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Final preparations for quilting

Here’s an insight into the jobs I have done in the days between finishing my patchwork quilt top and getting to the point at which I can start quilting.

Saving time by not caring about seam allowances for once

Turn nine metres of blue vintagey floral fabric into a 2.6 metre square for the back of my quilt.

I did this fairly quickly, not worrying too much about perfect right angles or cutting selveges off. To me, this was one of the most tedious jobs of the whole project. However, I saved time by not caring about seam allowances for once.

Sewing long lines of straight stitches is not what I started a quilt for.


Lay backing fabric on floor (wrong side down) after pressing seams.

You can see that even by moving a sofa and turning a TV unit around, I could not fit the whole thing so that it lay completely flat with space to move around it in my sitting room.

I did consider doing this job in my classroom, as there is nobody at work in the summer except caretakers and seagulls.  In the end I decided I would pretend I had enough space at home, even if half of the quilt was on carpet (not ideal for basting with safety pins) and half on the wooden floor (much better for basting).

Lie flat, will you?

Lie batting on top of the backing fabric, then quilt top on top to make a ‘quilt sandwich’. Pat it down to make sure it is all flat and then baste it with safety pins.

I thought this part was going to take me a really long time and used my son’s (precious) one day of the week at nursery to do this. Actually it only took two hours. I worked from the centre to make sure I could smooth any ripples out as I went along.


Check that the basted quilt fits under the arm of my machine.

It does.

Ill-fitting darning foot

Check that the darning foot my husband chiselled so that it would attach to my machine actually works on my machine.

It doesn’t.

Look at that enormous space between the foot and the fabric. The needle will bounce up and down uncontrollably and the stitches will be all over the place and non-uniform.

This is a bad thing.

Checking whether the quilt fits under the arm of my friend's tiny machine

Swap to the very small machine lent to me by a kind friend and check that the quilt also fits under that arm.

It does, much to my surprise! Hooray!

This is a far better machine than mine and should make the quilting entirely hassle-free once I have read the 90-page manual to teach myself how to use it…

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Watch lots of quilting tutorial videos and practise different patterns.

Here you can see my frankly laughable first attempts at stipple, pointed stipple, paisley and repeating shells.

I felt I was getting the hang of it as I filled up the last section of my practice quilt sandwich, and was silently congratulating myself on having chosen the right upper thread tension and needle (after snapping three. Yes, three.) to match the thread, when I turned it over and found…



I am utterly confused.

When the upper thread tension was really high (7) the stitches on the back were perfect, but the needles snapped. When the tension was really low (2), the quilting action was smoother and my wrists ached less, but this happened to the thread.

Go to see the experts and look at lots of their perfect quilts.

I went to my first Quilters’ Guild event today and the guru there told me to keep the tension low. She checked that I was using the right needles and thread. She gave me lots of confidence about using the stipple pattern and told me how large to scale it and how to practically fit such a big quilt onto a table and around the side of my sewing machine. She invited me along to monthly meetings. She laughed at my little boy’s burblings.

I felt I was high and dry and all I needed was to get home, switch on the fancy new machine and start stippling.

Mope around a little longer with an unfinished quilt.

Sadly, the title of this post turns out to be incorrect. I am going to have to make my final final preparations for quilting after even more practice quilt sandwiches.

Admit to everyone that the members of my family are all obsessed by little squares.

My poor two year-old. I have damaged him by taking him along to a Quilters’ Guild event. When we got home, he arranged his blocks in his block cart and said, “this is my quilt”.

My husband’s artwork uses small, colourful squares with lines of poetry on them that can be rearranged by the reader/viewer to create their own poems.

My quilt is is made of hundreds of little squares.

What is to become of us?

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