I know you've made some scrappy blocks, right?
Good! Now you are ready to make a scrappy quilt top. Here’s Scrappy Quilt part 2 - we'll join our blocks and quilt the quilt!
You will need:
-Fabric for your quilt back – I cut mine approximately 1” larger all around than the size of the quilt top.
-Batting for your quilt – I used Quilter's Dream cotton batting as it has a smooth, low loft and works very nicely with my Baby Lock Sashiko which is what I wanted to use to quilt my new scrappy quilt with. You, of course, can use a regular sewing machine and the quilting method you love best but if you have a Sashiko machine, this is a great quilt to try it out with!
Press the seams open on all your blocks, if you haven’t already done so. I find that it’s easier to join nicely crisp, ironed blocks than it is to join floppy ones.
Lay them on your work surface as they will be joined together.
I join one horizontal row of blocks together at a time and then join each “row” of blocks to the other finished rows. That way I can keep my blocks going in the order I have laid them out without getting myself confused. (On my good days!)
Traditional quilting seam allowances are ¼”. Feel free to use whatever seam allowance makes you happy – just keep it consistent throughout the quilt.
I aligned each row at the block joining seams and pinned them together. (You'll notice that I have pressed my seam allowances open. I do this whenever I can for quilts I plan to Sashiko as it helps keep the bulk or the fabrics evenly distributed. I know that it's common practice to press the seams toward one side and "nest" them at the corners...but for Sashiko quilting I've had much more success with skipped stitches, thread breaks etc. when I press the seams open. Just so you know!)
When you begin to sew the rows together you may find that some blocks want to stretch more as you stitch which means some of the corners of the blocks may not align perfectly with each other. Our scrappy quilt blocks will not be truly on the straight grain due to the piecing method. This can really be an issue to some us. Use a walking foot for best results, or baste each aligned corner by machine or hand. For machine basting, stitch on the seam allowance and then sew the actual row of stitching over it so that the seam covers up the basting as you go. For hand basting, stitch away (toward the selvage) from the seam allowance and pull out the basting threads when you have finished sewing the seam.
I can hear my mother saying “A man on a galloping horse would never notice!” Unfortunately that doesn't make me feel better. I just HAVE to make those corners meet! Argh! One nice thing about this scrappy quilt though, if you don’t make them meet perfectly you can claim “that’s part of the design” and get away with it – truly! Ha!
Okay, once you have joined the blocks together and have a finished quilt top then it’s time to cut a piece of quilt batting and quilt backing fabric. Everyone has their own method for this too, but I like to give myself plenty of room for error (or shifting) as I quilt. I cut my quilt backing and quilt batting 1” larger all around than my quilt top.
Stack the three layers together on a flat surface and make sure all three are nice and smooth. Quilt top on top, right side up, batting in the middle and quilt backing fabric on the bottom wrong side up.
I chose to quilt my Scrappy quilt with rows of stitching spaced 1” apart in a grid, which meant I needed two perpendicular base lines to follow. (I had to use a few rulers placed end to end to reach across the whole quilt top.) I used a water soluble marker as I find that easier to see than a chalk pencil and less likely to rub out before I'm done with it.
Now it’s time to secure the layers together here and there so they will not shift around while you are quilting them. Some folks use quilting safety pins. Some folks like to hand tack the layers together with a stitch or two placed at regular intervals. I like to baste my layers together with rows of long running stitches spaced 6 to 8” apart. Whatever you find easiest will work just fine. Just remember that whatever you use needs to be removed as you quilt over it. That’s a moot point for pins – I mean, GA! You definitely don’t want to stitch over a pin. But what about thread, why does it need removed too? Well you can pick it out later, but it is ever so much easier to do it while you quilt. Stitched-on-top-of thread can really be a pain to get out. If you are using your Baby Lock Sashiko machine to quilt with you might not want to sew over basting thread. It probably will be just fine, but then again it might get caught between the latch wire and the needle and create havoc. I tend to be safe rather than aggravated and just clip and pull the threads as I get to them.
