Please note: All pictures are clickable for a larger image – also I’ve put a highlighted ‘footnote’ to the posts where I go into more detail / steps regarding each of the points I’ve discussed – Please feel free to click on those ‘footnotes’ for more detailed information / pics.
I t’s been suggested that I put all my flannel experiences, tips n hints on one page, so that maybe other’s can benefit from my battle with flannel (which I won :)), and I thought, why not – maybe this can help someone else while they use flannel in their quilts.
I’m going to cover specifically using flannel as a BACKING only – not the top or the batting. I haven’t had these issues using flannel as a batting.
I decided to use flannel as a backing based on several suggestions for Gran’s quilt as she doesn’t like the weight of a regular quilt. Sounded like a great idea at the time.
I actually tripped across a reference to progressive shrinkage while researching shrinkage rates of flannel vs cotton batt. Boy did that get MY gears going! This progressive shrinkage implies that it constantly shrinks. So in a nutshell progressive shrinkage loosely defined:
The easiest way to deal with this – wash your flannel before you cut it. I washed my flannel twice in hot water and dried it in a hot dryer each time.
I did find my answer of shrinkage for cotton and flannel tho – cotton shrinks 3%, flannel 5%.
I pieced my back and went blissfully along, unaware of the ‘fun’ that was waiting for me. I had decided to tie this quilt (I’ve never tied a quilt before and I thought it would fit this quilt nicely) I talked to Carmen about this as I had no experience with this and she gave me some wonderful ideas2 ..
- Don’t use embroidery floss – she’s never NOT seen it break – use yarn or perle cotton
- Use a double surgeon’s knot (square knot) for tying – I started out that way, but with the bulk of some of my seams, it was just to much, so I went to a single square knot.
- quilt about every 8″, so that if your ties do break, you won’t have it flapping in the breeze
- do your ties roughly 4 – 6″ apart
So I basted this quilt, and did my quilting lines. Every thing was fine, until I did the diagonals – altho i didn’t notice anything at the time .. Then I tied it based on the above. As I was getting ready to put the binding on I noticed that I had puckers in the backing3 .. I was a little bit more than stunned .. it’s been YEARS since I’ve seen puckers in the back of my quilts .. (and that was because I basted in a hurry) This was when I found out that other ladies starch their flannels like crazy before they do any quilting with them .. I starched around the borders like crazy and then put the binding on .. not ONE pucker .. so that worked. Which means that when all is said and done, I would be going back and ripping the puckers out, starching them, and re-quilting those areas, which was at the borders.
I get the binding all sewn on and hand stitched down. I lay it on the floor and my God – I was about to be drowned by the tsnumai that was barreling around the quilt edges4 .. oh jesusmaryjoseph .. God help me .. I canNOT give this quilt to Gran looking like THIS!! I got all depressed for a few hours, then an idea rather hit me – I thought of using a gather stitch (Thank you mum for teaching me to sew :D)
With some experimentation, I decided to use a handquilting thread, and use a long basting stitch for the gathers. I gathered the quilt edges until they were flat, stitched a loop twice, then knotted it off. Went around the whole quilt doing this then resewed down the binding. Glory Be!! The quilt laid flatter than it had. 5
Now the puckers in the back .. I ripped them out (I got lucky – only 3 bad spots) and then starched the snot out of them .. requilted those spots, turned it over and not a pucker left!! If it wasn’t for the double line of quilting, you would NEVER know it 6..
Put it it the wash (again on HOT water), dried it and then laid it on the floor .. some of the waves translated to the middle, which I am fine with – it’s a rather ‘informal’ quilt, but the important thing .. there were NO MORE waves at the edges! 7
So in a nutshell
- wash your flannel in hot water and dry it at least twice
- starch, starch, starch, starch like crazy .. make it like a board if you have to .. but you do NOT want it to easily stretch – doing these 2 steps you should eliminate any issues you might have with using flannel as a backing
- when you baste, baste 2″ apart instead of the normal 4″
- If you do have waves and puckers, they are easily fixed with hand gathering and a lot of starch again
I honestly thought that I would have to toss this quilt, but was able to ‘save’ it so I would feel good giving it as a gift. Not that she would have cared, but I would have . it just wasn’t in givable condition as it was.