Definition of Quilting Quilting is a sewing method done either by hand, by sewing machine, or by a longarm quilting system. The process uses a needle and thread to join two or more layers of material together to make a quilt. Typical quilting is done with three layers: the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and backing material. The quilter's hand or sewing machine passes the needle and thread through all layers and then brings the needle back up. The process is repeated across the entire piece where quilting is wanted. A straight or running stitch is commonly used and these stitches can be purely functional or decorative and elaborate. Quilting is done on bed spreads, art quilt wall hangings, clothing, and a variety of textile products. Quilting can make a project thick, or with dense quilting, can raise one area so that another stands out.
While the majority of quilt tops are pieced from many smaller patches of fabric (patchwork quilts), in which the patterns of individual blocks, or the pattern created by combining the blocks is the emphasis, whole cloth quilts typically use a single, non-figural piece of fabric and the elaborate quilting is the emphasis. Polished chintz, sateen or other shiny fabrics are often used in whole cloth quilts to aid in emphasizing the intricately detailed quilting stitches.
Quilting is often combined with embroidery, patchwork, appliqué and other forms of needlework.
Quilt History There is a common belief that quilting originated for its utility rather than decoration. The origins of this method of craft are thought to be in the Crusades, when soldiers needed warmth as well as protection from the chafing caused by heavy armor. Additionally, there are ancient Egyptian sculptures showing figures which appear to be wearing clothing which is quilted, possibly for warmth in the chilly desert evenings. In the 14th century, the gambeson was a popular form of amour.
In American Colonial times most women were busy spinning, weaving and making clothing. Meanwhile women of the wealthier classes prided themselves on their fine quilting of wholecloth quilts with fine needlework. Quilts made during the early 1800s were not constructed of pieced blocks but instead whole cloth quilts. Broderie perse quilts and medallion quilts were made. Some antique quilts made in North America have worn-out blankets or older quilts as the internal batting layer, quilted between new layers of fabric and thereby extending the usefulness of old material.
During American pioneer days "paper" quilting became popular. Paper was used as a pattern and each individual piece of cut fabric was basted around the paper pattern. Paper was a scarce commodity in the early American west and women would save letters from home, newspaper clippings, and catalogs to use as patterns. The paper not only served as a pattern but as an insulator. The paper found between the old quilts has become a primary source of information about pioneer life. Quilts made without any insulation or batting were referred to as summer quilts. They were not made for warmth, only to keep the chill off on cooler summer evenings. Harriet Powers, a slave-born African American woman, made two famous story quilts. She was just one of the many African American quilters who contributed to the evolution of quilting.
In modern times, art quilts have started to become popular for their aesthetic and artistic qualities rather than for functionality (they are displayed on a wall rather than spread on a bed).
Types of Quilting Many types of quilting exist today. The two most widely used are hand-quilting and machine quilting.
Hand Quilting is the process of using a needle and thread to sew a running stitch by hand across the entire area to be quilted. This binds the layers together. A quilting frame or hoop isoften used to assist in holding the piece being quilted off the quilter's lap. A quilter can make one running stitch at a time; this is called a stab stitch. Another option is called a rocking stitch, where the quilter has one hand, usually with a finger wearing a thimble, on top of the quilt, while the other hand is located beneath the piece to push the needle back up. The third option is called "loading the needle" and involves doing four or more stitches before pulling the needle through the cloth. Hand quilting is still practiced by the Amish within the United States, and is enjoying resurgence worldwide.
Machine Quilting is the process of using a home sewing machine or a Longarm machine to sew the layers together. With the home sewing machine the layers are tacked together before quilting. This involves laying the top, batting and backing out on a flat surface and either pinning (using large safety pins) or tacking the layers together. Longarm Quilting involves placing the layers to be quilted on a special frame. The frame has bars on which the layers are rolled, keeping these together without the need for basting or pinning. These frames are used with a professional sewing machine mounted on a platform. The platform rides along tracks so that the machine can be moved across the layers on the frame. A Longarm machine is moved across the fabric. In contrast, the fabric is moved through a home sewing machine.
