Putting It All Together

Stephanie Novatski © 2006

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Earlier this year, I hosted a gathering of blocks for a healing quilt. Once I received all the lovely blocks, I was confronted with the prospect of putting them together into a quilt. The largest problem was—and is—that I am not a quilter. I had only constructed 1 small sane quilt and 1 small crazy quilt and I wanted this one to be special.

Based on past experience, I knew The blocks had to be perfectly matched in size. This is difficult with embellished blocks since some of the embellishments make it hard to measure accurately. What worked for me was to place a terry cloth towel on my ironing board and use this as a surface for measuring and marking. I placed the blocks face down on this surface, one at a time, smoothing out the back while making sure not to stretch any more than necessary, but making sure also it was as wrinkle free as possible. I used a quilting ruler to mark the seam line on the backing. I then basted in a contrasting color along these seam lines.

The sashing also had to be even. I thought ribbon would work well and add to the overall appearance.

The Healing quilt was made of 16 6" blocks laid out in 4 rows of 4. To determine how the blocks would be arranged, I placed the blocks on a card table top covered with a tablecloth in the approximate color of the backing fabric I thought I would use. This was placed on the floor. After laying out the blocks, I looked at them through binoculars and in a mirror held at a distance. This helped me determine if the layout was balanced. Once I had my finished layout, I wrote it down. At this point I was still waiting for 1 block, but decided to go ahead with the construction. If the final block didn't arrive, I could use that space for the names of all the contributors.

I decided to add sashing between the blocks and chose a 1 ¼" wide embroidered ribbon. I felt this width separated the blocks nicely and did not draw attention away from the beautiful blocks. I first constructed the horizontal rows by laying the edge of the ribbon over the basted seam line and machine sewing as close to the edge as possible. As I sewed down the sashing, I trimmed off the excess seam allowance and removed the basting stitches. I measured each block as it was added to make sure it was true in size and perfectly square.

After all the horizontal rows were constructed, I connected them in the same manner, making sure all the seams lined up and the measurements stayed true. Once all the blocks were joined, I had to decide on how to make the quilt sandwich and hold it all together. I found a piece of fabric I liked for the backing and decided to add a border to the front highlighted with lace and rolled ribbon roses at the block corners. I had just the piece of lace that I had been saving for something special.

I laid out the pieced top and lace on the fabric to determine how wide to make the border. I cut out strips for the border, and I cut a piece of white felt the size of the finished quilt. I laid the quilt top centered on the felt and sewed the border strips through the quilt top and felt, turning and pressing. I sewed the sides first, then the top and bottom border strips. I measured again to make sure the quilt was squared and the border even all around. I like to use felt because it is easy to sew through, holds its shape, and has a nice amount of body.

I cut a piece of backing fabric the finished size of the quilt plus seam allowance as necessary. I added a 4" sleeve by cutting a piece of fabric 9" x the width of the quilt less 2". I sewed it together along the short sides and turned it so the edges were finished. I stitched this along the raw edges to the top of the quilt back and also sewed the bottom edge of the sleeve to the backing. (Note: I like to sew the sleeve at the 3 ¾" mark as this helps prevent a bulge in the front of the quilt caused by the rod when hung). I placed the backing over the quilt top right sides together and sewed it all around leaving an opening about 12" along the bottom. I again measured along the stitching lines to make sure the quilt was square. I clipped the corners, turned it right sides out and carefully pressed the edges.

Starting from the center where the block corners met, I sewed small floral appliqués through all layers. You could also use buttons. Once this was done, I carefully pinned the lace around the blocks on the border and then machine stitched it in place through all layers. The final touch was to add groupings of rolled ribbon roses at the junction of the border, lace, and block corners sewing through all layers.

I added a label with all the names of the contributors in the order of their blocks to the backing. This label was hand attached as a pocket to hold cards and correspondence for the recipient from all the contributors.

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