Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tutorial, How to make your quilt bigger when it's already been quilted

A little while ago, I made an important discovery relating to machine quilting. If you're like me you use your regular sewing machine for machine quilting. As you know, the larger the quilt gets, the harder it is to reach the inside area and it gets sort of difficult to manouver around.
This technique is a way of quilting in sections that makes the quilting more manageable.
It is also great if you already have your quilting done when you decide that it should really be a bit bigger, or would look nicer with more borders....
Basically, you quilt the middle of the quilt, then add the borders and quilt them.

This photo sequence shows how I did this on my postage stamp quilt.

You can see in the photo above that I have it all quilted, and even trimmed, so that I could put the binding on at this point. But... although I liked how it looked with the pattern going all the way out to the edge, I thought it might be more useful if it were a bit bigger. So, I rummaged around in my stash to see if I had anything for a border. I had enough of the blue fabric to add a 5" border all around, so I cut those pieces.

The back of the quilt is striped, and altho I had lots more of that fabric, I thought that the quilt would look funny if I added more around the edges, because there is no way the stripes would line up. So I went to my other favorite kind of pattern-- polka-dots! These strips I cut to 6" wide.

The other great thing about this method is that you get to use up all sorts of scraps of batting! (I almost always use Hobbs 80/20 batting, so all my scraps are the same)

I love this that I can use all those strips left over from other quilts. For this project, I cut them at 5-1/2" wide, and just made sure that the ends were at right angles. Then I joined all the small sections into one long strip.

To join them, all you need to do is butt them together and zig-zag over the join with a large stitch,

Now you're ready to add the side borders. Cut 2 strips of each of the border, batting and backing, about 2" longer than the length of your quilt. This doesn't have to be precise, since you just need some wiggle room, the excess will be trimmed off later. Also, be careful not to stretch the batting, just let it relax when you're measuring it.

Set the batting aside for now. Working on one side at a time, place the backing strip at the back of the quilt, right sides together, and put the border strip right side facing the front of the quilt, line up the raw edges. You can pin the 3 layers together down the length:

then, stitch all 3 layers together. I try to be careful to use a 1/4" seam. If you take a deeper seam you might sew into some of your block patterns. If the quilted part was just another border it doesn't matter so much.

Now it is time to add the batting. Fold the 2 fabric strips all the way to the left, then you can zig-zag baste the batting on to the raw edge of the quilt: (Again, just butt the edges together)

Do both side borders this way. Now it is time to press the fabric away from the body of the quilt on to the batting. Don't worry about compressing the batting because it will plump up again when you wash the quilt. (unless you're using 100% polyester, I haven't tried pressing on that) Also, when you iron it, it makes the fabric and batting cling together a bit.

First, I press the top border fabric outwards, then turn the quilt over and press the backing fabric outwards. I find that if you try to do them both at the same time, you are likely to get a "pleat" on the underside fabric.

Pin-baste along the edge:

Then, go do your machine quilting!!
Of course on this project I did my current favorite, the linked flower. (Unfortunately the fabric is pretty busy so you can't really see it)
Note: You may need to do lighter quilting on the borders than in the main part of the quilt. I like to quilt pretty closely together, which makes the quilt "take up" a bit. If I quilted that densely on this type of border, it might shrink up too much. If you quilt the border too lightly, you will notice that the border is ripply, so you can go back and add more quilting to make it take up more.

After you've quilted the borders, trim the extra fabric and batting from the ends.
Now, repeat all of the above for the top and bottom borders. :)
This is a photo of the back of my quilt with all the borders on -- isn't it great to have the 2 fabric backing?

Hope that you give this technique a try!


  1. Wow, this is great! This tutorial convince me to follow your blog. Keep it up!

  2. Thank you!, i am having fun with it, michelle

  3. Thanks! I don't know why.. but every time i get a quilt to the binding part...I feel like i have to make it bigger! Not that any of my quilts are small. Usually queen or bigger. I like my edges to fall over the top of the bed ;) I had to "favorite" this!


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