What Is a Quilt Sandwich and How Is It Assembled?
A quilt sandwich is the top, batting, and the back that are put together to begin quilting. With a few exceptions of “quilt-as-you-go” patterns, most quilts begin with constructing the design for the top. This is the part of the sandwich that will get the most interest but the overall stitching and placement of all three layers will determine how smooth and professional looking the final project will be. A poor job assembling the sandwich can ruin all the work that went into piecing and stitching a beautifully designed top piece.
The most important thing to know before you start is that all three layers are not the same size. You will need to cut the backing and batting between four and six inches wider and longer than the quilt top.
Press the backing material to get all of the wrinkles out and create a smooth, flat surface. Press the quilt top to make it flat and prevent puckers when it is being stitched. If you will be hand stitching the quilt, you will need to use a needle and thread to baste it into place. If you will quilt it on a sewing machine, use long quilting needles to hold the layers together. Have the right tools ready when you put the quilt sandwich together.
If you will be using batting that has been rolled up and packaged, take it out at least one day before use and lay it across a bed, working the creases and folds out of it. It needs to be completely flat by the time you put it in your quilt sandwich.
Finally, find a large flat surface where you can assemble the quilt without interruption. If you only have a table that is smaller than the quilt size, you may prefer to use a large open space in the floor where you can extend each piece to its full size without worrying about the edges falling off the sides of the table. This works best on floors that are not carpeted if possible.
Place the backing on the surface with the wrong (inner) side up. Use masking tape to secure the edges to the floor (again, if not carpeted). It isn’t necessary to tape the entire perimeter of the fabric to the floor, but you should add a piece every half a foot or so to prevent slippage. Don’t pull the fabric too tight, just focus on keeping it flat and smooth against the floor.
Place the batting on top of the fabric, patting it to remove any lingering folds or creases.
Place the quilt top right side up on top of the other two layers, centering it to make sure the bottom two layers extend several inches beyond the edges of the quilt top.
Either hand baste or pin the three layers together, beginning at the center of the sandwich. Try to avoid placing pins and basting where you will be stitching the quilt. This will prevent you from having to remove either as you go, causing the position of the layers to shift before they are sewn. Also, stitching over the basting thread repeatedly can make it difficult or impossible to remove. Position hand or pin basting every three to four inches in a grid pattern that extends from the center to the sides of the quilt.
Once the entire surface is basted, remove the tape from the quilt and floor. You have now assembled a quilt sandwich and are ready to start quilting!