Although I’ve nearly completed the quilting on the star quilts, I thought I’d share some pictures of how I work the the edge of the basted layers before quilting. Once I’ve pinned out the three separate layers on top of each other (it’s just like making a big quilty sandwich on your carpet) I then baste the layers together with a cheap cotton thread. I know some people use quilting safety pins but I prefer to hand baste with thread as I find it gives me the best results. It’s a bit hard going on the knees and back when you are basting anything big but these quilts are quite small so the only pain came from trying to remove Bernard who insists on stretching out and doing paddy paws whenever fabric (or a blankets) is laid on the floor.
For the star quilts I marked out my pattern in sections as I went along, once the patchwork and layers had all been basted together, for smaller projects I find it is easier to mark the pattern out first.
If you’re interested, this is how I marked out a baptist fan pattern when I made a little cosy for a new computer last Summer.
Anyway, once all the layers are held securely together, I then chose where I am going to begin my quilting. Most quilting works best if you start in the middle of your basted layers, the layers and lumpy bumpy bits smooth out as you work outwards. However, when I am quilting a baptist fan style pattern, then I find the design flows better if I work out from one corner. So the based layer sits comfortably in my quilting hoop, the edges of the quilt need to be extended, and for this I use a couple of strips of old curtain lining or calico. Using reasonably small stitches, the calico needs to sewn to about a cm (or just over 1/4 of an inch) from the edge of the top patchwork. Sew the calico through the wadding and the back fabric. Personally I like to then sew another line of tacking to hold the edge of the backing fabric in place, it makes the edge of the basted fabrics a bit more secure to work with.
As the star quilts aren’t huge (30 by 42 ish inches) I’ve sewn the extra calico along the bottom and also along the left side of the quilt (I’m starting at that side)…if you are making a big quilt then you may prefer to only sew the extra fabric along half the bottom and half the side, making sure the corner is supported by fabric on both sides. (Then as the area is quilted you can un-pick the calico and move it along to the next area where you are working….when I’m working big myself, I like to baste the calico the whole length of the bottom but then secure it only to half a side at a time.)
I’ve sewn spare fabric along the right side too but only once I’d sewn a couple of layers of quilting, I stopped about 8 inches from the right hand edge and then made sure the layers weren’t bunching up before basting on the extra calico.
Once you’ve sewn on the extra fabric to the bottom and side, you can place your basted layer into your quilting hoop and you’ll find it much easier to quilt the edges and corners now that they are supported by the additional calico.
The quilt hoop I like to use is 14 inches wide (as most quilt supplies are from America they are all in inches rather than cm’s but this is comes in at about 35 cm’s)…….I’ve got a bigger one but I just find it’s a bit bulky and prefer to use this smaller hoop. I try to only quilt in the central section of my hoop, it’s always tempting to try and work as much as you can, but the fabric is likely to pucker and your stitching will get too tight, so once you are within an inch of the hoops circumference, stop, undo the hoop and move it along so you can continue quilting.
The spare calico sewn to the sides needs to be a decent width, at least 8 inches, and I think mine is about a foot, it makes for much easier quilting, and the basted layers sit better in the hoop when there isn’t only an inch or so of fabric peeping out the edge of the hoop.
Some books I’ve read suggest that the basted layers sit in the hoop taut like a drum, I like a little give myself, but I don’t want it all saggy either. I was going to say “a few years ago” but when I stop and think about it, it’s more like 15 and I’m thinking now where did all that time go…….anyway, I used to quilt at a friend’s house on a Wednesday morning and as she was in a quilting group elsewhere as where, a couple of those ladies would from time to time come round and quilt as well…..each of them had their own way of putting a quilt in a hoop, some liked it super taut, others a little less so, some ladies would push their hands underneath and give the basted layers a bit of a wallop so it pushed up. No way is really right or wrong, it’s all about finding what is comfortable for you to make your stitches when you quilt. (I find if the layers are too tight it’s a bit hard for my needle to glide along in and out through the layers smoothly, when it’s too loose the needle seems to stick and ends up making my hand and fingers proper ache at the end of a quilting session…getting the tension of the layers just right is similar to setting the tension right in a sewing machine, although with hand sewing the tension is what is right for you rather than a machine…hope that makes sense)