Week in Review 2019 – 11/08

Shannon Conoly, asked me “How will you align the backside of your quilt with the front side?” The easy answer is I won’t. This is one of things I don’t obsess over. I don’t worry about this, because my work is designed to be hung against the wall. Therefore, the backside isn’t seen. Just because I don’t obsess, doesn’t mean I don’t make any effort. What follows is my current go to method for layering and basting my work before the quilting begins, along with some of the reasoning behind it.

Prep work is complete to start layering Sunrise Over the Gulf River for quilting.
Preparation is key

Step one, is learning how to create a flat top and backing. If either undulates this is going to show up as puckers, folds and bubbles. You cannot quilt a quilt into submission. Therefore, the flatter the work to begin with the flatter it will be after quilting.

It is helpful to find the center of each layer. I do this by folding the layers in quarters. This way each successive layer can be opened in situ, then adjusted as needed.

If I plan on washing or rinsing the quilt after it is quilted I use spray starch to give the top and backing a finally pressing. Why? Refer to step one. Also, you don’t want to leave starch in the fabric. It simply isn’t a good archival practice.

I make my backing at least 2″ longer, preferably 4″ longer than any side of the top. Why? I like to quilt all the way to edge of my work. This gives me something to hold on to as I quilt. I cut my batting a similar size, although it can be smaller. It does need to be larger than the top, since the process of quilting causes work to scrunch in and shrink slightly. This is why if making a work that must finish an exact size, it is vital to make it oversized by an inch or two. It also helps with the final squaring up of the work, if that is called for. This covers the standard three layers, top, batting and backing.

I love that SpunFab is 60″ wide and sold in 10 yard units.
Planning is vital

I prefer five layers. I use SpunFab, a fusible, archival web between the top and the batting, as well as the backing and the batting. The advantages of basting with a fusible are two fold. First, it keeps the fabric from distorting. Second, there are no pins or thread to remove as you quilt. When cutting the fusible make sure it is at least one inch less in length than the top for layer 2 and the batting for layer 4. Why? The fusible should not extend beyond the layer of fabric you are ironing. If it does your iron will literally be a hot mess.

The order of the layers, from top down is:

  • Top
  • Fusible web
  • Batting
  • Fusible web
  • Backing
I’ve finished quilting the sky and started on the water. Note not a pin or basting stitch anywhere. This allows me to quilt the long lines required for the water ripples easily.

I often learn something new, even when I am doing something I have done countless times. The next time I layer my work, I will try layering from the bottom up, BUT stop at the batting. I will layer in this order:

  • Batting
  • Fusible web
  • Backing
My with the sky quilting is to create a sense of wind currents and clouds.

This way I can fuse the backing to the batting. Always start ironing from the center and work your way out, pressing vs. dragging the iron. Once fused, the three layers can be flipped over so the backing is on the bottom. Add the remaining fusible web layer on top of the batting. Next position the top. Now fuse the top to the batting. You are ready to quilt!

I am linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Fridays.

By Gwyned Trefethen

I am an artist who uses fabric, thread and miscellany to create designs gifted to me by my imagination.


  1. I am curious to know why you use a fusible to baste your layers together rather than a spray adhesive (that will wash out) like 505. Do you only make wall quilts? (Can you tell I am a relatively new reader of your blog?:) How does the fusible affect the drape and hand of your quilts?

    🙂 Linda

    1. Great question, Linda, I’m so glad you asked.

      I choose not to use 505 or similar spray bastes because, to be safe, you must only use in a well ventilated area with a mask. This is a big red flag for the wife of chemical engineer. I can use a fusible web without fear of their harming my health. I don’t have to worry about the time of day or the outdoor environment. Everything can be done in my studio. I have two back to back work tables that form a 6 foot square and very large (30″ by 96″ ironing station built by my husband).

      Most of my work is art quilts. If I were making a comfort quilt, lap quilt or bed quilt, where the hand of the quilt is essential, then I would not fuse my layers. I would either baste with pins or stitch. Fusing does make the quilt stiffer, but still pliable. I can easily fold or roll it as I quilt. The fact that it is stiffer, though, is an asset when it hangs on the wall. The drape meets my picky standards.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial….believe it or not, even after all these years I’ve never even tried to fuse the layers together for basting. In part, for years I only hand quilted, but now that most of my work is wall art quilts it is something to consider. Though not having an appropriate size iron station will probably prevent me from using this approach except for very small pieces.

    1. We’ve both been quilting for decades. Machine quilting, especially free motion, just wasn’t done. There were a few mavericks out there. Harriet Hargrave springs to mind. I was thrilled to be able to take a class with her back in the ’90’s. Only Harriet could deliver a lecture about batting for 45 minutes and have everyone in attendance riveted. I was all snared threads and confusion in her class. Around the same time, Michael James gave a lecture at my guild. His hand quilting was stunning. Precise, tiny, even stitches. He told a story about hanging a solo exhibition. There were a couple of women who wondered in and assumed he was one of the workers at the gallery. No idea he was the artist. They were inches from quilts debating as to whether they were machine quilted or hand quilted. Finally, they figured they must be done by machine because no one could hand quilt that precisely. Wrong! But that is when Michael started machine quilting his work. To paraphrase him, “Why bother hand quilting if people can’t tell the difference.” We can certainly tell the difference today, because of the intensity of quilting one can achieve by machine.

      I am fortunate to have an ironing station. I asked my husband to build me one I saw somewhere. That ironing station was always an issue when we moved. I took it from Massachusetts to Wisconsin and back to Massachusetts. When looking for our next home, it had to have a logical studio space to accommodate the ironing station and my two machines, both in cabinets that expand. Even if I didn’t have the ironing station, I would probably baste my work with a fusible, or at least give it a try. I could pin the layers together before fusing them.

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