Zen Studio Quilt Along - Week 7 - Catch Up and Quilting






Welcome Back!!  I hope you've had a great week and are ready to add the cherry on top of this quilty cake.  This week is catch up and quilting.  Everyone has little things that creep up and throw your schedule way off, and I'm no exception.  So, let's get down to it and finish this baby up!


I chose a Kona Cotton Solid Lilac for my backing.  I felt like this wonderfully scrappy quilt top had enough going on that a solid back was the way to go. I was able to use a single cut of fabric for the lap size quilt and still have some overage on the sides.  This works because I am quilting this on a table top sewing machine and not a long-arm. 
When sending a quilt to a long-arm quilter, you will typically need about 4" overage on all sides of the backing, so you'll most likely need to piece some fabric together.  Another tip for your backing when sending off to be quilted is to piece your backing so that it has a vertical seam.  This will help keep your backing even on the rollers and reduce tension on the seam.  If you piece it horizontally, there would be constant tension on that seam as it's pulled across the rollers.


Ok, I have a confession.  I don't baste my quilts with too much emphasis on a tight flat backing.  I can't crawl around on the floor for too long and my neck and shoulders would scream at me if I tried.  I've merged a few different methods I've seen and have had great success. So, here's how it works
  • Press, Press, Press - I make sure I've starched and pressed my top and backing as flat as it will go. Usually pressing both sides
  • Fluff the batting - I use a cotton batting and throw it in the dryer on medium heat for about 20 minutes to get most of the wrinkles out
  • Save the Table - I place cutting mats on my table to protect it from the pins as they go through the fabric
  • Float the Backing - I lay my backing on the dining room table with the top edge of the backing lined up to the edge of my table.  I let the end hang off the other side of the table and smooth out the section on the table
  • Batting Up - I take the batting fresh from the dryer and line the top edge to the backing top edge.  I then take the bottom edge and loosely roll it up to the bottom edge of the table just before it would fall down the side. I then gently smooth out the batting starting at the top and working down the middle and then to the sides, making it as flat as possible
  • Top it Off-  I place the quilt top on top of the batting a few inches below the top edge of the batting and backing.  Just like the batting, I loosely roll up the bottom of the quilt top, but this time roll it up to the middle of the table top.  Then I gently smooth out the top working from the top to middle and work my way out to the sides.

  • Pin It Good - I use curved safety pins to baste my quilts. I pin a decent amount but I'm not overly abundant.  About the width of my hand is a good measure of how far apart my pins are.  I do pin more on the edges, about half that distance, to make sure they are stabilized well. Working in rows and starting in the middle and working to the sides
  • Roll and Unroll -  After I've completed a decent size section of pinning (usually 3-4 rows) I roll up the pinned side and unroll the other side.  I unroll the batting first and smooth it out and then unroll the top and gently smooth that out.  There should never be too much tension on either rolled side of the quilt.
  • After it's all pinned I cut off any excess there may be on the end be sure to keep a few inches of overage.


I tend to quilt straight lines that are offset from the seams.  That's just my style right now and it's great for beginner quilters.  Here's my process for quilting.

  • I use a large table space so my quilt can spread out and not get bunched up or hung up on something.
  • I always use a walking foot when straight line quilting. It's definitely worth the investment. The walking foot helps grab all that quilt sandwich and move it through the machine.
  • I currently use an all purpose 50wt thread (but am anxious to try 12wt)
  • Use a new needle!  This will almost undoubtedly reduce 99% of any of your tension problems before they start. I currently use a size 90/14 quilting needle for my machine and thread.
  • I adjust my tension and stitch length to about 4 on my Brother Sewing Machine
  • Always, Always, Always test your stitching on a scrap quilt sandwich.  You want to make sure everything is exactly how you want it before you start on your beautiful quilt.
  • I start by making a "basting stitch" along a short side of the quilt. This is about a 1/4" to 1/2" from the edge.  

  • I typically work starting at the right side and move my way to the left when straight line quilting.  I let the quilt float and don't start rolling the completed section until it becomes too much to easily push through the neck of the machine. (floating keeps tension off the un-quilted section and helps prevent puckering.
  • I usually quilt just off the side of the seam and usually on both sides of it. I don't like quilting directly on the seam or "in the ditch" for a couple reasons.  If you press your seams open, there's a possibility that you could break the seam in the piecing.  Also, it's very noticeable if you are not exactly in the ditch, and I know I am not a perfectly straight quilter.
  • I usually quilt on one side of the seam on the first pass to stabilize the quilt and then go back and add more if I want to quilt more dense.
  • I also remove the safety pins once I've completed a row on the other side of them.  This reduces weight and any chance of them catching on something.


 Well, there you have it.  I know my specific way of quilting is not for everyone, and I'm sure there are a lot of opinions on how it should be done (if you ask ten different quilters how to quilt, you'll get ten different answers)  The great thing about quilting is,  it is an art.  There are no finite rules on how to make your own beautiful unique piece of art.  Take what you've learned, and liked, and move forward with that.  It's an ongoing growing and learning process and everyone is going to come away with something a little different.  The most important thing is to remember to keep it fun and embrace any little "happy accident". 

Happy Quilting!


Thank You

I wanted to take a moment and thank you for joining in on the Zen Studio Quilt Along.  This was my first QAL and I've had a great time hosting.  You have been amazing in sharing your creations and keeping me inspired.  I truly appreciate you supporting my business, my quilt designs, and joining me in this process.

I also wanted to thank my sponsors Emily Jackson from Lemony Quilts and Janine Wallgren from Lil' Bean Quilting.  I have been awestruck by the support and kindness I've found in this community. Thank you for all of your generosity.

Bonus Blog

 Even though this is officially the last week of the QAL, I've decided that next week I'll add some extras on squaring up your quilt and binding.  Stay Tuned!



Emily Jackson
Instagram: @lemonyquilts  

Janine Wallgren
Instagram: @lilbeanquilting Etsy: www.lilbeanquilting.etsy.com  

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