Making the Quilt Sandwich

It’s time to make the quilt sandwich!  This is the step where we assemble all the parts of the quilt together in order to prepare to install the actual quilting stitches.  The quilting stitches will go through all the layers of the quilt–the quilt top that you’ve pieced together, the batting that gives it warmth and loft, and the quilt back–and create a whole other layer of texture and design in your quilt.  Making the sandwich is the last step before we do the quilting stitches, and while it can often seem like a hoop to be jumped through, it’s important to take your time and do your best work here–the smoother and more taut the sandwich, the happier you’ll be with the results!  It’s not at all a difficult process, but one where attention to detail pays off visibly and immediately later.

This lesson is pretty straight-forward, so rather than getting long-winded, I’m going to refer you to Elizabeth Hartman (of Oh, Fransson! and Practical Guide to Patchwork fame, along with one of our interviews from earlier in the class) and her excellent instructions.  With some caveats, naturally.

  • I don’t do the whole roll-it-up thing.  I don’t really get the advantage of doing that, and much prefer to lay out the backing, then the batting, then the quilt top, and smooth from the center out on each layer.  But you do what works best for you.
  • I cannot recommend taping to the floor highly enough, and encourage you to make the backing as smooth and taut as you can without distorting the shape–makes ALL the difference in the world! I use blue painter’s tape usually, but have also used masking tape with good success, and even packing tape in a pinch–they all work just fine.  Be careful that you have an equal-ish amount of tape on both the floor and the fabric to ensure that the edge that’s on your fabric doesn’t lose its grip and allow the fabric to slip.
  • Be certain that the quilt back is WRONG SIDE UP.  For real.  You’ll be super irritated if it isn’t.  You ought to end up with something that looks vaguely like your finished quilt, except that the edges are all raggedy.
  • I like to pin baste with large safety pins, size 2 or 3 (I used to use the larger ones exclusively, since they’re easier to manipulate, but the more free-motion quilting I do, the more I use the smaller ones, as they’re usually less in the way).  There are some safety pins that are on the market specifically for quilters, with curved sides that make them easier to close when you’re basting.  Use whatever basting pins you like, but avoid straight pins–they’ll stick you and can easily come dislodged when you’re working with the quilt.
  • A note on basting spray:  some folks love it, but I find it messy and smelly and sticky.  It is quicker–you spray it between the layers and smooth them out, like hairspray, and it’s done–but it’s also there forever, and you’ll have to buy more for each project.  Again, there’s no right way to do this, but I wanted you all to be aware of your options, and a little bit of why I do things the way I choose to do them.

Next lesson: the quilt stitches!!  You guys, you’re awesome!!