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Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Uniquely Modern Problem

There is no part of the quilting process that could be described as "fast." I keep wondering why I'm doing it, at each separate stage. Picking a pattern, getting fabrics, washing and pressing said fabrics, cutting, sewing the blocks, squaring the blocks, sewing the rows...finally one day you have a quilt top ready for sandwiching.

Sandwiching is my least favourite part of the process. Get a big room, move several tables together, lay down the backing and tape it down with masking tape. Then lay the batting down and tape it. Then lay the top down and tape it. Then either crawl onto the table or lean waaaaaaay over to the center and start basting. If you're alone and its a queen-size, around six to eight hours later your quilt will be basted. And you will have a near-broken back, near-crushed neck vertebrae, aching arms and legs, and a very sore finger that's been "stabbed" about a thousand times unless you've been using a spoon to lift the pointy end of the needle all day.

And then you get to pull off all the masking tape and move the tables back to their original position, and limp home as best you can, one sandwiched quilt under your arms that, quite frankly, by this time, you'd be overjoyed to never see again.

Every time I finish a top and have to get ready to sandwich it I keep saying "there HAS to be a better way!"

When we did the "quilting bee," I rolled the quilt onto 2 2x4s so we could start our quilting from the center and work the length of the quilt and then move gradually along the rows.

So I asked a friend of mine if she thought I might do the same thing in order to sandwich the quilt. She is a longarm quilter, and she said she often bastes quilts for hand quilters. And of course, for a longarm machine you start at one end of the quilt and work your way down to the other end. This is what she does when basting, just putting parallel lines the length of the quilt.

It's a far cry from the basting from the center out to the edges, up & down, across, and diagonally, but I needed a way I could do this at home. And, not having 12 feet in both directions to work with, or several tables to put together, I decided to give it a try. If it worked, it means I can take all week to baste it, giving my back and neck a rest, instead of trying to get it all done in one day.

So I began in the guest room, laying the backing, batting, and quilt top out to make sure the back and batting extended beyond the edge of the quilt. Tricky, since all three layers are much larger than my guest room bed...but I managed.

So here's the 2x4 with the backing attached, the batting going on, and the quilt top on top of all.

A quick trip round the other end of the bed to check that everything is dropping and that the backing extends beyond the quilt top.

I brought it all out into the living room and supported the 2x4 on some small tables. This is the first line of basting - I was trying out letting the end of the quilt just drop to the floor.
That didn't work though - because there needs to be some kind of tension gently pulling the backing taut.

So in the end, I rolled the loose end of the backing onto another 2x4 and rolled it up till it was taut. I took a third 2x4 and rolled up the batting/quilt top together.

There's a third table under there, supporting both 2x4s. Now I can adjust the tension on the backing separately from the batting/quilt top. It's working really well. Oh, and I hold the 2x4s where I'm basting apart by attaching clamps to the tables that keep the wood separated.

And of course, my cat Bijou is sleeping on it now. So, aside from cat hairs, and the occasional splinter, I think I might have found a solution.

I kept wondering, through all this process, how they did it in the "olden days." It took me a while, but I finally realized they didn't have this problem in the olden days. In the olden days, they didn't have our big beds! Real Kings and Real Queens slept in beds we would call "double" now, or even "standard." Our Queen-sized and King-sized beds are huge by comparison! So this is actually a uniquely modern difficulty. You didn't used to need 12x12 feet of floor space or table space to sandwich a quilt. Your average dining room table was big enough.

I do wonder how the Amish quilters handle it now though, if they've worked something out. Though, there seems to be an ample supply of helping hands there, unlike here, where my occasional pleas for sandwiching assistance are met with stony silence...

But in the absence of a large extended family, or cavernous rooms, I'm hoping this is a viable way for an old lady to get her quilt sandwiched without breaking her neck and back in the process!