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Quilting Basics

By: Roxanne McDonald - Updated: 13 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Quilting Basics Quilting Fabric Quilting

Quilting is a centuries-old craft that reportedly goes as far back as the Crusades and as comes as far forward as today. While warmth is a priority for the quilter, a secondary purpose is to tell a story of family identity. As popular as the oral tradition, symbolic quilting brings people together for the making, the sharing, and even the shopping for or museum-viewing of incredible works of generations of quilters.Here are a few quilting basics for anyone interested in carrying out a most respected tradition.

Three Layers

The Quilt Top

The quilt top is the fabric surface exposed to the viewer’s eye. It might also be considered the third and fourth layers, especially if appliqués are used. The classic patchwork quilt top is made by sewing together individual pieces, while other quilt tops are embellished (with embroidery, needlepoint, and/or a combination); silky or shiny (using satin, sateen, Chintz, etc.); or simple and of one single piece of material (and made into what is known as a whole cloth quilt).

The Quilt Batting

The batting, filler, stuffing, or insulation is the layer that gives depth and density and, depending upon how thick, offers degrees of warmth. Combined with the filler character, the single running stitch used to make a grid of quilted squares, which traps air within the layers and makes for a warm and cosy comforter.

The Quilt Backing

The single piece of fabric to which the batting and top are secured by sewing, the quilt backing is necessary to create the ultimate quilting effect. And as opposed to many other sewing projects that have a back side that is not seen by the viewer, ever, the backing is typically considered with as much car as the top, so that the quilt is, in a sense, “reversible.” In fact, many quilts are intended as two-sided items—often having different colour schemes, motifs, or a solid face in contrast to the embellished front or top layer.

Four Essentials

The basic materials, the minimum of supplies you’ll need for a start at quilting basics, are:
  • Quilting needles/thread or machine
  • Material (three types—top, back, and filler)
  • Good scissors
  • Pins.
For more advanced tools, you might opt for a quilting grid and material marking pen (washable), a rotary cutter, a seam ripper, and other accessories—but for starting, all you need are the bare essentials, really.

Five Steps

For a patchwork quilt, the following process is the most traditional:
  • Blocking (beginners may want to create a quilt block, one square of all three layers)
  • Piecing (sewing the pieces together to create the quilt top—sometimes just the pieces are sewn together; sometimes the pieces are sewn with sashing—separate strips the length of the quilt that are alternated with the rows of blocks)
  • Layering (creating a sandwich of the top layer, centre layer filling, and back layer)
  • Quilting (creating designs by sewing through all three layers)
  • Binding (completing the project by binding the open edges of the quilt)
Of course, any sewing enthusiast knows other steps involve pressing the seam allowances, using or making your own little quilting pattern shapes, and a few other actions that once you get started will come along with the endeavour of making a telling and symbolic, decorative, and/or useful super quilt!

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