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Monday, 30 July 2012

Assembling a quilt

Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar*

Perhaps it's just me but the closer I get to the end of a project, the more likely I am to spoil it, usually because I can't wait to see the finished product. But when you've devoted time and care to making a quilt top, it's a shame if messy assembly of the layers lets the over all look of a piece down. With this in mind I tried to finish off my Star quilt properly, by taking my time, and thinking about what I should do, rather than just rushing ahead and doing it.

Below is how I joined my quilt sections together.
  1. I didn't quilt too close to the edge of the individual quilt sandwiches, as it would have meant some inevitable unpicking when sewing the top sections together.
  2. Debulk! While it makes sense to have backing fabric and wadding an inch or so bigger all round than the mini quilt tops, trimming some of the excess before you sew them together makes for a flatter, smoother join. Basically, where two sections joined, I cut the edge of one sandwich so all layers were the same (leaving the other sides alone). On the adjoining section I made sure the quilt top and wadding were the same but left an excess of 1.5 inches of the backing fabric.
  3. Making sure all waddings and backing fabrics were out of the way, I joined the quilt tops together leaving a 1/8 inch seam allowance. 
  4. Afterwards, I turned the sections over and smoothed the waddings towards each other, snipping away any bulky bits then pressed everything flat.
  5. To cover the join, I folded the excess 1.5 inches of backing fabric under, in half, and gently pulled it towards the other section, until it was taut, but not so taut that it made the top layers bow. I hand sewed the backing fabric in place and gave it another press.


  1. I like to make my bindings before they are needed, mainly because I love making bias binding. It makes me ridiculously happy to see stacks of neatly coiled bindings–possibly because they remind me of liquorice spirals, which were one of my favourite childhood sweets.
  2. Since the top edge of the quilt is the part that gets most wear, and will more likely need replacing, attach the side bindings first. Trim them so they are the same length as the rest of the quilt.
  3. The top and bottom bindings should be an inch or so wider than the quilt. If machine sewing in place, stop a half inch short from the quilt edge, leaving a long tail of thread for the final bit of hand sewing. Then, as shown in the photos below, turn the binding ends under until they marry up with the rest of the quilt edge. Finally, hand sew in place.

I hope you find some of these tips useful. If you have any tips of your own that you don't mind sharing, I'd love to hear from you.


PS: * I'd always assumed this was an old boating proverb, but according to the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs "ship is a dialectal pronunciation of sheep, and the original literal sense of the proverb was 'do not allow sheep to die for the lack of a trifling amount of tar', tar being used to protect sores and wounds on sheep from flies". So I've learnt something, and I still think it's an apt saying for striving to do things properly.

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