Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quilting and Binding

Last weekend I spent the day in a free motion quilting class, read about that here.

This week I've concentrated on finishing the quilting on two quilts:

Long Time Gone, a Jen Kingwell Design:

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul--this needs a much better name. I made the top a few years ago, finally done.The blocks are needle turn hand applique', no pattern, just an old quilt block design:

Now both are ready for the hand stitching on the bindings. There is about 16 hours of handwork ahead of me:

In recent years I've taken to making the binding and sleeve as soon as the top is done. They are labeled as to which quilt they are for and put in a basket. This saves me from having to hunt for the fabric I intended for binding, or the sleeve--the back fabric--only to find I used it up on some other project. It can take me years to get around to finishing a top. These bindings and sleeves were done and waiting for the quilting to be finished.

I always put a sleeve on my quilts, no matter what size, incorporating the top edge into the binding. The reason I do this is so I only have to hand-sew the bottom edge of the sleeve. I've known many quilters who spend hours right before a show deadline getting those sleeves in place--and they have to hand-sew both edges since their quilt binding is finished--that's twice the work. Here they are machine basted along the top edge:

On a bed-size quilt I cut the sleeve 8.5", turn both ends in with a double fold and stitch the ends down while the sleeve is flat. The finished sleeve width is the width of the quilt minus about 2".  Then I fold the sleeve right side out and press. On big quilts like these I also create a second fold 1/2" below the first fold so the front of the sleeve is wider than the back--this allows the hanging pole to fit the sleeve and not be visible on the front when hanging.

Both of these quilts have my favorite batting: Quilters Dream Cotton, Request weight. It is easy to quilt by hand or machine, is comfy to sleep under, and washes and dries beautifully. I rarely use anything else, except when I use wool batt. That is reserved for quilts for our bed--it is so comfortable to sleep under year-round. The only drawback to wool is the cost and need to air dry--I'm not taking a chance machine drying a quilt with wool batt.

Long Time Gone was fun to quilt. First, I used the Line Tamer ruler, my favorite ruler, to free motion stitch in the ditch along both sides of all the sashings. As the sashings don't go from top to bottom or side to side, I just did them, ending the stitching when I got to the end of that sashing.

I decided what to quilt in each block as I got to it. To "audition" quilting designs, I use a sheet of plexiglass with painters tape all around the edge to prevent slipping with the Expo marker onto the quilt:

Sometimes I changed my mind a little once I got the quilt under the needle, the corner flowers became hearts and I used very light thread--the strong contrast on the white background was distracting in the small corners, but just what I wanted to fill the middle:

The thread is Bottom Line, 60 wt. polyester in the bobbin and Microquilter, 80 wt. polyester on the top, both by Superior Threads. The fine thread helps to minimize the designs, because I am still working on my free motion quilting skills. Here are a few more shots of some of the quilting.

The back is a busy batik, a good choice when you don't want stops and starts to show:

The second quilt top was made a few years ago when I wanted a hand-sewing project to carry with me on my travels. It's an old block, sometimes called "Rob Peter to Pay Paul" or "Orange Peel". The thread on this one is Bottom Line in the bobbin and King Tut on the top on the blocks. In the border I switched the top thread to Microquilter, again because I wasn't sure my feathers would be beautiful enough to want them clearly visible:

The blocks have a good bit of ruler work in them. On the border I used a ruler to create the feather spine and two straight lines to define the space the feathers needed to fill.

I wasn't too happy that I really didn't make those feathers completely fill the space so I added another line on both sides of the feather. There are no photos of that because it was so awful I took those two lines out. LESSON LEARNED: if you don't like how the stitching is going, STOP! It took a long time to remove those lines of stitching, due to how perfectly the thread matched the top and back.

After  the offending threads were removed, I switched feet to an open-toe offset free motion foot, Bernina #24. I was amazed how much better I could see with this foot compared to the ruler foot. Now I echoed both sides of the feathers and they look better. Not competition quality for sure, but better.

Once all the quilting was done, I trimmed both quilts' edges, attached the sleeve and the binding and am now hand-stitching the binding in place.

Binding is one of my favorite parts of the quiltmaking process. I have a Binding Tutorial if you want detailed info on that process, including my very easy way to join the final seam on your binding. The hand sewing is done with thread that closely matches the binding fabric, using very small blindstitches.

How I achieve the 3/8" seam allowance I prefer with binding cut 2.5". The walking foot is in place, and the needle position is moved 5 steps to the right. I keep the edge of the foot along the edge of the fabrics:

Be sure to lengthen your stitch length, I use 3.0 for mine. You will be sewing through at least 5 layers: quilt top, batt, back and two layers of binding. On the top edge, where the sleeve has been basted in place, I am sewing through 7 layers.

The only thing these quilts still need are labels and I now have enough quilts that need them that I can fill a page with printed labels. Just as soon as I get ink replacements for my printer I'll get those done. Stay tuned.

Let's Quilt!



  1. You have used your time well to have those quilted already. I would still be debating with myself over what to quilt. You seem fearless when it comes to tackling the quilting. I applaud you.
    I've never sewn a sleeve on a quilt (because I never enter anything anywhere). :)

    1. Thanks, Janet. I also hang quilts all over my house, big and little. Sleeves are a good thing.

  2. I have no comment; I just enjoy reading your entries and want you to know.

    1. Thank YOU! You just made my week. Sunshine is a great name for you.

  3. Gorgeous quilts. Thanks for the binding tips!

  4. I love your Long Time Gone quilt. Did you mark the quilt for free motion quilting? Hugs

    1. No marking. Either used rulers or just winged the free motion.

    2. Thanks. I love how the quilting turned out.