Addressing the Non-Stabilized, Double-Sided T-shirt Quilt Part 3: Lining up the front and the back

I woke up at 3 am one morning thinking about how I was going to get this quilt perfect. I kept thinking about how each section would line up correctly.

Pin it? Why bother? I'm putting it on the frame and if I hit one of those pins, I'm toast.

Pin only along the edges? Again, same problem. And if that's my solution, then basting would be more relevant.

Should I just free motion the whole thing on my regular machine? That would take hours of time I simply don't have. 

I ran numerous scenarios around my head ad nauseum and concocted a few nightmares along the way. What if I tore shirts, snagged jerseys, or generally created quilt mayhem?

Let's look at how I ensured things lined up and calmed my mind. 

It's going to sound like the most obvious advise ever, but the first thing I did was to ensure that both the front and the back sides were the same width and height. If you've quilted for ANY length of time, unless you are a total newbie (Hi!! We love you!!), you have made the mistake of loading a quilt, quilting along and finding your back was too short. 

It happens.

I knew I had to be extra careful with this quilt because it would be fully reversible and the back would need to be as well done as the front. As part of my non-stabilizing technique for t-shirt quilts, I use sashing that needs to be matched front-to-back when making a double-sided quilt. Sashing also helps you line the front up with the back. 

My first issue was that the back had some odd sizing problems due to graphics that were pretty large. I couldn't cut a standard 15 in by 15 in square. I could get all the shirts 15 inches wide, no problem, but some of the shirts needed to 21 inches long, or 28 inches long to accommodate the total graphic.

I planned to matched the overall sizing on the back with what was already pieced on the front (hint: I always piece the front first and use that as my standard since that tends to be the central focus of the quilt). 

In general, depending on what the graphics look like for the back of the quilt, this will help you determine if you're going to match sashing seams vertically or horizontally.

I couldn't do both since the back t-shirts lengths would be different, so I decided to match the vertical seams. Having vertical seams a standard width apart allowed me to have something to line up.

As I quilted, I was able to "feel" the sashing and make sure things were lining up correctly. With every new advance of the bar, the quilt would be readjusted to make sure it mapped correctly front and back. 

It doing this, you must float the top. If you pin the top, you'll find you won't be able to appropriately fluff up the quilt top to get it where it needs to be. You also won't be able to scoot things around and nudge here, rob there. 

Regardless, however you choose to match the seams, when you load the quilt, make sure you are quilting with your matched seam adjustments moving side-to-side, not top to bottom. So with my vertical piecing, I loaded the quilt so I stitched top to bottom. If you need to do horizontal matching, you'll load your quilt sideways and then adjust those lines side-to-side.

Also when adjusting, I found it useful to "fluff" my quilt top rather than drag it over where it needs to be. I actually do this for all of my quilts. If you drag, you increase the chances of stretching your quilt top out of wack regardless of type of fabric. Fluffing allows the shirts to lay where they naturally fall and you get a better view of how the fabric will quilt and what potential trouble spots you'll have.

My process adjustment process look like this: Pull up the quilt top and adjust the batting, but pulling it toward me and smoothing things out. Pull the top back and fluff up and down letting things fall. Smooth out any lumps. Feel where seams land and adjust further, if needed. Check for trouble spots and get sewing.

In all, it's not hard. It does take time and patience however. 

Next up are the extra bulky seams that come with matching your sashing. Yep. You get some weirdness happening if you match, but in the end, the quilt looks pretty cool, so see you in a week!

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