Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Essential Tips for Sanity While Making Multiple Quilts

Sitting Pretty for Tomorrow's Work

Tomorrow when I walk into the studio, my work is already cut out for me. Literally. Instead of debating where to start--we all do that sometimes, I have set the scene for a productive session. The binding is ready, and lying on the quilt. 

Organizing My Finishing Game

January's theme was hammering out quilt tops for charity. It started as a simple way to destash. A frantic phone call for utility quilt dimensions was my first move. Let's say it snowballed--and then it took on a life of its own! What I never expected were all the lessons I learned along the way. Most from the experience of making quilts as fast as possible, but others from simply observing how veterans stay organized, and keep going. I've been filling you in as I've rolled along, but here are some more good tricks on organization, labeling, and batting choices to make your quilting life easier. 

Seven Quilt Tops Assembled In January..More or Less

I was very good at keeping the tops in the 60" x 80" range in the beginning, but a few grew larger. In my head, I was keeping track, and some I wrote on a legal pad floating around the studio. As each was done, I carefully ironed, folded, and laid it into a plastic tub. Some had little pieces of paper laying on them so I could remember. (Are you smiling yet?)

The bomb was about to blow, but I didn't know it yet. (I lost hours by being half-organized.) Stay with me, and keep reading.

Three Different Battings:
Cotton (top), Polyester Quilt Batting (middle)
and Polyester Comforter Batting (bottom)

Longarming keeps falling on Sundays around here. It's a kind of a soothing, meditative process, and this week was no different. The bottom quilt above was done weeks ago, and I finished the other two this week --I'll show you them in another post, and Monday I bound all three of these quilts one after the next. What a lesson!

The bottom is a 4" strippy charity quilt that I used a high loft comfort batting in. It quilted beautifully! I really felt it was a superior batting compared to the thinner quilt bats, and the price was nearly identical. I originally thought I would be using this one with all my future charity quilts.

Wrestling a Rhino!
Trimming and Sewing Binding

The cotton batted quilt (top) was a cinch to trim off the extra batting, and I used one of my hand dyed fabrics to bind it. This would be similar to binding in a batik, and I recommend a fresh jeans needle for the tighter weave.

The second (middle) quilt using a thinner poly batting was also fairly easy, but still more difficult to trim accurately than the cotton batting. I used a 6.5" by 24" ruler and rotary cutter to keep accurate sides, but poly has a springy resistance as you push down on it. The binding was straight forward.

The bottom quilt was a nightmare. Yes, it was slightly larger in dimensions by a few inches, but the bulk was 3x's the others. The puffiness of the batting meant pressing that ruler down, and cutting and recutting to make sure I'd gotten through all the layers. Think lumpy marshmallows here. It was not accurate as hard as I tried. Scissors were impossible.

Sewing the binding on was equally difficult. I made up my mind that all the good thoughts for a charity quilt went out the window as I had so many bad ones while I bound it! At one point the edge was so difficult I used scissors at the machine to trim the batting back. Yep, I accidentally cut into the binding a bit. Keeping it all real and in perspective, I did not stop and replace the binding. I did sew over the nick several times to secure it from unraveling, and I moved on. It might not be the prettiest repair job, but it passes as very functional.

I'm thankful I didn't buy a whole roll of the thick comfort batting. I was exhausted when it was done. A medium to light batting is recommended if you are doing a lot of quilts or comforters. 

No Willy Nilly Here--Do Like with Like

Moving effectively through a stack of quilts means getting organized. If you have a stack of backings to figure or piece, do them all at one time. Bindings to cut? Do two or three. My ironing table is also where I put my cutting mat. If I need to iron a large piece of fabric, I remove the cutting mats, cutters, rulers, etc. Setting up the space once saves me precious time.

Put a Label On It! 

Oh, did I learn my lesson here. When I pulled out each of the quilt tops I'd carefully stored, the little pieces of paper fell back into the tub where they mixed with the others. I no longer knew which one measured what. My list was nowhere to be found, and I had to start over. This time I wrote each size down, and securely pinned it to each top.

Transferring Knowledge

I needed 5 backings yesterday as I matched up finished quilt tops, battings, and backings. I cut and laid each aside, and my phone rang. When the call was over, I wasn't quite sure which was which. Once again, I measured the two as there was a slight difference. This time I used a fabric pen to mark the selvage with both the name of the quilt top, and the backing dimensions.

And if you're curious, it doesn't show through the fabric on my heavier backing, and is waterproof. All my backings are washed before quilting to shrink evenly with the tops, and the ink stayed perfectly.

I'm off to sew, and promise I'll show you the many finishes as my design wall is cleared off. 

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Linda Swanekamp said...

Great words of hard fought wisdom. I have started to attach sizes and names of quilts with backing with pins, but your way is better and less likely for disaster.

Gretchen Weaver said...

When you use a thick comforter batting, you need to cut your binding wider, at least 3" or even 4". That helps to get the batting all tucked in the binding. I also sew the binding on the backside then turn to the topside and top stitch with my sewing machine. No hand stitching

Kate said...

Great tips!

Julie said...

Gretchen, you bring up a great point with binding width. That would have made sewing it on far easier, and I will stick that information in my brain for the next time. Do you have any suggestions for trimming down the edges of such a puffy quilt? That seemed to be my biggest struggle, even with stitching down the edges on my longarm. It sounds like you have good experience in this area.

Stitchin At Home said...

A great idea with marking the edge. What brand of marking pen is it?