Quilting Process - A Brief Overview
are types of bedding or bed covering that consist of a quilt top, batting, and a fabric backing. All these three layers of a quilt are attached together through the process of quilting. Quilting is a form of sewing done either by hands, sewing machine
, or by quilting machines
. When done by quilting machine, it is called longarm quilting. The quilting process uses a needle and thread to join two or more layers of material together to make a quilt.
Basic Process of Quilting
The basic or the traditional process of quilting has the following steps.
Decorating the Quilts
- Selection of patterns, fabrics and batting. Batting is the cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers in sheets that are used as filling for quilts or bed coverings.
- Measuring and cutting of fabrics according to the size given in pattern so as to make blocks.
- Piecing the blocks together to make the quilt top. Piecing is the process of sewing pieces of fabric together, along a common sized edge in order to form a larger, whole piece of fabric.
- To arrange the layers- the quilt top, batting and backing- so that a quilt sandwich is formed.
- Quilting by hand or machine through all layers of the quilt sandwich.
- Trimming the excess batting from the edges.
- Sewing the binding to the front edges of the quilt with machine and hand-stitching the binding to the quilt backing. Binding is a strip of fabric used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich in order to finish the quilt off.
- Quilts are sometimes hung on the walls just like the wall carpets. In such a case, the quilting process includes making and attaching the hanging sleeve.
Complex designs and patterns are often used to decorate the quilts. The scheme of embellishing the quilt, however, depends upon the visualization and creativity of the quilter. With technologies like computer-aided-designs
(CAD) getting popular, many quilting softwares have also been introduced in the market that help in visualizing and planning the quilt patterns and designs. The quilter can use a variety of threads
including multicolored threads as well as metallic threads to add richness to the quilt. On the other hand, the stitches can even be made invisible by using nylon thread
or polyester thread
or by stitching in the seam line.
Many types of decorated quilts are made by the skilled quilters that include applique quilt
, block quilt
, embroidered quilt
, among many others. Majority of the quilt tops are made by piecing many smaller patches of fabric that are popularly known as patchwork quilt
, in which the patterns are created by combining individual blocks. On the contrary, while making whole cloth quilts, emphasis is placed on elaborate quilting on a single piece of fabric. For further decorating the quilts, polished chintz, satin fabrics
, or other shiny fabrics are often used in whole cloth quilts.
Machine Quilting is either done by a sewing machine or a Longarm quilting machine. When done with the help of sewing machine, the layers are tacked together by laying the top, batting and backing out on a flat surface and either pinning, using large safety pins, or tacking the layers together before quilting is done. The layers to be quilted are placed on a special frame. The frame contains bars on which the layers are rolled. Thus, the layers remain together without the need for basting or pinning. These frames are used with an industrial sewing machine
mounted on a platform. The platform rides along tracks so that the machine can be moved across the layers on the frame. The longarm quilting machine holds and keeps the quilt stationary on rods while the machine head moves the needle across the quilt. When quilting with sewing machines, the fabric has to be moved through the machine.
Longarm Quilting Process
In longarm quilting, a longarm sewing machine sew together the quilt top, batting and backing into a finished quilt. The longarm sewing machine is 10 to 14 feet in length and consists of an industrial sewing machine head, a 10-to-14 feet long table that is sufficient to make a king size quilt, and a number of rollers on which the fabric layers are positioned. The table of the machine has a flat region on which a layer of thin, clear plastic lies for placing patterns and other designs to be followed by the quilter. The longarm quilting machine completes up to 3500 stitches/minute and therefore it takes much lesser time than hand quilting or a traditional quilting machine. The hand-guided machine head has handles. On these handles, the quilter can guide the machine along the fabric in order to sew the pre decided design. The computer-guided machine head is attached to a computer system that lets the quilter to choose a design to be sewn onto the fabrics. With selection of the design, the machine will sew the chosen design onto the quilt without any assistance by the quilter.
The longarm quilter is often referred to as the "longarmer". The longarm machine can be used from the front or the back of the machine. The process can be carried out without basting. Basting is temporarily holding quilt top, batting, and backing together with the help of thread, pin etc. so as to allow quilting. They are placed onto the machine by pinning the layers to large canvas leaders and then each layer is rolled separately onto the roller bars. The longarm is then positioned over the layers which makes it ready to be quilted. Most of the times, the quilt top is "floated" on the carriage system allowing it to be manipulated easily in any direction over the surface of the quilt. Since most quilts are made without back stitching therefore, it is important to make sure that the seams are secure and that they do not begin to pull out when crossing with another seam. It is more so important where multiple seams merge together as is the case with eight pointed star.
Types of Longarm Quilting
Based on the method of selecting and creating designs, there are two key styles of quilting done by longarm quilting machines - pantograph designs and customized designs.
These are pre designed patterns that span the length of the longarm table. The longarmer takes the pantograph design and place it beneath the plastic layer on the table and then traces this design using the laser found on the machine head. The design can be repeated in rows to create an all-over design on the quilt top. This is a relatively fast and easier method of quilting.
Here each block or area of the quilt is individually designed depending upon the requirements of the end user or the customer. Many sewing styles are adopted for the purpose, such as meandering, feathers and motifs. Meandering involves an all over fill-in design and requires lesser attention to detail and as such can be done quickly. Feathers and motifs require more attention to details and alignment and therefore can be time-consuming which results in expensive quilts.
Based on the styles, quilting can be further categorized into the following types.
Edge to Edge Quilting:
It is a continuous line design carried on from one edge of the quilt to the other edge, and repeated from top to bottom of the quilt. It is an economical method of quilting for the purpose of making utility quilts. It provides a balanced proportion of stitching without highlighting any particular area of the design.
Most of the patch work quilting is creative quilting. It may include edge to edge work all over the body of the quilt with separate designs stitched around the border; medium size stipple meander of various styles; small quantities of ditch stitching; open grid work; some inset motifs etc.
It is a more detailed version of creative quilting which may include fine stippling; grids & open cross hatching; large quantities of ditch stitching; free form interpretive designs having feathers, flowers and other intricate meander designs; a good quantity of or small, inset motifs.
Quilting to the "Max" is the extended form of Heirloom category. In it, stitching is extremely close and can involve extensive stops and starts. Grids, circles & other line designs, including creative free form & thread painting, where the designs are stitched very close to each other.
It is a dimensional design in a quilt by which closely sewn lines of stitching are stuffed with batting to make them appear 3-dimensional, or raised from the surface and is commonly used in whole cloth quilts.