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Rumpled quilt backing

by Debbie Campbell
(Accokeek, MD)

Debbie asks...

As I'm stitching in the ditch on my forest jellyroll quilt, the backing is shifting even though I have pinned the three layers together.

My backing is 100% cotton broadcloth.

I started in the center but as I go along the backing is shifting and becoming rumpled and twisted.

What do I need to do to prevent this from happening?

Do I need to starch the backing first?

Thanks for your help.

Julie replies...

Hi Debbie!

I suspect that the problem stems from either not enough basting pins or that the backing fabric wasn't secured adequately in the initial step in basting.

How many safety pins does it take?

These are my supplies: curved safety pins, masking tape and a Kwilt Klip
When I teach Beginning Machine Quilting I, I advise my students to use at least enough pins so that when your palm is flat(not including your fingers) on the quilt it touches at least one.

That translates to about 4" between pins.

If you planned on a lot of dense quilting (a la pebbles or micro-stippling), my preference is to use even more to manage the 'puff' that invariably occurs.

There are several articles currently on the website that discuss different methods to baste your sandwich. Click any of the links below to read them:

Starching the backing fabric...

...makes it easier to move/slide your quilt along the sewing machine bed.

If you are not having any problems moving the sandwich, then I don't think it would have much effect on the problems your current situation.

If it is hard to move I suggest either using some sort of quilting glove (my personal favorites are Machingers) or wiping down the bed of your machine with a cloth slightly dampened with cool water and a drop or two of soap.

A couple of other possible cures are mentioned in this article, Quilt Sandwich Sticks to Machine.

It would be nearly impossible to get a good starch job on the back once it is basted. You'd need to iron it and with the safety pins at 4" intervals...well, you get the picture.

But again, I do think the issues stem from either the density of the basting or a backing fabric that wasn't secured taut.

Readers, your thoughts, opinions and experiences are always welcome. Share them using the 'comments' link found below.


Julie Baird

Comments for Rumpled quilt backing

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Rumpled Quilt Backing Solutions
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady"

First of all I hope you washed the backing fabric. i wash every fabric that goes into my quilts. I do this to get rid of the chemicals the manufacturers add to all the fabrics made. It is done to keep bugs and other pests from ruining the fabric while it sits in their warehouses. It needs to be washed out and washing all fabric also makes sure that any fabric that shrinks when washed is ready to use so it will remain exactly the same size as when you cut it. If you didn't wash the backing fabric it could be rumpling because it is stretching out because of this.
If you did wash it, my next question is are you using a walking foot when you are stitching in the ditch as you sew the backing fabric on? If you aren't using a walking foot and a quilting needle not the sharps needle you piece with you will always get a rumpled back.

Another reason for getting a rumpled back is that you need to make sure the backing fabric is taut, not attached loosely, no matter which method you use to put your quilt sandwich together---pins or basting spray. I hate pinning and use basting spray, but no matter which method you use you have to get the backing taut. I know lots of quilters lay out their quilts on a floor to put a quilt sandwich together, but if you do this you have to somehow use something to keep each layer taut, not lay there loosely as you pin it---the usual method most quilters use if they lay a quilt out on the floor. You will never get a good quilt sandwich on carpeted floors unless you are able to stretch the backing out by using pins in the carpet to hold the backing, then the batting, and lastly the top all taut. Julie is right about her suspicions that your quilt isn't taut enough.

When I put any quilt sandwich together I use my design wall which I am lucky to have. It takes up a whole wall in my sewing room and my handyman husband put it up for me. It's 3 panels of fiberboard covered with flannel and goes the whole length and width of the wall. But very few quilters are as lucky as I am to have such a huge design wall. But almost all of you have a quilt shop or library or some other place like your church that has tables you can push together and use blue painters tape to secure the backing fabric taut. Don't be afraid to ask. Every quilt shop near me is glad to let their customers use their tables for this purpose when no activities are scheduled for that space. All you have to do is ask them. Bring a friend with who has a quilt to get ready like you do and have fun and get both quilts put together faster because it's so much easier to do it with a helper

I don't know enough specific information about your particular quilt, so this is just general helpful things I consider necessary to use when putting together any quilt sandwich.

Check out Julie's directions on techniques. She has more valuable info to help you.

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