14 August 2017

Snowflake Monday

Welcome to Week 4 of the Snowcatcher Snowflake Quiltalong!

Today I'm going to piece the back for my quilt. I have to piece the back because I ended up making the quilt top bigger than initially planned, and I didn't buy enough backing fabric.

I had planned all along to add 2.5-inch strips I cut from my blue snowflake stash to the backing if it wasn't big enough. So I didn't worry when there was an even bigger shortage than I'd expected.

The final flimsy measures 52 inches square, and I'd purchased 2 yards (or 72 inches) of 45-inch wide Wilmington Prints Quiet Bunny & Noisy Puppy for the back. After cutting off the selvedges, I had nearly 20 extra lengthwise inches of backing fabric that was roughly 9 inches short on the fabric's width.

I used to cut my backing (and batting) almost exactly the same size as the top because that's how my grandmother did it back in the '60s, and she and her quilting bee ladies would polish off a quilt by hand every Saturday morning in the basement of the church with the layers stretched out on a sawhorse quilt frame one of the husbands built for them.

One of the women would then bind the quilt with purchased wide (about 2 inches!) Wright's Double-Faced Quilt Binding by machine using a zigzag stitch, like store-bought single-layer blankets. I'm not sure that type of binding is even available anymore! But I certainly saw my share of it while I was growing up.

The women never had a problem with the layers ending up different sizes at the end of their quilting, probably thanks to those handy sawhorse quilt frames. Before I met my husband and before he built such a frame for me after we married, I didn't have that problem either because I hand-basted all my quilts on either the splintery old frame I inherited from my grandmother or the gorgeous and smooth frame Lizard crafted. Once I began trying to learn to free-motion quilt, however, I stopped hand-basting to further speed up the process. The layers inevitably would shift as I worked, or even stretch unequally, and I often had to cut off an inch or more of a quilt to square it up again after I finished quilting. I once added a two-inch triangle to the corner of a nearly finished quilt so the backing would be the same size as the top.

Now I cut my backing and my batting a couple inches bigger than the quilt top. I HATE the waste this creates, but I use the discarded cuttings to stuff my amigurumi. And I never have the problem of the sizes being unequal at the end anymore. It's a trade-off, but it also is a bit faster and easier than trying to get the layers lined up on my quilt frame by myself so I can hand-baste before attempting to machine quilt.

(The Lizard always helps me line up layers when he's home, if I wait for him when I get to that step. Sometimes I'm too anxious to get going on the quilting, and so I'm doing the layering by myself.)

This means my final backing size for Charmed by Snowflakes would need to be approximately 56 inches square. I used five-inch strips leftover from the extra charm squares I made to enlarge the quilt top as backing fill-in. I also threw in a five-inch leftover of some peacock feather fabric I'd used for a winter dress because it has faint snowflakes tossed in with the metallic peacock feathers. In retrospect, I wish I'd thrown in a charm square of this fabric on the front, but having it just on the back makes it sort of a fun I Spy activity, in my opinion.

I forgot to take photos of how I lined up these layers to pin baste, so I'll try to get another quilt sandwich made so I can snap a few photos to share the process of making a quilt sandwich by the time this post is published. If no pictures appear yet, it's because I didn't get another sandwich made. I will add photos as soon as I can if I don't finish on time.

Very excited there's enough wide mottled black backing for a second quilt!

wide backing cut to fit

Pun of the day... batting lineup. Ha ha ha!

batting cut to fit

backing taped face-down to the floor

Doesn't matter which side of the batting faces up or down.

Quilt Sandwich, pin-basted and ready to quilt!

Using packing tape, I taped the backing to our hardwood dining room floor face down, pulling tight in all directions without pulling the tape up. I then centered the batting over the backing and taped the corners and side centers into place. Then I centered the quilt top over the batting, face up, taping down the corners one more time and pulling tight as I could without pulling the tape up. (I've used wide masking tape in the past, and although it's easier to clean up when I'm done, it also doesn't tend to hold the fabric to the floor tight enough. Yet another trade-off.)

For the last couple of years or so, I've been putting my layers together outside on the driveway, and using an adhesive fabric spray to hold the layers together. This process, of course, does not work in windy weather, which we frequently have, and it doesn't work at all when the driveway's covered in snow or melted snow. Or mud...

Lizard does NOT like when we spray the adhesive in the house because the fumes are not pleasant. He also wouldn't be too happy if I got the spray on the hardwood floors and left it there. (Yes, I did get some on there twice, and I did my best to clean it up. But he could tell, and not just because of the smell. How about that?!? I rhymed!)

My quilting friend Ruthie in New Mexico has been putting her layers together with curved safety pins for many years, and I had been curious about how well that would work for me, even though I don't own any curved safety pins. (Ruthie learned the process from Eleanor Burns and uses Burns' curved pins. Curved safety pins are available on the internet and at craft stores, as well as Target and Walmart.) I have a huge package of not-cheap large, but fine, safety pins, so I tried the pin-basting method for the first time on Purple Haze, and I'm comfortable enough with the process now that I'll probably use it most of the time. Saves money, too, because that quilting spray is darned expensive.

I started at the center and pinned each charm square through all three layers, working around and around until the outer edge. I then lifted the tape up as gently as I could so Lizard wouldn't be frustrated with me for leaving small pieces of torn tape on the hardwood floor. Good fingernails helps with this step.

Next week, I'll be quilting by domestic machine, a process I expect will take up to four nights.

Linking up with Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Crazy Mom Quilts.


  1. Look at you go. I think my grandmother has one of those frames somewhere. Playing I Spy can be fun with the back I bet. Packing tape sure can be a win. Yeah, have to clean up those messes haha but hey, it brought a rhyme, so that's a good time.

    1. Those frames are how quilts were made for centuries before long arms and free-motion quilting came along, Pat. Now we're in such a hurry to finish everything. Me included! Leave it to you to come up with a rhyme in a comment... :)

  2. That came together nicely! I make my backing larger, too, but I try to make it at least 3" larger on each side. When I cut off the excess I can use it for a binding strip if I want to. Less waste than making it 2" bigger! ((And definitely watch out for those sill pins getting in the way of your quilting!!))

    1. What a GREAT idea, Sandy! Thank you for sharing! I think I'll try that 3-inch suggestion on my next sandwich, and perhaps I will be able to use it for the binding. Brilliant!


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

All spam is promptly and cheerfully deleted without ever appearing in print.

If you are unable to leave a comment and need to contact me, please use the email address in the sidebar. Thank you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails