machine quilting Archives - Handi Quilter

Make a Stencil

I told you last week I would show you how to make a stencil from Golden Threads quilting paper. It’s easy and fun and results in a easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting guide that will make your quilts look fabulous!

Start with a design

You can take one of your fantastic doodles.

Or maybe something you found in a magazine or a book.

You might have seen a fabulous quilting design in nature,

or on some tile or carpet, or on a tissue box,

 

or on a plate.

Look at the fabrics in your quilt,

there might be a super cute design. Inspiration for quilting designs are truly everywhere! Be sure to have your camera ready to capture them.

Draw and trace

Draw on regular paper first. Keep in mind the size you will need for your quilt. Make adjustments until it is perfect. As you are drawing, think like a quilter and make the design continuous, to minimize stops and starts.

Once you are happy, trace your design onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper. BTW, all this drawing and tracing is great practice for when you actually quilt the design!

Make a stencil

Take your GT paper to your machine and pin it to a quilt sandwich.

Set your stitch regulation for a longer stitch. I set my HQ Infinity to 6 spi.

Take the thread out of your needle and stitch the design. The needle will punch holes in the paper and you now have a stencil to

mark your quilt

Position your stencil where you want the design. Using your pounce pad, swipe over the paper.

You have nice lines to follow as you quilt!

QUILT

Once you have quilted the design, the pounce powder will easily brush away.

Now you can create a stencil from any design you can dream up!

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doodling tips

We have been following Diane’s adventures in learning to quilt and a few weeks back I gave some doodling tips to help her (and you). You can read that post here.

More Doodling Tips

I have a few more tips that will shorten your learning curve. Things you can do to make your doodling help develop the skills you use when actually quilting.

Define a space

Diane talks about this in her blog post. She found it very helpful to define a space to practice a design in. While quilting you are likely to be quilting within blocks or other defined spaces on the quilt, so practicing within a space helps you to know what works and what doesn’t. And to know how to navigate the space.

Doodling over a wide open space can be helpful in learning to draw a motif and that’s important.

When you doodle inside a defined space, not only do you learn how to draw the motif, you learn how it behaves when you approach an edge. You experience how it can be adjusted. You figure out how to change directions.

You also learn how to avoid getting stuck in a dead end. And how to travel to get yourself back on track to filling the space, without cutting your thread.

Doodle real size

Diane took a photo of her block and then printed it out for some practice doodling.

A happy accident occurred, the print-out was almost the actual size of the block itself.

Diane Harris Doodle tips

She stumbled upon another trick we use and that is doodling in real size. But printing a photo of a block will not always result in an image that is real size. Diane just got lucky with that block!

There are a couple of ways we can create a template of our blocks or areas on the quilt that will allow us to doodle for practice. Or for R & D (research and development), discovering a new design that works to enhance the block. It will allow us to audition designs as well.

Quilter’s Preview Paper

preview paper

Simply lay the clear film over the quilt and use a marker to trace your block or area to be quilted. Use a permanent Sharpie marker for the outline of your block. Then you can doodle in the space with a dry erase marker. Use a scrap of batting to wipe away the dry erase marks and the Sharpie outline will remain so you can try again. (Sharpie marks are easily removed with alcohol and a scrap of batting when you’re ready to move on.)

The other tool you can use is

Golden Threads Quilting Paper

While Quilter’s Preview Paper is a clear plastic film, Golden Threads Quilting Paper is actually paper. It is a high quality tracing paper that is easy to see thru to trace your shapes.

For this you’ll want to use a pencil to trace your block.

One advantage to Golden Threads paper is that if you come up with a fabulous design, you can make a stencil from the paper to mark your quilt for easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting. I’ll write about how to do that next week.

Density

Another advantage to doodling real size is it helps to see the density of the quilting. Remember, the denser the quilting the stiffer the quilt will be. For a soft and cuddly quilt you’ll want to keep the quilting designs larger.

It also changes the look of the quilting. Look at these two 4″ squares with swirls in them.

density

Same design but quite a difference in appearance, just by changing up the density of the design.

You can learn so much, just by doodling. Then you’ll come up with your own doodling tips! Please share them in the comments.

Happy doodling!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

Learn

In reflecting back on 2020, one thing is certain, it’s been a year full of change. We had to learn new ways of living. From the way we work, to the way we shop and even the way we learn. And learn we did!

