Starting the Balloon Notquilt

balloon notquilt

balloon notquilt

This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

Having finished the Cat NotQuilt, let’s move on to the Balloon Notquilt project.

We have a queen-sized sofa-bed in the finished basement that is used as a bed only when we have company. The rest of the time, it rests in its natural state of being a sofa. Being below ground level, the room stays pleasantly cool in the summer but turns unpleasantly cold in the winter.

Balloon NotquiltSo we need warm bedding and plenty of it. I have wanted a nice-looking quilt specifically sized to fit the sofa-bed since the day we got the beast. Now, over ten years later, the time has come.

For this project, I am going to use a bedspread of unknown origins. It is light blue fabric on the fashion face and dull white on the underside, with a thin layer of batting between the two layers.

The problem with this bedspread is that it was made for an extra-long twin. On the sofa-bed, it is far too long and much too narrow.

For some mysterious reason, the bedding industry always skimps on both the width and length of blankets, quilts, bedspreads, and flat sheets. No matter what they claim the size is, the bedding does not quite work. If the thing is long enough to hang down nicely to cover the feet, it is guaranteed to not be wide enough to cover two adult bodies and leave enough hanging over the sides to keep the cold out. This leads me to believe that bedding designers and manufacturers are misshapen creatures who do not sleep under their own products. If they did, this wouldn’t happen.

So we have to fix this problem. We are going to use this extra-long twin-sized bedspread and transform it into something both much wider and much shorter so the NotQuilt will fit the queen-size bed.

The goal at Fortress Peschel is to not spend money and produce useful, quality products that will both function and wear well. We’ll do that with this long-paid-for bedspread and our endless pile of scraps.

First, we need to perform major surgery on this bedspread to make it do what I want it to do. So let’s get masked and gloved and get started!

Play Wash and Dry Roulette

The bedspread has a nice set of rounded edges on the bottom. I want to keep those curves. Bedspreads and quilts hang nicer with a curved or cut-off edge so that excess fabric doesn’t drape on the floor, collecting animal hair and acting as a tripping hazard.

balloon notquilt bedspread

The bedspread after it has been widened, a process we’ll talk about in the next post.

The first step, as always, is to make sure the bedspread is clean.

Wash and dry it with the large bedding. You’ll be washing that way in the future so it’s better for the raw material to get used to it. It’s also less rage-inducing to learn that your salvaged bedspread or blanket shrinks or warps now then after you spend three months of work on it. Many salvaged blankets and bedspreads lost their washing instructions long ago, so you have to play laundry roulette. A cold-water wash followed by a cold-water rinse is generally acceptable to most fabrics.

If you want your bedding to last longer, hang it out on the clothesline. The heat of the dryer can be very damaging, as you discover when you open the dryer and find the contents have fused together. If you must use a dryer, start with the lowest heat setting and check frequently. Add a tennis ball to the load to keep the bedding aerated so it dries all the way through.

Unseemly Seams

The second step is to rip out all the seams.

My bedspread had a fold-over hem at the top and another long folded-over hem on both sides that curve into the bottom edge; that is, a single long seam. You can’t leave this type of folded-over edge in place; it’s bulky and will be awkward to cover with binding.

So I ripped out all the seams.

That sounds so easy: I ripped out all the seams. If you have never done this, it may feel radical and dangerous to take a pair of scissors or a razor blade to a finished object. People who sew on a regular basis do this all the time. It’s easy to miss-sew a seam and you learn quickly how to sigh in frustration and get out the seam ripper so you can start over.

You can rip seams with a pair of embroidery scissors, a razor blade, a specialty surgical-steel seam ripper, or one of the standard pointed objects that Jo-Ann sells. I don’t like or use the last kind. A fresh razor blade (single edge!) works very well, if you have a steady hand.

Since I do not have a steady hand, I use either embroidery scissors or my surgical-steel rippers. Whatever tool you use, make sure it is sharp. They do get dull.

The only way to find out which method works for ripping with a given object is to try them. If the seam ripper doesn’t work, then use small scissors. The object is to remove every bit of thread holding the parts together without damaging the fabric, but the preferred method is the one that works best for you.

Jane the (Seam) Ripper

When ripping out the hem seams, start by examining the stitch line. If you are lucky, it will be one of those serged chain stitches that like to come undone all by themselves. If you can find the correct thread, you pull it and stitches come out like unzipping a zipper. You get a single, miles-long piece of thread and no bits sticking to everything. It is always worthwhile with a lock stitch to spend the time looking for this thread. Try each thread in turn at both ends of the seam. These stitches go in one direction but you can’t tell which the correct direction is: the one that wants to come apart on its own. If you don’t get lucky, try the other end.

This bedspread did not have a serged seam. It had the standard, interlocked, running stitch as done by an industrial machine. It was too tight to pull out.

So I got out my embroidery scissors and started at the top. You will have to snip at the stitches to get the process started. Once you have cut a few stitches out, you can pull and spread the hem apart, giving you access to the stitches.

I like to pull the layers of fabric apart, exposing the threads. If you just cut with the scissors, you end up with a million thread bits, all of which cling to the item with enthusiasm and they have to be picked off, one by one. So instead, I look for the thread loops and try to cut a single thread. Then I pull the seam apart again until it won’t pull apart. Then I cut another thread loop in half.

This is tedious detail work and must be done in a good light. When I’m finished, I pick off all the thread bits, but most of them are pretty long, an inch or so, on up to a foot long or longer. These are much easier to find and remove than hundreds of bits each 1/8 of an inch long.

I started ripping the hems on the bedspread with my trusty surgical-steel ripper, but the bedspread fought me. Rather than try to force it and rip many small holes in the fabric, I went with the scissors.

Once all of the thread were removed, I ironed the edges smooth. This gained me another few inches in width and length. That is the other reason to rip out the hem.

If the hem of your bedspread is in poor condition – ratty, worn out, torn up, or otherwise falling apart – then you may have to do something more radical. Cut the hem off, right next to the stitch line. This is far quicker than ripping out the seam and then ironing the edges flat. You also lose several inches in width and length. This is a judgment call. In general, I always try to squeeze out every inch of width and length that I can for my finished NotQuilt.

Size does matter, especially if you want to stay warm at night.