Tutorial-Applying a Quilt Hanging Sleeve
So how do I apply a hanging sleeve to the back of my quilts? Glad you asked! I have learned the hard way that this final step in finishing my quilts cannot be rushed. It pays off to be mindfulwhen I’m attaching the hanging sleeve to the quilt.
Start by choosing the right fabric for your sleeve. I use different fabrics for different purposes. I use silk organza for my non-competition quilts that are less than around 45″. I like the translucence of an organza hanging sleeve-it’s less intrusive to the look of the back of the quilt.
But I learned the hard way not to use organza on my competition quilts that will be taken on and off of a pole many times-it’s not strong enough to stand abuse.
For my competition quilts I use a sturdy cotton. Rarely do I use muslin for this purpose-it’s just too ugly. I try to find something that complements or blends in with the back of the quilt. Why not take this last chance to add some pretty to your quilt? Many times I will use a batik because it is sturdy and tightly woven.
Once you’ve chosen your fabric, measure the top of your quilt-this will be the length of your sleeve. Cut a strip of your sleeve fabric 9″ wide by the length of your sleeve-in this case my sleeve is 26 1/2″.
Working the short ends, press 1/4″ towards the wrong side of the fabric twice on each end, thus enclosing the raw edges. Press.
Now stitch close to the inner edge of each short end.
Stitch a 1/4″ seam along the long edge of the quilt, WRONG sides together. Press the entire sleeve with the seam unopened-this will result in a pressed fold on one long side and the flat seam on the other.
On the fold that you just pressed, baste 1/4″ away from the fold. This may not make sense now, but you will eventually see that this will provide some slack in the sleeve and allow room for the girth of the hanging pole.
Now press the seam open. This is easier if you happen to have a “pressing stick”-more on proper pressing tools in another post!
Align the sewn fold directly over the seam line and press. Now you have something that looks like this with the tuck on one side and the seam on the other.
Now do you see why we sewed the sleeve wrong sides together? The open seam will be facing the quilt top and never see the light of day. The stitched ends of the sleeve are folded out and stitched so there is no chance that the pole will catch. The inside of the sleeve, where the pole will slide, has no raw edges to catch on the hanging pole.
Pin the sleeve to your quilt, 1/2″ from the top and the sides of the sleeve 1/2″ from each end. Make sure it is straight-oh ask me how I know! Remember the tuck is facing up. Whip stitch it to your quilt, around all the edges, including the short ones on the end. When stitching those ends, make sure you only catch the layer against the quilt, not the top one-or you won’t be able to get the hanging pole in the sleeve! I like to use a strong, fine polyester thread for this. This will take some time, so put on some vapid tv or lovely music.
I make my stitches fairly close together, about 1/4″-1/2″ apart-anything larger and it’s just not secure. Make sure you double stitch about every 5-8 stitches. That double stitch will save your sleeve if one of the hand stitches decides to let go for some reason. If you do lose a stitch, you will only risk having an inch or two let loose. Otherwise, it could unravel for a foot or more, affecting the hang of your quilt.
NOTE: Some advise to sew in the top of the hanging sleeve inside your seam at the same time as you apply your binding. That way the entire top of your quilt sleeve is sewn in by machine at the same time. Sounds like a great idea…except…what happens if for some reason you need to do something to that sleeve? What if the sleeve rips and you need to replace the sleeve? Then you have to redo the entire binding too. Ask me how I know….
So here’s what you have once you have whip stitched the sleeve to the quilt. And this is why I like an organza sleeve-it’s so ethereal and unobtrusive.
I actually make up long tubes of hanging sleeve, that way when I need a sleeve, I just cut the appropriate length off and I’m good to go! I make the extra sleeve up as described above BUT without the 1/4″ tuck. Once I cut off the amount I need for my new project, I finish each end as described above: turn down 1/4″ twice, then stitch to secure. To do this stitching, I remove the surrounding bed extension on my machine to make it easier to sew that small, circular seam. Then I machine baste in the 1/4″ tuck as I describe above. It saves time and you KNOW that you are always putting on a hanging sleeve at the last minute!
Ah, my finished quilt, ready to hang! It’s an easy process to add a hanging sleeve to your quilt, but make sure you are mindful to apply it straight and to stitch it securely. Then you get to enjoy the beauty of your work-whoop!
Kathy Schmidt says
Never thought to use organza–and I have a boatload from the 1960’s that I have no other use for! Great idea–thanks!
And organza would really look nice on the back of your art quilts too! Glad you enjoyed it.
Great, precise tutorial. I believe you covered “all the bases” beautifully. I haven’t done a hanging in a while, so it was a good ‘refresher’ for me. Mostly runners, mug rugs lap/bed quilts. Thanks so much!!! Hugs………
Thanks Doreen-good for you-no hanging sleeves for awhile!
Nice tutorial Jenny!
Thank you Laura!
Laura Rylander says
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of hanging sleeves. We all think it’s as easy as slapping a cotton piece on the back, but you make it an art.
Thank you Laura! It’s always the last thing and I’ve gotten caught so many times, I finally realized I needed to do it right!
Rebecca Grace says
Yay — I asked, and I received! :-) Thanks for the clear instructions AND photos. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
Here’s one other reason not to sew that hanging sleeve into the binding at the top of the quilt. Those added fabric layers make it much more difficult to hand stitch the binding to the back of your quilt, if you are like me and could not machine stitch binding on to save your soul!
I’m glad you enjoyed it Rebecca! Very good point re:too many layers when you stitch the binding and sleeve in together. So I’m not the only one who can’t do machine applied bindings…
Joanna Mack says
Love the tutorial. The only question it didn’t answer for me is: if you make the sleeves up in quantity (great idea) and then cut off the length you need, how do you finish the cut edges at each end? Do you just turn in the fabric and hand sew a hem? I’m trying to picture doing this with the quarter inch tuck sewn in for ease.
Thanks for the comment Joanna! To finish the cut ends of the new sleeves, I finger press the two 1/4″ turns of the fabric, pin, and then sew it down to secure. I take advantage of my free arm of my machine by removing the bed extender I normally have on. Hope those words make sense.
Good point-I don’t have the 1/4″ tuck sewn in on the “extra sleeve” -I add it after I turn my ends. I am going back now and revamping the tut to reflect this.
Thank you for pointing this out! I appreciate that-just when you think it’s clear, you realize you forgot something.
I’m a firm believer that “old dogs” can learn new tricks. I always pick up a few new tricks from every teacher. Thanks for a great tutorial and the tip on basting the quarter inch!
I love your idea of making up a ready to go batch, clever.
You are welcome Melissa. I learn from others and pass it on-bet you do too!
Barbara Hadderton says
If you are still taking questions and comments, please help. If my quilt is 100″x84″ witch side should I put the hanging sleeve.? On the 100″ side or the 84″ side. Thanks for your instruction.
Hi Barbara; That really is a personal decision. If it truly is not a directional quilt, I would probably put it on the 84″ side. It’s easier to find a wall to hang an 84″ quilt on than a 100″ quilt! Congratulations on completing such a large project.
Hi Jenny, if you still answer questions I need to know where exactly do I attach sleeve if I have a 2″ binding?
Hi Mary; I would just butt the sleeve right up to the binding and that would look great. I hope I have understood you right. I think the quilt will lay well that way.