Friday, January 30, 2015

Prairie Point Part 4–Trimming and finishing the back


This is the fourth installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.


Here is my little sample quilt, all quilted and with prairie points sewn on.  I think it could be cute just like this, with the points pointing in, in which case I would just add binding to finish the edges.  However, I want my points to point outwards and be the finished edge so there’s more work to do.


Next I need to trim the backing and batting, but I can’t just wield the rotary cutter and trim everything flush with the edge of the quilt top.  I need the backing 1/4” larger than the top all around, and the batting 1/4” smaller than the top, all around.

1. Trimming the batting and backing


Step 1.  Fold the backing out of the way, well away from the edge of the quilt top so you can trim the batting without cutting the backing. You can pin to keep it out of the way if you wish. Carefully turn the quilt right side up, making sure to keep that backing folded back.


Step 2. With a rotary cutter and ruler, trim the batting even with the top.


Step 3. Still keeping the backing out of the way, fold the top out of the way.  Pin to keep it out of the way if necessary. Trim 1/4” off the batting (photo on left).  (If you fold unfold the top and flip the quilt over now, right side down, you’ll see that the batting is now a tidy 1/4” less than the quilt top (photo on right)).


Step 4.  With the quilt facing up, unfold the backing. Trim it 1/4” larger than the quilt top.  This will give you 1/2” of fabric to work with when you fold the backing edges under later, in section 4.

(Note: If you don’t mind fiddling with turning edges under just 1/4” in section 4, you can trim the backing even with the quilt top at the same time as you trim the batting even in step 2 above.  Just remember to fold the backing out of the way before you trim the batting that extra 1/4”.)


Step 5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for each side of the quilt to trim all sides.


2.  Folding out the prairie points.


Step 1.  Trim the tails of the points (but not the backing!) on the corners, being careful not to snip the stitching (photo on left).  This will let the points tuck up nicely side by side at the corner when you flip the points out (photo on right).


Step 2.  Flip the points so they point away from the quilt.  The seam allowance should tuck over the trimmed edge of the batting, encasing it. 



I like to press the seam allowance to help it stay flat.

3. Fold backing edges


Step 3.  With the quilt facing up, fold the backing down 1/2” along an entire side. Press.  Fold the corner at a 45 degree angle, then fold the next side down 1/2” as well, forming a crisp mitered corner.  Press and pin if you need to.


Above you see what the corner looks like from the back of the quilt.  Continue folding the edge of the backing, mitering the corners, all around the quilt.


Here’s the back of my quilt with the backing all folded in properly.  You can pin it in place if you wish, though the quilting on most of the quilt and the pressing of the folded backing keep things pretty much where they need to be.

4. Stitching the backing to the prairie points


You can see in the picture above that the folded edge of the backing just covers the line of stitching attaching the points to the quilt top.  Hand stitch the backing to the prairie points using whatever stitch you usually use to sew binding to the back of a quilt.  I like to use the ladder stitch.


Step 1. Insert the needle into the fold, right in the crease. Bring the needle back out along the fold, about 1/8” – 1/4” away.  Pull the thread through.


Step 2. Insert the needle into the bottom layer (in this case the prairie points) right below where thread comes out of the fold.  Keeping the needle in line with the folded edge, bring it back out of the fabric 1/8” – 1/4” away.


Step 3. Insert the needle into the top layer again, in the fold, immediately above where the thread was last pulled through the bottom layer.  Bring the needle out along the fold 1/8” – 1/4” away. 

Keep stitching until you have stitched the backing down on all sides.  Take a few close stitches at the corners to keep them tidy.


And here’s the finished product, back and front!

I hope this series has inspired or encouraged you to add prairie points to a quilt!


For more information about planning, making and attaching prairie points, see the rest of the Prairie Point Tutorial series:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prairie Points Part 3 – Distributing them evenly

Prairie points 1

This is the third installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.


This part of the series will look at two ways to distribute your points evenly along the edge of your quilt.



