Thursday, September 11, 2014

Personalized Quilt Backs: My Process


Personalizing a quilt with a baby name is such a fun and easy way to make a special gift even more unique! I get asked about my quilt backs from time to time, so I decided to write a little about my general process and why I make certain choices. I'll mostly be writing in reference to the Asher quilt today, but the same principles apply to most of the personalized quilt backs I have made.



The largest piece is approximately 60% of the quilt back and the name/bottom portion is 40%. Every quilt is different though; the Asher quilt is more of a 57%/43% split. A composition with the name at the exact center would not be as visually interesting.

I generally let the measurements of the front dictate the measurements for the back. For instance, the Asher quilt has seven 7.5" rows. So the main portion on the finished quilt back is a 30" height (corresponding to rows 1-4), the name portion is 7.5" height (row 5) and the bottom portion is a 15" height (row 6-7). Having the measurements of the back line up with the measurements of the front really helps me keep everything straight when basting!



My favorite quilt backs follow this formula:
  • Top portion - A large scale print
  • Center Strip - A bright solid that contrasts with the fabric used for the name. It helps if I can find a chevron fabric to match, but that is not always possible. I made my own chevron quilt block for the Addilyn quilt (shown above).
  • Bottom portion - A small scale, muted print
As always, pre-planning can save you money. On the Ryan Quilt, I was able to use exactly 1.5 yards of fabric for the top portion and half yard of the polka dot print. There have been way too many times where I didn't think about the back while I was making the front and ended up having to buy more fabric than I needed because my quilt top was just an inch or two bigger than standard fabric sizes!


The name can be appliquéd (Joseph & Jon Quilt) or pieced. Appliqué is faster and requires less pieces, but I prefer to paper-piece mine. I don't enjoy appliqué and paper-piecing patterns are easy to scale to the needed size.

I have used the My First Alphabet pattern by from blank pages... for many of my quilts. The block letters go well with most designs and they are easy to read. There are a ton of great alphabet patterns out there. I also love Just My Type by Quiet Play and Refrigerator Magnets by Oh, Fransson!.


A: I make the name 1.5" smaller in height than the finished height of the name strip. This is so that I can add spacing between the name and the top and bottom prints.

Be mindful of the letter spacing and take the time to view the name from a distance. You can skip the spacing fabric on some letters. I once in the middle of quilting when I realized that ADDILYN looked more like ADDIL YN. The effect was greatly reduced when I removed the spacer fabric between L & Y!

B&C: To separate the name from the print patterns, I add a 1" strip of solid fabric to both the top and the bottom of the name for .5" spacing on the finished piece. Since working with thin strips can be frustrating, I usually make the strips a little wider and trim it down to the appropriate size after A. B and C are sewn together.

D: I like 3" of space on both sides of the name, so I add a 3.5"(unfinished) + extra inches for the backing to the left of the name.

E: I like 3" of space on both sides of the name, so I add  a 3.5"(unfinished) wide piece to the right of the name

F: Don't forget to add the width you need for extra backing to this piece! I choose chevron fabric for this part, because I like how it draws attention to the name. It also adds a little bit of movement. I try to cut the chevron fabric so that the exact "points" of the chevrons are touching the solid fabric.

On the Texas A&M quilt, I was asked to include a year. In order to keep the quilt back from being overwhelmed with text, I made the year half the size of the name to create a hierarchy of information. I also set the year between star blocks to separate it from the name a bit more. Villarreal is a long last name, so made it extra large and centered it on this quilt. For sanity reasons I piece the most complicated letters first, when my mind is still fresh! ('R', in this case). :D


I baste on tile floor and use the 1/4" grout lines to line up my backing and quilt top. The black lines on the diagram to the left represent my tile lines. The vertical line runs 3ish inches to the right of the edge of the name and the horizontal line runs across the bottom seam of the name strip.

When I lay the quilt top down, the right edge lines up against the vertical grout line and the bottom seam of the corresponding row (in this case row 5) lines up with the horizontal grout line. I can make sure the seams are lined up by sight on the edges, but I can also push down the seam and make sure it lines up with the grout underneath.

So far I have avoided my great fears of accidentally cutting the edge of the name off or accidentally putting the whole back at a slight angle (or misspelling the name)!


I prefer using a thread that does not contrast too much with the name, because I want the name to be the main feature of the back. I do not recommend doing any quilting that runs parallel with the name strip. If you are even a degree off, horizontal straight line quilting really calls attention to it. I speak from experience!


One of my favorite parts of the Asher quilt is the rounded corners.  It was a much simpler process than expected.

You do need to use bias binding when binding rounded corners. If you haven't made bias binding before, this tutorial from Connecting Threads really helped me out. I lightly starch my fabric before cutting, because I can be a inadvertently rough with my fabric! The starch did not affect the stretchiness of the bias binding as I feared it would.

After I squared up the quilt sandwich, I took a 9" salad plate and traced the outer edge on to the corner of the quilt sandwich (see diagram on left). After I repeated the process on the remainder of the corners, I cut along the drawn lines.

Now that you have a quilt sandwich with rounded corners, you bind as usual! No mitering necessary. Go slow around the rounded corners and be careful not to stretch the binding.



My favorite part of these quilts are the thank you pictures I get in return! Many of the moms use them to take monthly pictures of their baby. It is so rewarding to know a quilt is being loved and used!

