Making It Straight-Quilt Blocking

I have the happy problem of having 4 items juried into Pacific International Quilt Festival. The “problem” part comes in because that involves some mundane tasks: sleeving, blocking, labeling, shipping and making sure there are no Basset hairs, stray threads  or popped seams.

So I thought I’d show how I block my quilts. I always, always block anything larger than say 24″ square, because the intense stitching that I do tends to make them a bit wonky. It’s not that hard to block a quilt. I do start out with a “foot wash” in a deep bathtub with cool water and Orvis soap.  “Foot washed” is like “hand washed” except I swirl it around gently in the tub with my feet-way easier on the back. I will swirl it around constantly and gently for about 10-12 minutes, then rinse 3 times. I gently but firmly squish it, (NO wringing!), until I have the excess water out. I then toss it in the dryer with a flannel sheet and let it tumble just a bit-10 minutes or so. I place it on the area that I will block it on and gently pull it into position. The area that I block in is: where Basset Boy is least likely to lay, in an area that is hotter than the rest of the house, without any direct sunshine. I first lay out my blocking boards: two Dritz foldable “cutting boards”. They’re great because they have the grids marked on them. I secure them into the carpet with sturdy straight pins.Don’t panic if you get this: after I carefully blocked the outside of the quilt, I had a bit of a lump in the middle. I know this will go away, no sweat.I secure it with the sturdy straight pins every inch and a half or so, adding more where it’s clearly misbehaving.I also make sure that the inner borders are laying straight and true by using my 22 1/2″ square Omnigrid ruler and I pin that area in place. For some reason, one of the seams on the borders was pulling, so I worked on it too, making sure it was going to lay straight.

I let all this sit until it dries. If by any chance there is still lumping, I will steam it directly with my iron, patting with my hand to coax it into place.

This is a fairly easy and straight forward process and I think the results are worth it. I DO NOT want my quilt hanging all wonky at a show! I see that a lot and I am pretty sure all those wavy quilts would lie flat and straight if they were blocked. Why give the judges the opportunity to give you that dreaded comment: “Quilt should lay straight and flat”. Not that I’ve ever received that comment….


  1. says

    Wow, four quilt juried into the show. You must be on Cloud 9! Can’t wait for your photos/posts of that show. Great photos of your blocking process–my least favorite part of quilting :-)

  2. says

    Your visuals of your blocking process help so much. Since I’m sorta new to quilting, I’ve only blocked sweaters, but you make it look manageable. Your displayed quilt is lovely, Jenny. I hope you do well at the show. Having seen the quality of your work, I suspect you will certainly be accepted and most likely do very well. Good Luck!

  3. Helen says

    Good write-up, Jenny. Congrats on PIQF, I look forward to seeing your work there. I like the idea of the Dritz boards. Never used them before but sure will in the future. Lots easier than using rulers to square up the edges. One question. I see a lot of pins around the edge. Did you put the pins into the binding or just inside of the binding? Also are the pins straight in or slanted?
    For Roxane: The quilt will block better laid flat. Shut the cat out of the room while the quilt is down. When the quilt is dry you can use a lint roller to get rid of any remaining cat hairs. All of us who quilt and have cats know that the cat will find a way to get hair on the quilt if at all possible.

    • jennyklyon says

      Thanks Helen! The boards won’t last forever as I am plopping wet quilts on them, but I think it’s worth it. I precisely put the pins between the binding and the quilt, straight into my carpet. Great tip on “blocking with cats”!

  4. says

    Congrats Jenny! I look forward to seeing all four entries posted on your blog! I certainly am in love with the gorgeous quilt you’ve shown while giving us blocking tips. The bugs are cute!

    • jennyklyon says

      Thanks Laura! You’ve seen them all before on my blog. I’ll post a full photo of the “Lily” quilt once it is in the show. Found out that it’s best to wait until your quilt is shown before you post the whole thing on your blog:-/

  5. says

    Just found your site through Diane’s blog and am really enjoying it. I like these posts on technical issues with specifics, like what soap you use and which boards etc. It really helps out us quilters that are trying to improve. Thanks!!!

  6. jennyklyon says

    Thank you for the kind words Celine! I’m just stumbling my way through all this, sharing what I learn as I go.

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