7 critical questions before quilting a quilt

Yesterday, I kept track of everything and was able to put all those squares together without any reverse sewing thanks to those great organization tips I used. They sure made life much easier. I’ve put the borders on and now it is time to think about quilting this masterpiece. There are 7 questions to ask yourself before quilting a quilt.

Borders on the quilt – just need to outline the circles in dark teal

When I first decided to outline the pieces with the dark teal bias tape I wasn’t so sure about it and really wasn’t sure I would like it but I love it. It adds to the quilt and makes the fabrics and shapes pop. Now just to add it to the circles in the border.

As you can see I have an uneven border. I’ve always wanted to make an uneven quilt but this one is still symmetrical. It could result in issues with binding but I’ll leave that conundrum for another day.

Now it’s time to get on with the quilting and answer those 7 questions.

Question 1 – Will the quilt be washed?

If the quilt is an art quilt then more than likely it will never see the inside of a washing machine but if it’s a kid’s quilt then it may see the inside of the washing machine many, many times. If the fabrics were not pre-washed then it’s a really good idea to add a dye catcher to the first couple of washes to catch any excess dyes and prevent dye running into lighter colored fabrics.

I have had great success with the Dylon Dye Capture sheets which I picked up at my LQS. Here’s one that has turned pink as it caught the red dye circulating through the wash water.

Pink tinged dye capture sheet that captured red dye

Also if you’re going to be washing the quilt this will determine the amount of quilting being done on the piece. For overall even shrinkage you don’t want the quilting lines to be any further apart than 6″ – 10″. This is also dependent on the type of batting being used. I tend to stick with closer quilting lines when I know it’s going to be washed.

Question 2 – What type of thread?

Cotton, rayon, polyester? Thread that matches or contrasts? I tend to use a variety of threads. For this piece I picked out a few spools in teals and browns, cotton and rayon.

Array of Sulky thread in cotton and rayon

I decided to use one of the lighter brown Sulky rayon threads in 30 wt as I want the background to lighten up slightly as I find it very dark. By using a lighter colored thread I’ll get a high contrast which will take away from the dark background and show off the quilting lines. The rayon thread will add a shine to the background as well.

A great way to test the color on the fabric other than just lying a piece on the quilt is to put a little sandwich together and sew a few lines. This will give you an idea of whether you like it or not and whether it provides the contrast you’re looking for.

My favorites are the two darkest. And here I thought I was going to go with a lighter thread for contrast. Now I’ll have to rethink what look I want.

Auditioning threads on the brown fabric

The bobbin thread I tend to match to the top thread – it may or may not match the backing fabric. I also tend to use a 50 wt cotton thread such as Gütermann in the bobbin no matter what is on top.

I like to use backing that goes with the front of the quilt and the thread may or may not blend in with the backing. If a busy background is used then the stitches on the back of the quilt will blend in with the fabric more. If a plain backing is used the stitches will stand out more. It all depends on the look you want and whether you want to hide your stitching.

Question 3 – What type of batting?

There are many different battings on the market. There are cotton, blends of cotton with either bamboo, polyester or wool, pure wool (one of my favorite), bamboo, silk and polyester to name a few. Batting is very much a personal preference and can be project specific.

For this project I’m using a 100% cotton because I don’t want it to have much loft. If I wanted loft I could use one that is a blend 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Loft is puffiness. Children’s quilts look great with some loft as do bed quilts.

Wall hangings and art quilts tend to look best with a very low loft or thin batting such as cotton, silk or bamboo.

Question 4 – How should it be basted?

Basting is a very personal thing. There are 3 different ways to baste a quilt – safety pins, spray glue adhesive or stitched with a basting stitch. My favorite is safety pins.

The key with all three is to make sure the quilt layers are not going to move when quilted. There is nothing worse than finding puckers and folds in the backing after going to all that hard work of quilting a quilt.

Follow the directions on the spray adhesive – some need to be ironed to set the layers while others don’t. And some don’t work very well with polyester fabrics such as Minkee fabric.

With pins, my rule of thumb is to have them a fist width apart. This ensures nothing moves as it gets sewn and manipulated through the sewing machine.

Quilt sandwich basted with pins

Question 5 – Walking foot or free motion quilting?

This depends on what you’re most comfortable with, what the quilt is for and what most suits the quilt design. For this piece I’m going to do echo quilting with the walking foot to fill in the large open spaces. I could do the echo quilting with the free motion foot but I have much more control with the walking foot and the stitches remain perfect and even. With echo quilting it’s important to have control in maintaining even spacing for the result to look good.

Quilting feet

Question 6 – What marking tool to use?

Oh there are so many different marking tools on the market. My favorite are 3 from Clover.

The Clover Chaco Liner which comes in several different colors and has a wheel that dispenses a chalk line as it moves along the fabric. The chalk usually disappears when sewn over but if not it can be wiped away with your hand.

