• Machine Quilting In Segments

    Quilting very large quilts can be very bulky when free motion quilted on a standard sewing machine. And many times a quilter wishes to free motion quilt her own quilt rather than sending it to a professional quilter. Yet she may not want to have the weight of the entire quilt on her sewing machine and table at one time. An alternative would be to quilt very large quilts such as a king size or a queen size in two or three or even four separate segments.

    First decide if your quilt top could be divided into two, three, or four fairly equal segments running lengthwise or crosswise of the quilt. For example, the left border and two rows of blocks, the center three rows of blocks, and the last portion two rows of blocks and the right border. The number of portions you divide your quilt depends on the size of your quilt and the size of the segment you are willing to handle on your machine. Another possibility would be to simply divide your quilt into quarters having four equal portions. You may divide your quilt in as many segments as you wish but be aware that the more portions you make the more hand work you will have on the batting and backing.

    When piecing the quilt, make the blocks as usual. Then, when stitching the blocks together, and adding borders, keep in mind the two, three, or four portions of your large quilt. You would need to set the blocks together leaving the quilt in your pre-planned number of segments.

    Next layer and pin baste each portion separately by cutting your batting and backing at least four inches larger then the segment you will be quilting. This will give you two inches extra all the way around. This method could also make your backing more economical as you might be able to use a standard width fabric rather than buying extra wide yardage.

    Machine quilt each portion as desired but be sure to leave at least one inch of un-quilted area on all the edges that will be joined together. Repeat machine quilting for all segments remembering to leave at least one inch un-quilted on all the joining edges.

    To join segments

    Fold the batting and backing away from the top. Pin if necessary. With right sides of quilt top together, pin only the quilt top of the first segment to the quilt top of the second segment, matching your block and seam intersections as you would if you were piecing only the top. Machine stitch while keeping the batting and backing out of the seam. Carefully press this seam to one side or open as you prefer.

    Trim batting of both segments so the batting lays flat in the joining area that is within the few inches of the un-quilted area. Be sure that the batting on one segment exactly meets the other segment and doesn't either overlap or leave a gap. Be sure the batting will fill all the area of your quilt top. Use a large hand sewing needle or a curved needle with double thread and whip-stitch the batting together where it meets at the seam line. Be careful that your stitches don't show through on the top of the quilt.

    Trim one cut edge of the backing fabric so it overlaps the batting joining approximately one-half inch. Trim the other cut edge of the backing fabric so it overlaps the batting joining about one inch. Turn under one-half inch and press with an iron or finger press. Pin in place and hand stitch using a blind stitch or another invisible hand stitch of your choice. Repeat for other segments as needed.

    Machine quilt the two-inch narrow area you left un-quilted before joining segments. You will only have to quilt this very small area with the entire quilt as bulk on your sewing machine. Remember if you leave most of the quilt bulk to the left of the machine you won't have to pack so much into the machine throat.

    Be sure to machine quilt the remaining un-quilted area equally as heavy as the main part of your quilt. Do not leave this area un-quilted as all three layers have seams intersect in one place. You need to quilt it securely through all layers to strengthen your quilt.

    After joining all segments as described above and machine quilting the small area where segments join, finish your quilt with binding as usual.

    The advantage of this quilting method is having smaller segments of your quilt on the machine at one time making less bulk to handle. The disadvantage if this quilting method is you have a structural seam at the same place through all three layers -- the quilt top, batting, and backing.

    If you quilt your quilt closely through all three layers in the joining area of the segments your quilt will be structurally strong enough to withstand regular use.

    Dividing your quilt into segments

    When dividing your quilt into segments such as the left border and first two rows, you would have to cut your top and bottom borders to fit the sections, leaving seam allowance for joining the borders later. If your border is a printed fabric your seaming probably won't show much after it is quilted.

    Another way to handle this would be to divide your quilt segment with the left border and the first two rows of blocks, then your center segment of blocks, and then the right border with the last two rows of blocks. Leave the top and bottom borders off until all the other segments are quilted and joined. Then add your top and bottom borders as separate segments.

    Today's featured article is "Fat Quarters" by Tiffany Windsor. It's more of an inspirational piece than a practical manual, but I thought you might like it.

    Fat Quarters
    Tiffany Windsor

    Fat quarters. I had heard of them, even shopped for them with my sisters but was never really interested in them until I dropped by a local quilt store last December. You see, I was on a crafting binge. I don't know what came over me, but I couldn't get enough of crafting last December. I crocheted an afghan blanket for my bed, learned how to rivet metal jewelry, how to peyote stitch, how to decorate gourds with metal, how to solder jewelry.... and then my eyes fell upon the local quilt store.

    Quilting.....hmmmm.....never been interested in it before... but....let me just stop and take a look. And then I saw them. The displays of fat quarters. Stack after stack after row after row of delicious colors and designs. I knew then and there, I must make a quilt. I could not be stopped. But what would I make?

    I have been sewing since my teens but have never been interested in the precision of quilt making. I don't have enough patience for perfect seams and corners. Then I saw it....a quilt with the seams on the outside! All frayed and textured and perfectly imperfect! It was love at first sight. So, after two hours of over-indulging myself in fabric, I was on my way out the door with $150 in fat quarters and on my way to my first .....second..... and third ..... quilt and my first of the growing collection of fat quarters.

    I don't know what ever happened to our family's quilts. They never made their way down through the generations. Although my quilt didn't cross the prairie draped across the shoulders of my great grandmother, I am proud of it just the same. Every cut and layer and stitch, every imperfection - it speaks pure joy to me! Perhaps one of my grand-nieces will look upon her great-aunt Tiffany's quilt with fascination and pride 50 years from now wondering..... what was she thinking!

    • • •

    Some time ago, I received this question (which kind of funny):

    I have no idea what "fat quarters" are. Over weight pocket change? Not likely. Could you explain?
    Thanks, Gail
    I think the current issue and the preceding article make this an appropriate place to answer than question.

    So here it is:

    After production, manufacturers usually package fabric in rolls (or bolts) that are 44" (sometimes 45") long. I should really say 44" wide, but because the orientation of pieces changes once the fabric is cut off, it's easier to refer to it as length. In retail, fabric is sold by yards cut off from the roll. The term "quarter" refers to a piece of fabric cut 9" wide and 44" long (the complete length of a standard roll) -- 9" being a quarter of a yard -- to the total area of around 396 square inches.

    A fat square is the same amount (same area of around 396 sq. in.) of fabric cut wider and shorter; it is twice as wide, but twice as short as a regular quarter: 18" by 22". Fat quarters are made by cutting 18" of material off the roll and then cutting that piece in half.

    Here is a sketch that shows the difference between two types of quarters:

    I would like to mention that because of the selvage that is being cut off, the usable length of pieces of fabric is really about 42" (or 21").

    With fat quarters, you have more options as to which shapes you can make. You are not limited by the maximum width of 9" for any non-composite patch you are crafting.

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