Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Backings revisited

So remember in the last post where I said I'd talk about other backing topics? So here are some of my thoughts that aren't related to just figuring out the math.

T-shaped backs

I'm talking about backings that have two pieces of fabric running in one direction and another running perpendicular. Thusly:

I can tell you that longarmers hate T-shaped backs. This is because of the warp and weft (or crosswise vs. lengthwise grain of the fabric). There is a little bit of stretch in the weft (crosswise, that is, selvedge to selvedge) grain of the fabric. When a longarmer is loading a quilt onto the frame, she has to work against gravity. That gravity is pulling down on the backing, which isn't actually attached to anything but a couple of roller bars on her frame. This means that the backing may sag and if it's sewn together in a T shape as illustrated above, it will sag weirdly. So, if you're sending your quilt to a longarmer, skip the t-shaped backing. In fact, if I were sending mine off, I would piece the back as little as possible.

Wide backings

Wide backings are a popular choice, but keep in mind that they are often not made from the same high quality greige goods your regular quilt shop fabric is made from. So, wide backings can also be hard to square and they can be squirrely.


I also understand that longarmers aren't fans of using bedsheets as backings. this is because the thread count on sheets is often too high to easily quilt through.


This is the super soft, furry stuff that is so wonderful to touch. Longarmers don't seem to mind minky fabric on the back of quilts. Remember that quilting stitches will really disappear into your quilt if you use minky fabric on the back, so if you're wanting to highlight the quilting on the back, minky might not be your best choice.

Quilting at home

So all of the things above that I mentioned that longarmers aren't fans of? Well, they're often more do-able at home. If you're basting your quilt on a table or the floor, you don't have gravity working against you. And though I haven't used a sheet as a back before, once I scored a used duvet cover from Crate and Barrel for under ten bucks and used that as a backing and it was just fine. But, it wasn't really a sheet, and because it was Crate and Barrel, it was of reasonably high quality. 

A note about using minky: please don't use the yucky stuff they have at the discount fabric stores. That stuff feel okay (not as good as quilt shop Cuddle) but once you wash it, yuck. And contrary to popular belief, it isn't too bad to quilt with, as long as you use basting spray and not pins to baste. 

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to figure out backing fabric requirements

I recently stumbled upon a question in a quilt group on Facebook asking, "How much fabric do I need to back a 6' x 8' quilt?" Instead of just giving an answer, I decided to write this post to teach her (and others) how to figure it out herself. Sort of a, "tell a quilter how much backing fabric she needs, help her with one project; teach a quilter how to figure it out herself, help her for all of her projects" situation.

The first thing to do is take those numbers in feet and change them to inches. Instead of 6' by 8', we need to think of it as 72" by 96". Quilting fabric usually comes in widths ranging between 40 and 44 inches. I'm going to assume 40, because it's better to have too much than too little.

If we double 40, we get 80. Since 80 is generously bigger than 72, she won't need to sew more than two widths of fabric together. So we know that we will need two times the longer dimension of the quilt, which is 96. So, if we double 96, we get 192 inches. Divide that by 36 (because there are 36 inches in a yard) and voila, we get 5.33 yards. Of course, because we don't want to have to be super precise, and because shops don't cut perfectly, and everything else, we need to increase that amount. So, I would advise her to buy 6 yards of fabric.

This method works with larger quilts, too. If your shortest dimension is 90, you would simply sew three lengths of fabric together using the longer length multiplied by three (along with -- no kidding here -- about another yard of fabric to allow for cutting, sewing, and shrinkage). 

Keep in mind that my method above is assuming she is doing her own quilting. If she is sending the quilt to a longarmer, she needs to add 8 inches to each dimension (most times the longarmer will describe this as "four inches on each side"). So in that case, we would be looking at a backing that needs to be 80 by 104. The 80 is okay in this case; we were assuming we would only get 40 inches of usable fabric when in reality we will probably get a little more. Plus, though I'm not a longarmer (and I don't even play one on tv), I think most can get by with a smidgin less than four inches all around. But we would still need to double the 104 number to come up with 208. Divide that by 36 and we get 5.778 yards. Personally, I'd probably still go with 6 yards, but if she wanted to be really safe, she could get 6 1/4 yards.

So, that wasn't too painful, was it? I'll talk about wide backings and T-shaped backings in another post.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Skating Dresses

Like I said in my last post, so much has happened in our lives since I was writing regularly. One of those things is that Molly has gotten involved in ice skating, and for the last year has been involved in Synchronized Skating (Synchro for short). Last year she was on the Beginner 1 team in Richmond. Here in Madison she'll be on the Beginner 2 team.

Well, let me tell you, skating dresses are expensive! So, being a sewer, I of course decided that I would just make my own. Here are some I've made so far:

First try. Not so hot. Also, too tight, and itchy!

Second dress. It's coming along!

Third dress. This one has a zipper!

Matching dresses for two skaters. This was for the holiday show.
A cross-top dress with an asymmetrical hem.

I'm getting there! The great news is that I'm making the dresses for her current synchro team! And there may be more in the works. I'm so excited I even bought a serger. It sure makes life easier!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back in the Saddle, she said

Wow. It's been nearly a year. And the last year of posts was really bad. The truth is, I've been extremely overwhelmed. My dad died two summers ago (about a month after I posted about the new car and camper). We had to put Ollie down. And this past summer we moved (back) to Madison, Wisconsin.

Here's the deal. It's been so long that I'm just going to jump in as if I were never gone. Sound good? Great. Also, I'm going to try to be more useful in this blog and not just

blather on about what I'm making. That will start with the next post. In the meantime, here are some things I've done recently:

This is a sample quilt I did for an upcoming class at Quilt-agoius, a shop in Mukwanago, Wisconsin that deals exclusively with modern fabrics, including batiks and a good selection of Kaffe Fassett fabrics. 

The class is based on the book City Sampler/100 Modern Quilt Blocks by Tula Pink. The layout I did uses 70 blocks.

But lest you think that that is really way too big a project to make in a three session class (it is!), never fear. This is what we'll actually make in class:

But because I'm evil I'm not giving out the rest of the pattern until the end of class, when you'll be so hooked on making the blocks that you'll want to make a big one for yourself!