Learning

We learned how to cook at home, everyday, we learned how to share with our neighbors (toilet paper), we learned how to be together, without actually being together. And we learned how to make sour dough bread.

We learned to Zoom.

And we rallied together (but apart) to take on the unique realities and challenges of this year.

Change?

Many things changed in 2020, forcing us to adapt. Change is stressful. So we used quilting to find calm amid the stress. That’s one thing that didn’t change.

HQ is renowned for supporting and educating our machine owners. That’s another thing that didn’t change.

As a company, we at Handi Quilter devoted ourselves to finding new ways to bring you the quality education you have come to expect from us.

Our celebrated hands-on learning opportunities had to be put on hold, for a bit, while we devised a way to safely hold these events at Handi Quilter headquarters and at shops near you.

Handi Quilter University

We consulted with heath and government experts to devise a way to safely hold classes in the Handi Quilter studio. Now we have a safe event, complete with masks and social distancing and hand sanitizer and handlebar covers, to go along with all the excellent information and fun.

Handi Quilter Academy

The premier annual event, that brings together quilters and world-class instructors from all over the world, was impossible to hold as an in-person event. 300 quilters, (as delightful as that sounds), learning and laughing and eating all in one place just could not happen this year. So we found a way to bring those classes to you in a virtual format. HQ Academy 2020 Virtual Sneak Peek presented classes to ticket holders that they can go back and watch as many times as they would like. It was a hit!

Watch and Learn

Wanting to give everyone the opportunity to grow and learn inspired us to start our weekly video program on Facebook called Watch and Learn. It’s a little mini-class that covers all sorts of topics from ruler quilting, to Pro-Stitcher, to free-motion, to how to use various gadgets for quilting. It’s fun and it’s free. You can find it on our Facebook page every Tuesday at noon Mountain time. Post a question in the comments and you’ll get an answer from one of the HQ experts! You can watch recordings of previous shows on our YouTube channel. And be sure to LIKE and Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. As a bonus, each week a HQ product is featured at a special discount.

What’s next?

It is your drive to keep learning that motivates us – and in 2021 we will continue to think big and create innovations to keep you learning and finishing quilts.

For now, thanks for learning with us.

There are many things we’d like to forget about this year. But hopefully we will never forget all we learned.

We wish you and your families all the best of health, happiness and quilty-ness in the new year.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

Quilting Sideways?

For those who quilt on a frame system with a moveable machine, sometimes it just makes more sense to do the quilting sideways. Normally we load a quilt onto our frame with the top edge at the top and the bottom edge at the bottom. But there are times it can be advantageous to load the quilt sideways. Let me give you some examples.

The seam in the backing runs vertically

If the seam in the quilt back runs vertically, when we roll the backing around the pole, those extra layers of fabric from the seam allowances can cause the backing to get floppy or sloppy. To get wrinkles and puckers or even pleats. There is nothing worse than finishing a quilt only to remove it from the frame and discover you’ve stitched a pleat into the backing fabric. That usually means major un-sewing hours in your future. (Or you can get very creative in the placement of the label, but that’s a topic for another post.)

You can avoid all this by being extra careful while loading the back, smoothing and compressing the seam allowance as you go. Or, you can load the back sideways, so that the seam goes parallel to the pole. The extra layers of fabric run the whole length of the pole and don’t cause any problems at all. You only have to remember to load the quilt top sideways too!

quilting sideways

Be sure when you choose this method that the design you want to quilt is not directional.

Your design will look best quilting sideways

Maybe you want the design to go a certain direction that can only be achieved if you quilt sideways. On the Christmas quilt above, the holly looked better if it was quilted sideways.

So, this quilt had 2 reasons to do the quilting sideways! A vertical seam in the back and a design that looked better sideways. Win-win!

You want to quilt lots of vertical straight lines

Using channel locks lets us quilt perfect straight lines. Our options are physical channel locks,

channel locks

Electromagnetic Channel Locks,

electromagnetic channel locks

or the channel locks built in to Pro-Stitcher.

All three options will allow you to stitch perfect horizontal or vertical straight lines. If your quilt calls for long vertical lines (longer than your throat space), consider mounting the quilt sideways and stitch horizontal lines instead. No thread breaks, no tie offs, perfect continuous lines!

