys, but I’m grateful for a week of words and not sewing! I have enjoyed this quilt-along immensely, though the hardest part is getting ahead and staying ahead of the tutorials! I have seen such beautiful quilts coming together, and seeing how much a new quilter enjoys sewing makes it all worth it. My favorite part of quilting is the community I’ve discovered in the process – one that reaches back generations and generations and as long as people still sew squares together, will reach far into the future.
So about those lovely quilt tops – what’s next?! I bet you’re feeling pretty accomplished right now – and you should! But upon closer inspection, your quilt top doesn’t resemble a usable blanket quite yet. More work to do…and a few ways you can go about it.
I like choices.
I’ll just be talking about long-arm services vs. machine quilting at home, because that’s what I have experience with. If you’re thinking about hand-quilting or tying the quilt, you can find a wealth of tutorials on the Internet, Knower of Things and Tutor of All. Hand-quilting is a beautiful way to finish your quilt – don’t be scared of it! Someday I’ll get around to hand-quilting a project, but today is not that day.
I have sent most of my quilts to a long-arm quilter – a long-arm is a giant quilting contraption with a frame that can quilt amazingly complex designs with the help of a computer. These folks are pros – and because piecing the top is my favorite part, I love the convenience of just finishing the top and mailing it off for the quilter to work her magic.
I always quilt baby quilts myself, though I recently started quilting a few large quilts at home as well. I enjoy being able to say I finished a project 100% myself, and sometimes all I want for a quilt is a simple design I can manage on my home machine. Other times I just plain want to save some cash or challenge myself. It feels like it takes forever, but I’m always pleased with myself in the end.
There are pros and cons to both – pick what’s best for you! If you choose to quilt at home, read all the way to the end for a basting tutorial!
I’ll try to be as objective as possible, but some of the pros/cons are simply my opinions! Choose what’s best for you!
In the end, sometimes it’s a matter of personal preference. For those who find they really hate to quilt and love to piece, long-arm quilters are a blessing. For others, they enjoy quilting just as much and would rather work on their own quilts.
Be sure to search for local quilters in your area, but if you are interested in a recommendation for mail-in quilters, contact me!
Some of my quilts I’ve had long-arm quilted:
When I first started piecing quilts, I worried so much about quilting. After finishing a top, I couldn’t bear the thought of “ruining” it by trying to quilt it myself. I’ve since learned that quilting is actually very forgiving, and just like piecing, you can rip stitches if you have to. I’ve ripped half a baby quilt because I didn’t like the quilting stitches…it wasn’t fun…but I didn’t ruin my quilt either. So don’t be afraid of quilting – it’s not as bad as it looks!
Some quilts I’ve done myself – you can see I prefer to quilt in variants of straight lines:
So you’ve decided to quilt at home! Yay! You’ve pieced your backing already and have your batting and top ready to go. Maybe you’ve even already googled “how to baste a quilt” and came across four hundred thousand different tutorials that are all basically the same, yet swear that their way is the easiest way.
Don’t worry, I’ve got one more.
But first, you have one more choice to make – will you pin-baste, or spray-baste?!
Ok – back up. Basting means taking your batting and sandwiching it between your back and top, then securing it in place so you can quilt it. The quilting stitches hold the layers together in the end, but if you didn’t secure the layers through basting the whole mess would bunch, tuck, and shift as you’re stitching.
I’ve actually never basted with pins…I bought them once. But after I discovered spray basting I never took them out of the plastic. Some people prefer pinning though, so I’ll give you a basic run-down and direct you back to the Knower of All Things (the Interwebs) for better instructions and pictures.
First, you’ll lay your backing on the floor, right side down. Use tape to keep the backing secured to the floor, smooth and taut (but not stretched!). Lay your batting on top, smoothing it out, and then your top over your batting.
Using safety pins, or better yet, invest in a couple of $5 packs of curved basting pins and pin every 4″ throughout your quilt top, keeping everything smooth and taut.
Yes. I said pin every 4″. This is why I don’t like to do it.
The rule of thumb is if you lay your hand flat on your quilt, you should be touching two pins. As you quilt, you’ll remove the pins as you go and everything will be happily secured in place. That’s really a really basic tutorial – but like I said, I’ve never voluntarily placed that many pins in a quilt top before.
I prefer to spray baste, though you’ll find just as many tutorials of people who HATE spray basting. Quilters are rather opinionated folks, and we all have our tried and true methods. If you keep quilting, you’ll develop your own flavor of favorites as well!
I’ll be quilting a different quilt that I’ve had sitting around basted since DECEMBER for this part of the quilt-along. (I told you it takes me forever!!) Since it’s already basted, I’ll refer you to an earlier tutorial I posted on how I spray baste using my wall. The tutorial is for a baby quilt, but I’ve basted three large quilts the exact same way…with a stool handy.
Lastly, I’ll re-post this list for those still gathering supplies for quilting at home! (Or those needing batting to send with your quilt top to a long-arm.)
Batting: Twin size should be fine for either layout – you’ll want at least 8″ longer and 8″ wider than your finished quilt. Double check measurements before ordering. I prefer lightweight cotton batting – my favorite is Quilter’s Dream Request, in white. Best part, you can find it on Amazon!
Marking pen: I like the iron off pens by Frixion – you can find them on Amazon or Fat Quarter Shop. JoAnn’s, Walmart, and your local quilt shop will also have lots of different types of fabric-safe markers. You’ll need something to mark your quilting lines unless you’re free-forming it. (Which is totally ok too!)
Walking foot: A walking foot is hugely important for quilting. A regular sewing machine foot relies on the feed dogs on the machine to pull the fabric through. (Feed dogs: those little toothy bits that go up and down under your fabric.) When you have a thick quilt to manage, even when really well basted, it will shift and pucker beneath a normal quilting foot. A walking foot has extra feed dogs on the top that evenly feed all the layers nice and smoothly through your machine. Just like presser feet, they are machine specific. Ask the internet, your local quilt store, JoAnn’s, or even me if you have trouble finding the right one for your machine. They might run upwards of $30-40, but you’re still saving money compared to paying a long-arm quilter.
Quilting needles: Yep, there’s a needle for every job. You might get by with your regular piecing needles for quilting, but I found far too many skipped stitches and have to use larger needles. I have the best results with either a “jeans/denim” needle, size 100/16 (larger than 100 will punch an unnecessarily huge hole), or a “top-stitch” needle of similar size. Both are made for going through thick layers, and have large grooves to protect the thread from shredding. Available here and here, and I generally can find them at Walmart as well.
Basting spray or basting pins: I legitimately have no idea how many pins it takes for a throw size quilt. Buy a few packages? (Advice in the comments welcome!) One can of basting spray is enough for this project.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions – I know wrestling around huge amounts of fabric can get overwhelming and confusing. We really are getting close to done!