Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blocking a Quilt

Yesterday I finally found the time to block the "Be Still" quilt. It requires steady concentration, and time to dry - that's my excuse for putting it off for the past few weeks. That, and I've been out of town. Excuses, excuses. No more excuses.

Here we go:
I start with foam sheathing as my work surface. This is the same stuff that I used to make my design wall. Since my design wall is 8' x 7', and behind some tables, I invested in two more panels to block my quilts. It is definitely worth it. I store the sheathing in the garage.

I cover the sheathing with a clean sheet, and then cover that with this stuff that I have no clue what it is called...but it has a 1" grid on it, it's like interfacing and it's perfect for lining up the edges of the quilt.

I lay the quilt on the grid, pinning every inch. When the quilt is not lining up correctly, the ruler helps me get the edge straight.
You can see how wobbly and uneven this edge is. I was surprised at how ruffly it was, but it DOES affect the way the quilt hangs, and curing these ruffly wobbles is why we block our quilts.
I continue to pin, pulling the quilt to shape and distributing the excess evenly.
Once it is in place, I sprayed it with water, saturating the parts that need to shrink to fit.

I'll stop here and tell you that usually I wash the quilt. But it's January. And I have to ship it soon. And I don't want it to shrink in height or width, which it might when I wash it, since I've used cotton everything. All I want is for the borders to behave. I wet the center of the quilt, and I really saturated the borders.

Can you see the excess bulk behind the letters? The quilt is pinned into place, and now I'm going to soak the thing and pat it until it lies the way I want it.

Doesn't that look better?
And yes, I did get the center of the quilt wet as well, but not as wet as the borders. The center was already nice and flat and very well-behaved.
Finally, since it's January, I set up a fan to dry it more quickly.

It dried much faster than I anticipated, and so I soaked the borders a second time for good measure. This morning I took the quilt outside and hung it. Here's how it looks now. Notice the improvement in the way it hangs.
See how the bottom edge is nice and flat? You can compare to my earlier post, where it's all too ruffly. The first picture was "good enough" to get it accepted into the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, but the quilt in person would not have shown to its full potential without the blocking.

One more thing: use nickel-plated pins for pinning, because they don't rust

And there you go. That's all I know about blocking quilts.

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