Fewer advances needed when quilting sideways

If you like to get quilts done as fast as possible, quilting sideways usually means fewer advances to complete the quilt. Most quilts are longer than they are wide. Advancing the quilt takes a little time but when you multiply that by the times you need to advance to make it to the bottom of the quilt, it adds up! Load sideways and you will need fewer advances. It will shave a few minutes off your quilting time. Done in time to spend a little quality time with your sewing machine!

I hope you’ll think about quilting sideways and see if it works for your quilts. What tricks do you have up your sleeves that help you quilt better or faster or easier?  Please share!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

My friend, HQ Stitch Ambassador, Diane Harris is quilting her scrappy Gypsy Wife on her HQ Capri stationary longarm machine. She’s fairly new to machine quilting. And she is chronicling her adventures with her new machine over on the HQ Stitch blog. This week she asks the question, “when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist?”. Diane says. “I know that ripping out machine quilting doesn’t make you a better machine quilter. It’s practice that makes you better! Nevertheless, I want my quilts to be reasonably well made and that includes the quilting.”

How do you find the balance? Let’s talk.

Definition

Frog: [frawg] verb – to remove stitches, usually with the help of a sharp implement, such as a seam ripper and the occasional un-lady-like word or phrase. Origin: from the sound emitted by the amphibian known as a frog, i.e. rip-it, rip-it.  Synonyms: rip, unstitch, unpick, unsew.

The Quilt

The Gypsy Wife is a sampler design by Jen Kingwell with many blocks in many sizes and lots of long, skinny strips. Don’t you love Diane’s amazing, riotous use of color?

Imperfections?

Diane thought the busy fabrics might hide her wobbles and bobbles that are a normal part of the quilting learning curve. And she was right! Busy fabrics on the quilt top and the backing will certainly hide many imperfections. The trick is to use a thread that will blend with all the colors in the quilt. With all those colors, Diane had a really difficult task!

Diane’s first example is this block:

She was happy with the quilting in the center square except for the long curve at the bottom. I think what made her unhappy is that the long curve is way more visible than the rest of the quilting. The medium colored thread she chose, (a good choice in my opinion), stands out much more on the black fabric where that curve is stitched. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Ask an honest friend

Before you pull out the seam ripper, ask a friend, preferably a quilter friend, for an honest assessment. You both need to trust each other completely for this to work. Your friend needs to know that if she tells you to rip, that you won’t be offended. And you need to truly value her opinion when it comes to quilting and quality. Finding two people who can manage this type of interaction is hard and probably close to impossible. Quilters tend to be really nice people who would rather eat live bugs than hurt a friend’s feelings.

Ease up

The problem with making the assessment yourself is that you are too close. You spent hours piecing the top and so you want the quilting to be spectacular, to make the quilt look its very best. Looking at each and every stitch and expecting that the hours of practice you put in should be paying off by now, clouds your judgement. Take a few steps back. Wait a few days, then look at the overall quilt. Can you still see what you thought might be a mistake? Chances are, you won’t even be able to find it.

Some designs require more accuracy

Here’s my OCD showing!  Diane thought this block was one of the most problematic.

I agree with her. Straight lines need to be straight. Using a quilting ruler can help a bunch to improve the look.

This block is quilted with straight line designs and looks great. I’m pretty sure Diane used a ruler for what she quilted in the green and gray pointy parts. In her blog she says, “This sharply-pointed star isn’t perfect but it’s good enough. Consider it finished.”  I think she’s right!

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

The ultimate question

Diane asks, “How do you decide when it’s bad enough to take out and when it can be left in without utterly destroying your credibility?”

In other (less dramatic) words: when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist.

I think that question can best be answered with a few of questions.

Can you live with it?

Will you cringe every time you look at the quilt and that awful quilting will just scream at you? Then start frogging.

But before you do, give it some time. You may just forget and be unable to find the spot again. Then resist.

Do you think you can do better if you try again?

Maybe a different design will work better in the block? Maybe you can practice quilt a bit on a scrap and then give it another go? Start frogging.

If the design adds texture and does not look messy. Resist.

Do you want to spend the time it takes to frog and re-quilt?

What takes 10 minutes to quilt takes 3 hours to pick out. Is the quilt that important that you will invest your time? Yes? Start frogging.