Quilt Tying is another technique of fastening the three layers together (and is not a form of quilting at all). This is done primarily on quilts that are made to be used and are needed quickly. The process of tying the quilt is done with yarns or multiple strands of thread. Square knots are used to finish off the ties so that the quilt may be washed and used without fear of the knots coming undone.
Specialty Quilting Styles Shadow or Echo Quilting - Hawaiian Quilting, where quilting is done around an appliquéd piece on the quilt top, then the quilting is echoed again and again around the previous quilting line. Ralli Quilting - Indian quilting, often associated with the Gujarat region. Sashiko quilting - Japanese quilting Trapunto quilting - stuffed quilting, often associated with Italy. Machine Trapunto quilting - a process of using water soluble thread and an extra layer of batting to achieve trapunto design and then sandwiching the quilt and re-sewing the design with regular cotton thread. Tivaevae or tifaifai - A distinct art from the Cook Islands. Watercolor Quilting - A sophisticated form of scrap quilting whereby uniform sizes of various prints are arranged and sewn to create a picture or design.
Essential Tools for Beginning Quilters Many of the following toolsare necessaryfor the beginning quilter. After choosing your pattern, fabric and thread, you will want to purchasethe following essential tools.
A sewing machine that has a straight stitch will work. Apair of scissors, a cutting mat, rotary cutter, ruler, iron and ironing board are essential. Once you havebecome accustomed to thesebasic tools, you will find there are many different styles of each tool to choose from which will make your future quilting projects fun and easy. In the descriptionsthat follow, you will find suggestions for tools which will be most helpful to the beginner. Fabric The best fabric for quiltmaking is 100% cotton because seam distortion is minimized and it presses crisply. Most quilt fabric is 44/45" wide and purchasing a little bit more yardage than the pattern calls for accommodates slight shrinkage and cutting errors. Some quilters prefer to prewash their fabric. Always test the fabric before quilting if you have any doubts about colorfastness.
Quilting Thread For piecing andquilting 100% cotton fabric, most quilters use 100% cotton thread. You can match your thread fiber to different fabrics you might use. A monofilament thread, which is a clear colorless thread, may also be usedfor machine quilting.
Pins and Needles The preferred sewing machine needle for woven cotton fabrics is called a "sharp". For piecing, quilting and binding sizes 75/11 and 80/12 are good choices. A smaller needle can be used if you are piecing tightly woven batiks and a larger needle for flannels.
Pinsmay be used when you want seam lines to line up perfectly. Different sizes of pins are available and you should use what works best for you. Longer pins with large colored headscan be easily seen as you are sewingenabling you toavoid sewing over the pins which can cause damage to your machine.
Fabric Scissors Scissors can be found in about any size and shapeyou prefer. Large scissors are helpful whenyou are cutting larger shapessuch as for applique. Small scissors are handy for trimming thread and for hand work. You should use your fabric scissors for fabric only as paper will quickly dull the blades.
Marking pencils come in a variety of colors and for a variety of uses. Permanent marking pencils areused whenquilters wish the markings to remain on thequilt such as for autograph and friendship quilts. You can find light marking pencils for use on dark fabrics and dark marking pencils for light fabrics. There aremarking pensthatusechalk which can be brushed off after sewing, disappearing marking pens whose marks will normally disappear after several hours and marking penswhose markscan be easily removed after sewing with a well moistened cloth. It is advisable to test the markers on a spare swatch of your fabric to make sure the marks will be removed to your satisfaction. Quilt Batting Batting comes in different fibers such as cotton, polyester, wool and silk. Its loft can vary greatly, from 1/8 inch to an inch or more. A low to medium loft is generally chosen for machine quilting and high loft for tied quilts. You may refer to the batting package label to see if the batting you are considering is compaticle with the amount of stitching you plan to do on your project. Cotton batting tends to shrink a bit giving your quilt a more antique look. Polyester batting willkeep your project looking flatter.
