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!