Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hey, Rebecca! This Is How You Prepare Your Quilt Backings! Reminders To Myself for Next Time

The flying geese arcs for my son's graduation quilt are coming along nicely.  39 are finished, and 9 more are needed.  Each paper pieced arc of geese is taking approximately an hour and a half to two hours to complete.  So this week, even before I finish piecing those arcs, I think I need to start cutting out the purple background fabric and working out the kinks of the curved piecing required to turn these arcs of geese into quilt blocks.

This Week's Accomplishments, Bagged, Labeled and Ready for Quilting
But meanwhile, I had some loose ends to tie up with other projects in progress.  Quilt backings!  Remember last week's post, where I said I "just" needed to press, cut into lengths, and seam the backing fabric for my pineapple log cabin quilt?  HAHAHA!!!  How easily I forget how challenging it is to wrestle with accurately measuring and cutting such long pieces of fabric.  It reminds me of trying to make drapery panels, without the help of the giant worktables in a drapery workroom.

I wasted a good hour consulting all of my different quilt books, my APQS Millennium manual and beginner's class notes, etc., trying to remember how much bigger the backing needed to be than the quilt top, whether the seam should be pressed to one side or pressed open, etc.  To save time on future projects, I'm going to be recording all of that information in this post where I can find it more quickly next time around.

  • Quilt Top Size + 12" Added to Each Dimension is My Ideal Backing Size.  
  • Quilt Top Size + 8" Added to Each Dimension is My Minimum Backing Size for Longarm Quilting.  
  • Canvas Leaders on my 12' APQS Millennium Quilting Frame Measure 131 1/2"
  • 126" is the Largest Quilt Top I Can Load on My 12' Frame

For my 120" x 120" pineapple log cabin top, I'm using a 45" wide fabric so I'll need three full fabric widths for my backing.  I did NOT prewash the backing fabric this time (due to the unwashed yardage and unwashed jelly roll strips used in the quilt top) and I wanted to cut it into 130" lengths to give me an extra 5" on all sides of the quilt (quilt top + 10") when I load it onto my longarm frame.  My canvas leaders on the 12' frame are only about 132" long, so this is pretty much my max size.  

I wanted the backing lengths to be exactly the same length so there would be no easing of one panel to the next (which would increase the opportunity for ugly puckers or pleats to form in the backing during quilting).  And I wanted my backing to be perfectly square and perfectly on grain, again because the more "perfect" I can make my backing, the LESS trouble I will have loading it straight and quilting it successfully.

Pattern Weights Hold Yardage In Place While I Measure Where to Make the Cut
So I tore the fabric to get straight of grain edges.  And I measured my 130" lengths by smoothing a length of fabric down the edge of my 97" table, marking the 97" point with a pin, and then shifting the fabric down another 33" to the place where I needed to snip and tear the fabric.  This worked well; when I pinned the lengths of fabric prior to seaming them, they were virtually the exact same length.  

Measuring 130 inch Lengths of Fabric on a 97 Inch Table
Needless to say, just cutting my yardage into the three panels I needed for the backing took a lot longer than I thought it would when I said "I just need to cut the backing fabric into lengths and seam them together."  

Pinning Backing Lengths for Seaming, Selvages Still Attached
Once I'd cut my backing into three equal lengths, I pinned them together along the selvage edges prior to seaming them.  Why?  Because of past experiences seaming long lengths of unpinned fabric together and the feed dogs ever so slightly shifting the bottom layer along faster than the top layer, that's why.  Dual feed helps with that, a walking foot helps with that, but the only 100% foolproof way to sew a 130" long seam without the layers shifting is to pin them together!  I leave the selvages on until after sewing the seams because my goal is a perfectly straight seam, and the selvages give me a very stable, straight edge from which to measure my seam line.  Selvage widths vary slightly from one fabric to another, so I set up my seam guide (this is the guide that screws into the bed of my machine) so that my seamline is approximately a half inch inside the selvage.  Yet another reason I prefer this seam guide to the ones that are attached to the presser foot itself -- I can use it for any width seam allowance, not just 1/4".  

Seaming Backing Panels with Seam Guide, Selvages Still Attached

  • Seam Backing Panels with Matching Thread, 50/3 or 50/2 Cotton, Using Piecing Straight Stitch #1326 (Stitch Length 2.0, or 10-12 stitches per inch) and Half Inch Seam Allowance. That's because, once pressed open, the thread may show in the seam.

After seaming the backing panels together, I trim away the selvages with my rotary cutter and acrylic ruler before pressing the seams open.  I experimented with using the pinking blade rotary cutter for this step, thinking it might make for a softer ridge at the edges of the seam allowances, but the pinking blade kept skipping even though it was a brand new blade.  I decided the straight cut works just fine.

Trimming Backing Selvages AFTER Seaming Panel Lengths
All of this prep work paid off with smooth, straight seams and a square, flat, appropriately sized backing.  

Trimmed and Pressed Open
The backing SEAMS measure exactly 130", but the pieced backing measures about 132" in the direction that is perpendicular to the seams -- three widths of fabric minus two seam allowances.  The backing will be loaded onto the longarm frame with the seams parallel to the roller bars so that backing seams are not wrapping around the rollers and building up bulk.  That means that I'll be pinning straight selvage edges to my canvas edges (snipping the selvage every few inches to relax the tighter weave) and the couple of extra inches of backing will be in the length of the backing rather than the width.  This is a good thing -- I do NOT want to get the end of quilting this monster only to realize that the backing is too short for the quilt!

Once I'd seamed the backing, pressed seams open, and given the entire backing a final pressing, I had to enlist my husband's help to get it folded and onto a hanger for storage.  I use the pants hangers we get from the dry cleaners for smaller quilts, but for the pineapple quilt top and its backing I needed to use the larger hangers that the dry cleaner gave me when I brought my linen tablecloths in to be cleaned.  

Just as I did with the binding kick I was on a few days prior, I got other backing fabrics ready for quilting while I was in Backing Mode.  My Modern Baby Clam Shell quilt is only going to measure 40" x 40", so that backing just needed to be pressed, folded on the hanger, and bagged with the binding strips and binding thread.

Pressing Baby Clam Backing for Storage; (Vintage Repair Top on Wall Behind)
The vintage quilt repair backing got prewashed in HOT water (since the fabrics in the quilt top have been subjected to so many washings over the years), pressed, seamed, folded and bagged with the binding strips and binding thread.

Vintage Quilt Backing Seamed and Ready to Load

And I attempted to do the same thing with the backing fabric for my Jingle quilt top, only to discover that I had nowhere near enough of that fabric to back that quilt with it!  Aargh!  

This Will Not Be My Jingle Backing Fabric, After All!
Well, better to find that out NOW rather than waiting until the day I hope to start quilting it, right?  I found a replacement 108" wide backing fabric for my 72" x 72" Jingle quilt, ordered 2 1/4 yards of it and prewashed it in the Sanitation cycle of my washing machine to shrink it as much as humanly possible.  All of the blocks and fabrics in the Jingle quilt top had to be repeatedly soaked in boiling hot water with Dawn dish soap to get all of the bleeding dye out, so I wanted to make sure that my backing had the opportunity to do all of its shrinking ahead of time, too.
New 108" Wide Backing Fabric for Jingle Quilt 
This will be fine.  Jingle was always meant for wall display, so no one is going to be looking at the backing fabric anyway.

So now, when I look in my guest bedroom closet, this is what I see:
These Are All Ready for Quilting!
There are three completed quilt tops in this closet that are neatly bagged along with everything needed to load them on the longarm and start quilting: Paint Me a Story, Jingle, and Pineapple Nostalgia.  There is also backing prepared and binding strips cut for the Vintage Repair quilt and the Modern Baby Clam Shell.  Everything is tagged with sizes and notes about batting, color matched binding thread is included with each one, too (I always forget that I'm going to want a strong, construction-weight matching thread for sewing down the binding) and even preliminary quilting thread selections for a couple of them.  Knowing that I have these projects ready to quilt and waiting for me when I return from Paducah Quilt Week in April feels really good -- I'm going to want to reinforce all of the new skills I've learned in my workshops, and I'm all set to do that by quilting real quilts, not just practice samples!

My To-Dos for Tuesday are:

  • Finish piecing the remaining nine flying geese arcs for Lars's Geese In Circles graduation quilt, which is due at my church office exactly two months from today (yikes!)
  • Cut out the curved purple background sections for all 48 blocks of Lars's quilt
  • Start removing foundation papers and piecing the blocks

Grad Quilt In Progress: Foundation Pieced Arced Flying Geese with Binding and Backing Fabrics
My 72 x 96 XL Twin Design for Lars's Geese In Circles Quilt
I really, really would like to have this top completely pieced before I head to Paducah on Easter Monday, which would give me all of May to get it quilted, labeled and bound in time for the May 26th deadline.  Wish me luck!

I'm linking up with:


·       To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: http://stitchallthethings.com


·      Midweek Makers at www.quiltfabrication.com/
·      WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com


Needle and Thread Thursday at http://www.myquiltinfatuation.blogspot.com/


Esther Aliu said...

Gorgeous fabrics. I always find I'm pricking my fingers when I use pins, so I now opt for glue to keep the fabric together until I get on the machine, it works for me and saves me lots of pin drama.

chrisknits said...

Whew! I am tired just reading about your backing marathon! Good luck on reaching your piecing goals on Lars' quilt!

Rebecca Grace said...

Great idea, using glue instead of pins! I glue when I’m matching up binding strips or other small fiddly things, but for some reason it never occurred to me to try glue for long lengths of fabric. And when I have several yards of pinned fabric folded up in my lap, not only to the pins prick ME but they also tend to snag on the fabric while I’m sewing. Thanks for the suggestion, Esther!

Rebecca said...

I am not sure from reading your post how you did it but I thought I would share with you how I now sew way long (or even short ) backing pieces of the same fabric together.

When I get the first length measured I then fold it together from the top down .... match the the salvage on the long sides and see up from the bottom raw edges to the fold at the top and then split it across the top of the wof.
Dose that make sense to you?

SJSM said...

What a machine you are! You have accomplished a lot since your last post. Having all your backing info in your blog will be a convenient way to located the needed information next time. I keep a hand written journal on my projects with an index. It isn’t nearly as fast to locate the information as your blogging journal. You prepare "kits" much like I do when I need to put something away for awhile. I use clear boxes and not hangers as my space is laid out differently. Can’t wait to see what you accomplish over the next week or so.

Christine Slaughter said...

I feel like I just went through a week of backing preparation with you...LOL! Okay, maybe not, but that is some intense work and you got it all done! That has to be an incredible feeling, knowing that part of the work is out of the way and these are ready to go! And it is fantastic that now you can put all of your focus on the graduation quilt, with no other to-do items lingering in the back of you mind!

Ramona said...

Yay! for your progress made on Lars' quilt. I'm excited to see it come together. Great idea to have the quilt top, backing, binding and thread all together in one place. I usually make the binding after the quilt has been quilted and often find that I've used the intended fabric for something else. :( Happy Quilting!

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca! What a nice newsy post. I feel like I was preparing that backing fabric right along with you, and what great tips you shared with me (us) as we went along. I had fun, and I love how you hang the quilts in waiting, with their binding and appropriate thread. It ensures that something doesn't get used for a project that it wasn't meant for. ~smile~ Roseanne