If you’d rather quilt something else and try other designs, or the quilt is for your sister-in-law and you don’t like her much anyway. Resist.

I suppose it all comes down to the expectations you place on your level of expertise. If you know you can do better and you care about the quilt, then parent yourself. Make yourself take it out and try again. Study, if you have to, by practicing.

Here are some of Diane’s blocks that look just fine. Some she agrees with me, and others not.

Print out this sign and hang it on your quilting room door:

and add this sign too:

Rip or resist? How do you decide? Let us know in the comments.

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Win a Moxie

Yes, you read that right. You can get a chance to win a Moxie longarm quilting machine of your very own! Just by attending a quilt show. It’s a win-win!

Houston International Quilt Festival is going virtual this year (thanks 2020). The biggest, and one of the best quilt shows of the year will host a virtual on-line show, so that we can get our fix of quilt viewing and vendor shopping and learning in classes. You can get the details here.

Win a Moxie™ Longarm Quilting Machine

Every person who purchases a ticket to Virtual Quilt Festival will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a FREE HQ Moxie™ Longarm Quilting Machine. One random lucky winner will be chosen from all the VQF attendees and class participants.

The show will run Dec 3 thru Dec 5, 2020. Classes begin Dec 3, 2020.  Ticket Sales and Class/Lecture/Forum Enrollment is open now. Tickets are $10.

Your show pass will include:

  • Quilts on Display – Hundreds of quilts in Special Exhibits and Quilt Contest
  • Vendor Mall – Shopping and special promotions in one venue
  • Open Studios™ – 15-minute product demos
  • Games, voting in the Quilt Contest Viewer’s Choice, and other events
  • Interaction among virtual show participants including attendees, instructors, and vendors
  • Special Live Lecture, December 3, 2020, 6:00– 7:00pm CST – Jenny Lyon’s Quilting is a Contact Sport

Classes, Lectures and Forums will be available for an extra fee.

Purchase your ticket today! Who knows? You might just win a Moxie.

Good Luck!

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

Building New Habits

My friend and colleague Diane Harris, HQ Stitch Brand Ambassador, shared some new habits she is building in her recent blog post over on the HQ Stitch page. Be sure to check it out; there are some great habits to get more piecing done. A couple of her habits will really help with finishing more quilts.

Prepare the Backing

Diane says:

When I finish piecing a quilt top, I prepare a backing right then and there. I used to fold up the quilt top and stick it in a cupboard where it languished. I might not think about it again for years. I stopped that bad habit, and I love practicing this new habit!

I don’t enjoy getting the backing ready so if I can conquer that task, I’m one huge step closer to finishing the quilt. And prepping the backing causes me to think about the quilting plan, which again moves me closer to a finish.

I love this idea! I like to make the backings but I don’t do it right away, as soon as I finish a quilt top. Maybe it’s because I have so many other projects going. I feel so great finishing something, and want to get to the others and try to get them finished, too. So I fold up the quilt top and put it aside. My problem is that when I do get a chance to quilt it, I don’t know what I did with the backing fabric. Or maybe I thought I would piece the back from the scraps and leftovers from the top. Those fabric have been stashed away and I don’t really want to hunt for them!

Making the backing right away would solve my issues and would make it so much easier to get to the best part: The Quilting. Thanks Diane! I am going to build this new habit into my routine.

After I read Diane’s post I pulled out a finished top, hunted for and found the backing fabric, and sewed the backing to size. I’m ready to quilt when I get some free time. It feels really good!

Hone your skills with practice

Diane says:

And speaking of the quilting plan, I fill my empty moments with doodling these days. Now there are no empty moments! Doodling lets me consider ideas for quilting. Swirls, ribbon candy, loops, hills and more go down on paper even if they’re uneven and ugly. You never get better if you don’t practice, and most people’s motifs start out at least a little bit ugly.

And did you know it’s better to doodle within a shape than on a blank sheet of paper? I will explain why in the next post.

I look forward to hearing Diane’s explanation! And I have have a few tips that will make your doodling time even more productive in honing your quilting skills.

Use a dry erase board and marker. The marker flows easily over the board similar to the feel of moving a frame machine or moving the fabric with a light touch on a stationary machine. They sell them at the dollar store. Keep it somewhere handy so you can grab it quickly for a few moments of doodling throughout your day.

