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SPN quilt, part 7

It's back! I have been making progress on the quilt, but I keep forgetting to get the photos off of my camera. *facepalm* Well, here they are, and today's installment explains what makes a quilt a quilt.

First off, here's the completed, pieced top. The border fabric is the only part of it you haven't seen before, plus the little additions in the corners. :)




What makes a quilt a quilt, no matter what material it's made out of, what size it is, or whether it goes on a bed or hangs on the wall, is that it is made of three layers. There's the top, which can be pieced or appliqued or a combination of both, or it can even be one whole piece of cloth. There's a middle layer of some sort; if it's a light-weight quilt, it can be as thin as a sheet, but it's usually cotton or polyester batting. Then there's the backing. This can be a single fabric that matches the front (or doesn't match!), a combination of leftover fabrics from the front (which is what I often do), or something more artistic. The three layers are then sewn together, or quilted. This hides the backside of the pieced quilt top and provides extra layers for warmth, which is what a quilt is for, after all!

The quilting design can be as simple as "stitch-in-the-ditch," following the lines of the quilt blocks and stitching along the little valley between pieces. Or it can enhance the block design by filling in blank spaces or drawing attention to certain parts of the design. Or it can be an all-over pattern that complements the block design but doesn't work with it directly. Depending on whether I'm quilting by hand (which I only did once, and holy cow did that take a long time), with my own sewing machine (which is only easy for quilts that are lap-sized or smaller because your standard home sewing machine doesn't have a deep throat, and yes, that is the actual term), or with a longarm machine (explanation below), I've tried all of these quilting methods. For this one, I decided on a simple freehand pattern that wouldn't get in the way of the quilt blocks but would complement some of the fabrics.

So how does one put these three layers together? One way is to spread out the layers one at a time on a large table or the floor, first the backing frontside down, then the batting, and then the quilt top, being very careful not to have any wrinkles or folds in any of them (which is basically impossible), and then pinning the layers together with a huge number of large safety pins. I have actually thrown out my back kneeling on the floor pinning quilt layers together. D: This is the reason why until recently, I had about 5 finished quilt tops at home that remained unquilted.

Then, I discovered that a local quilt shop has a longarm quilting machine that they rent out and help you use. Woo-hoo! For about a year now, I've been taking my quilt tops over to use Andrea's machine, in part because she's a cool person and in part because she's super generous in terms of the time for which she charges me.

The process involves pinning the back of the quilt onto heavy muslin that's wrapped around the rollers of the machine:


The grey thing looming over the top of the fabric is the sewing machine. The quilt back gets pinned, top and bottom, to rollers which are then cranked to pull the fabric taut (that's what Andrea is doing on the far side). The batting gets laid out over the backing; there's no need to pin it down since it's going to be stitched into place. Then the top is pinned on: the first pic shows you what the backside of the top looks like with all of the seams and everything:


And here it is, all ready to go. The batting is what's hanging down at the bottom, and it'll get picked up as we make progress on the quilt and move the rollers along.


If you want to do completely freehand designs, you face the quilt like in the pic above and use the handles to guide the sewing machine (only one is visible above). The machine has a stitch regulator, which means there's no pedal to hold down like on a regular sewing machine; once you start moving the handles, the needle starts moving automatically and adjusts its speed to keep up with how fast you're moving. So the stitches are always the same size.

Anyway, I did freehand loops to mimic the rope in the background fabric. Here's an action shot. :)


And now the quilting is done! I still have to put on the binding, which means covering over the raw edges of the quilt with a strip of folded-under fabric. Then there's one more special touch to add. ;)

I've decided to raffle off the quilt at Wincon. So if you're going to attend, you'll get to see the finished product! If not, I'll still post more pics of the whole thing once it's done. Thanks for reading along with me!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)

Seriously, so amazing!
Oct. 18th, 2012 11:51 am (UTC)
Good luck to you! ;)
Oct. 7th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I had no idea there were quilting machines available to the public like that! It's awesome -- and I *love* your quilt!!!
Oct. 18th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
I was so thrilled when I found that one, because at over $10K a pop, there's no way to get one for home use unless you're going to make a career out of it!
Oct. 8th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
That is so fucking cool! I've got relatives who quilt, so I understand it in theory, but I've never heard of or seen a longarm machine, and I am in love. All the more reason to start learning to quilt.

I will fill your raffle cup, my dear. FILL IT.
Oct. 18th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
Ha ha, I've infected you with the quilting bug. I mean, yay, another potential quilter!
Oct. 8th, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
I love the way the quilt turned out. The blacktop border caps it off perfectly and there is PIE. That finishing machine is just amazing. Thanks for putting those pictures up. I've never seen anything like this. I've really enjoyed watching the progress on this and have learned quite a bit. What are you doing next?
Oct. 18th, 2012 11:55 am (UTC)
Yay, pie! I was originally going to include more, but I think it's good being tucked away in the corners.

Glad you've enjoyed it! I have (*pauses to count*) two wall hangings and three quilt tops in various stages of construction, plus the two apple-themed quilt tops that are small enough I should just quilt them in my home machine. Lots to do, that's for sure!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )