Now that the top is finished I am ready to get to the quilting. As I mentioned before, quilting is the sewing through and together of 3 layers: the back, the batting, and the pieced top.
For both of these mini quilts I used a small piece of Quilter's Dream Request Weight 100% cotton batting, which has the thinnest loft.
Making a Quilt Sandwich
The first step is making a “quilt sandwich”. The "quilt sandwich" process is the same for hand and machine quilting.
I cut a red piece of fabric for the back, a few inches larger than my top. I laid the backing fabric right side down and smoothed it flat. Usually the back is taped down before basting to create a wrinkle-free backing. In this case I didn’t tape it because my quilt is so small.
I then unfolded the batting (which was cut to roughly the same size as the back) on top of the back, smoothing it flat from the center out. Batting is delicate so I was very gentle. (Joelle always says to treat batting like pie crust for the bakers among you.)
And finally I lay the top right side up on top of it all.
Thread Basting for Hand Quilting
Basting is used to hold the three layers together and steady while you’re quilting and it gets taken out after the quilting is finished.
Because this project will be hand quilted I decided to thread baste it (you’ll see safety pin basting in the machine section). I picked a green 100% cotton thread for the basting to contrast against the red of the quilt which made it easier to see and pull it out at the end.
I used a curved basting needle and, without picking up the quilt sandwich, sewed through all 3 layers with large running stitches from the middle in a spiral. I didn’t tie a knot in my thread and left long tails so it would be easy to pull out later.
I put my sandwich in a quilting hoop to hold it steady but I let it stay pretty loose in the hoop (unlike in embroidery where the fabric is pulled taut.)
The next step was to tie a quilters knot so I could start quilting. I cut 18 inches of hand quilting thread and threaded a size 10 between needle (these needles are very, very short which makes them very useful for hand quilting.)
I held the needle between my right thumb and index finger horizontally so the needle tip pointed left. I pinched the end of the thread into those same fingers so that the needle and the end of the thread were facing different directions and the thread made a loop.
With my left hand I then wrapped my thread around the needle twice.
Then I pinched my wrapped thread with my right fingers and pulled it along the length of the thread. At the end of the thread a knot magically appeared.
My next step was to hide my knot and begin quiting. I stuck my needle in-between the top and the backing (so it went into the batting but not so it poked out of the back) of my quilt and pulled it out at the point that I wanted to start my quilting stitch.
With a little tug the knot disappeared and I finally got to start quilting!
Note: if you see your thread end poking out after you’ve hid he knot just nip it off.
I decided to mostly quilt in the ditch. “Stitching in the ditch” means to quilt in your pieced seams. Since it’s pretty impossible to get exactly in the seam ditch you usually quilt right next to it, on the lower side (the side without the seam allowance behind it). For the quilting lines where I wasn’t doing this I used a Hera Marker to guide me.
Keep in mind that you quilt towards yourself.
I put my thimble on my right index finger (many people use their middle finger instead) and put my left index finger under the quilt, touching the backing fabric. I inserted my needle perpendicularly into the fabric and, using only my thimbled index finger I pushed it thru until it pricked (but not in a painful way) my under finger.
Next comes the tricky part. Using only my right index finger I rocked my needle backwards and pushed it forward while my right thumb pushed the front fabric down against my under finger. This motion allowed the needle to poke through and make a small stitch.
Then pulled my needle through and my first stitch was done. As I got more comfortable with making my stitches even and small I put more stitches on the needle at a time to go a little faster.
Once I was almost out of thread I tied my magic quilters knot again.
And hid the knot in the same way I did earlier and nipped the thread end so it disappeared.
Here is my front all quilted. Now I was ready to pull out my green basting thread.
The pulling out of the basting is pretty self explanatory and fun. I just grabbed one end and pulled.
Here is the front after the basting was pulled.
And here is a close up of the back
Pin Basting for Machine Quilting
To start I made a quilt sandwich as above.
Because this quilt will be machine quilted, I decided to baste using curved safety pins which is much quicker than thread basting. Without lifting it I stuck a curved safety pin in the middle of the quilt sandwich through the top, bating, and backing.
I added more safety pins in a spiral, placing them a fist's width apart until filled up the space.
Here it is completely basted.
Now I could start the quilting. I used a Janome Jem Sewing Machine and attatched it’s walking foot. The walking foot pulls the top and back of the quilt along at the same rate. I put my quilt in the machine and manually turned the wheel (always turn the wheel towards yourself) until the needle went into the exact place I wanted to start. Since I was stitching in the ditch this meant that the needle was on the low side of my seam.
The walking foot sews pretty straight so I gently guided my fabric through the machine. I also made sure to keep a lot of slack in front of the foot so that nothing got too stretched out. As I came to the safety pins I took them out. I didn’t bother to close them after I took them out, so they’d be ready for my next project.
For the sections where I wasn’t stitching in the ditch I marked my top with a Hera Marker as shown below.
And here is my quilt top.
And here is the back
I finished both quilts in the same way. I used the outside edges of the top as a guide and cut off the extra batting and backing using a ruler and rotary cutter. Then I attatched the binding. Here they are totally done:
Once they were done I was struck by how different they were. The hand quilting looked so handmade and pretty, whereas the machine quilting looked more clean and modern. Either way, you’re now equipped to do try it yourself!
As a post script: I ended up washing the handmade quilt to fluff it up for the pictures and it BLED! You might be able to see it in the photos above but here is a close up.
This is because I didn’t pre wash my fabrics. It was pretty sad after spending so much time and energy on it. I cannot recommend pre washing enough. Even if you’re in a hurry to start it will save you time and heartache in the end. Happy Quilting! --Molly