This technique was explained to me by Katie Pasquini-Masopust at a workshop a number of years ago. I wrote all the instructions down, but as I am mostly a visual learner, I watched what she did and have just imitated it. If it is NOT exactly true to Katie, I mean no disrespect whatsoever. This is what works really well on large pieces, when actually quilting on a small, home machine. It works well for both straight AND curved seams. If you can put 2 pieces of fabric together, fronts together, sew, and press open, then you can absolutely use this technique!
The first thing you need to do is actually quilt whatever you want to put together. For me, this is (2) 75” panels that will be part of a larger work. It’s important that YOU USE THE SAME BATTING WEIGHT in each of the pieces you are putting together. If not, one piece will be thicker than another and it looks rather odd. Yep, that is the voice of experience.
For these 2 panels, I am only trimming the sides I am sewing together, since they will get quite a bit of handling when the bias tape goes on in the back. For quilting as you go, a little bit of planning goes a l-l-o-o-o-o-n-n-g-g way towards success.
I trim, using a rotary cutter and long ruler, making sure I have a solid ¼” of fabric on both top and bottom. If your fabric top is shorter than ¼” you run the possibility of it coming apart, just as you would with any seam in quilting. After trimming the sides that will be sewn together, I flip them, FRONTS TOGETHER and sew.
For demonstration purposes, I used light colored thread, but would normally use the same color as the fabric I’m sewing. A couple of important things:
- Use a 80/12 or 90/14 needle to move through all the layers smoothly and evenly.
- Lengthen your stitches a couple of notches from where you do piecework. A tiny stitch in this application is unnecessary.
- Use a ¼” foot with a bar or stop on the right – this will help you keep your pieces in line
- Sew slowly and evenly. If you zip along this seam, it can walk, and you want a steady-eddy motion
After you have sewn your 2 seams together, it gets a bit fussy, but this next step totally makes the backing look smooth and sexy. Pick one side or the other, but using VERY SHARP little scissors, gently cut away excess batting in the seam.
When finished cutting the excess batting, press seams OPEN. This is where is would have been bad to short the front when trimming. Because you are pressing the seams OPEN, it’s important that both sides have a good anchor, not a skimpy little piece that could eventually pull apart.
Bias tape: I have seen really beautiful quilts with purchased bias tape used on the back, and it’s been OK, since these quilts hang and will probably never be used on beds, etc. If you want really good bias tape, however, make your own. Cut a 1½” strip of fabric, press, and stitch using a scant ¼” seam. Now using bias bars, press so the SEAM is on the back and you have a piece of bias tape that will be used to hide your pressed-open seams.
I always use the same color thread on bias seams, just like I do on binding. You don’t want this stitching to be obvious. Working in about 5” stretches, I PIN the bias tape over my pressed-open seam and use a whip-stitch to attach. I also stitch one entire side down before moving back to the beginning for the 2nd side of the bias tape. Again, I’m showing you what thread I will actually be using – the same as the backing – as well as a light-colored thread so you can see the whip-stitching. This part is just like putting a binding on…make small, even stitches and the back will be lovely.
Once all of the binding between my panels is done, I will square up the sides and put a regular binding on like you would any quilt. For the contemporary pieces I use an art binding, rather than a traditional binding…the only difference is that a “blind” art binding is completely sewn to the back, whereas a tradition is folded over so you still see ¼” of the binding on the front of your quilt.