Use a scrap of batting to erase your marks.The batting absorbs the dry erase ink and it won’t get on your clothes or furniture. Paper towel tends to make the ink flake off, and if that gets on fabric, it will be permanent. Ask me how I know.

If you draw a particularly nice design, snap a photo of it with your phone to save it for future reference.

Muscle memory training

Drawing for practice is all about muscle memory. We tend to draw or write with our hand and forearm down on the paper. To train the muscles you use for quilting lift your elbow up and keep your hand off the paper or board. With your hand and arm down, you are using your finger and wrist muscles to draw.

When you lift your elbow you will use your upper arm and shoulder muscles to create the drawing. These are the muscles we use when quilting, so now you’re training the right muscles and creating muscle memory for quilting.

If you want to get good at something…..you have to practice. Put in your 15 minutes a day. You will improve, I promise!

Thanks, Diane, for the great ideas to build new habits that will help us finish more quilts.

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

 

 

 

 

Deep Clean

I was playing with my new Handi Felting Foot recently and decided I needed to do a deep clean before I go back to regular quilting. Haven’t heard of the Felting Foot? You can see it here.

A deep clean is something you should do every so often. Not like the normal maintenance of clearing out lint from the bobbin area and a drop of oil that you do each time you put in a new bobbin. I’m talking deep clean, like actually move the furniture when you vacuum kind of deep clean. Depending on how much you quilt, you might want to do this about once a month. Or if, like in my case, you were working with particularly linty materials.

Remove the throat plate

Warning: if you have an Infinity you might not want to remove the throat plate. There are some parts attached to the bottom of the Infinity’s throat plate. Consult the manual.

You will need a short, flat-head screw driver to remove the two screws holding the throat plate. You probably have one of these that you use with your domestic machine.

The little pink one is magnetic which is a plus because the screws will stick to it.

I like to start by removing the needle and the foot. You will need your small hex tool that came with your machine to do that. Then I remove the throat plate. Mine has extra holes meant for the Felting foot.

Put those little screws in a safe place!

Use your small brush to clean the exposed area. Also, turn over your throat plate and you’ll likely find some lint stuck to the bottom.

Here’s a tip: Plastic mascara wands work great to get into tight places. You can usually get a whole package of them for $1 at the dollar store.

If you have an Amara or Forte or Infinity or Moxie you may use canned air. Just remember: 1. Do NOT shake the can, 2. keep the can upright, and 3. use short, quick bursts of air.

Once it’s all clean and shiny under there, replace the throat plate, the needle and the foot. Place a drop of oil on the bobbin race and you’ll be ready for the bobbin case. But before you put that back in you’ll want to

clean under the bobbin tension spring

Small goobers of lint can accumulate under the tension spring on your bobbin case and cause all sorts of havoc with your tension if they get into the wrong place.

My favorite tool for this little job is the corner of a business card.  The tension spring is the flat metal piece on the outside of your bobbin case.

Start by putting the corner of the card under the tension spring close to the screw you turn to adjust tension.

Then slide the corner of the card under the spring to the other end. You might get a tiny little lump of lint out. You can do this motion a couple of times.

I don’t like to use a pin for this procedure. You will risk getting a minute scratch under the spring which could over time develop into a burr that will shred your thread.

If there’s lint on the inside of your bobbin case use your brush or canned air to clean it out.

That’s all there is to it! You are now ready to finish that next quilt. A clean machine is a happy machine. And a happy machine makes for a happy quilter.

by Mary Beth Krapil, the happy quilter 🙂

 

 

Handi Felting Foot Kit

I’ve been having a blast creating new fabrics and projects using my felting foot on my Amara. The Handi Felting Foot Kit transforms your HQ longarm into a felting machine with infinite possibilities! It creates new fun you can have with your Handi Quilter machine. I must give you the Sewing Surgeon General’s warning: felting is addictive.

Handi Felting Foot

 

What is Felting?

The Handi Felting Foot Kit puts a modern twist on an old way of creating embellished fabric by meshing fibers together so they interlock and become one. The kit includes a needle body that holds 5 barbed needles that will punch the fibers and mesh them together and a special foot that will protect your fingers and hold the fibers in place as you work.

