Tying One On

It's a cold day here at the Three Cats Ranch. When I got up this morning it was 16°F with a windchill of 12°F. We in Oregon are no strangers to cold winter weather, but these temperatures are frigid by our moderate standards. It is also quite dry. It made for some interesting use of the furniture and quilts in the family room this morning...right next to the fireplace:

Before I go on, I just want to thank all of you who routinely send me links to things cat-related and otherwise. For some reason, folks who read this blog have the idea that I am obsessed with cats. I have no idea what would give you that idea, but it is a vicious rumor. Please keep spreading it. 

Recently, Ms. Katie from Lethargic Lass sent me a link from a blog called Tamarack Shack with pictures of a quilt she'd just finished long arm quilting, made by quilter "Jackie". Is this the cutest thing you've ever seen?

I'm just sharing this one image, but if you click on the link I've given you above, you can see more pictures of this adorable quilt. Well, Katie didn't stop there. She went online and found the pattern for me, which I snapped up from somebody's Ebay site. It was the last one. If you want your own, you'll have to seek it out.

All of that to let you know that your links are always appreciated, so keep 'em coming, and special thanks to Katie for this one.

So today was the day I'd set aside to make some quilt sandwiches. I'm ready to tie the Salt Water Taffy quilt, but first I had to make a back for it. I had the fabric, but I hadn't cut it to size and stitched it yet. I reached for my rotary cutter only to turn back and see...um...a significant impediment to my progress.

After negotiating for some catnip and kitty treats, I was able to make my quilt back. And with that done, I was able to make my quilt sandwich.

I've said all along that I was going to tie this quilt. It is flannel, and therefore, very soft. I can't quite bring myself to machine quilt a flannel quilt since that tends to take away from the softness. And while there is no trick to tying a quilt, a couple of you mentioned that you were unfamiliar with the process. It's pretty basic, but for those of you who are interested, I've created this little tutorial.

I'm a fan of spray basting, but for a tied quilt, it isn't really necessary. For this, I like to use big safety pins. And for this particular quilt with its 6-inch blocks, it is more than adequate to just put one pin in the center of each.

My favorite way of doing it is to pin one row at a time, leaving the pins open until I have the whole row done, and then I use this Kwik Klip to close the pins. It makes it a little easier on fingers.

And it's hard to do this with one hand while holding the camera with the other hand, but basically, you use the Kwik Klip to raise up the point of the pin, and then use your finger to squeeze the top. No poked fingers that way.

Then I just continue on until the whole quilt is pinned.

Depending on your batting and your quilt design, you'll have to decide how many ties you want on your quilt. Again, with its 6-inch blocks, it's pretty much a no-brainer to do one tie in the center of each block. And since I've made this exact same quilt before, using different fabrics, I know that is plenty of ties to hold the whole thing together. So I measured to find the center of the block,

And then I used a stylus to mark where I wanted my stitch to go. You can just press down, and it leaves an indentation.

You can choose different things to make your ties. My preference is for Knit-Cro-Sheen. I used to make comforters from two flat sheets when I went to high school (during the 14th Century), and this is the way I've always done it. I just happen to have two balls of this "natural" color, and so I'm using that. You can also use heavy-duty thread or yarn...anything you can conjure up in your imagination that will be durable over the long haul. Keep in mind that tied quilts tend to be utility quilts that will get lots of use and lots of washing.

And depending on what you choose, you'll want an appropriate needle. I like tapestry needles with a nice big eye.

So then pretend you're sewing with regular thread and just thread your needle with a double length of knit-cro-sheen (or whatever your using). I generally measure out a length first by lying it along the width of my quilt.

I cut an extra couple of inches just for good measure, thread my needle, and take a stitch. Take a big stitch, about a quarter inch, and make sure you get all the way through all layers of the quilt.

I like to pull the ends of the threads to the edge of the block before continuing on. Trying to do that as I go usually means that I pull too far and too fast and pull out the first stitch. You can see what I mean in the image below. Just pull the ends of your thread right to the edge of the block, and then continue on.

Take a stitch in each block just like you're making a big running stitch, or a basting stitch, until you've taken your stitches all the way to the other side of the quilt. Then cut the ends on that side.

Once I have the whole row stitched, I go through and cut right in the middle of the stitches so that I have individual stitches in each block

Now...tie each stitch with a square knot. Think: Right over left, Left over right. And if you don't know how to tie a square not, there is an excellent tutorial right here. I like to take a rather large stitch and then just let the fabric pucker a little when I tie the knot. When it's all done, those little puckers will give your quilt a nice pillowy texture.

Why a square knot, you ask? Well, because it won't come untied. Surgeons use it, and there are some who think the square knot's advantage is also its biggest disadvantage. Here's a little blurb I found online from a paper written for medical students.

Once you've tied your square knots all the way across the row,

you might like to clip the ends to a uniform length. I like to leave the tails about one inch. You don't need to measure it. Eyeballing it will work fine.

