I grew up with aunts and a mother who loved to sew. They’d fawn over fabrics and patterns at family get-togethers. Even last November, out popped my aunt from her sewing room with a handful of patterns over which the majority of women in the house oogled.
My mom taught my sister and I how to sew from a young age. I remember her creating cardstock patterns for us to practice hand stitching and sewing straight lines through the machine. My sister and I made jean quilts, flannel quilts from leftover shirts, and I even had a stint in high school where I made and sold jean skirts that I created from my friend’s jeans. I’ve created my fair share of crappy quilt tops. I’ve had some of which I am super proud. I have not tried to machine quilt my own quilt before. I decided that this weekend was the one to try! It couldn’t be that hard, right? No doubt if you’ve looked into free motion quilting machines or long arm quilters (Spoiler: They’re not cheap), you know that that it can be a significant investment. My Pfaff is a workhorse…at least as heavy as one. I thought to myself “Why not try to quilt a small quilt on my own machine?” So that’s what I did. I knew that the main way to get all the layers of fabric and batting together prior to quilting was to pin baste.
Basically, this means your backing fabric goes face down on a hard surface, the batting layer next, and the quilt top face up. You would then pin the quilt with safety pins or large basting pins to secure the layers together as you quilt under the machine. Honestly, that sounded like a lot of pins to me and I really REALLY hate pinning things. I looked into spray basting the quilt using an adhesive spray as suggested by the wonderful people on Craftsy. I am not sure that I would choose to spray baste a large quilt. I wouldn’t want to get halfway done and have to re-do the whole thing. I watched a tutorial on spray basting on YouTube.
Ultimately, spray basting the quilt is the method I chose. My quilt top was about 55 inches by 55 inches, a crib or small lap size quilt. Dontcha love it? It has a plus pattern on the front and a soft snuggle Star Wars print on the back.
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Step 1: A Few Tips About Adhesive Sprays, Batting, and Backing Fabric.
A word about Basting/Adhesive Sprays:
Craftsy lists a few options for adhesive sprays:
-June Tailor Quilt Basting Spray
-Dritz Basting Spray
-505 Spray and Fix
When I went to JoAnns to find the spray, none of those options were available. I picked up Dritz Spray Adhesive instead hoping that it would work. It was made by Dritz, one of the brands mentioned. It said it was perfect for bonding fabric…so…I took a chance. It is odorless, colorless, stainless, and acid free. Cleans up with Soap and Water. Score!
A word about Batting:
There are a lot of options for batting. You can find cotton, polyester, blends of both, organic, and ones with different loft (the squishiness and height a batting gives). The smaller the loft, the flatter the quilt. If you want it to be a puffy looking quilt, use a bigger loft. Pellon’s Natures Touch Eco-Blend Batting. The King Size batting in a bag was on sale for $14.99. Turns out that I can get up to 4 small quilts from just one bag. Pretty awesome at around $3.75 to bat a quilt. I like the idea of a softer more organic cotton batting. That’s the only reason I chose that. Well, that and the fact that it was on sale and clearance. YAY for saving a little bit of money!
A word about Backing Fabric and Binding the quilt:
You’ll want to have more backing fabric than the size of your quilt top if you are planning on rolling the backing to the front to bind the quilt. If you are planning on using a different strip of fabric to bind the quilt, the backing and quilt top can be the same size. I usually just make the backing fabric a good hearty inch and a half to two inches larger than the quilt top. I like to have too much than not enough! You can always trim back. Often, you will need to buy extra fabric, cut it in half lengthwise, and sew it back together on the width to make it fit the quilt. For my extra large King size quilts, I have been known to sew three fabric sections together. It’s just something that you might have to do. This is a simple article explaining what I mean and giving you measurements for fabric. Here’s another.
Want an uber simple diagram? Like my happy face envelope drawing? I purchased about 3.5 yards (126 inches) of fabric. I cut it in half so that I would have two pieces measuring 63 inches each and about 44 inches wide when opened up from the fold line. I sewed those pieces together on the long side so that I would have a quilt backing to fit..measuring approximately 80 inches by 63 inches–enough to easily cover my 55×55 quilt top. Watch your selvages and trim!
Step 2: Preparation and Materials Needed
-Gather your ingredients. Have your quilt top and backing ready.
-Iron your fabrics. Get all those nasty wrinkles out. Press your seams flat. This will save you a lot of heartache and I honestly wouldn’t move forward without this step.
-Clear out an area for the basting inside or outside.-Cut your batting to size. Have scissors handy, clean clothes and hands, and a bit of uninterrupted time you can focus on this task.
