Monday, March 21, 2011

Facing -- why I changed my tune

Last week I posted a tutorial on facing quilts.  Suzanne Sanger commented that she has used another facing method that I used to espouse, and wonders why I changed.  Here's the answer.

Several years ago, when I started to face my quilts instead of binding them, I developed a method that gave me flat corners instead of the lumps that occur when you turn back one side of the quilt, then turn back the adjacent side on top.  The key was to slice off the bulky inner layers of the quilt -- the batting and the backing -- a little bit inside the corner of the quilt before turning the facing back.

This method called for only a single thickness of facing at the corner of the quilt, to minimize the bulk.  I cut that corner piece with a curved edge, and it looked pretty neat on the back!  I was so proud of this method that I wrote about it in the American Quilter magazine, and many people, including Suzanne, have told me that they have used it since.

So why did I fall out of love with it? 

While the quilt above has its bottom edge free, so you can see the nifty curved facing, most of my quilts have sleeves at both top and bottom to hang better.  The extra time and care to sew the curved facing seemed like a waste because the sleeve covers it up.

It occurred to me that I could throw the bathwater out but keep the baby.  The curved facing seemed to be accomplishing nothing, but I sure liked the method of slicing the bulk out of the corner, and using only one thickness of facing.  Suzanne describes this as a "one-piece corner."

And those elements survive into my new method. 

To prove it, here are two photos of slicing the corner.  The pink is an old photo from my old method; the blue is a new photo from last week with the new method.  At the key moment in the process, they're exactly the same.

The reason both methods work the same is that there's only one layer of facing at the corner, since I cut off the second facing strip an inch before I got there.

Suzanne commented that my old method called for edge-stitching the facings, and I don't mention that in the new method.  She's right.  I found that when I was sewing facings on, half the time I forgot to edge-stitch, and it didn't seem to make that much difference.

But if you want to edge-stitch, you can certainly do so with my new method.  I'll do that the next time I put a facing on, and take photos for the blog.  (Don't hold your breath -- I probably won't be finishing any quilts for a couple of months, but I promise this will come in the fullness of time.)

So bottom line, if you love the curved edges on the back of your quilt, by all means stick with the old method.  But if you're simply looking for a neat, clean, no-bulk finish, the new method is considerably faster and uses a little less fabric.

And Suzanne, thanks for asking!  It's wonderful to hear that somebody read that long-ago article and found it good enough to keep using.   


  1. Interesting update Kathy. It's given me something to think about and something new to investigate.

  2. Gee, I feel almost famous. LOL. Thanks for the explanation, Kathy. I will try your updated version next time I finish a quilt. I'm all for saving time and fabric. It occurs to me that edge-stitching (AKA under-stitching) may be easier with this new version. I have always noticed that the parts of a facing I can reach to do this step seem to lie better, so I suspect I'll continue doing that.

    And yes, I not only read and saved that article, it and the corner template travel back and forth with me between our two houses. I thought I knew how to apply a facing, but your method changed my life.

  3. Wow! what an endorsement! thank you, Suzanne! it occurs to me that another reason why I decided on the new method is that I kept misplacing my corner template.

    and I will try doing the edge-stitching again and see if it makes a difference. maybe I was too quick to abandon that step.

  4. When I saw Jaunty F in San Jose, I was surprised by your signature on the face. In this post I see you also sign boldly on the sleeve.
    There are many thoughts about how and where an artist signs his work. Signatures are a rarity in any quilt world.
    Would you share your thoughts about this? And what are you using to make that signature? Discharge paste or bleach?

  5. Elena -- let me answer you in an actual post so I can show pictures! maybe tomorrow?

  6. I'm just finishing 2 quilts with your facing method from American Quilter, which I just came across. I'm on your blog just because I wanted to tell you how great your method is. So I was surprised to see your current method, but I'll try that too. Thanks for your posting!

    1. thanks, Joan!! so glad that it's working for you