Sometimes you just have to do the stuff youdon’t want to do. After a month with an abundance of travel, I’m just beginning to catch up.
I need professional photos taken of some of my work, so I’ll need to wash and then block them beforehand. My quilts are touched by many hands at the guilds and shops I visit and that does make for some very grungy quilts after while! I have refined my blocking technique over time so I want to share it with you here. Since I seem to be skilled at making wonky quilts, blocking is something I have gotten good at.
Two situations might create a need to block:
-Your quilt is super wonky and you want it to hang well
-You compete and you need your quilt dead-on flat with all seams and borders straight.
In this case, two quilts had to be re-blocked because they were wonky when they were made.
There is an important point to be made here-if you bind a wonky quilt and THEN wash it, you have bound in the wonky and will need to block it every single time you wash it. Don’t do what I did!
Instead, wash it unbound, then block, then bind. Then your binding will hold your quilt in the form you want it. I figured that out with this quilt. Actually two things happened-the quilt was initially wonky and also I did not pre-shrink the binding and it shrunk considerably after washing.
To get started you’ll need some basic supplies: steam iron, your biggest square ruler (mine is 22 1/2″), tape measure, your longest straight edge (or a laser level), spray bottle of water and pins.
But not just any pins. You’ll need strong, sturdy pins. I use those cheap yellow-headed pins from JoAnn’s; I call them my Mean Girl Pins. You don’t use your refined, thin pins with the pretty heads. Two things not in the photo that are helpful-24″ interlocking foam flooring to create a platform to pin into and a laser level which you will see later in another photo. Unfortunately my foam flooring pieces are in storage and not here at the rental.
Prepare your quilt by washing it. I throw it in the dryer for 3 minutes or so to undo the worst wrinkles. Gently unfurl it and lay it on the floor or foam flooring, getting it as straight as you can for now.
I start in a corner and snug my square ruler right up tight against the binding or edge of the quilt. You may need to push and nudge the quilt to get it snug against the ruler. Now pin every inch.
Angle those pins away from the center or the quilt might scoot up the pin and release the pull of the pin. (I had to go back and move some of the pins here-see that some of them are not in a row?)
A word about perfection here. When I am blocking, I am trying to get dead-on straight lines. I’m using either a straight edge or a laser level, so why not? If you’ve ever watched judging, they will put their head down until their eyes are right over a seam or edge and peer down to see if it’s straight, the same angle that you see in the photo above. I figure I might as well aim to get it straight!
A 90 degree laser level is a great asset to this process. It projects for miles so you can block any size quilt. The 90 degree angle is very useful to get a perfect corner set in too. It was a bit pricey, I think around $80, but so worth it.
Once I’m past the edge of the square ruler I put the laser level down to project my line and I finish pinning. If you don’t have a laser level, use your longest straight edge. I continue around the quilt, measuring both length and width to assure that I am keeping everything straight and square.
Once you get to the fourth and final corner you may have to do a good bit of tugging and snugging to get it all in the correct alignment. Take your time to make sure it all is straight. Spray with water any area that begins to dry out.
Yes, this is hard on the body. I don’t see any other way to block a large quilt other than on the floor. I suppose it you had a ginormous table you could use your foam flooring and block there. I don’t have a huge table so it was hands and knees for several hours.
Once I got it all pinned and straight, I saw this. But I knew not to be worried. This will happen. I went back to this area to spray it then pat and coax it into shape. Remember, this is cotton and cotton has a whole lot of give and stretch to it. Once the quilt dried, it had just a wee bit of a puff left.
For some reason WordPress won’t load the rest of my photos so I’ll describe my next step. I took my warm iron set to steam and hovered over any puffy parts, flooding the area with steam. Then I patted that area flat. If I had an especially troublesome area I would lay a big square ruler down over the area after this step and let it dry that way.
And here’s what Poppies looked like before blocking! What a mess.
After blocking, Morning Breeze was perfectly square and flat, as was Poppies. Here’s a quick summary to keep you out of trouble:
-Remember to wash your quilt and binding first. Then block it. Then attach the binding. Block again if needed.
-Use sturdy pins for blocking and angle them away from the quilt.
-Use a large square ruler to set your corners.
-A laser level is very helpful to set a straight line.
-After the quilt dries, use a steam iron to smooth out any remaining wrinkles.
May you forever enjoy flat, straight quilts! I’ll be posting tomorrow to Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday.