Friday, January 11, 2008

QUILTING AND BACKS



First of all, isn't this the prettiest design for an overall edge-to-edge design? In helping my friend Linda come up with a possible quilting plan for a customer quilt, her request for an E2E pattern to go with the rest of the Gossamer Collection resulted in this design.

This was clearly a "slap me on the forehead" moment as this design grew from under my mouse. Using the elements common to the designs contained in the Gossamer collection as a foundation, this design just kind of fell into place. When I saw what the repeats looked like, I wondered, "Why didn't I think of that before?" I knew immediately I would be using it on a customer quilt waiting in the cupboard.

Yesterday I referenced the "dreaded tucks" that can sometimes magically (and I don't mean that in a good way) appear on the backings of our quilts with no warning. I wanted to share a few thoughts as to what I think are contributing factors to the tucks or pleats happening and welcome all comments and thoughts as to why you think tucks/pleats happen.

I remember, when I first started quilting with my first longarm machine, hearing about the importance of working with a backing that was square and straight. I asked everyone I knew as to what was the best way to square up a backing. Not many straight-forward answers to that question. So, by trial and error, I kept my fingers crossed and tried different methods.

I have noticed a significant decrease in the times tucks/pleats happen as I'm quilting - almost never (knock on wood) any more, but every once in a while. I get a surprise as I get ready to unload the quilt. One of the things I think has helped is how I prepare my quilt backings.
  1. My backings that are 8" longer and 8" wider than the total length/width of the quilt top.
  2. If I have to seam the backing, I create a seam with 1/2" seam allowance and I press the seam open.
  3. I tear all edges. I start with the first edge of the fabric and tear across giving me a straight edge across the width of the fabric.
  4. I measure from the torn edge to the desired length and tear again. I know now that I have the same measurement in length across the entire width of the fabric. I will continue in this manner until I have the number of lengths needed to equal the total length or width needed for the backing after it is seamed.
  5. Next, I remove all selvage edges. This will allow the edges inside the quilt to give with the movement and stresses put on the quilt in daily use and life. You know ... when he pulls the covers.
  6. You will notice the edges may be a little distorted. Steam them right back into shape with your iron and join the lengths together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Remember to press the seams open. 99% of the time this will give you a backing that is square and straight and ready for quilting on any machine - longarm, mid/short arm or domestic.

Since I,and my customers, too, have been preparing my backing this way, I rarely have tucks/pleats in the backs any more. I do advocate tearing when purchasing extra wide backing fabric. Customers bringing in backing with the extra wide fabric that has been cut most often have backings that are not square and barely fit the quilt top because of the overall shape of the backing. Frequently, these backs come into the studio in the shape of a parallelogram because they have been wound crooked on the bolt. If they won't tear for you in your local quilt shop, you will need to buy extra fabric just to be sure to have enough.

Some other thoughts about possible causes of tucks/pleats:

  • sticky batting - the backing fabric gets hung up on the batting causing a wrinkle
  • un-ironed backing fabric or backings with semi-permanent fold creases which are easily quilted into a tuck/pleat
  • quilting with the take-up bar riding too low on the bed of the machine causing the bed of the machine to push the fabric/batting around causing a pleat/tuck to be quilted in
  • saggy baggy backings with warps or distortions in the fabric; excess fabric folds in on itself causing a tuck/pleat (I will stuff batting scraps between the backing and the bar the backing bar to help keep an even tension on the backing fabric)

Add your comments and we'll have a pretty good problem solving list to help all of us banish the "dread" tucks/pleats once and for all. Also, do a google search with the words "squaring quilt backings." You will be amazed at all of the responses that come as a result of your search.

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