This article comes with a warning! There are no pictures – just a lot of information that you need to share with your quilting friends and customers!
Now that everyone has achieved their number one resolution this year and cleaned and organized their shop/sewing room, it’s time to finish those UFO’s. For newbies, UFO’s are unfinished objects – and in this economy, they are as good as gold!
Take a moment to make a list of everyone who received a gift from you this year – and don’t forget the White Elephant exchanges; Secret Sis presents; and teacher gifts. If you are like me – and have an ever expanding family – don’t leave off those new babies or in-laws that you already know are going to be a welcome addition in the months ahead!
Now you can look at UFO’s in a whole new way – you have already started your Christmas shopping – and are way ahead of the game! This is a win/win for everyone. The holidays will be more personal when you give gifts from your heart – and hands. It will be more economical because you already have most of what you need. And – my favorite part – it’s like the old fashioned Christmas clubs! You will be paying to finish these projects throughout the year – so there won’t be those dreaded Credit Card bills come next January.
But what does this mean for the shop owner? Embrace the idea! Offer a class in figuring and choosing the three B’s – backings; bindings; and battings. Show them how to attach a binding correctly.
Many of my customers liked to put fleece on the backs of their quilts. Checker carries a fine selection from Baum and David Textiles. Just choose “fleece” from the category drop down menu – and choose solids, prints, etc., as a sub-category. This is a wonderful choice. It is 60″ wide so it doesn’t have to be pieced for smaller quilts. In fact, I started designing all of my throw patterns so that they were no wider than 57″ so this backing is an option.
Fleece is soft – and the most economical because batting is not required. But, remember – not all fleece is created equal! It comes in three weights – and the quality is not always the same. They need to use a medium weight, no-pill variety – the only kind we carry. The cheaper stuff pills (those little balls that form all over the top) and stretches like crazy so it creates a nightmare for machine quilters.
Fleece does not stretch at all in one direction. The machine quilters need to put it on the frame so that the “no-stretch” direction is on the bars. The stretch can be controlled by relieving tension on the side clamps. They will quilt beautifully.
Don’t forget to tell them that fleece is a polyester product. That means it doesn’t shrink – but the cotton top will. When the quilt is washed for the first time, it will look like an antique quilt. If they don’t want that look, then they would have to prewash the cotton fabric. I always had a washed and unwashed quilt in the shop so they could see the difference. Not one customer ever cared.
If they are machine quilting the project themselves, a basting spray works great – and it is easier to quilt when you are only working with two layers instead of three. It is much easier to avoid those puckers on the back!
If they want to avoid the time and expense of machine quilting, tying fleece is a breeze. But, please recommend that they use a double strand of #5 Pearl Cotton for this job. Floss is not strong enough – and yarn will look terrible after it is washed!
Let’s do the math:
Yesterday, a woman wanted a backing for a quilt that measured 58″ x 72″. There was a 6″ border around the outside. She found some fleece that was $10.00 a yard and was able to back her quilt with 2 1/8 yards of backing – at a cost of roughly $21.50. And, remember – no batting was required! She told the machine quilter that she was willing to shave the borders if needed so the backing would work – it wasn’t necessary.
If she would have chosen a 40″ wide cotton fabric – and pieced it with a horizontal seam – she would have had to buy 3 1/2 yards of fabric and 1 3/4 yards of a 90″ wide batting. At $10.00 a yard, this alternative would have cost $52.50! Fleece was less than half the cost!
Minkee, Oh So Soft, etc.
These products came from the lingerie industry and are thinner and only textured on one side so they work better with a lightweight batting. The same rules apply – the machine quilter must put the backing on the machine so that the stretch is perpendicular to the bars! In some cases, since this product is 60″ wide, it is no more expensive to use this backing than it is a 40″ cotton that needs to be pieced. Do the math – and your customers may be pleasantly surprised. Avlyn and Benartex have a great selection.