The Clover White Marking Pen which is awesome on dark fabrics. Just remember that it takes time for it to show up after you draw the line. To get rid of the line just iron over it. This will work perfect on the dark brown background fabric.

The Clover Blue Water Erasable works on medium and light fabrics and can be erased with the eraser pen or with water.

It’s important that all marking tools be tested on a scrap piece of fabric to ensure that they’ll come off once the lines are no longer needed especially on the lighter colored fabrics.

Assortment of marking pens

Question 7 – Is there going to be embellishing?

Embellishing should be added after the quilting is done if it’s in the form of buttons or beads as they are hard to quilt around. If the embellishing is in the form of couching then it may be part of the quilting and can be added along with the other quilting. I’ve got some cording and yarn that may do the trick.

I haven’t decided if I will embellish this piece or not. I see that I took out part of the design from my new layout yesterday which I wish I had kept in the open areas between the corners and the wagon wheel center so I may put some couching or applique in there once the piece is quilted.

Assortment of items to use as embellishments

I’ve got all my answers to the 7 questions to ask yourself before quilting a quilt so now I can get to work on quilting this piece.

Happy Quilting

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1:  4 tips for keeping your quilt pieces in orderGo to part 3:  How to face a quilt in 12 easy steps

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25 comments

Fred April 14, 2016 - 2:19 am
Great tips! Love your threads audition, choice of batting, and tip about space between two basting pins! Very complete post, to not forget anything before quilting
Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:39 am
Fred, there is definitely a lot to think about when it comes to quilting a quilt - almost need a check list. Hope this post helps. Happy Quilting Jen
Karen April 14, 2016 - 12:41 am
Lots of great tips and well organized. I try to always prewash my fabric but the dye catcher sheets are good to know about. Thanks.
Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:40 am
Karen, the dye catcher sheets are wonderful for those of us who do not prewash and I am one of them. Glad you enjoyed the post and all the tips. Happy Quilting Jen
Sheila Stewart April 13, 2016 - 11:29 pm
Great advice - I'm still learning ...
Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:42 am
Sheila, we are all still learning no matter how long we have been quilting. Happy Quilting Jen
linda newman April 13, 2016 - 5:26 pm
What a great approach to quilting. I will save this post.
Jennifer Houlden April 14, 2016 - 6:43 am
Thanks Linda, glad you enjoyed the post. Happy Quilting Jen
Summer April 13, 2016 - 2:54 pm
If you REALLY want to make sure your quilt doesn't bleed (for those of us who don't pre-wash fabric), then the Field Trips in Fiber blog will show you how to soak your quilt to get those fugitive dyes out! I've done it many times before when using reds, blues, and blacks next to whites and creams in a quilt top, and I've never had any dye scooching into my backgrounds!
Amy April 12, 2016 - 11:18 pm
I love the idea of auditioning your thread on a sample. I haven't done that and now have a quilt almost ready to quilt. I'll have to use my "practice" block for the auditioning. Thanks!
Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 10:59 am
Amy, your practice block will be perfect for auditioning the the thread for quilting. Happy Quilting Jen
Sarah J April 12, 2016 - 9:32 pm
So helpful! I love this since I'm a newish quilter- especially the info on choosing thread!
Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:01 am
Sarah, glad you found the info useful. Happy Quilting Jen
Pam Beck April 12, 2016 - 5:29 pm
Great set of questions to use for the quilting process. Thanks for all the great tips.
Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:03 am
Pam, you are most welcome, glad you liked the tips - these questions do help with the quilting process and make things easier to move forward with the quilting. Happy Quilting Jen
JoyceLM April 12, 2016 - 5:23 pm
Great information - thanks for sharing.
Jennifer Houlden April 13, 2016 - 11:02 am
You are most welcome Joyce. Happy Quilting Jen
sherryl April 12, 2016 - 10:13 am
Thank you for this great information. These are some of the more difficult decisions I make. Still working on keeping the back pucker free
Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:18 am
You are most welcome Sherryl. Hoping for pucker free backs for you. Jen
Allison CB April 12, 2016 - 9:38 am
Awesome blog! You covered some great points!
Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:21 am
Thanks Allison. There are so many things to think about before quilting a piece and sometimes you have to think a long time before you come up with the right design for a quilt. Happy Quilting Jen
Peggy April 12, 2016 - 9:27 am
Great article. Always lots to think about before quilting. Maybe that's why I have so many unquilted projects.
Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:22 am
Peggy, unquilted projects are just part of being a quilter - don't worry they will get quilted someday. I too have many unquilted pieces so you are not along. Happy Quilting Jen
Nancy Giese April 12, 2016 - 8:40 am
Excellent advice! I think I'll bookmark this and share it with my guild
Jennifer Houlden April 12, 2016 - 10:22 am
Nancy, that would be great if you shared the info with your guild. Happy Quilting Jen
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