Seam Ripper A seam ripper is a necessity whenever you need to take out and resew a seam on your project. It is has asmall handle on one endand a sharp curvedmetal point at the other endwhich can be easily slipped under stitches enabling you to quickly cut the threads.
Rotary Cutter Rotary cutters are tools which have replaceable round bladeswhich enable you to cut straight edge shapes more quickly and accurately than you can with scissors. They comewith various sized blades. A good size for a beginning quilter is 45mm. Experiment with handle styles to see which works best for you.
Self Healing Quilting Mat These are specially designed mats for use with rotary cutters. They protect your work surface and help keep your fabric in place while cutting. A good mat to start with is a 17" x 23" mat marked witha 1" grid, markings at 1/8" increments and 45 and 60 degree angles.
Rotary Rulers These are thick, clear, acrylic rulersused with rotary cutters to make perfectly straight cuts.The come in many shapes and sizes. A good size to start with is a 6" x 24" rectangular ruler marked in 1/4" increments.
Sewing Machine Any machine with a straight stitch and well adjusted tension will work for piecing. A machine with a zigzag or a blanket stitch makes it possible to do machine applique. A quarter inch sewing foot attachment is helpfultomake accurate1/4" seam allowances used throughout a quilt's construction. A walking foot attachment is helpful to prevent puckers when machine quilting.
Iron and Ironing Board Any good iron will work whenpressing during quilt construction.Always make sure you are pressing (lifting the iron off the fabric surface and putting it back down in another location), not ironing as ironing will stretch and distort seams. An iron with automatic shut off is goodfor energy savingfeatures as well as for safety purposes. Mini irons are also available for small or detailed projects.
A full sizedironing board workswell forall quilting projects, especially larger ones.Small table top ironing boards are also available and are perfect for smaller work areas,are handy to keep next to your sewing machine andtake upvery little space.
Fusible Web Instead of using a needle and thread,cutout applique shapes may be secured with an iron on adhesive, often called fusible web. Many applique projects are meant to be fused, then secured with stitching. Youwill find many different fusible webs available. It is important to use thecorrect fusible web for your project and to follow the manufacturer's instructions for adhering the fusibleweb to your fabric. Top of page
Basic Quilting Definitions Piecing
Sewing small pieces of cloth into patterns, called blocks, that are then sewn together to make a finished quilt top. These blocks may be sewn together, edge to edge, or separated by strips of cloth called sashing. Note: Whole cloth quilts typically are not pieced, but are made using a single piece of cloth for the quilt top.
Placing the quilt top right side up atop the batting and the backing, which is right-side out.
Quilting: Sewing the three quilt layers together, using stitches in decorative patterns, called motifs, or in utilitarian patterns, such as straight lines, using bigger stitches.
Typically strips of fabric of various widths added to the perimeter of the pieced blocks to complete the quilt top. Note: borders may also be made up of simple or patterned blocks that are stitched together into a row, before being added to the quilt top.
Fabric strips cut on the bias or straight of the grain, sewn together, making a long strip that will fit the perimeter of the quilt, which is typically machine sewn to the front side of the edge of the quilt, folded over, and hand sewn to the back side of the quilt.
Stitching through all three layers of the quilt sandwich, typically by hand or machine in decorative patterns, which serves three purposes:
1) To secure all three layers to each other
2) To add to the beauty and design of the finished quilt
3) To trap air within the quilted sections, making the quilt as a whole much warmer than its parts; for example, a single layer or all three layers used separately. Quilting is usually completed by starting from the middle, and moving outward toward the edges of the quilt. Examples: simple or complex geometric grids, "motifs" traced from published quilting patterns or traced pictures, complex repeated designs called tessellations, or stitching within the seam line itself, i.e., stitching in the ditch.
Recognize the Parts of a Quilt Quilts have three basic components: the quilt top, the batting and the quilt back.
Imagine a fabric sandwich:
The top of the sandwich is known as the quilt top. Quilt tops can have several different looks. Two of the most popular are Patchwork and Appliqué. Patchwork quilt tops are made out of scraps of fabric or specifically cut pieces of fabric while appliqué quilt tops are made by attaching smaller pieces of fabric on top of bigger pieces. Quilt tops can have both patchwork and appliqué elements mixed together.
