Want To Learn How To Quilt ? Part 2

Front and back of a black, white and gray buffalo check quilt with newspaper print fabric backing a red binding

As I mentioned in my previous post, Part 1, making a quilt IS a process.  So much so , that I felt it best to divide all this information into 2 parts.  Anything that appears to be too large to digest at once can usually be successfully managed when broken in half, or into smaller pieces.

I described the process of choosing the best pattern and fabric for your first quilt, how to achieve accurate fabric cuts and how to sew an accurate 1/4″ seam.

Now, that all the squares are sewn  together to form one big square – the quilt top…

Are you ready to make this quilt?

Black, white and gray buffalo check quilt top

Before we begin, I need to update my previous list of items  that you will need to make a quilt:

The Original List:

Sewing machine
Iron and Ironing board
Rotary cutter and mat
Seam Ripper
Straight pins and/or clips

Additional Items:

1) Batting
2) Backing fabric
3) Spray baste / basting powder and or quilting pins and stylus
4) Binding (store bought or hand made)

5) Air / water soluble ink pens (purple and white).

For this particular quilt, I used some batting leftover from another project.  This is my favorite.

Warm and natural cotton batting


Backing fabric can actually be just about any type of fabric you want.  When a super soft and cuddly quilt is desired, many will use flannel or minky fabric.

For your first quilt however, I would suggest a cotton that is identical, or very similar to the cotton used for quilt top so when the quilt is washed the top shrinks the same degree as the back.

With the quilt used in this project, again, I used the very last scrap of true backing fabric. (True, in this sense, is a cut of fabric that is 108″ wide).  This is preferred so the quilt back is one continuous piece of fabric.
The back can be pieced also.  Sometimes a person actually wants the back pieced, or you don’t have enough of a desired fabric to cover the entire back so you resort to piecing, but this is a skill / problem best reserved for later.

I did piece the backing for this quilt (one of my favorites) and it looks as if that was my plan all along!

Making the Quilt Sandwich

This is where things can get a little sticky – literally and figuratively.

Layering all three fabric layers so each layer is correctly positioned AND is taught and smooth with no wrinkles or gaps is not impossible but does take a little work.

To make a quilt sandwich, you are sandwiching – or placing a layer of BATTING between the quilted top and the solid piece of fabric backing.  Fabric – batting – fabric as shown in the image below.

Quilt sandwich - quilt top, batting and backing

The arrangement of each layer above serves to also show an approximate size of the backing and batting layers.

Generally speaking, the backing and batting has to be larger than the quilt top.  A basic rule of thumb when quilting on a domestic machine: make sure both the batting and backing are large enough to extend 3″ to 4″ beyond the quilt top on all sides.

Once the layers of fabric and batting are arranged,  the next step is to baste all these layers so there is minimal to no movement or shifting of layers when quilting at the machine.

There are many ways to do this but, so far, I’ve found this method to work the best.

1)  Tape the backing wrong side up on the top of a large table.  In the image below you’ll see the shiny tape attached tjo the edge of the fabric and table top.

Fabric backing taped to table top

For the following steps I don’t have any pictures, ugh.  However, I did locate a very good tutorial that demonstrates all these steps:

2)  Lay the batting on top

3)  Fold the backing back a few inches and spray the exposed fabric backing. :

The most popular temporary spray adhesive is the Odif 505 on the left.  Even though I typically buy three cans at once, I ran out of this adhesive with my last quilt and as an emergency, made a quick trip to Joann’s and discovered Sullivan’s (the can on the right).  It’s a little more expensive but it smells SO GOOD!  Reminds me of cake batter!
505 basting spray and Scotch clear tape

4)  Smooth it out the fabric as you go, pressing the batting next to the backing.  Continue until all the batting is adhered to the back.

5)  Lay the top, right side up on top of the batting/backing layers.

6)  Fold back the top to expose a few inches of batting and spray.

7)  Press and smooth out as you did with the previous layers, to adhere the top to the batting/backing.

8)  Check to see if all layers are adhered and not likely to shift.  The basting sprays I use are only temporary and if things aren’t as smooth as you’d like, you can easily pull up on the fabric and reposition as needed to get all layers in alignment and pulled as taught as possible.

Special Note About Basting:

If there is doubt that these layers will stay intact, use quilting pins (curved safety pins) and a stylus to stabilize.  Placing pins a distance of about a hand’s width apart will be sufficient.

Curved quilting safety pins and stylus on black, white and gray quilt top

Quilting pins to stabilize quilt sandwich

If you do choose to add quilting pins, now is the time to do a little planning.

Taking a closer look at the pin arrangement above, their placement may seem odd.  Why not just a single pin in the middle of each square?  That would be so much simpler, right?

Answer: Yes, however, considering the quilting design I was contemplating, a pin in the middle of each square would not allow me to easily stitch the diagonal pattern I planned.

Placing pins to avoid being in the direct path of a running line going from corner to corner allows for easy marking and stitching.

Ruler and air soluable ink pen marking quilting lines on quilt top

Now that the quilt sandwich is made, it’s time to get down to business and make this look like a real quilt!

Right Down the Line

The easiest way to quilt is to use straight line stitching.

Taking the longest ruler you have, make one continuous line from corner to corner, bisecting every square.

There are other ways but when beginning to ‘quilt’, the easiest way to make your stitches straight is to simply follow a straight line.  Marking these lines does take a little time but in the long run it is worth it.

With this particular quilt top, I used a purple marker for the light fabric and a white marker on the black fabric.

Straight line quilting a buffalo check quilt

While we’re on the subject of markers, I’m going to put this one on my wish list.

If you’re seriously wanting to begin a quilting hobby, you may want to invest in this.

The Finish Line

1)  With all three layers of fabric quilted together do one continuous stitch around the perimeter of the entire quilt.

2)  Using a ruler measure 1/4″ from this stitched line and trim.

Trimming a quilt uisng a ruler and rotary cutter

Below, the quilted quilt and top of the quilt folded down to show the back.  The edges of the quilt aren’t perfectly perfect but since we’re putting a strip of fabric binding around the perimeter, these ragged edges will be covered.

Strip of red fabric binding on top a a buffalo check quilt

This is the only time you will need pins or clips if you make a quilt like this.

Red quilt clips holding fabric binding in place.

To simplify things, I thought I could sew the binding to the back and fold over to the front and sew in place again.

Some quilters do this very well.

Not me.

However, with practice, I am able to make very nice mitered corners.  (The image above is before the binding was sewn down.)

When you reach this point in your quilt, I would suggest going here.  Leah Day has created a very comprehensive tutorial  that shows how to create your own binding (like I did for this quilt).

In the interest of simplicity and saving time, I toyed with the idea of using packaged binding but I wasn’t happy with the limited color selection of what I already had on hand.

Pre packaged red and gray binding on top of a buffalo check quilt.

Leah Day’s tutorial also shows how to use this type of binding for your quilt.  I feel it’s worth seeing both techniques and see which one you like best.


And here is the finished quilt:

Black, whie and gray buffalo check quilt with red binding

It Is A Process…


Going from this: Black, white and gray fabric squares on a gray cutting mat.

To this:

Buffalo check quilt with red binding

Takes a little time and patience but in the end, it’s totally worth it!

Buffalo check quilt folded on a wood table top.

Now, it’s your turn…Go make yourself a quilt today!

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