1. Decide if you will sew them on before or after the quilt is quilted

You can sew the prairie points to the quilt top before sandwiching the quilt, or after you have sandwiched and quilted it. I usually do it before.  As you’ll see in part 4 of this tutorial series, you need to leave at least an inch of unquilted space on the outside of your quilt so you can finish the back properly.  I find that having the prairie points in the way in place first is a good reminder not to quilt there. I can go back and add quilting later if I want that space filled.  I just need to think ahead so I have a plan to make all the quilting, before and after, work well together.

Adding the points early also reduces the risk that I will accidentally sew the backing and batting to the quilt top along the edges when I’m attaching the points.  Yes, I will eventually want the back and batting sewn to the rest, just not until I’m good and ready, with those points tucked as they need to be! Part 4 of this series will cover that.

If you do attach the points after quilting (you might have to choose this option if you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter – check with your quilter) you can still attach them just as I will show in this tutorial.  Just remember to leave some unquilted space (or ask your longarm quilter to do so), and remember to fold the batting and backing out of the way of the seam as you sew the points on.  Don’t trim the batting or backing yet!

OK, now that you have decided, either move along to distributing your points, or go quilt your quilt then come back to distribute your points

2. Lay out and distribute the points evenly


Whether you use method 1 or 2 below, you’ll lay your points on top of the quilt, with the points pointing towards the quilt.

Method 1:  Eyeball it. Really, just distribute your points along the edge, covering the entire edge of the quilt, so that they look about evenly spaced.  Done!


This works well along a short length, with not too many prairie points.  Right now I’m contemplating adding points to a quilt that measures about 100” on each side.  That’s going to be harder to “eyeball” without a lot of redistributing and fussing.  If I space them too close when I start at one end, I’ll fall short at the other end and have to go back and nudge everything over a little.  If I nudge everything over too much, there will be more crowding at the other end…


So, I’ll be using Method 2, which involves more deliberate planning.

Method 2:  You can measure the spacing as you lay down your points.  There will still be a little bit of nudging happening, but it will be planned nudging with much less guesswork.

Remember X, that you measured in part 1 to help you figure out how many prairie points you would need?  That’s the amount of space each point except the very last one will take up along the edge of the quilt.  The very last one takes up as much space as the length of its long side. 


You can lay out your points by measuring the distance X as you lay them down. Continuing with my example from part 1, you can see I’ve measured X=2 1/4” in the pictures below. I keep moving the ruler over to measure where to place the next point.

distribute 1distribute 3distribute 4

Well, how awkward.  I fell short at the end. Why? Remember that I rounded the number of points to a whole number, because I won’t be using just a fraction of a point.  That’s why things aren’t fitting exactly now.


If I had rounded up to 6 points instead, it still wouldn’t fit exactly.  The last point would have stuck out past the end of the quilt edge, like you see above.

Don’t panic!  I’ll just spread the points out just a little, by nudging a few points by about 1/8” to spread them just a bit more and eat up the extra space, making up the difference.  That small shift won’t be obvious to the eye.  If the last point extended too far I’d nudge the points closer together to squeeze them into the available space.

As I said about method 1, it’s easy to nudge here and there by eye when you’re working with a small number of points.  If you’re dealing with larger numbers, you can figure out ahead of time how many points you’ll need to nudge, and just add the nudge when you’re measuring and laying down points from the start.

If you want the math explained, scroll to the bottom of this post.  Otherwise just plug numbers in. (To review from part 1, S = long side of finished point, L = unfinished length of quilt edge, n = total number of points)

length to make up = L – 1/2”– S –[(n-1) x X]

Dividing that extra length by 1/8” tells us how many points you have to nudge over 1/8” more than the rest to collectively fill that space.

Number of nudges = length to make up / 0.125

Going back to my earlier example (S=3, L=13, X = 2.25, n=5) this is what the math looks like, again remembering to use the proper math order of operations:

length to make up = 13 – 1/2 – 3 – [(5-1) x 2.25]

length to make up = 9.5 – (4 x 2.25)

length to make up = 9.5 – 9

length to make up = 0.5

Number of nudges = 0.5/0.125 = 4

This means that for 4 of the points, I’ll add a 1/8” nudge while measuring X to place my points.  In this case that will be 2 1/4” plus 1/8” which is 2 3/8”.

distribute 5distribute 6

Ta da!  Now everything ends up just where it should be.  Again, I could have done this by eyeballing, since my example used just 5 points.  If I were trying to distribute 39 points along a 90”-long side of a queen size quilt, doing the math and measuring would save a lot of fiddling! I’d know to space most 2.25”, but increase that space by 1/8” for 8 of the points.