The middle of the sandwich is called the batting Quilt batting is the middle part of the quilt that is sandwiched between quilt top and the back. The batting is what gives the quilt its depth and thickness. There is a large variety of quilt batting to choose from. The batting that you choose for your quilt is basically a personal choice. Specifically, you should think about what the quilt will be used for and also experiment until you develop a personal preference. High loft batting is very puffy. 100% cotton batting is a thinner bat and is used when you want the quilt to have an aged appearance as it shrinks when washed, giving the quilt a slightly wrinkled appearance. Pellon, which comes in several thicknesses, is a batting used for table quilts and wall hangings that you wish to have a flatter appearance.
The bottom of your sandwich is called the quilt back. Backing can be made from a single piece of fabric or it can be pieced or assembled in another decorative way. Sometimes it is possible to find specific fabrics that are made in wider yardage that can be used specifically as backing. This may be a good approach for getting started with beginners quilting.
How to Make a Quilt (Traditional Quilting in Six Easy Steps) 1) Select a pattern (start with an easy quilting patter), fabrics and batting
2) Measure and cut fabrics to the correct size to make blocks from the pattern
3) Piecing (sewing cut pieces of fabric together using a sewing machine or by hand to make blocks) blocks together to make a finished "top"
4) Layer the quilt top with batting and backing, to make a "quilt sandwich"
5) Quilting by hand or machine through all layers of the quilt sandwich (you can pay people to do this).
6) Square up and trim excess batting from the edges, machine sewing the binding to the front edges of the quilt and then hand-stitching the binding to the quilt backing.
Note: If the quilt will be hung on the wall, there is an additional step: making and attaching the hanging sleeve (if you don’t want to use a quilt hanger).
Getting Started Quilting (Beginners Quilting Tips) Beginning quilters are sometimes overwhelmed by the hundreds of new terms and techniques they encounter when they make their first quilt, and the confusion is often compounded because there are many ways to accomplish every quilt making task. You'll discover which quilting methods work best for you as you become more experienced, but getting comfortable with a few basic skills now will help you sew accurate blocks and quilts on your very first try.
1. Understand Quilting Fabric - Fabrics are the backbone of our quilts, but you might be surprised how many people begin to assemble their first quilt without putting fabric characteristics to work for them. It's much easier to make a quilt once you understand how to care for your fabrics and why quilting patches are cut using specific guidelines. 2. Learn Quilting Terminology - Keep a quilt making glossary or basic quilting book at your fingertips when you're making a quilt or reading quilting articles. When you encounter a term you don't understand, look it up. It won't be long before you're familiar with all the terms you need to follow quilt making instructions. 3. Learn to Sew a Quarter Inch Seam Allowance - Beginning quilters, especially people who are accustomed to sewing garments with 5/8" seam allowances, sometimes have a hard time visualizing and sewing the 1/4" seam allowance used to make quilts. There are plenty of seam allowance tricks to help you get it just right. 4. Develop Your Rotary Cutting Skills - Rotary cutting is a technique that every new quilter should master, because it allows us to bypass the time intense method of constructing templates to mark and cut individual pieces of fabric. You'll love the freedom that rotary tools give you, and speedy cutting is fantastic motivation for continued success. 5. Learn Strip Piecing & Other Quick Piecing Techniques - Strip piecing and other quick piecing techniques let you sew large chunks of fabric together, then slice off sections to create pre-sewn units. It is so easy! Learn the basics and you'll be able to create a quick pieced version of just about any quilt block you see. 6. Perfect Basic Pressing Skills - Your piecing accuracy will improve immediately when you take a bit of time to press your quilt blocks as you make them. Pressing is an extra step, but you'll love the payoff in time saved when your quilt blocks fit together just like they should. 7. Don’t Worry About Mistakes - We all make them, and our quilting mistakes nearly always lead to a better understanding of the quilting process. Analyze what you did wrong and move on. Your skills will grow with every new quilt you make.