Making a quilt backing and sandwich

'Summer Blues' (Bed quilt In progress) ©Stephanie Boon 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Summer Blues, a long work in progress

Work in Progress Wednesday, already?! I don’t know about you but I’ve still got a whole pile of works in progress, so I could show you any number of things this week! I chose my Summer Blues quilt though because it’s all happy and summery and that’s a good feeling!  I’ve been working on this quilt on and off for about 6 years.  There’s a lot of hand piecing (all the 9 patch blocks and half of the sashing), but I decided to finish it up by machine just so that I could get on with the hand quilting and actually use it sooner rather than later. It’s the first full size quilt I made (mostly) by hand and I feel like my ideas and skill level have improved and moved on significantly, so it kind of got put on the back burner. If I remember correctly I even cut most of it out with scissors – now that’s old school! I’m glad I decided to finish it though because I still think it’s really pretty, despite the patchwork not quite matching up as it should in places – oops!

'Summer Blues' (Bed quilt in progress) ©Stephanie Boon 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Hand quilting in progress

I began buying all the Kaffe Fassett fabrics for the patchwork 6 years ago, so when I came to choose backing fabric at Cowslip Workshops recently I was pleased to find the Phillip Jacobs Gloxinia design in the perfect colour way (see the top photo) – serendipity!  I’m hand quilting it so I decided I didn’t want too many seams on the back (it makes it very hard on the fingers trying to go through so many layers!), so have stuck to just the one fabric. It’s 2 pieces that I seamed down the centre. You can’t see the seam at all – and the trick to doing this is to

Match the pattern:

  1. When you buy your backing fabric, measure the length of the quilt x 2, add 12″ (the backing fabric needs to be larger than the quilt top) PLUS (and this is the important bit!) the length of the pattern repeat. Your retailer should be able to tell you the repeat length.
  2. Cut your first length the length of the quilt top plus 6 inches (for a full size quilt), which allows for ‘shrinkage’ as you quilt.
  3. Place this length right sides together with your remaining length (which will be longer) and match up the pattern along the seam.
  4. Pin and baste in place along the seam allowance (basting is useful on a large quilt as it stops the pattern slipping out of alignment as you feed it through the machine) and machine together.
  5. Once you’ve removed any pins and basting, press the seam open and trim the top and bottom edges square and to the same length.

Now you’re ready to begin the process of making a quilt sandwich!

Making a quilt sandwich. Making a quilt sandwich.Making a quilt sandwich. © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Making a quilt sandwich!


Finding enough level floor space at home to do this required moving a lot of furniture about before I could even start! First of all I laid the backing fabric on the carpet (wrong side up) making sure I kept that centre seam straight. I used masking tape to tape it down working from the centres outwards and ironing as I went. Next I laid the wadding/batting on top and held it in place with masking tape again working form the centres out (I didn’t iron it though). Then came the tedious task of de-threading the quilt top and trimming any seams (why did I make them so HUGE?!?) before I laid it down centrally on top of the batting (right side up and with about 3″ of batting and backing fabric showing all round).  The next important thing was to keep the sashing parallel to the seam on the backing fabric. I devised a cunning plan!

I marked where the seam was on the backing fabric by inserting a safety pin at either end and then tied a strong piece of thread between them – voila, a straight line! Then I matched up the straight central sashing on the quilt top to the line of thread, basting along this line through all three layers with safety pins (from the centre out). Once that was done I removed the line of thread and continued basting and ironing from the centre out with pins, taping down the edges to keep it all nice and taught. I then decided to baste through all three layers with needle and thread because this is likely to take me a while to quilt and I really don’t want to end up with rusty pins marking the fabric.

Once it was basted with thread I removed the pins, then the masking tape (do this very carefully on your wadding) and was ready to begin quilting!  I think the best advice for making the quilt sandwich is to take your time, it’s this process that will determine how flat your quilt lies once it’s finished and if you’ve spent hours on the patchwork it would be a shame to cut corners on the basting – on a quilt this size be prepared to spend a good few hours doing it.

Hand quilting from the back, © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

You can clearly see my basting and quilting on the back – but check out that seam!

I’ve begun quilting the sashing ‘in-the-ditch’ (in the seams along the lines of the sashing) and will probably do the same through the 9 patch blocks, but I think I may try something a bit more imaginative in the sashing itself – but that’s probably a while off yet, so I’ve got plenty of time to decide!

If you have any tips to share for making a quilt sandwich make sure you leave them in the comments below, we’d love to hear them 🙂

Linking up with Work In Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced – hop on over to discover lots more work in progress this week.

Follow on Bloglovin

2 replies
  1. Karen @ Pieces of Contentment
    Karen @ Pieces of Contentment says:

    I love your trick for making sure your sashing is parallel to your backing – excellent. I always trim the threads from the back of the quilt top before beginning to spread the layers on the floor (upside down on the ironing board) – it can take many hours on some quilt designs. I also iron both the backing and the quilt top before I start laying them on the floor.
    Hope all goes well with the hand quilting.

  2. Ann
    Ann says:

    Good directions for basting, Stephie and a very clever idea to verify the center seam stays straight! These soft blues make a lovely quilt, no matter how long ago you started it.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

I'd just like to say...