-An Ironed, smooth, and finished quilt top or fabric of your choosing
-Batting (the fluffy layer of cotton or polyester that makes the quilt poofy)
-The ironed, smooth, and finished quilt back (Can be another quilt top you’ve sewn together or just a fabric of your choice).
-Spray Adhesive or Quilt Basting Spray
-A large flat surface (I used my kitchen floor)
-A breeze. Keep the air moving in the room to avoid passing out from the chemicals!
-Newspapers or a sheet to lay down to protect the floor from the spray. You’ll need to clean the hard surface well if you choose to skip this.
-Tape to tape down the first layer of fabric and the newspapers to the hard surface.
Step 3: Assembling the Layers and Basting
Clean your hard surface. Lay down the newspapers or sheet to protect the area from the spray. Tape them down.
Lay your backing fabric with the “right side” or patterned side down, the “back” or “wrong side” up. Smooth this out starting from the middle and working your way out to the edges.
Lay out your Batting. You will want to make sure you have enough batting–I like to have mine extend past the edges of the backing fabric a couple of inches just to be safe. It is alright to piece together the batting if you don’t have enough. Just make sure you line up the edges and leave as little gap between them as possible.
Make sure your batting and backing are nice and flat and smooth.
Trim the extra batting.
When you have the batting lined up on your backing fabric, fold half of the batting onto itself. Starting from the center, spray your adhesive bond all over the backing fabric. Give it a nice even coat.
Gently roll the batting back onto the backing. Smooth the batting as you go in an outward motion from the center to get rid of bubbles or wrinkles. Don’t fret if you mess up—-gently lift the batting from the backing and start again. When you’re positive there are no wrinkles and the batting is secure on the backing, you will repeat this step on the other side of the fabric. Remember, gently smooth from the center toward the edges.
I got so excited that it was working so well, I forgot to take pictures past the batting point. My bad. The videos I mentioned earlier might be more helpful if you need more visual at this point!
I let my batting and backing be for about 15 minutes to give it a good bond. This may be an optional step.
Next, lay your quilt top face up on the batting to position it. Fold it in half. Spray your adhesive spray onto the batting and gently fold your quilt top onto the batting. Smooth as you go. Make sure there are no wrinkles!
Repeat for the other half. Again, it may be optional for some, but I chose to let my fabrics adhere for a good 10-15 minutes before I messed with them.
You’re done basting! You’re ready to machine quilt the quilt! I found this method to be extremely simple and effective. The adhesive spray worked as advertised. The pieces were bound together WONDERFULLY and it served my purpose well. The spray was odorless, which was a plus. I didn’t have to pin anything and as far as I could tell, the quilt didn’t shift while I quilted in my small machine.
Step 4: How to Quilt on Your Plain Ol' Sewing Machine.
Wanna know more? How about I tell you how I machine quilted my quilt? Ok.
My sewing machine is a Pfaff 1222E (Thanks Mom!)
I made sure my table was cleared off and clean. The key to machine quilting is to have a plan! Know what you want your quilt pattern to be. Do you want to do straight lines like this? Do you want to do a criss cross pattern like this? You could do wavy lines or a zig zag pattern too. Use your imagination! I chose to do a mix of straight and diagonal lines for my Plus-Star Wars quilt and I designed a fun Dr Who Tardis Logo pattern for my Dr Who quilt.
After I spray basted my quilt, I rolled half of it onto itself to fit better around my machine. I started from the center and sewed toward the edges. There isn't really much to it if you know how to sew a straight line. Just think of it as sewing lines on a rather thick piece of fabric instead of *quilting a quilt...OH THE HORROR*.
-If you have the option, keep your needle in the down position when your machine stops. This will keep your quilt from shifting as you adjust it or turn it. I have heard of people using tape as guidelines. I used the corners of my quilt blocks as guidelines.
-Backstitch and doublestitch on your beginnings and endings.
-Trim the thread as you go. This will save you the hassle of having to go back after you are done and trim up all the loose ends you forgot to do while sewing.
After you are done, you’re ready to bind the quilt and call it good! Enjoy!
The Plus / Star Wars quilt was my first quilt I tried on my machine! Can’t believe it actually turned out so well! You can see my straight lines and criss cross patterns through some of the pictures I've posted. They’re not perfect, but by golly, nothing ever is.
The Dr Who Quilt was made with just 2 large pieces of fabric and a simple black border. I taped off the Tardis Logo design and quilted it on the front. Unfortunately, you can't see the design unless you look on the back--and in that case, it is reversed. So, remember to look at the big picture when you quilt!
Step 5: The Finished Outcome!
Here you can see my mix of straight line quilting in addition to criss-cross pattern. I like the criss-cross!