Monday, February 28, 2011

Quilt Blocking

I have found a few decent websites or blogs that discuss how to block a quilt. Most of them are better if your quilt is on the smallish side. Quilts that are heavily quilted, as my floor quilt is, require blocking to return them to their appropriate and original shape (or else they will hang wonky and wavey, and be rather unsightly!). If it is only going onto your bed, then it's not such an issue. But this quilt is heading to MQX in 3 weeks (yea!...just got the email this weekend that it was juried into the show) so I don't really want to give judges and viewers a pimple to see right off the bat.

Here's what I did...
The supplies are simple. There is a little cost involved, but these items are reuseable or you may already have them. I got 4 sheets of 24"x8' (1" thick) styrofoam (interlocking style) from Lowe's. All 4 sheets were about $40. You can use them as a design wall when you are not blocking quilts. Other things I used include a tape measure, metal square, permanent pen and a box of 300 stiff pins. Other websites say to use T-pins, but I thought they were kind of pricey so I got the dressmaker pins - they have a wider shank and don't bend like regular piecing or applique pins. They were under $5.
My quilt is (give or take) 75" square so you also need a large space that can be left undisturbed for several days. I could have cleared a place in the basement, but my bedroom is cleaner and warmer, and because it is 12'x18', it has the requisite 8'x8' space needed. I had to move the bohemoth bed a few feet, but we can survive this week (it's good training for a month from now when we begin our downstairs home remodel - It wll clearly be much messier then). Guess I just have to crawl over my husband to get out of bed :-)
All 4 foam pieces connect to make a large solid surface that the quilt will be dried on.
I taped the pieces together with duct tape just so they couldn't shift any while I blocked the quilt.
I also marked a square corner, and marked lines out from this corner for ~75". This is the corner I started pinning at.
But before there can be pinning, the monster quilt had to take a short bath. No jets or bubble bath, but a 5-10 minute soak to ensure that all fibers were wet. Trust me, handling it (all 18 lb of it) was worse than lifting a wet dog from a tub. I got soaked before I ever started to block it. I didn't dare wring it for fear of messing it up. I blotted as much moisture as I could with 3 towels and then took it to the blocking pad.
I started pinning the quilt to the corner I marked with the square, placing pins every inch or so. The pins are stabbed in at a backwards 45deg angle so they will hopefully not pull out. If I had made some measurements before I soaked the quilt, then I'd know what the "average" length and width of the quilt were, and I'd then stretch the opposing sides of the quilt to be this distance. We'll pretend I did this. In actuality, I stretched them to be the same distance, but my quilt is out of square by about half an inch so length and width are not the same. Oh well. I also could visually shift the placement of the edges so that all of the stripes and borders appear most straight. The whole process took about ah hour and a half. Lots of wet knees. OK, just 2, but they are quite damp still.
Now I have a fan running in the bedroom, and I have jacked the heat up from the normal daytime setting of 60F to 68F, in hopes of drying this beast before next week. I may also go back later and walk gently on top of it with some towels on the quilt's top to get out unnecessary water. I am pleased with how straight the borders look, as they were looking pretty wonky towards the last times it was on the frame.
It may well not win anything at MQX. In fact, I highly doubt that it will. But it is an important step in my quiltmaking journey. It was good enough to get juried into the show. Now I am trying to do the last things I can to make it show as well as it can.
Tune in next week as I (hopefully) document the successful application of a piped binding.


Vroomans' Quilts said...

This is the most amazing quilt! I have so enjoyed the journey with you in the progress of this piece. Excellent tutorial for blocking a large quilt - I will have to look for the interlocking foam pieces - as you say they double duty, so worth the price. I've tried the piping binding and struggled, so look forward to your tutorial.

Ivory Spring said...


Congrats on being juried. What a masterpiece - I wouldn't be so quick to say you wouldn't win!

jovaliquilts said...

This is a totally gorgeous quilt! Thanks for the blocking tutorial. When our carpets got wet from a flood, we rented some turbo fans to dry them, and they dried in less than 24 hours. They are very powerful and you'd have to be sure your quilt was well pinned down, but using those may hasten the drying process.