Select your fibers

Needle felted cloth is fun, easy and quick to create. All that is need is a base fiber and bits of other fibers to add to the base. The fibers can be anything that can be penetrated by a needle: silk, yarn, wool or silk roving, tulle, cheese cloth, ribbons, fleece, lace, felt, burlap, sheers batting. Some fibers work better than others for this technique; experimentation is key. At least one of the 2 fibers you wish to combine needs to be fibrous, like felt or wool. Trying to felt 2 layers of a smooth finish fiber like quilting cotton or 2 layers of sheers doesn’t work well. You must play with your yummy fibers and textiles and see what you get!

Machine Prep

Once you have your assortment of fibers, refer to the Handi Felting Foot Instruction Manual to get the needles and foot attached to your machine. You can also watch the video to see how to get set up.

If you quilt on a movable machine it is helpful to attach your ruler base to provide a flat surface for laying out your fibers.
Remove the bobbin case from the machine and set it aside. Felting creates huge quantities of lint.

Be sure to clean the bobbin area frequently while felting and when finished clean thoroughly and oil the bobbin race before starting a quilting project.

 

 

 

 

 

Machine Settings

Set the machine to manual mode. Go slow when first starting until you have a feel for how it goes. I like the machine speed to be about 500 SPM. This allows me to move at a nice moderate pace. You want to keep moving, staying in one place too long can create a hole or can push all the fibers to the back of the piece. Different fibers require different amounts of felting to meld the fibers together.
Set your needle to stop in the up position so that you can move away and add more fibers without having to raise the needles.

Mounting the base fabric

If you needle felt with a movable machine, (Amara, Forte, Simply Sixteen, Avante, Fusion), you can mount your base fabric by attaching it to the leaders. If the piece is not large enough, simply baste some muslin or scrap fabric to the edges and attach that fabric to the leaders. Mounting to the leaders is not necessary however, you can always use channel locks to keep your machine stationary and use the ruler base to give a surface to support the fabric. That allows you to move your fabric under the needles just like you would do on a stationary machine. It works well for  smaller pieces. If you needle felt on your Sweet Sixteen or Capri, you are ready to go.

Getting started felting

Start simple with two layers of craft felt. Use one piece for the base and cut out a simple shape from another piece. Lay the shape where you’d like it on the base fabric. Move the machine over the shape and start by lightly going over the entire shape to tack it down starting in the center and moving out to the edges. Once tacked in place go back and felt securely. You will quickly see how fast or slow you need to move to get the desired results.

Next try some yarn. Use caution so as to not get your fingers near the needles. Needle felting is a very organic technique so don’t be too worried about being exact. Try felting the yarn as it comes from the skein and also try separating the fibers.

 

Now you’re hooked

Add as much or as little you’d like. Once you take it off the frame you can trim it and add a piece of felt or cotton batting to the back, running a line of stitches down the center. Fold over on the stitch line and you’ve got a fancy little needle book to use for those hand stitching projects.

Felting: You’ve got this

Learning to needle felt is an easy transition from free motion quilting. Since you are already a longarm quilter, you already have the feel for free-motion quilting and needle felting is very much the same motion. You might not be accustomed to running your machine in manual mode. Since there are no “stitches” to show and no thread, it doesn’t matter and the smooth sound of the machine at a constant speed helps you to move smoothly. One thing you want to remember is to have the machine set at a faster speed and you should move the fabric (or the machine) at a slower rate. This will help prevent breaking needles. Also remember to have the needle stop set for UP. Learn more by watching the HQ Watch and Learn show about the Felting foot.

What will you felt first?

by Mary Beth Krapil

Thoughts on Batting

The top is finished and the backing has been pulled together. Now we’re ready for the best part, the quilting. But we have to have something in the middle to make it into a quilt. I have some thoughts on batting that I’d like to share. It’s the least appreciated part of the quilt. But it does most of the work of making a quilt either soft and warm and cuddly, or wall hanging worthy. So you have to choose wisely.

What is batting?

Batting is the material used between the top and backing layers of fabric in a quilt. This material provides dimension, texture and loft to your quilt as well as providing an insulting layer of warmth.

Batting can be made from many different fibers. The most popular among quilters are cotton, wool, silk, polyester, bamboo, and various blends.  You can find a nice description of the different fibers at the Connecting Threads website.

