How to make a pillowcase quilt binding

For the last little while I’ve been prancing about in my flea market queen/urban explorer/video artist panties.  Now that the Festival of Quilts deadline has come and gone and I’ve settled back into my non-routine routine, back to work on some fibre art – my ‘Winter Trees Wept’ quilt.  I have some ideas for collaging some text onto the back telling the story of the forced Muscogee removal to Indian Territory, circa 1832-1836 and to stencil and stamp some feathers onto the front.  What to do?  Where to start?  What if I screw it up?

Sometimes when I feel stuck, the best thing to do is what I need to do next.

I know I want to make a pillowcase border, so decided to go ahead with that and will add the rest as the piece develops.

How to do it:

  1. Square up the quilt top.
  2. Cut the backing fabric length and width about ¼” smaller (this is so it will ‘pull’ the front fabric around the edges and the backing fabric won’t show on the front of the quilt.
  3. Lay the batting out on a table.
  4. Spray with adhesive and lay the quilt top face up onto the batting.
  5. Lay the quilt back face down (right sides facing) and pin at the edges leaving about a 10″ gap for turning it inside out after stitching the edges.
  6. Beware of puckers!  You’ll need to ease in the fabric backing to account for the size difference.
  7. Machine stitch with a fairly tight stitch.
  8. Trim to 1/8″ and clip the corners.
  9. Turn it inside out and slip stitch the opening shut.

Sounds simple, eh?  Well my backing fabric was about 1″ too narrow, so rather than splice in some more white silk or some commercial fabric,  I decided to surface design a strip of silk and stitch it in.

Time for a coffee break!  I have to show off another find, this one from a car boot sale just outside of Sidmouth.  I made a pretty good score from a guy with ‘Jedi Knight’ and ‘Made in Space’ tattoos.  This Piquot Ware coffee jug for a fiver.  Never been used, absolutely pristine condition.  This is a beautiful little design, cast in a single piece from Magnailium with sycamore handles.

I’ve been collecting feathers for the past year, mostly delicate, downy breast feathers.  Lately, I’ve  been picking up skrunjy trashed ones to use for stamping and stenciling.  I used silver and black fabric paint on a strip of white silk dupioni and also a hand-carved, wooden, vine motif stamp from India that I picked up at the market last Sunday.

Sewed my backing fabric together and did the pillowcase binding as above.

Front and back

I’m using my new typewriter to type the text onto a long skinny (5″ x 36″) piece of white tissue paper.  I’m reading a couple of textbooks: The Trail of Tears The Story of the Native American Removals 1813 – 1855 by Gloria Jahoda (1975) and A History of the Indians of the United States by Angie Debo (1977).  Both very good historical surveys.  Of course I am currently focusing on the Muscogee (Creek) Indians, my ancestors, but it is utterly appalling and difficult to read about the 400 year long history of the relations between European intruders and the native American people.  Yet, it is my story and tightly woven into the fabric of my family’s story and needs to be told.

Next steps will be collaging the text onto the back and stenciling a few feathers onto the front. Then, I’m going to hand and machine quilt this one.  I bought some really nice crimson silk hand sewing thread and have some ideas about how the stitches will spill down the quilt.  I’ll see how it flows when I get there . . .


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