Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Working Wednesday - The Finish Line!

Hi, all!

With Jolene out of commission, I've been much more aware this week of how we complete quilts.  Therefore, that's what I'll be writing about this week!


Once you've made your quilt tops, the question arises how to finish it off.  When you first start making charity quilts, you may not have access to a long arm quilter or quilting service.  There are several options for finishing your quilts, and we'll look at some of them here.

You've made your top, and it's time to make a back.  You can piece your back with a creative design using the scraps from your front, or you can do something simpler with one or two fabrics.  Remember that a pieced back can be hard to center to your top, particularly if you are new to quilting.  I always make my pieced backs asymmetrical so that if the top is not quite centered, it looks intentional.  

Once you've created your back, you sandwich your quilt.  Lots of choices here, too. You can thread-baste the top, batting and back together.  You can pin it together using safety pins.  Or you can use basting spray to basically glue the layers together.  Whichever method you choose to use, be sure that your quilt sandwich is as smooth and wrinkle free as possible.   

Now on to quilting!  When we first started, quilting was very new to all of us.  Our very first ministry quilt was simply stitched in the ditch, and so were the next several quilts.  This is a simple and effective way to do it, but doesn't do much to enhance the piecing you've taken the time to do!  

You might consider stitching 1/4 inch to each side of the seams as an alternative.  This is actually easier than stitching in the ditch, because you don't have to hit such a small mark.

Then we moved on to straight line quilting, on the diagonal of square-blocked quilts.  Also simple, but it gave the quilts some texture.  All of this quilting was done on our tabletop domestic sewing machines, and we were learning how to manipulate the quilts through the machine throats.  

Starting to feel a bit more confident, our next step was more organic straight line quilting.  Sometimes we echoed the pattern in the fabric with the quilting; other times we just did straight or wavy lines to secure the batting and create texture.

Then we moved on to free motion quilting.  This can be a terrifying thing the first time you do it!  But practice makes perfect, or at least better - and charity quilting gives you lots of opportunity for practice!

Do you notice the label on the binding in the picture above?  This is one way to label your quilts, simple and effective.  We decided we didn't like the look of a flat label on the back, so we chose this as our standard label.  However you choose to do it, you should always label your quilts!

Some ministries choose to tie their quilts rather than quilt them.  Many will pray a prayer with each knot that is tied, and even involve non-quilters in the process of tying the knots.  This is a great way to allow more to participate in the creation of each quilt.  However, it may not make as sturdy a quilt, so if it is likely to need a lot of washing (for example, a quilt for a young child), you may wish to keep that in mind.

Once the quilting is done, you will need to bind the quilt.  You have several choices here too - you can choose to self bind, turning the backing over to the front to finish off the edges of the quilt.  (The frog quilt pictured above was bound that way.)  Or you can attach a separate binding by machine and either hand sew or machine sew to the opposite side of the quilt.  Many charity groups request that quilts be machine pieced, quilted and bound to make them as sturdy as possible, able to withstand washing in a commercial machine.  This is a factor to keep in mind when you are deciding how to finish off your quilt.  There are many great tutorials on how to bind your quilt, so it's easy to review the options and decide which one works best for you.  We originally started by attaching the binding to the front by machine, then stitching it down to the back by hand.  However, the day we had seven quilts to finish before the next day, we learned how to complete the binding by machine!  Sometimes necessity dictates technique….

Once your quilt is finished, take pictures!  You'll be giving this quilt away - your pictures will be the only record you have of what you created.  Believe me, after you've given away enough quilts, they'll start to blur together.  You will want to be able to look back and see what you have done in the past.  Look at pictures others take of their quilts - blogs or Pinterest are a great place to do this.  Improve your picture taking skills by analyzing what you like about certain pictures.  Natural lighting, an artful setting, close-ups - all of these things will make your pictures more interesting.  But remember to take at least one picture flat and straight on so you can see the entire quilt!

Now fold up your quilt neatly, tie it with a pretty piece of ribbon or tulle, and add a card for your recipient.  We are fortunate to have a woman in our group who makes beautiful stamped cards as her contribution to the ministry, and we wrote a prayer to go in each card that goes out from our ministry.

Our Prayer For You

That the DESIGN or plan of this quilt will remind you:

“…I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

That the COLORS of this quilt and of all Creation will remind you:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”  Psalm 24:1-2

That the WARMTH of this quilt will remind you of the love of God:

“…and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”   Romans 5:5

That the many STITCHES in this quilt, like the many stars in the sky, will remind you:

“…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:15

That the HANDS that worked on this quilt will remind you:

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.” Psalm 31:14-15


A Ministry of Gladeville Baptist Church

Now bask in the glow of a job well done…….  and then get to work on the next quilt!


OK folks - did I miss anything?  Do you finish your charity quilts differently?  If you've got any great tips, I'd love to hear them - we've been swamped with requests lately and anything we can do to streamline the process would be fabulous!

Thanks for your input, and for helping me along this journey!




  1. Love, love the prayer! I want to put something like this in the cards i make when i give the quilts away. Right now, i machine sew scraps on the front, and glue a tiny block inside. Sort of the idea, when life breaks into pieces, there is a grand design to put them back together again. But, since i am not a writer, i do not have such a wonderful prayer like yours.

  2. Well written and I think you covered it all quite completely.

  3. I love the quilt label idea, I never thought of that before!

  4. Good post, I can't think of anything you missed. I would have a new quilter read it as a starting off place to get a good idea of what is involved in finishing. Lots of good info, especially the label and pictures, I think people forget when they are so happy to have a finish.

  5. Great post! I think you covered all the important points.

  6. Sarah it could be useful to explain about batting, if you haven't done that in an earlier post I've missed. There are lots of choices and they can certainly affect the look of the quilting too.
    Love the prayer!

  7. Nice writing Sarah! Love the you stitch it over top of the binding or sew it in as a segment of the binding (i.e., before the binding is put on)?

  8. I do like your label. Great idea.

  9. I do like your label. Great idea.

  10. I do like your label. Great idea.

  11. I do like your label. Great idea.

  12. I am with Suemac....I love the label idea...can you tell more of how you did that?
    Also, can someone sign up to send in quilts?


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