There are a lot of choices on the market and it may seem overwhelming, but it really boils down to two things: 1. how the quilt will be used and 2. your personal preferences. I’m going to share my preferences and give my reasons. You should experiment and decide on your own personal preferences with some of what you read here in mind.

How will this quilt be used?

We make all sorts of quilted items, wall hangings, art quilts, table runners, place mats, baby quilts, kid’s quilts, couch quilts, bed quilts, lap quilts, heirloom quilts, guest bed quilts,  don’t-you-dare-nap-on this-quilt quilts, picnic quilts, car quilts, dog bed quilts. I’m starting to feel like Forrest Gump’s friend, Bubba, listing the uses for shrimp, but I’m sure you’re getting the picture.

I divide up my projects into 2 categories:

1. Flat and stable

Wall Hanging

In this category I include any quilt that needs to remain flat and square, so that it hangs nicely, and will very seldom (if ever) get washed. This type of quilt requires a stable batting that will not sag if hung on the wall, that doesn’t stretch as much as some other batts, and that provides stability. My choices are cotton, or an 80/20 cotton/polyester blend.

There’s only one problem with those choices, they don’t usually have much loft. I’m a quilter and I want my quilting texture to show. For that you need loft.  Loft refers to the thickness or puffiness of batting. So to add that loft with out giving up stability, I add another layer, of wool or polyester, on top of my flat stable layer. It lets my quilting texture sing while the cotton layer against the backing keeps everything flat and square. Win-win!

Table runners and Place Mats

These are things that will get washed. And they need to lay flat so that you can place dishes and glasses and such on them and not have anything tip over. My choice for these is fusible fleece. I position the fusible side to the backing so that I can get a small degree of texture from the quilting on the top. After quilting and binding I give the item a good press (according to fleece package directions) to fuse the fleece to the backing. This batting also helps keep the item looking crisp and flat after washing.

2. Drape-able and cuddly

These quilts are ones that will get used for sleeping, watching TV, napping, building forts, making super hero capes, having picnics, swaddling babies. They get washed. Soft and cuddly is the name of the game.

Bed Quilts

I prefer natural fibers for sleeping. My favorite bed quilts are made with wool batting. They are lightweight, breathable, warm in the winter (especially with a cotton batted quilt on top), and cool in the summer (all by itself). Most all wool batts on the market today are pre-shrunk so they are machine washable on gentle in cool water and dry-able in a low drier. You will get a small amount of shrinkage to give that classic crinkled quilty look. The loft shows my quilting texture (a big plus!).

Kid’s Quilts

If the quilt is for a child, then I might opt for cotton or 80/20. Kid quilts get washed much more often than most grown-up quilts. I prefer a more stable batting to hold up to all the play and trips through the laundry. I want the outer fabrics to wear out before the batting does.

Winter Quilts

Did you notice earlier I said I put a cotton quilt over my wool quilt in the winter? A cotton batting has a heavier weight and although it’s breathable, it’s a little less so than wool. It provides a nice layer of insulation in the winter. Where I live it’s not always super cold all winter long, we have some weeks of milder temps between the freezes. So I keep my cotton batted quilt nearby for the really cold nights.

These have got to be the most boring photos ever. The beauty of batting is the job it does to make your quilts work the way you want them to.

 

Batting Tips

  • Always follow the directions on the package when it comes to care and also the density of quilting. The package will always tell you how close your quilting lines need to be to keep the batting from shifting and bunching in the wash. Follow the rules!
  • I like to buy batting on the bolt or by the yard rather than the packaged batts. It has less wrinkles and fold lines.
  • Speaking of wrinkles and folds, I like to load my quilts on my longarm frame the night before I plan to quilt. Then I can drape the batting over the poles and give it a light spritz with a water bottle. During the night the ironing fairies come and get all the wrinkles out and I’m ready to put the batting in and start quilting.
  • Batting stretches very easily, so treat it gently while you are quilting and be super careful not to stretch it.
  • Handi Quilter machines can easily stitch any commercial battings, so no worries about that. If you’re hand quilting, be sure to choose one that is easy to needle.

These are my thoughts on batting and are in no way comprehensive. The only way to learn your own preferences is to experiment and learn as much as you can by reading and talking with other quilters. Let us know what your favorites are and be sure to tell us why in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

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