Wide Quilt Backings
Most quilt backings are now 108″ wide – and they have come a long way! They used to be a poorer quality grade of cotton – but not any more. And the variety of prints has increased dramatically. Muslin is not your only option! Batiks are even available at a reasonable price! Merrivale Fabrics has a great selection. Ask your sales rep to show you the fabrics so you can actually feel the quality – they are not all created equal – but the quality industry wide is improving every day. My personal favorites are the Fabri-Quilt backings. They feel like satin – and quilt like a dream!
Shop owners – please TEAR these backings! Since this fabric is stretched when rolled and folded on the bolt, it needs to be torn so your customers are actually getting what they pay for – along the entire 108″ width of the fabric!
This is a great way for your customers to use up their stash – and pieced backings add interest to the quilt. The back doesn’t have to be little pieces. For the example we used above, a customer could use a 2 1/4 yard piece from their stash of a coordinating fabric. 10″ squares could be cut, pieced and sewn to each side.
Make table runners and quilts reversible – the only thing that has to match both sides is the binding! I use the “wrong side” of quilts as tablecloths all of the time. And by choosing a holiday print for the backs of my table runners, they work for two seasons. In most cases, a gold, green, or red binding work for fall and Christmas., etc.
We almost always have scraps left over from our quilts. Why not use them to create a scrappy binding? Just cut up the scraps into 2″ – 2 1/2″ strips – whichever width you prefer – and sew them together on the diagonal. I do most of my quilts this way – and no one notices until I point it out – and then they love it! It adds interest to the quilt – and if it is a scrappy quilt, no one notices if I add a fabric strip that is not actually IN the quilt! In some cases, the fabric trimmed from the backing makes an excellent binding fabric – and coordinates beautifully!
Use this class as an opportunity to educate your customers on how to prepare a quilt for the machine quilters. Remove selvages from pieced backings; press the backing and top and deliver on a hanger; etc. And, check with the machine quilters in your area. The ladies I use charge a minimum – but will quilt several projects to the same backing. We had one woman piece together 15 different backings for 15 different table runners – and everybody was happy. Check with your machine quilters and see if they are willing to do the same thing. Find out what is most convenient for the quilters – and most economical for your customers.
Hand Quilting Classes:
Now may be the perfect time to teach a hand quilting class. I love to hand quilt and use a lightweight polyester batting; a 17″ Q-Snap frame; and a #9 Colonial needle. I can quilt a 12″ square in an evening. Pillows and table runners are good candidates for the beginning hand quilter. And, consider letting them bring their UFO’s to the class. It will give you an opportunity to share ideas for quilting motifs from several different projects with your students.
Creating New Quilters
Remember – every time a quilter finishes a project, they show and share it with all of their friends. So make sure you have plans for a beginning class for everyone they convert! They are a walking billboard for your shop and the best advertising ever! An unfinished project does no one any good – it is just guilt in a bag! Make it your goal to help these projects see the light of day – even if it is not in the form that was originally planned!
Creating New Projects
In some cases, we haven’t finished those projects because we found out that paper-piecing wasn’t our thing; that hand embroidery wasn’t our cup of tea; etc. Who will ever know if all of those blocks that were supposed to be a king sized quilt are sewn into a lap throw, three table runners and matching placemats instead?
Or, maybe you need to combine two projects into one – and cut your UFO’s in half immediately! The fabric in that kit looked so pretty in the store – and now you can’t even find the pattern – but it may include the perfect fabric for the backs and borders of another project. You are allowed to change your mind!
Don’t Ignore the other Occasions
When you are going through your stash, don’t forget birthdays; Mother’s Day; Father’s Day, etc. AND, don’t forget those projects you didn’t have time to make this year! Those matching aprons when you get together to bake holiday cookies; matching tote bags for that shop hop road trip; even a block of the month for your Secret Sis are only a few hours away – and now is the time to do it. These are the perfect projects to finish on these cold winter days…….