Stages of Quilt Making –
In the first part of the series, we explored an Introduction to Quilts, thus discovering that a quilt consists of a top layer of fabric, batting, and a backing layer of fabric. In addition, a quilt is connected or sewn by a pattern of thread in a process of quilting. We will continue to learn about the Stages of Quilt Making by discussing The Quilt Sandwich Design including the designing and sewing of the quilt top.
Design – The design of the quilt includes fabric choices, quilt top pattern, and quilting pattern. The quilt top design pattern will often dictate the amount of fabrics in the quilt top. This design pattern can be simple or elaborate. For instance, this quilt has a design of a center star, with repeated half and quarter stars radiating outward. It is formed by using strips of different colors and patterns of fabric against a white background.
Piecing or sewing – Each quilt design is different, but there are a few key points. Many quilt designs are sewn based on a square or block. By combining blocks horizontally and vertically, the quilter will arrange the blocks for attractiveness. The quilt above had a block that was a quarter star. By combining blocks with quarter stars, one would get a full star with 4 quarters or a half star with 2 quarters or blocks combined.
Quilts may be described as pieced as well. Piecing can be as simple as sewing the 4 square blocks in the picture or they may use tools such as paper designs to sew an accurate seam to the stitch. Paper piecing often produce some intricate designs that are virtually impossible any other way. One may also find quilts with designs appliqued on top of a basic quilt top or embellishments added to the quilt in the finishing stages.
Sashing – Sashing is a fancy word for those inner borders. The sashing can be used to break up a design or provide a window appearance to the design. Usually the sashing is in a coordinating color but not the same print or pattern as the blocks.
The basic inner part of the quilt top is complete. A quilter needs to make another decision on whether or not to have borders.
Borders and Batting
Borders – Once the basic design is complete, borders may be added to the quilt top. The borders serve as a frame for the quilt. They also help the quilt achieve a specific size. For instance, I needed a quilt to be 50 inches by 60 inches. My quilt top was only 45 inches by 55 inches. I may simply add a border all the way around and the quilt ended up being a little over 50×60. (a little over with the binding.) The border ultimately helped me achieve a correct size quilt, plus it added a terrific frame highlighting the fabrics used in the block.
Batting – The quilter has a decision. What type of batting to use? There are many choices including cotton (popular), polyester, bamboo, wool, natural or organic, etc. I have a couple favorites. I like 100% cotton batting for most of the quilts that I make. There are exceptions, but Red Fence Quilting quilts will be 100% cotton. Right now, I am using a batting by The Warm Company, Warm and Plush. This batting is 100% cotton without scrim and made in the USA. Scrim is a mesh holding the cotton fibers. Up until recently, the scrim was typically a synthetic material. (There are some new products out there that are interesting.)
The choice of batting may influence the next step, the quilt pattern. Each batting will state on the package any stitch requirements; such as quilt every 6 inches. It is the quilt designer’s job to make sure to adhere to this and make an attractive quilt pattern.
The Sandwich Making!
Once we have the quilt top complete with borders (if any) sewn, the quilt top is ready for the sandwich. The quilt sandwich consists of bottom fabric wrong side up, then the batting, finally the top quilt fabric layer. Lastly, I secure the quilt sandwich with pins so that the fabric and batting do not move around during quilting.
Please note: I free motion quilt my quilts with a sewing machine. If the quilt is long armed, it would not be pin basted, it would be loaded on a frame and quilted with a large machine. I will touch on long arm quilting in the next posting.
The quilt sandwich is now ready for the next step! Stages of Quilt Making – Part 2 The Quilting