I hope this answers any questions you might have regarding personalized quilt backs! I'll update this page as needed. Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finally, a Finish! Lickety Split Quilt for Asher

I am determined that this quarter will be more productive than last, so we are ending this week with a finish! This quilt is a gift for the grandson of one of my husband's coworkers.

Lickety Split | 43"x50.5" | Kona Nightfall + Various






I was given no specific instructions or color schemes on this one, so I just did what I wanted! I used the Lickety Split pattern from Lella Boutique to make this quilt. The pattern is for a 72"x72" quilt, but by halving all the cutting amounts I was able to get the size I wanted. The 6x7 block arrangement measured at about 45"x52.5". For a scrappier look, I used charms squares from my stash instead of a layer cake.

This is one of those patterns where you make a block, cut it up and then make another block. My best friends during the cut-it-up part were the Olfa Rotating Rotary Mat and the June Tailor Shape Cut ruler! The Shape Cut ruler is really helpful for quickly cutting multiple lines without having to move the ruler. I usually use it when I have to cut mass quantities of fabric strips.

In my last post about this quilt, I mentioned that I was going to add a narrow Kona Nightfall border to the top. Several of you commented that you would not include the border. Thank you for your suggestions (specifically Jenn, Fiona and Molli Sparkles)! I'm really glad I decided to skip the border!






This is my standard "gift for a baby" backing! I really liked how the backing turned out on my Plus Quilt, so I followed the same formula: big. bright print on top (Mutiny on the Bunting), bold name strip (Kona Cardinal) and small, soft print bottom (Ta Dot in Stone). The name is paper-pieced using the from blank pages My First Alphabet pattern.


The quilting is an offset spiral design in aqua thread. The aqua thread was a bit more contrasty on the Nightfall fabric than I am usually comfortable with, but it blended the best with all the fabrics on my test swatch. I tested various shades of blue, gray and white threads. I do prefer light thread on dark fabric over dark thread on light fabric.

The spiral quilting contrasts very nicely with all the straight lines on the top, but my execution ended up way more "organic" than I intended for it to be. Most spiral quilting tutorials recommend to use the left edge of your walking foot as a guide for 1/2" spacing. Since I was concerned about 1/2" spacing being too dense for a baby quilt, I used the quilting guide bar for 1.5" spacing. My quilting guide bar fits on the right side of my walking foot and I had a difficult time not bumping it out of alignment in the middle of quilting.

Despite my troubles, I would definitely try spiral quilting again. It is much easier than you would expect and it adds really great texture, especially when done at 1/2" spacing. After the first three or four rotations, it became much easier to move. Next time I would just follow the "for best results" instructions, especially while I am still getting the hang of it!


From the moment I finished the quilt top, I had my heart set on a red & white bias stripe binding. The binding is Red Vertical Stripe from Black Tie Boogie. Since I made bias binding, I decided to try rounding the corners. The rounded corners are my favorite part of this quilt and I really want to round the corners on everything now! I will most likely change my mind when it comes time to make bias binding again. Binding is the part where I always get in a hurry! I get so excited about almost having a finished quilt and the prospect of guiltlessly sitting in front of the TV for several hours! 





Oh, the pillow! It should have been the easy part! I decided to be fancy and serge the seams. I was so pleased with myself and it looked wonderful, but when I flipped it right side out I noticed that the seams were much bulkier than last time. That's when I remembered that when you put binding on a pillow, it is supposed to be set up like a mini quilt rather than a regular pillowcase. I had to rip all my fancy stitches out! :D

The 12"x22" pillow form had been sitting in my closet for a few years. I am so happy I found a purpose for it! I love Sarah Jane's Nautical Map print and the colors match the quilt! Winning! The border is Anchors Away from the same fabric line. The envelope backing is Metro Rings in Red and Sailor Speak.



This is one of my favorite quilts so far! I would definitely use this pattern again. It would look great in so many color combinations.

Thank you for visiting!

This quilt is part of my Finish Along 2014 Quarter 3 List. The Finish Along is hosted at The Littlest Thistle. I am linking up with Fabric Frenzy Friday at Fort Worth Fabric Studio, Finish it Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday which is being hosted at Dizzy Quilts this week and Show off Saturday at the Sew Can She blog!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finish Along List for 2014 Quarter 3

After a pretty good Q1, I did terribly in Q2. Zero out of four! I have big hopes for Q3, so here is my probably a tad over ambitious list:


Zig-Zag Love - Here it is, in all its wrinkly glory! This quilt isn't for anyone in particular, which is probably why I lost my sense of urgency! I don't have a deadline on this one, but I still would like to mark it off the list. It isn't doing anyone any good half-quilted!  Status: In the process of quilting.



Lickety-Split Quilt - The backing has been constructed and it is basted. Hopefully will be done by the end of July. Status: Waiting to be quilted.



Snowball Baby Quilt - As you can see, all I have done with this quilt is rearrange the squares into a different configuration so that you wouldn't have to see the same picture twice! :D Would really like to get done by the end of August. Status: Waiting to be turned into snowball blocks.



Quilty Fun - Center part with all the blocks is done. This is also not an urgent project, but if I get it done by the end of the quarter I will be a very happy! Status: Piecing the borders.



Texas Road Trip Quilt - Quadrant 3 has been pieced since the last time I showed this one off. I hope to get get this one done by the final link up in August 17.  Status: Piecing Quadrant 4

On a related note, I would like to think everyone who has entered into the Aurifil Giveway on the Road Trip post. I have learned so many new things and discovered many places that I need to visit!

Linking up with the 2014 Q3 Finish Along at The Littlest Thistle!
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