Did you know that even famous, “perfect” quilters have to block their quilts so that they hang straight? They do! I routinely expect to block my quilts. Saw Tooth Star, well, this poor baby really needed a blocking: it had over a 1″ variance in width and the whole quilt is only about 46 1/2″ “square” (square being a relative term)!
You may recall, I inadvertently selected a cotton/poly blend fabric for my borders and sashing. So, when it came time to block, that poly part of my fabric was NOT going to give and stretch like cotton would. Such a compounding of errors: wonky pieced blocks, miters not dead-on, poly in my fabric, problems with my metallic thread…I am going to walk you through my blocking process. Many quilters seem to think this is a difficult process that needs to be taught in a class or something, but it’s actually quite simple. Almost all quilts benefit from being blocked square. I see quilts at major shows that hang wonky-all they need is a little blocking!These are the highly sophisticated tools I use: sturdy tape measure, water filled spray bottle, steam iron, carpeted floor, the largest square ruler you are willing to pay for (mine is 22 1/2″ and I love it), and sturdy, mean pins-the kind with a big shaft and plastic heads. These are the cheap pins that I would never ever use for piecing or garment sewing. In addition to these tools I need a radio for entertainment, and, this is very important, a door! I need to keep the Basset-In-Chief from investigating my quilt since it will be there for a few days, right in his favorite sunny spot.This is my steam iron set up-an unconventional one. I had an expensive 7 yr old Rowenta Professional that leaked for 3 years before it finally died. I needed an iron immediately so I ran to Wal-Mart and bought a cheap Black and Decker. I’m actually happy with it: it’s very hot and produces tons of steam. I have it on a clicker system from Home Depot that allows me to click it on and off, so that I never forget to turn it off-very handy.
I measured each side at the top, bottom and middle and came up with a measurement compromise that I could block it to. In this case, one side measured 47 1/2, 47 1/4 and 46 1/2-do you think that miter might have been an issue??? I had to come up with a reasonable figure to block to. Because the rest of the quilt pretty much measured out around the 47 1/2″ figure, I concluded that one miter was way off and I would try to block out as much of that as I could.
I sprayed my quilt and pretty much saturated it-for this size quilt I used most of the spray bottle. Then I pinned the middle of each side to the measurement I needed, stretching or even compacting as needed.
I used my square ruler to get the sashing dead-on straight and began systematically pinning from there, placing pins about every 1 1/2″. This is sturdy fabric-if I were blocking wimpy silk, I might place my pins 3/4″ apart or so.Note that the pins are angled towards the middle of the quilt-this will retain the pull and not allow it to relax back towards the middle. I fuss and putz and pat it until my lines are straight and my edges square. Kinda. I just could not get an inch of stretch out of that awful poly/cotton blend-only got 1/2″ so I had to accept a wonky border. If it had been 100% cotton I probably could have gotten my inch.
I will do some final “adjustments” with steam from my iron, patting down and steaming any poochy parts.
However, this is really important to remember. I LOVE the quilt, despite its many flaws. Just look: Do you see the dimension that the wool batt gives-on the striped insert, the feathers, the bubbles? See the shimmer of the Glitter thread? And look at the dimension on the blocks. I love that about this quilt!
My point to you is this: look past all the problems in your quilt and your quilting and find the beauty-it’s there! When I look at the Glitter thread and the puff of the feathers and the colorful blocks, well, it’s a quilt skipping moment for me-I want you to find that moment too!