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Making The Perfect Quilt Sandwich

Summary

How you assemble the quilt sandwich affects the final product. We discuss two rolling methods and 3 basting techniques to help you decide what is best.

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Making The Perfect Quilt Sandwich

 

What is a quilt sandwich?

A quilt sandwich is the whole quilt put together to ready it to be sewn; the top, the batting, and the backing.

Making The Perfect Quilt Sandwich

 

Methods Of Making a Quilt Sandwich

These are two of the methods quilters make a quilt sandwich:

Before you begin: take out your batting from its packaging, spread it out and let it rest. You can also put the batting in the dryer to help relax the batting fibers. (One quilter placed her batting in the dryer on low for 20 minutes.) This way there shouldn’t be too many bumps to try to smooth out while you’re arranging your quilt layers. (Works great, btw.) Also, give your backing and top a good pressing to make sure you have a non-wrinkled quilt at the end.

 

Method #1: Use the floor, or flat surface

For this method, you find a space either on your floor (preferably on hard wood, tile, or linoleum) or a table where you can spread out your quilt without it bunching up or wrinkling. Lay out your backing face down on a flat surface. Use painters tape to hold the backing down, and prevent it from wrinkling as you work. Next take your batting and spread it over the backing, centering it as best you are able. Smooth out the batting from the center out. Finally, place your quilt top on the batting facing up, centering it on your batting, and smoothing it from the center out.

 

There are three techniques to baste the quilt sandwich together.
A. Thread Basting

First is thread basting. Taking thread and needle, hand baste (sew) large stitches from the center of the quilt to the bottom, then from the center to the top, then to the right, then to the left. The next step is to fill in the places in each quadrant with the stitching, always going from the center out. This helps keep your backing, batting, and top from shifting around while you quilt.

If you are interested in learning more about thread basting, read How To Thread Baste A Quilt.

Note: The distance between stitches or safety pins is dependent on the batting you choose. Most battings that I've come across suggest spacing no larger than 6 to 8 inches. I typically pin the corners and centers of the blocks in my quilts, which is roughly 4 to 6 inches.

Thread Basting A Quilt

 

B. Safety Pining

The second way to baste a quilt is by safety pining the quilt sandwich. I use this method most frequently. Take the safety pins and begin pining from the center down, then center up, then center right, then center left. Fill in the remaining open space.

Pin Basting A Quilt

 

C. Basting Spray

The third method of basting is using basting spray. This method has lots of fans. There are a few brands that people use, and can be found on Amazon, or Joanne's. The how part of this method is to start small, then increase. Some of the users of this method start in the middle, and some start in a corner, and smooth everything out. Work in block sizes. The only drawback is your hands may become very sticky when you're done using this method.

Spray Basting A Quilt

 

Method #2: Rolling The Quilt

This last method of rolling the quilts on dowels is like the machine quilters do. This method is a great way to get the lay out of your quilt centered better than you can with basting on the floor. This is my favorite method. In this method you have three or four dowels, (you can use pool noodles or plumbing insulation. This way you can pin the quilt layers to them. I use wooden dowels inside the plumbing insulation to give it stability.). You can tape the quilt layers to the dowels to keep them in place while you roll them up. Taking the first dowel and the backing, roll the backing facing to the dowel and roll up being careful to not wrinkle the backing as you go. Next, roll the batting. Finally, roll the top, facing up away from the dowel. The next step is to find a flat place, the floor, or a table, unroll the backing about 8 to 10 inches, and lay on the flat surface. Next unroll the batting about 6 to 8 inches and lay on top of the backing with the dowel to the inside of the backing dowel. So you have the backing dowel then the batting dowel (you can see both dowels). Now, you place the top, facing up on the batting, and unroll 4 to 6 inches, with the top dowel next to the batting dowel.

Rolling A Quilt

 

Now you have a choice. You can either thread baste, pin baste or spray baste (start in the middle), or roll the whole quilt on to a 4th dowel. Then unroll the whole about 4 to 6 inches, keeping the quilt on the two dowels and quilting by hand or trying to maneuver the quilt on your sewing machine. This last is very difficult, unless you have a setup for it. There are special multiple frame quilting systems out there that make it possible to quilt this way on a home sewing machine with the product they make.

You're now ready to quilt your quilt!

 

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Glossary

Backing
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Lining
Basting
A temporary method of holding the quilt Sandwich layers together while you finish assembling it. This can be conducted using Basting Sprays, pins, clips or temporary stitching called a Tacking Stitch or Basting Stitch.
Batting
The layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the Top and Backing layers consisting of wool, polyester, blends, silk, or cotton.

Same As: Stuffing, Filling, Wadding, Filler
Block
The basic unit of a quilt top, usually square but can be rectangular or other shapes. Blocks can be pieced, appliqued or plain.
Pressing
Picking a hot iron up off your fabric or quilt top and then putting it down in another place to remove the wrinkles. When you press your fabric, you do not slide the hot iron.

See Also: Ironing
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Sandwich
Traditional description of a quilt: a sandwich consisting of a Quilt Top, Batting (filling), and a Backing.
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