One last little math bit:  if you get a negative number for the length to make up, that means you have to squeeze your points closer instead of spreading them out.  In that case you should subtract 1/8” from X as many times as necessary instead of adding it on.


Pin and sew points in place

Now that the points are beautifully laid out, don’t forget to pin them securely in place so nothing slips out of place when you take everything to the sewing machine.

Sewing points on

Sew everything in place with a 1/4” seam allowance.  Backstitch about 1/2” at the beginning and end of the seam to secure the seam. Backstitching is shown in red in the diagram above.

Now repeat all that for the next side.  The points will butt up at the corners:


Once points are sewn to all sides and the quilt is quilted you’ll need to trim the batting and backing. Things will be easier in part 4 if you don’t trim things flush with the quilt top.  Part 4 of this Prairie Point Series will explain how to trim and how to sew the backing to the prairie points to finish the edge.


For more information about prairie points,check out the rest of the Prairie Point tutorial series:


For those of you who care, here’s where the formula came from.

length to make up = L – 1/2” – S –[(n-1) x X]

That 1/2” you’re subtracting has to do with seam allowances. Since we are working with the finished point size S, we want to be calculating with the finished length (L – 1/2”) of the quilt edge as well.

n is the number of prairie points you need to distribute. X is the amount of space you have to allot for each prairie point except the last. You can see in the diagram below that for the very last triangle added we have to account for the whole length S of the triangle base.

spacing calculation 2

So the formula takes the finished length of the side (L – 1/2) and takes away the space S covered by the last, whole prairie point as well as all the spaces X taken up by the remaining (n-1) prairie points. What remains is the extra length that is left without prairie points. 

Prairie Points Part 2 – Folding

This is the second installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.
(Note: if you’ve been following this blog for at least a few months, this part of the series will seem familiar!  I’m repeating some info to gather all the prairie point information together.)
I’ll share how to fold two different styles of prairie points.  Whether you choose the first or second method, the information from Prairie Points Part 1, about sizing and calculating how many points you’ll need, will apply.

Prairie Point #1

Step 1. Start with a square, wrong side of fabric facing up. I’m using a 3 1/2” square, which yields a 1 1/2” tall finished point.


Step 2. Fold the square in half once on the diagonal.  Press the fold.


Step 3. Fold in half again. Press the fold.  I like to hit it with a little steam to help set the folds. There you go.  One prairie point.

All the raw edges are now together on the long side of the triangles, which is the same length as the side of the square you started out with (in this case 3 1/2”).

Once this triangle in sewn onto something with a 1/4 seam along the long side, the finished base (long side) will be 3 ” long. To illustrate, in the picture below pretend the ruler is the quilt edge, with the prairie point seam allowance taken up in the seam.
And you can see that the vertical distance from point to finished base is 1 1/2”.
You can lay out your prairie points in various ways.
Alternate triangle on top and triangle on bottom
One point underneath the previous triangle, one point on top of the next one.
One point tucked into the folds of the previous triangle, and so on down the line.

And just when you thought I had gotten sidetracked with layouts and forgotten, here’s a second method for folding the points.

Prairie Point #2

Step 1. Start with a square, wrong side of fabric facing up.  This one is also a 3 1/2” square.
Step 2. Fold in half along the vertical to form a rectangle.

Step 3.  The top of the rectangle should be the folded edge. Fold  one corner down to reach the middle of the bottom edge.  Press the fold.
Step 4. Fold the remaining corner down.  Press.  Again, I like to use a little steam to set the fold.  The raw edges should now all be along the long edge of the triangle that will be hidden in the seam allowance when you attach the prairie point to your quilt.

One side of the prairie point will have folds down the middle (above right), while the other side will be a plain triangle (below).  The triangle measures 3 1/2” along the long side and 1 3/4” high.  That will be 3” long and 1 1/2”” high finished when sewn to your quilt with a 1/4” seam allowance.
For more information about prairie points, check out the rest of the Prairie Point tutorial series: