Sewing the NotQuilt Backing



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

The link below takes you to the Balloon Notquilt project.

So here we are, with three pieces of cut-up bedspread to sew back together. I dug through my collection of quilt batting scraps and found a likely piece. I trimmed it to the correct width and using lap seams sewed it to the long narrow strip I had cut from the top of the original bedspread.

I like using lapped seams for this. They use up less material and they lay flatter.

To sew a lap seam you need a marking pencil and a yardstick. Decide on the width of the lap seam. I like about 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch. I took the strip of bedspread, marked in from the narrow edge half-inch at each end, then drew my line with the yardstick onto the fabric in dark pencil.

You have to draw a line for lap seams. You can’t eyeball them. They will not come out straight.

Then I pinned the edge of the quilt batting section to the piece of bedspread, right up against my pencil line. I sewed the quilt batting onto the bedspread with the seam line as close to the edge of the quilt batting as I could. I turned over the section and sewed down, right up against the edge, the other flap on the back side.

That is, I ended up with two seams holding the two pieces of fabric together, each seam just inside the cut edge.

I could stop here, but this small lip tends to get pushed back when I crisscross over top of it when sewing down the patches. So I added two more lines of stitching using the widest zigzag setting on my Babylock, one on the blue side and one on the white side. The zigzagging ensures that everything lies flat no matter how many patches I sew over top of this join. The double line of zigzagging also compresses the layers, making the join invisible when it is covered by the backing and the fashion face. There is no ridge to be seen, although if you know where to look, it can be felt.

With the center section finished, I did the same thing to join the center section first to the left side of the bedspread and then the right side of the bedspread. Each seam was lapped over, sewn twice, and then zigzagged twice.

For both of my long seams joining the center section to the left and right side, I sewed from the bottom edge up to the top. This way, any stretching or pushing of the fabric layers always goes in the same direction. It does seem to make a difference with very long seams, even with a walking foot.

I had excess quilt batting left when I reached the top edge. I do not cut off the last few inches for something like this as when I do; I invariably cut it too short. It is better to trim the extension to the exact length after everything is sewn together. In this case, as the quilt batting insert was a bit thinner than the original bedspread, I folded over the excess fabric and sewed it down, giving me a double layer at the top edge.

I chose to sew the quilt batting at the top of the center section rather than the bottom edge as keeping the weight of the bedspread even across the bottom will make the finished NotQuilt hang better on the bed.

Next: The NotQuilt Backing Fabric

With the bedspread reassembled into a configuration more to my liking, it is time to sew on the backing fabric.

I chose to reuse some salvaged curtains. A long time ago, I made unlined rod-pocket curtains for a child’s bedroom, along with the matching valances. When I made heavier, lined drapes, I kept the original balloon patterned curtains as the fabric was still in good shape. I knew I would use this 10 to 12 yards of fabric for something. Not for clothing; that gets a lot of stretching in normal wear.

But the back of a quilt doesn’t get jerked around in daily use like a pair of pajamas does, so it is less likely to tear while being used.

I ripped out the seams, top and bottom, leaving the long, long side seams. Ripping those seams by the selvedges would give me only another inch in length, so I chose not to bother. The top and bottom seams gave me another foot of fabric as the curtains had a 4-inch bottom hem and a 6-inch top hem for the rod pocket and header ruffle.

I ironed the resulting panels flat.

The next step was to lay out the now wider, shorter bedspread onto the clean carpet and pin out a panel.

You may have noticed from the pictures that the bedspread has a medium blue side (the original fashion face) and a dull white underside. I chose to cover the blue fashion face with my backing fabric.

Why? My backing fabric is a faded, light blue, with a pattern of clouds and balloons. Putting this fabric over a darker blue will intensify the blue. Using the white side for the fashion face of the NotQuilt will ensure that my fabric choices will remain true to their colors: they won’t be darkened by being layered over a medium blue.

Since I am using scrap fabric, I will have some variation in weight and opacity. I have found through experience that the lighter the color of the base blanket, the truer the colors remain in the patches.

Pinning Down a Panel

I pinned down an entire ripped curtain panel, keeping the orientation of the balloons in line with the orientation of the bedspread. The layers are spread as smooth and wrinkle-free as I can manage, and I use plenty of pins to keep the layers in place.

notquilt backing

See the blue border at the top of the photo? That’s where the balloon fabric fell short of covering the backing

As you can see, even ripped, the curtain panel is short by a few inches. Fortunately, I have plenty of curtain material so I know I can piece the back.

The curved edge of the bedspread meant that I had to leave the gap at the top of the NotQuilt. The curved edge would hang and sew better with fewer seams.

I pinned on the curtain panel, lining it up with the straight bottom edge (ignoring the curve), and the side edge. After pinning, I carried the bedspread downstairs and sewed on the panel. As with the lapped seams, I started at the bottom edge, then followed the curve and up the side.

Once I had the outer edge sewn down, I started again at the curved edge and sewed up the remaining long, free edge. I finished by sewing across the top of the panel. With all four edges sewn down (using my trusty walking foot and the longest stitch the Babylock will let me), I cut off the excess fabric at the curved edge.

Once the first panel is sewn down, I repeated the exercise with a second curtain panel on the other side of the bedspread.

notquilt backing

The balloon fabric did not meet in the middle.

This leaves me with an uneven gap across the width of the bedspread at the top and a blank section running up the middle.

I did the middle section next. I measured the width of a curtain panel; I knew the length would be the same as the others already sewn down. I could have made this piece of cloth close in width to the gap, with a seam margin overlap of 5/8 inch on each side. I chose instead to have about an inch and a half on each side. Every time I get overly precise in my fitting sections together in NotQuilts, I come up short. I would far rather have a strip too wide that I know will cover everything up than miss-pin and end with a section too narrow. So cut that center section wider than it needs to be! I did have to iron under one raw edge; the other side was the pre-sewn edge from the panel’s previous life as a curtain.

As before, I sewed my seams from the bottom up, first the left and then the right. The short horizontal seams were done last, first the bottom and then the top.

That left the gap at the top. One section of a valance covered most of it nicely. I measured, cut, and sewed down the last rectangle and the back of the sofa bed NotQuilt was finished.

Spread out on the floor, it looks decent. The bedspread is so wide that no fabric made would stretch as a single, unbroken panel from top to bottom and side to side. You would have to use a California king flat sheet to avoid seams. Sadly, the chances of finding one of those in the Goodwill bargain bins around here are small.

The pattern of balloons and clouds is small enough that the joins aren’t screamingly obvious. This was the advantage of using salvaged curtains as the backing fabric. It gave me plenty of identical material to work with. When I did the backing on the Cat NotQuilt, I had to piece the backing. I made it work but I will admit I like the way this backing fabric looks better.

In our next installment, we will start on the fashion face and snap our chalk lines to set up a framework for the patches.