I like to have lots of different projects going at different stages at the same time, so I always have something interesting to work on. But sometimes there’s a bottleneck, and I have a bunch of projects that are all at the same step. That’s what has been happening to me lately – a pile-up of quilts just waiting to be bound.
For years and years, I bound all of my quilts with a double-fold binding machine-sewn first to the front of the quilt, and then wrapped around and hand-sewn to the back of the quilt. I love the beautiful, clean finish this method provides, but it does take time! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives. (I know I could always just straight-stitch the binding; but I find it can be tricky to keep absolutely perfectly lined up with the edge of the binding, and I’m not especially crazy about how it looks.)
But not every quilt needs a piped binding (faux or otherwise), and my collection of quilts waiting for bindings was piling up. So I returned to another technique I’ve experimented with before – sewing the double-fold binding first to the BACK of the quilt, and then wrapping the binding around the the front, and stitching it down with my favorite “invisible” machine applique technique.
Here’s what it looks like:
UPDATE 9/17/21 – I have recently switched to using a strip width of 2 1/4 and find that I generally prefer the slightly narrower look 🙂
UPDATE 9/17/21 – I have recently switched to using a stitch width of 2.0 and am finding it much easier on my eyes 🙂
And that’s how I’m catching up with my pile of quilts waiting for bindings. 🙂
Registration is through the Wyoming, Michigan Lakeshore Sewing store – 616-531-5561.
And now back to Facings. 🙂
My sewing machine has been getting a workout! I’ve been in full-on production mode with even more projects than usual in-progress at the same time. As I’ve been working, one of the techniques I’ve been exploring is different ways to finish the outer edges of my quilts.
I always finish my utility quilts (bed quilts, cuddle quilts, throws, etc.) with a sturdy French Fold Binding, as the binding is often the first area to start to show wear on a quilt that is getting lots of use.
But when it comes to art quilts, wall hangings, table runners, or other smaller items, there are other options. One of these is a facing. Facings are a great alternative when you don’t want to cut off or confine the design with a binding. There are lots of different ways to approach facings for a quilt; but after quite a bit of experimentation, I have found what works best for me. And even better – there’s a link to free printable instructions near the end of this post!
All of the methods I tried were similar in that they involved sewing strips to the front of the quilt and then pulling the fabric around to the back of the quilt to create a finished edge. All of the methods also called for hand-sewing the fabric strips to the back of the quilt. The main differences were in how the fabric strips were prepared and how the corners of the quilt were handled.
The first method I tried involved sewing folded triangles to the corners, which, when you flip them to the back of the quilt, create “pockets” in which you can insert a hanging rod. You can read more about this method in this tutorial by Robbie Joy Eklow on the We All Sew site.
I ran into a problem, though. I think this method would have worked really well for a much smaller art quilt, but my quilted wall hangings were too large to be well supported by just the two pockets at the corners. I needed to add an additional hanging sleeve. I also wasn’t crazy about how much extra bulk the folded triangles added at the corners of the quilt, or about how they tended to stretch out and slightly distort the upper corners of my Snowflake quilt so that the edges aren’t hanging perfectly straight in the photo below.
So I don’t know that I’ll do the folded triangle corners again. I also prefer to further eliminate some of the bulk of the strips used at the top, bottom, and sides by using this method (free printable instructions) from Susan Brubaker Knapp. Please note that Susan gives express permission for this free handout to be distributed.Check out her site for more great eye candy, info, & free tutorials – including one for Mitered Facings.
Whichever method you choose, I strongly recommend Wonder Clips instead of pins to hold everything in place – you’ll be working through a lot of layers!
This is the exact link I’ve used to purchase 4 sets of these AWESOME clips.
The October Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts and the Midnight Bite Sew Along (#MidnightBiteSAL) from Lillyella Stitchery offered me a fun opportunity to go outside my comfort zone this month.
The Midnight Bite pattern bundle has 3 sizes of each of two different patterns – a bat and a spider. I opted to make the Wicked Weaver, which is also available as an individual pattern. Admittedly, spiders aren’t usually my thing, but I thought it would be a interesting challenge.
When I made my fantasy butterfly this summer (from the Take Wing pattern also by Lillyella Stitchery), the only part of the process that I definitely did not enjoy was removing the paper foundations after the stitching was complete. What a pain! Trying to get all the little bits of paper out from underneath the small stitches – without putting too much strain on the stitches – is not my cup of tea. Which was frustrating, because after years of avoiding foundation piecing, I felt like I’d finally hit my groove and figured out a method for foundation piecing that I find straightforward and satisfying.
Just like other foundation papers I have used in the past, these sheets ran though my printer with no problems. But that’s where the similarities ended.
First of all these sheets are translucent, which makes it so much easier to line up the seam allowances perfectly on the underside of the paper while sewing on top of the paper.
(Side note – I don’t precut exact shapes when I foundation piece, but I do measure the average width of the shapes – plus seam allowances – and cut strips of fabric accordingly. This minimizes waste, but still saves lots of time over precutting exact shapes.)
Secondly, it was also easy for me to fold the paper back before sewing each seam and see through to the fabric, making sure that the fabric would completely cover the appropriate shape after the seam was sewn.
I once again used 60 wt. Bottom Line thread in both the top and bobbin of my machine, but didn’t need to shorten my stitch length – which made it much easier to “sew in reverse” when I wasn’t paying close enough attention and sewed a piece out of order.
And best of all, the “paper” is actually a non-woven stabilizer than can be either torn away cleanly or (HURRAH!!!) left in the quilt.
The pattern was just for the spider itself. I improvised a quilt-as-you-go setting and added some decorative stitching to up the “ick” factor and make my spider “hairy”. I finished it off with a flanged binding.
And now to the topic at hand – foundation piecing (also called foundation paper piecing) is a great technique for achieving precise piecing and sharp points even with tiny pieces and fabric edges that are not on-grain. For this method, the pattern is printed (or traced) onto foundation paper. This paper acts as both a stabilizer and a stitching guide while the block is being constructed. When all of the pieced sections of the design have been joined together, the paper is carefully torn away from the underside of the quilt top.
I purchased the pattern right away, but then had to set it aside for a bit because I already had too many irons in the fire. But when the August Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts arrived, I knew immediately just what I wanted to make! Continue Reading…
What is a flange binding? It’s a great no-hand-sewing option for finishing quilts with a sturdy double fold binding while adding a fun design element to the outer edges of your quilt.
Church Window quilt by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.
With only a few exceptions, I’ve always bound my quilts by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, and then wrapping the binding around to the back of the quilt and sewing it down by hand. I expect that I will always finish my show and “heirloom” quilts this way, but I have been thinking for quite a while about how I can speed up the process for utility quilts. Especially now that I’ve become enthralled with sew-alongs, the number of quilts in the to-be-finished pile is growing, and I’m finding it challenging to keep up with myself!
I’d done some experimenting, but had not settled on a method I was entirely happy with, when a couple of the ladies at the Muskegon Lakeshore Sewing store told me about the flange binding method demonstrated by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.
I was so impressed! The finished binding looks like it has been accented with fine piping – adding a fun design element at the same time as offering a relatively quick machine-sewing finish.
Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a number of different ways to achieve this effect. I’m going to share what works for me – but please remember, this is only 1 of the many ways to do this. 🙂
There is quite a bit of preparation for this method, but I find that each step is an important factor in ensuring a hassle-free result at the end.
Ronan “assisting” me with binding prep – he was escorted upstairs shortly after this and remained banished for the rest of the process.
Cascade II from Colorwash Bargello Quilts by Beth Ann Williams, quilted and pinned to the design wall, ready for a sleeve and binding
It actually only took me about 2 1/2 hours cumulatively to complete the all-over free-motion quilting, but I had to break the time up into smaller increments so as to not overtax my body – taking into account MS, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, chronic pain & peripheral neuropathy (among other things). Whew!
I’ve squared up the quilt and cut off the excess batting and backing fabric. Before I add the binding, I’m going to add a hanging sleeve. Typically, hanging sleeves are at least partially, if not completely, hand-sewn, but I developed my own methods so as to spare some of the wear and tear on my hands. It’s also super quick to do. 🙂
Note: I included this method in my book, Colorwash Bargello Quilts, as well as the more traditional way to add a formal sleeve. I use this easy sleeve on almost all of my quilts, whether they are teaching samples, personal quilts, or art quilts.
Easy (No Hand-Sewing) Sleeve:
Measure the width of the longest border at the upper end of the quilt (or longest horizontal seam near the top of the quilt). Double this measurement, and add 3/8″ to determine the width of your sleeve. In this case, the border measures 4″ wide, so I’ll cut the sleeve 8 3/8″ wide.
