In this, yet another, installment of the series on finishing the edges of your quilts while still on the frame, I’ll explain how to apply facing on the longarm. You can get up to speed by reading Apply Binding on the Longarm and Extra Tips – Binding.
What is Facing?
There are times when you don’t want any binding to show on the front of the quilt, but you want the durability and security of an actual binding. Facing is the answer. Facing strips are sewn to the front of the quilt and then turned to the back, rolling the seam, so that none of the facing is visible on the front of the quilt. Then the facing is hand stitched in place on the back of the quilt. It makes for a clean, non-stop visual as the eye travels to the edges of the quilt.
Making it easy
It really makes a lot of sense to apply facing on the longarm. The large quilt is stretched out in front of you and held smooth and secure by your leaders. What could possibly go wrong? Well, there are a few things you need to be aware of when facing a quilt this way. But no worries! I’ll clue you in.
Prepare your facing
Before you loaded your quilt on the frame for quilting you measured, right? And you wrote down those measurements, right? You’re going to need them now.
You’ll need one facing strip for each edge of your quilt. I use 1 1/2 inch wide strips, with one edge pressed under 1/4 inch. You can decide how wide you would like your strips, but don’t go much more than 2 1/2 inches. If the facing is too wide it doesn’t lay flat on the back and you end up with puckers in the facing. No one likes a floppy facing!
Two strips should be the length of your quilt and 2 strips should be the width of your quilt. These measurements don’t need to be super exact. Just close. Your quilt will likely NOT be the same measurements as the quilt top was before quilting. Remember, quilting draws up fabric, so your finished quilt will be slightly smaller depending on the density of the quilting.
The first time you face a quilt, choose a fabric that is close in color to the edge of the quilt top. Rolling the seam to the back of the quilt is a skill that takes a little practice. If your facing fabric shows a bit on the front, it will be less noticeable. Once you get good at applying facing on the longarm you can use any fabric.
If you need to sew lengths of strips together for a larger quilt, sew strips together on an angle. This creates less bulk at the seams. Just like regular binding!
You will also need two 4 inch squares of your facing fabric. Cut these squares from corner to corner, forming 4 triangles. Press the long edge of each triangle under 1/4 inch.
Ready to Apply Facing on the Longarm
I start at the bottom of the quilt since that’s where I finished the quilting. Place the triangles in the corners, right side down.
Lay a facing strip, right side down, with the raw edge of the strip at the edge of the quilt. Start about 1 inch away from the left corner. This will help cut down on the bulk of fabric layers in the corner, and the triangle will cover the raw ends of the facing strips once they are turned to the back.
Use care to not stretch the strip. You can add a few pins, if you wish, to hold it in place. Remove the pins as you stitch.
Don’t trim the right edge of your strip just yet. Leave the end and trim it when you get to the corner as you sew.
My favorite foot for this job is the 1/4 inch Square Foot. (The smaller one)
The tabs help hold the facing in place so I need fewer (if any) pins.
Set your machine for regulated, cruise, 12 SPI, and needle-stop down.
Start stitching on the left edge of the quilt top (stitch over the triangle and onto the facing strip), using the ruler to keep straight and 1/4 inch from the edge. The edge of the ruler and the edge of the square foot are both aligned at the raw edge of the quilt. That results in the perfect 1/4 inch seam.
If you didn’t trim the end of the strip yet, trim it right before you get to the corner, leaving about an inch from the right edge.
Sew all the way to the edge, over the triangle.
Take a side strip and repeat the steps for alignment and start sewing up as far as you can go in your throat space.
Secure threads with a couple of back stitches and break your threads.
With the other side strip and repeat on the other side of the quilt.
Before rolling your quilt, go back to each corner, and sew across the corner at an angle to help strengthen the corner for turning. Back stitch a few times back and forth.
Roll your quilt onto the belly bar to expose the next section in your throat space. Start with a few back stitches and stitch up the side within your throat space. Repeat on the other side. Continue in this manner until the top edge of the quilt is in your stitching area.
Place the other two triangles on the top corners, right side down. Finish stitching the side strips, remembering to trim the strip before you get to the top edge. Stitch all the way to the edge to secure the triangle.
Sew the top strip in the same manner that you sewed the bottom strip. Stitch the angle at the top corners for security.
Remove the quilt from the frame and trim the edges.
Trim the corners:
Cut off the corners about 2 threads away from the diagonal stitching.
Press all the facing strips to the outside of the quilt using a hot steam iron.
Turning the edges
Use the facing to pull the quilt edge around to the back. It’s OK to have about 1/16″ of an inch of quilt front showing on the back. Steam as you go. I like to use pins to hold it in place. Pins and steam (lots of steam) are the key here. Work little-by-little and take your time.
Flip the triangle to the back and use a blunt instrument like a chopstick or a point turning tool to help smooth out the corner. Don’t use scissors or anything sharp that could cut or punch a hole in the corner. Steam it in place and pin.
Stitch the facing to the back
of the quilt by hand. Make sure your stitches do NOT go through to the front of the quilt.
It takes a lot of words and pictures to explain, but it really does go quickly. And doing it on the frame is way easier for larger quilts.
Hope you give it a try and let us know how you like facing on the longarm.
About the quilt: this was a piece I painted in a virtual class with Helen Godden from Australia, then quilted on my HQ Infinity. I free motion quilted the sunflowers and the tiny matchstick quilting was done with a ruler. The background was done with Pro-Stitcher. I really prefer facings on art quilts like this.
By Mary Beth Krapil