Practice Quilt Sandwich

Making a practice quilt sandwich is, well, a good practice. It is a great way to try different needles and threads, marking methods, batting, and backing fabrics. You can check your thread tension and resolve any issues. You can wash your test sample to make sure your markings are removable and your materials colorfast. And of course, you can practice stitching your intended designs. The safety of the practice quilt sandwich makes it possible to relax and test many things before you ever touch the actual quilt.

I make two kinds of practice quilt sandwiches. The first is a test of the quilting designs I have chosen and could almost be considered part of the auditioning quilting designs process. This type of practice quilt sandwich is made before the quilt top is marked. I use it to make sure I can actually quilt the designs I have selected!

For my quilt Instruments of Praise, I had drawn some trapunto motifs (in black) with some very intricate shapes and tight cut-out areas. Could I manage these shapes using cut-away trapunto and could I micro-stipple around them?

I also wanted to quilt a “rope” around the blocks and wondered how that would work. My practice quilt sandwich gave me the answers.

Here is the actual block quilted.

When I came up with the idea to quilt a sewflake of ballet dancers (to represent the part of Psalm 150 that says “praise Him with … dancing”), I needed to test the background quilting to make sure the design would be visible.

Here it is in the quilt – not quite as visible on the background fabric!

The second kind of practice quilt sandwich is a test of needles, threads, and thread tension. For this type of practice sandwich, it is important to use the same materials that will be used in the quilt. Layer the same type of batting and backing fabric with the main fabrics used in the quilt top. Test each thread and needle using both a straight stitch and free motion stitch. It is a lot easier to make changes and adjustments here than on the actual quilt!

You may even want to make notes on the practice quilt sandwich of each needle/thread combination you try.

Some people use a practice quilt sandwich to warm up before moving to the actual quilt. There are many reasons why making a practice sandwich is a good practice!

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