Measuring the width of the upper border (I’m working with the quilt upside-down)
I’ve layered my quilt top, Hobb’s Heirloom Fusible Batting, and backing fabric, and fused the layers together. It’s a little unusual, but when I use fusible batting, I like to rough cut my batting about 2″ bigger all around than the quilt top and the backing fabric about 4″ bigger all around than the quilt top. This allows me to wrap the extra backing fabric around to the front and cover up the exposed batting – which helps keep the heat-activated adhesive in the batting from getting on my iron when I press around the outer edges of the quilt. (This extra fabric and batting gives me something to hold onto when stitching close to the edges of the quilt.)
When I use fusible batting, I like to wrap extra backing fabric around to the front to cover up the exposed batting. No worries if it looks messy – it will all get cut off when I’m finished quilting.
I’ve decided to go with the variegated pastel Rainbows thread as my top thread and pale yellow Bottom Line in my bobbin. I’m using a Schmetz Embroidery needle, size 80, as this particular spool is one of the very early batches of this thread, and is a little more delicate than later versions. The Embroidery needle has a groove on the shaft that will help reduce friction on the thread, and therefore reduce the possibility of fraying or breakage.
On a quilt like this, I usually start on one corner and work my way across the quilt.
The quilt top is complete, and as I discussed in my previous post, I’ve decided to free-motion quilt this project. I’m raring to get started! I’m leaning towards a variegated thread that has a nice sheen. Although you don’t usually notice the color of the thread used for the quilting until you are right up close, it can have significant impact on the finished quilt.
A quick refresher for a few of my readers who aren’t quilters:
A “quilt” is traditionally composed of 3 layers: quilt top (which may be pieced together, appliquéd, or whole-cloth), the batting (I’ll be using 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom Cotton batting), and the backing fabric.
“Quilting” refers to the stitching (by hand or machine) that is done to hold the 3 layers together.
“Free-motion” quilting refers to dropping the feed dogs (the feed dogs are what normally moves the fabric through the sewing machine as you sew) and creating a design by moving the fabric manually (kind of like drawing on paper, except in this case, the pencil/machine is stationary and the paper/fabric is what moves).
A few of my personal observations about my thread choices:
I like thread with a bit of shine! In my early days, I often used rayon thread, but I switched to high-quality trilobal polyester threads such as Isacord, Rainbows, and Fantastico (the latter 2 are from Superior Threads) as they became available. These newer threads have beautiful sheen, are reliably colorfast, virtually lint-free, and are much less likely to shred or break while you are stitching. (Note: you may still get lint build-up in your machine from your batting and backing, as well as from your bobbin thread, if you are using cotton.)
I like the subtle sheen this thread adds to the quilt. The pastel color changes show up a little better in person than they do on camera.
I especially enjoy variegated thread – especially brands such as Rainbows or Fantastico, both of which change color every inch.
The quilt top is complete, and I’m considering my options for machine quilting the quilt top, batting, and backing together.
There are no rules about how best to quilt a bargello quilt, only preferences.
Sometimes I feel that adding a lot of free-motion quilting might distract from the power and clarity of the design.
In those cases, I usually opt for clear MonoPoly thread in my needle and a walking foot (or even-feed foot) on my machine and hide the stitching “in the ditch” between the vertical rows.Fire on the Savannah from Colorwash Bargello Quilts is a good example of this – you can’t see the quilting on the front of the quilt unless you examine it extremely closely.
Another “in the ditch” alternative is to stair-step the quilting, following the design line.
Close-up of the backside of a version of Cascade from Colorwash Bargello Quilts made by Sandy Harvey. Note the “stair-step” quilting along every third fabric in the vertical rows. This stitching is hidden “in the ditch” on the front of the quilt.
At other times, I deliberately use lots of free-motion quilting with highly visible thread (and a free-motion foot) to add an additional design element to the quilt. You may not notice the quilting from a distance, but it can be a fun surprise when you get up close! I also like to use the color of the thread as an additional unifying element in the quilt – the subtle sheen or veil of color it creates across the surface of the quilt can help reinforce a cohesive impression of the design as a unified whole rather than emphasizing individual colors or pieces of fabric.
Here are some close-ups of the free-motion machine quilting on some of my bargello quilts: