Preparing a quilt top for quilting

Let's talk quilt tops 

 A parcel in the post is always a thrill, even when one knows the "surprise" is coming. It's especially exciting when it's a crafty parcel.

This particular especially exciting parcel contained a quilt top... but no ordinary quilt top.

This quilt top has united the talents of twelve patchworkers from all over Australia. How exciting is that! 

This beautiful quilt top took me three hours to prepare for quilting ... yes, that's  three whole hours before it went anywhere near the quilting machine. Where did all that time go?

I have tried and tested guidelines, which I would like to share with you, for when I'm readying a new quilt top for quilting. Please remember these are only my opinions and whatever you want to do with your own quilting is wonderful is fine by me!

Firstly -
check it over for stray threads, 
snip any threads which haven't been trimmed short enough, 
and look for any seams which may turn out to be a challenge e.g. very little seam allowance or very bulky.

Now, I must confess to sometimes having a seam ending up less than the recommended 1/4" ... oops. 

This can easily happen when piecing together sections of a block which have to fit into each other. Repeatedly misjudging a 1/4" seam by even the width of one thread, can quickly add up to your pieced section being just that much too big, or too small to comfortably fit with the adjoining section.

A loosely woven fabric, for example linen, will exacerbate the tendency of a narrow seam to pull apart when handled. Quilting may hold the fabric in place, but it can't stop the fabric from fraying. 

I don't have a quick fix for this problem, and can only suggest carefully ironing a narrow e.g. 1/2" inch wide, strip of lightweight iron-on interfacing along the wrong side of seam and seam line, before quilting. This will slow down the pulling apart of the seam, and not add much stiffness to the top.

Which brings me to the use of stiffening or interfacing in the quilt top.

Embroidery and applique on a quilt top are very special.

Now, as an embroiderer and appliquer, I want my work to be as flat as possible.

To help achieve this, I can apply a stabiliser to the back of the fabric to help support it while I'm working my design.

Some of these stabilisers cannot be removed when the work is finished. That's great when my finished project is perhaps a bag or box where I want stiffness, however, snuggling up in a sheet of cardboard means I'll be "snuggling" on my own.

Some stabilisers are made to be removed easily after your work is complete. Pictured above are two such stabilisers. On the left is a tear-away product, and on the right is an iron-on tear-away product. 

Tearing out the excess stabiliser after embroidery is completed means my fabric will retain it's drape and cuddliness... yes please!

Another point I consider before quilting is the thickness of what I'm asking my machine to sew through. This is mainly dependant on where the seams are pressed.

I'm going to be brave and admit the work in the photo below is my own. (You can also see exactly what I mean about seams with very little allowance. This is part of a new foundation pieced design I'm working on.)

As you can see, this area of the work involves a lot of seams in a small area. The seams have been pressed to minimise the number of fabric layers in any one spot.

Different patchworkers have different guidelines for their projects when it comes to pressing the seams. Perhaps it's pressing the seams always towards Darth Vader, sorry, the dark side, or always pressing seams in alternating directions. 

Using either rule exclusively can result in some seams being up to eight layers of fabric thick! This is definitely not good for the sewing machine. 

As a patchworker, the decision which way to press the seams is left up to my quilter side. Delegating!

Points to consider when pressing -

1. I'll usually press to the darker fabric if one of the fabrics is super-pale e.g. white.

2. If using very small pieces of fabric, I'll press the seams open. The seams seem to sit     
3. When more than four layers of fabric are involved in a seam e.g. sewing triangles, I'll 
        press the seams open OR 
        whichever direction they need to be to minimise the number of layers sitting in any one spot.
4. But if I'm using a white fabric together with dark fabrics, and lots of triangles? 
        Carefully snip the seam line right down to the stitching, either side of the super-bulky 
        seam. This will allow me to continue pressing the seam to the darker fabric, except for that 
        small section where I've pressed them open.

In my next post I'll be looking forward to sharing my experience on batting and backing.

I hope you get some great crafting time before then,
best wishes,

P.S. One day I'll work out how to make the text in the blog posts uniform, but at the moment it's driving me crazy.
Thank you so much for your patience. x 



  1. Three hours? Something like that would take me three days!! 😊

    1. Lol, sounds like a perfect reason to fortify one's self with several pots of tea and a whole cake!


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