Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Quiltmaking 101 -- facing your quilt with curved edges

Facing the standard quilt (one with straight edges and square corners) is pretty easy, but recently a friend asked me how she should face a quilt with curvy edges.  Basically you use the same techniques, but with a few tweaks.  Start by reviewing the directions for facing a standard quilt. 

The first step is to trim your quilt to the appropriate smooth curvy edge.  Remember that you'll need an extra half-inch seam allowance to turn under.

Now contemplate your quilt and note just how curvy those edges are.  Lay your quilt out on a cutting mat (or for big quilts, on a floor with straight boards or linoleum pattern) so the curvy edge pretty much follows a straight line and the highest peak of the curved edge falls right at the line.  Now lay a ruler or straight edge on top of the quilt, parallel to the line on your mat or floor, to find approximately where the edge of your facing is going to fall.  Allow two inches of facing below the deepest valley.

This little quilt is aligned at the zero inch mark on the cutting mat.  We'll need to cut the facing 3 1/2 inches wide.

This side has a gentler curve, so the facing only has to be 3 inches wide.

You'll need to remember where to place the facing when it's time to sew.  Before you lift your ruler, put some pins along the edge, every six or eight inches.

Do the same thing for the other sides of the quilt: establish your straight line, pin-mark the edge, and cut facings to the correct width.  Depending on the curves, the facings may be different widths, so make sure you keep track of which facing goes on which side.

Lay the quilt out flat on your work table, good side up.  Place the facing on top of the quilt, right side of the facing against the right side of the quilt.  Line up the inner edge of the facing with your pin marks, making sure that you have the facing smooth and taut along the length of the edge.  The outer edge of the facing should just touch the tops of the curves on the edge of the quilt.

Pin the facing to the quilt, every eight inches or so.   But how do I know where to put the pins, you're saying!  I can't see the edge of the quilt!  That's right, but you can feel it, so you can tell that you've pinned through the facing and the quilt.  Now remove the original pins that were marking the edge of the facing; they've done their job and you want them out of the way.

If you'll recall the standard facing directions that you reviewed earlier, you would hold the facing on top of the quilt as you stitch.  But as you just noticed, you can't see the edge of the quilt, so that would be difficult.  Feeling the edge was accurate enough for pinning, but it isn't accurate enough for sewing.  So turn the quilt over, with the facing on the bottom and the back of the quilt up.

If you have a fussy sewing machine that doesn't like to sew over pins, or if it makes you nervous to sew with pins on the bottom of your work instead of visible on top, you can carefully put new pins on top, then take out the pins on the bottom.  

Now you can sew the entire length of this side of the quilt, leaving a half-inch seam allowance.  Don't use too small a stitch length, because you're going to have to take out some stitches at the corners for the next step and you don't want to shred your fabric.

To sew the second side, pin as you did the first, except when you get to the corner.  As explained in the directions for standard facing, you need to finger-press the turnback for the facing and hold it in place.

Then place the new facing on top, pin and sew.

When you get back to the first corner, you'll need to rip back the stitching on the first facing strip so you can place the fourth strip underneath.  (Just hold it in the same orientation as this photo to make sure you're doing the right thing.)  And you'll cut the first strip off about a half inch past the edge of the fourth strip.

Now trim the facings to a half-inch along the curves.  As explained in the directions for standard facing, rip out the stitches at each corner, fold back the backing and quilt top and clip off a little triangle of the bulky batting and backing.

Restitch the corner.  It looks like this on the other side.

Turn the corner inside out and fold back the facings, feeling and pressing with your thumb and fingers to get everything lying flat. Working from the wrong side of the quilt, turn the facings a bit farther back than the actual fold line so they will not be visible from the front. Pin the facings every one or two inches as you go.

Because of the curves, you'll  have to work those edges more than if they were straight.  Pinch, fold, massage the various layers into submission.  You may find a couple of places where you need to clip the inner layers to let them spread out around a valley, or to notch them to let them cram into a hill.  But DO NOT CUT all the way to the seam, just halfway. You dare not risk that a clip might migrate past the seam and show on the top of your quilt!  And if you need to cut more than one layer, stagger the clips or notches so they're not directly on top of one another.

DO NOT CUT anything unless you first try to fingerpress it into place.  Fabric has a lot of give to it, and with gently curving edges, you may be surprised that you can ease things into place without clipping or notching.  On the other hand, make sure to inspect the right side of your quilt carefully before you proceed.  A place may have felt OK as you were pinning but have an ugly pucker when you look at it closely.  (Like right below that white pin.)

I removed the pins and clipped the inner layers in a couple of places, then repinned.  Much nicer now!

As you can see in the photo above, the facing will have a straight edge toward the center of the quilt, but will vary in width with your curves.  You may want to keep the outer pins in until after you have stitched the facing down.  You may also want to press or block the quilt to set the folded edge more securely.