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!
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