Q is for Quilting
Practical Quilting Basics
The Quilt Sandwich
The quilt top, batting and backing are the three layers that make up a quilt sandwich. The top is your decorative layer that is often patchwork pieced and embellished; the batting is the wadding that gives the warmth, loft and weight to the quilt; and the backing is usually a largely plain and un-adorned piece of fabric. These three pieces are then ‘quilted’: stitched or tied through all three layers to create one work.
Most of us imagine a patchwork top when we think of a traditional quilt, and for many people making the top is the highlight of the process and where the majority of the creativity is displayed. A patchwork top is traditionally worked in ‘blocks’ which are then in turn pieced together. There are countless blocks from the simplest ‘nine-patch’ to the most intricate of designs.
All sorts of fabric can used to make a patchwork top, but most popularly printed quilting cottons are used. The weight is a comfortable weight to patchwork, and the prints are designed to work well as small pieces.
The batting is the filling in the sandwich. There are all sorts of materials that batting can be made of, but most popularly are wool, cotton, and more recently, bamboo. The batting will determine whether a quilt is light or heavy, lofty or dense, thin or thick.
You need to buy batting that is at least 4 inches larger in all directions than your quilt top, and you need to also note the minimum quilting distance of your batting so that it suits your planned quilting pattern.
Before quilting your sandwich needs to be constructed and basted. Basting secures the three layers of your quilt temporarily and minimises movement whilst you are actually quilting. You can either pin-baste or thread-baste, although I’m sure everyone has their favourite method, personally I would recommend putting the extra effort in to thread baste. Although more time consuming than pin-basting, once completed, thread-basting makes for a faster and easier quilting process.
A quilt is not a quilt until you have stitched your three layers together. There are a number of different ways you can do this. You can tie a quilt, quilt by hand or quilt using a machine. You can even send your quilt away to be long-arm quilted.
You can stitch in straight lines, along the lines of your patchwork, follow an intricate pattern, or quilt in a random fashion. You can stitch evenly or unevenly, close together or far apart… the possibilities are endless!
The quilting of your sandwich can really enhance your top beautifully, so take some time to look at other pieces to work out what sort of effect you want to create.
Once quilted, your piece can be bound along the raw edges.
At first glance, quilting seems like such an innocent craft, but once you start looking the possibilities will blow your mind! Quilting horizons are long and uninterrupted, and thinking about fabric and stitches as your medium for expressing yourself will make you look at your next quilt as one great big canvas.
Go forth and quilt!
Recommended online resources
Elizabeth Hartman at Oh Fransson!
Fat Quarterly tutorials page
World Wide Quilting Page
E Quilt Blocks
The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Applique by Linda Seward
Compendium of Quiltmaking Techniques by Susan Briscoe
Last-minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Material Obsession: Contemporary Quilt Designs by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke
Quilts 1700 - 2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard
Art Quilts: A Celebration – 400 Stunning Contemporary Designs by Robert Shaw
Related Backstitch articles:
Follow-the-lines baby quilt
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