I love Wonder Clips! I use them instead of pins to keep my quilt sandwich rolled into a manageable bundle when I’m quilting. If you don’t have Wonder Clips you can also use binder clips. As I quilt I unroll, re-roll and then re-clip.
Do you have an extension table for your machine? You might have a nice big table or cabinet that gives you a large, flat space to drape your quilt over while you work. If you don’t have such a thing, consider getting an extension table for your machine. They are awesome. Baby Lock makes extension tables for their machines, including the Sashiko. Yay!
Note – Sashiko users need to remember that for even stitches you must allow the feed dogs to do the work. Don’t push the fabric or hold back on the fabric as you sew. I find it helpful to use the biggest table I have with nothing behind or to the left of my machine.
Also, here are a couple of dial adjustments you need to make before beginning:
Set the presser foot PRESSURE dial to 3.5 or 4. This takes some of the tension off the presser foot allowing it to act more like a built-in walking foot. (Aren't those BL machine inventors clever?) Depending on the thickness of your batting you may need to adjust that dial even lower. For best results, do a few test runs on scraps of batting and fabric to see what setting will work best for your choice of batting and fabric. I find that somewhere between 3.5 and 4 works great for most of my quilting projects.
Next adjust the presser foot height dial slightly up. A higher number allows the foot to “lift” off the fabric when the needle is engaged. I’m not sure why, but a setting of 1.5 or a little less seems to help keep the fabric from wrinkling and crawling when I’m quilting layers with batting. You might want to experiment with that too so that you can find what your quilt sandwich likes best. (This applies to straight stitching, not contour stitching for which you would need to swivel the fabric while the needle is engaged. For that method, you'd need a presser foot height setting high enough to allow you to swivel the fabric easily. I'll write about that method soon!)
Most sewing machines come with a quilting guide. They usually look like a weird hockey stick with a handle. These little attachments are really easy to use and make it possible to create even rows of quilting. Check your machine’s manual to find out how to attach this guide should you wish to use one for this project. Make sure it’s firmly attached. I set mine on my Sashiko machine so that I could quilt rows 1” apart.
The first row of stitching should be placed ON one marked line. Sew from one end to the other on top of the marked line. Then go back to the beginning and align the business end of the quilting guide with the line of quilting you just stitched. Allow the guide to “ride” along the stitching line. It should not press into the fabric, just rest on the fabric so that it can glide easily along. Now - this is the hard part for me – watch the QUILTING GUIDE and not your needle as you sew the next row of stitching. Yeah, I know. That can be a challenge because our eyes are automatically drawn to that needle! But keep your eye on the guide. That will allow you to keep your rows straight and even.
Notes for Sashiko users again – If you are a new Sashiko machine user you need to know that you should always BEGIN and END stitching on the fabric. Do not stitch on air. Don’t forget to catch, clip and hold the thread in the thread cutter at the end of each row of stitching.
Should you run out of thread or break the thread in the middle of a row, re-thread your bobbin and begin by aligning the needle hole in the presser foot with the exact spot the next stitch should begin. (You need to get your nose down there so you can see that!)
After you have finished that row, stop and secure the thread tails on the wrong side. You can simply knot them together and clip the tails short. But for a nice neat, clean finish, thread them into a hand sewing needle, take a couple of tiny stitches in place, and then hide the tails between the layers. Do this every time you have to stop and start in the middle of a line of stitching and your quilt back will be pretty and neat when you are finished quilting! Plus you'll prevent stitching over those thread tails too. Don’t worry about the thread tails at the ends of the rows. You will be trimming those off when you even up the quilt edges and they will be secured and covered in the bias binding.
Once you have quilted the entire quilt one way, use the other marked line to begin quilting the other way, if that's your game plan.
So, let’s get quilting! Quilt your scrappy quilt using whatever quilting technique you like best. That might mean you stitch along the patch areas for each block, you stitch in the ditch between each block or you free-motion stipple stitch your quilt. Use the grid method I've described here or quilt to the beat of your own drummer!
Join me next week and we’ll put the bias binding on. I’ll show you how to make perfect mitered corners, front and back, painlessly – promise!
Thanks for reading!