BCQuilter's Weblog

Give me scraps… and a quilt I will make

Posted on: 25 November 2010

I think my slump is over.  And I think I finally know what was causing it.  I’m sure all of us at one time or another have had a slump, and we may or may not know the cause.  It may even be days, weeks, months before you find out what caused it, if you do at all.  I have discovered that it is just as important to keep dipping your fingers into your passion, even if you are not feeling all that passionate about it.

With many projects currently “in progress”, it is hard sometimes to focus on quilting, and “just getting it done”.  I think that my problem, was that I knew deep down, that having the tops finished would only end up with a stack of quilt tops, waiting for some money to flow in to buy the batting and backing to get the finished.  So I just stopped working on things.  In reflection, this may have not been the best for me, because I really missed my quilting, and my poor poor sewing machine was going through major separation anxiety.

After a conversation with a quilting friend, it slowly sunk in, that I can still finish, or at least finish a quilt, with what I had!  What did the “pioneer” quilters use for batting?  Did I have some old blankets lying around that I could use?  I mentioned this to another friend, who is just starting to quilt, and she offered two wool blankets she had.  Hey, this may actually get a few of my scrappy quilts completed.

This is the completed top.  Oh the stories I could tell you about this top.  I’m thinking now, that making more of the string blocks would have been faster and easier, but as you all know, I consider my quilting an experience, and I do get a lot of experience.  I suppose it is akin to the “What if…?” question.  What if I did this?  What if I changed this to this?  I’m sure you understand what I mean.  I started making the 9-patch cornerstones first, only to realize, I had made too many, and this ended up with a bit of a fabric crunch, with not enough of the yellow to make the sashings.  I took apart the extra 9-patches, added the blue/yellow/blue bits to the strips.  I even had extra bits left over from cutting the sashings, so these got stitched to other strips.  I was still short!  A quick look through the yellow scraps.. ah ha… I found a piece, now is it wide enough… not exactly squared, but if I trim, woohoo!  It worked!  I ended up with a piece of the blue/yellow/blue that is about 12″ long.

I have also come to realize that my kitty is a camera hog!  She actually poses for photos.  You may remember Tazzie, who would appear as I went to go get the camera to take photos as I progressed through a quilt.  Well, Smudge, waits until she hears the first click of the camera.  Then POUNCE, she’s on the bed, waiting for her close-up.

And not to be outdone, Thunder had to come and see what was going on.

I’ve been working on the blue and yellow string quilt, and so far, I have not a single bit of fabric to put into it.  I considered purchasing backing, but didn’t want to wait until my piggy bank had a few more dollars in it, so I started mulling over my stash.  There were a few pieces, but really wasn’t enough for this quilt.  Who buys 5 metres (yards) of fabric at one time, thinking that it may be useful for a backing, surely not me!  I did have a piece that was 3 metres.  Now what to pair it with.  Did I have some yellow, I could use, yes, but not enough.  Then I found a blue piece.  After cutting it, and then realizing I cut it wrong… I wanted it to finish at 8”… I cut it at 8”… then it was back to the drawing board, so to speak.

In order to determine how much fabric I need for the backing, I used a few of those formulas that are floating around the quilting world.  It’s kind of funny, there are almost as many formulas to find the yardage required for quilt backing, as there are ways of constructing a block.

I laid out the quilt top on my bed, the only place where I can get a good rough idea the dimensions of the quilt top (64½” x 84”).  With these numbers in mind, I started looking at the two pieces of fabric, and what I could do with them, to make a pieced backing that would work.  It seemed to me that 8” strips would work.  So I cut the smaller piece into 8” strips, which yielded 4 strips.  Um?  Four strips, less selvedge, stitched together, is not long enough to meet the length of the quilt top.  Okay, well, if I cut a 8” strip from Fabric 2, and made that an 8” square, four times, I could take the two strips, add the square, and…  Let’s play with some paper for a bit here, I don’t want all the seams of the strips meeting all in the centre.  Okay, so what if I were to cut two of the strips in half, then stitch one of these pieces to the square Fabric 2, then the uncut strip of Fabric 1, then the square of Fabric 2 and the other half strip of fabric 1.  Looks good on paper.  Then I could do three strips of Fabric 2, alternate with the combined strip.  Still looks good on paper.  Now to start cutting.  Oh… measure twice cut once!  OOOH, this is going to be close, with the trimming of the Fabric 2 to ensure that the fabric is squared-up, I am not going to have too much left.  So I cut two 16½” and four 17½” strips.  This meets the width requirement.  Are you following along, just in case you got lost.  17½+7½+16½+7½+17½ = 64½”  Right?  Actually it is 66½”.  EGAD, and GADZOOKS!  I was sorry concerned about the length, that I just realized I may not be quite wide enough.  This was not part of the plan, but you know what, the backing is pieced together, so I’ll just have to work with it, and carry on writing my blog!  Now back to the length dimensions.

The combined strips now measure approximately 88”.  The strips of fabric 2, only measure about 82-84” (I didn’t actually measure, but if the average fabric is 44”-45”, wide, less selvedge Width of Fabric is 41”-42”).  Okay, there was a piece that was about 6”-7” wide, left over.  If I cut that into a 5” strip, that should give me enough (84”+5” = 89”).  This just might work.  Now if we take the width of the outside strips of Fabric 2, they were about 17¾”, double that, gives me 35½”, with about 6” left.  So now I have a square that is approximately 5”x6”, and a piece left over from cutting the 8” blocks… can I… yes I can, and I did.  The extra piece for the centre strip is made up of three pieces of fabric, to give me that extra length.  I had come to realize, after attaching these “extra” pieces, that they will probably be trimmed off once the quilt is completed.  Don’t we always add extra inches to the batting and backing, larger than the quilt top.  For shrinkage, when we quilt?  Which got me to thinking, because it doesn’t really make sense to me now.

For me, oh you shouldn't have.

Is this my best side?

done, he?

When this quilt is sandwiched, with the wool blanket, it is going to be quite a heavy but very warm quilt.  The string blocks are foundation pieced with fabric (thread bare sheets and pillow slips), so it is already quite heavy.  The only fabric I have purchased for this quilt, will be the binding.  I have chosen a black, and I definitely did not have enough in my stash.


Food For Thought: Why do we add extra inches to our batting and backing, and not have them the same size of the quilt top?  Would the quilt top not “shrink” from quilting as well?  Would a non-pieced fabric “shrink” more from quilting than a heavily pieced fabric?  At this point, I am not about to test this theory, but it has me wondering and pondering.


12 Responses to "Give me scraps… and a quilt I will make"

What a gorgeous quilt that will be! I love how the sashings set of the blocks, and how a larger design was created by the way you did your original blocks. Very nice! Just so you know, I too have asked those same questions about extra widths of batting and backing. I realize the pros need the extra to stretch onto the frames, but 6-8 inches??? All around??? I have more long strips about 6-8″ than I know what to do with. After Christmas, I’m going to figure that out! I promise! (Probably quilt as you go, you think?) Good post from you, and I’m so glad you are back! I hope to be soon — back to quilting, that is — but it will have to be after Christmas probably! I hate that part of Christmas. My machine is next to where I put the big Christmas tree, and I don’t want all the lint and threads on the tree! Hope you are enjoying Thanksgiving today! I’ll go to my son’s later today; for now I’m cleaning the living room, getting ready to start dragging out some Christmas stuff! —“Love”

First of all, Smudge and Thunder are two cute kitties.

I LOVE your quilt top. I have never seen a string quilt quite like this one. The backing is fantastic, too. You are definitely over your slump!

I know that backing and batting do ‘shrink’, but don’t ask me to explain it.

Keep up the great work


Wow, that is one gorgeous quilt and what a challenge with all of the fiddling to get it done. It is well worth the work! The blues and yellows are so pretty together. Love the kitty pictures, too.

Love the quilt. I’m glad you’re over your slump. Maybe the extra width always recommended for backings is a leftover from hand quilting days, and supported by needing the extra to load a quilt onto a longarm frame. I don’t always add quite that much width to the backing and batting, but I always make them larger than the quilt because when I get to handquilting the borders I want fabric in all 4 sides of the lap quilting frame, so the edge of the quilt doesn’t flop loosely. I don’t suppose this is an issue with machine quilting on a domestic machine, so you might get way with less “extra” in the backing and batting. I think you’d still need a little extra to make it easier to sandwich – you don’t have to be absolutely exact in lining up your layers if you have a little bit of fudge room.

Oh, I really love that quilt! Mind if I borrow the idea in the future? Too much math for me. I buy backing and batting by the yard and always go for a “close enough”. 6 to 8 inches seems a bit much, I go with 3 inches. Will that help? And those kitties, too cute!


Well, my head was swimming with all that quilt-math, but it looks like you made it work and that’s the important part. Though I wonder which side of the quilt had more figuring to get it right…the front or the back? But it looks great and the kitties are too cute.

As for the extra backing and batting… I choose to make the back and batting a little bigger (a few inches on each side, not so much as 6-8 though) to give myself enough room if the top isn’t exactly flat and smooth when I lay it out, there’s a little wiggle room so I’m not unpinning and repositioning the layers. But if I have skinny leftover strips, they work great for dolly quilts, though sometimes they require a little piecing).

I’ve always preferred heavy quilts, they seem more snuggly and warm. This quilt is going to be an absolute stunner when it’s finished, no wonder the kitties love it so! 🙂

Love the string quilt…very, very pretty;) I also love all the “to doing” that you have done with it…makes it one of the endearing, story type quilts;)
As for the shrinking and having to make the backing and batting bigger…..I don’t do 6″-8″, but at least 4 inches on a quilt I plan on hand quilting… The time and handling of a quilt in progress can lead to fraying of the batting, especially before they started all that needle punching of the batting and such. The battings that we have today generally hold up much better than the ones of days past. A little extra around the edges made sure that you had enough by the time you were done handquilting for the binding to be properly stuffed.
I don’t think you have to do it so much nowadays. I know I only leave an inch or two on quilts that are going to be machine quilted or tied.

I hope all that made sense;)
Happy Quilting!!

So happy you are over the slump!! The string quilt top is just amazing . Love the creative figuring for the back. It looks great. Good job and hope to see you here in blogland.

Thank you all for your compliments, and your thoughts on the “extra” batting and backing.

I think there was some confusion, though. I didn’t add an extra 6″-8″… that measurement was from some of the extra fabric pieces I had left over, that I was able to get a couple of inches to the top and bottom.

Or maybe its just me confused? 😉


So pleased to learn that you are tackling your slump. It’s a universal condition I’m afraid and we all seem to have our turn. I just love the way your quilt has come together – you really put such a lot of thought into problem solving your projects. Smudge is such a cheeky kitty! Ann 🙂

Love the yellow/blue string quilt and would love to do a similar one. What is the pattern-or did you just develop it?

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