Here's how it will look on the back of your quilt, and when the whole thing is done, you'll have a nice pillowy texture on the back of your quilt as well.

So this process can be a little tough on fingers. Do too much and you'll end up with blisters. For that reason, I tend to limit myself to two rows per day. 

You can also tie a quilt by machine using an eyelet buttonhole on your sewing machine. I have done that before, and it gives a nice finished tie. Some folks believe that the loose ends of the thread ties pose a choking hazard for babies. If you don't want those loose ends, I suggest the eyelet stitch. Here's how it looks:

So these aren't the only ways to tie a quilt...it's just the way I've always done it. You may do it differently, or you may have a completely different idea about how to do it. There aren't any hard and fast rules...just do what works best for you and your quilt.

Here's where I ended up today. I just fold the quilt over and let the rows that are finished hang off the end of the table. 

With 12 rows in this quilt, I can have the whole thing done in less than a week.

And as long as I had everything cleared off my work table, I decided to make the quilt sandwich for the Heart of the Home tablerunner. I'm going to machine quilt this, but not until I've done some other things first. Getting the sandwich made is about 3/4 of the job in my opinion. Making quilt sandwiches is my least favorite part of quilting.

And once that was done, I'd had enough for the day. Tomorrow we're planning to put up our Christmas tree, and I have some cranberry salsa I want to try if I have time. I'll try to get another two rows tied on the Salt Water Taffy quilt, but I doubt I'll do any other sewing tomorrow.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along? Do you have your tree up?


WoolenSails said...

Nothing better than a cozy quilt, a good movie and some stitching on a cold day. You have a lot more patience than I do, I just buy iron on batting, then pin at the area I am working on to be sure, then re-iron out as I go, as needed, lol.


Terri in BC said...

Well, duhhh - do I feel dumb! I've tied many quilts together, one tie at a time. Never thought to take the stitches all the way across the quilt first. Of course, I'm mostly self-taught, pre-computer days. Thanks for sharing, you've made it easier for new quilters (and a few oldies too!)

Teresa in Music City said...

Love that cat pattern!!! I cannot start another cat quilt. I cannot start another cat quilt. I cannot start another cat quilt..... what did you say the name of it was? LOL!!!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

This is the way we tie quilts, too. Usually have a couple working one end while a couple work the other - and meet in the middle. We are snowy and cold here too and I grabbed a couch cuddle with my fur babies in the afternoon. Our Christmas in Schoharie weekend only resulted in 3 people - the weather really put the cabosh on the whole thing.

Kathy Schwartz said...

Thanks for sharing the link to my blog. And big thanks to Katie for finding the pattern!! I'm going to edit my post to included that info as I have been asked and had no idea if it was made with a pattern or not.

Cath said...

Hello Barbara....hope you are a teeny tiny bit warmer now.....thanks for the tute. I have never tied a quilt but it was interesting to read how to do so....just in case!
Cath @ Bits 'n Bobs

Brown Family said...

My Husband is so good to me that he uses the Klip tool and closes the pens for me. He lets me get a couple of rows ahead of him and then starts in! I have tied quilts before, but we did each stitch separately. Your method is so much easier! I have finished 90% of my Christmas sewing. Tomorrow I will be finishing up with the embroidery machine and be done. Then I can get on to WITW!

Michele said...

The tree is up but not decorated yet. I really needed to get some new garland and I did that last night. Hopefully it can get done before Sunshine's birthday party today.

Jeanie said...

Love the cat quilt and all of the couch cuddling going on at your house! I haven't tied a quilt in a long time and forget that I like the cozy look of tying. Thanks for sharing your techniques.

Anonymous said...

Great tute! I am sure there are many who have not tied a quilt before and your instructions were totally clear! Love your Heart of the Home runner!!!! I haven't brought out the decorations yet. Too many sewing projects and quilt gatherings, etc. I hope Wed. will be the day!!! Hugs....

Lyndsey said...

That tute is most helpful as I've never tied a quilt before. My tree is up and the crib is out. All I need to find is the Christmas table runner but I can't remember where I put it.

Junebug613 said...

Good to know I'm not the only one sending you cat-themed stuff! Thanks for the great tutorial on tying! Your way is so simple and sensible! Our home is too small for a tree. :( I miss decorating. Although, with 6 cats, it may be a good thing we don't have one. Lol

Karen said...

I had heard about your cold weather from a member of our DILs family. They moved to Sisters earlier this year. This sure is a cold welcome!
Thank you for explaining how you tied your quilts. It is always good to learn something new.

quiltzyx said...

That's how I was taught how to tie a quilt too, way back when! It was in a workshop where we were finishing quilts for Guild philanthropy. :)

That is a cute cat quilt. Before you said the name, I was thinking "Cats with Collars"! lol

Kate said...

Thanks for the lesson on tying quilts. Looks like you are staying busy and getting lots done.

Unknown said...

Love all the gentlemen in you pics Ha HA! and thank you for sharing the pinning and securing of the quilt layers. My first cat was a the same colours and so alike markings as you puss laying on the lounge back top!