On the Longarm–Tips for Making Flannel Quilts

The quilting group at my church received a donation of a gigantic box filled with plaid flannel triangles–all shapes, colors and designs.  We were overwhelmed.  However we started to sew the triangles into squares, trimmed them to several different uniform sizes and then sewed them together.  For some of us it was a challenge to work without a pattern, but I believe the quilts we produced will provide warmth to those who need it in during the winter months.

Here are some tips for dealing with flannel:

  1.  Clean out your machine regularly–flannel produces a lot of lint which can clog up the bobbin area.  Every time you change your bobbin, make sure to take a brush to clean out the bobbin case  according to your machine’s owner’s manual.
  2. If possible, pre-wash flannel.  Doing so will help make it less stretch-y, it will reduce lint, and there will be less fraying (because the fibers have shrunk).
  3. Flannel frays badly.  You might want to use a slightly larger seam allowance or finish the fabric edges with a stay stitch.  Before sending the quilt to your long arm quilter, stay stitch around the outer edge.
  4. Choose a design which is easy to sew–squares and rectangles are easiest.  Bias edges on pieces like the triangles are more challenging because they stretch.  Trimming to a uniform size after sewing ensures that blocks can be sewn together accurately.
  5. Blocks with lots of seam intersections should be avoided.  Flannel is thicker than quilting cotton, so it is more difficult to avoid bulky seam intersections.  Consider pressing seams open.  Quilting through bulky seam intersections threw the timing of my long arm off and resulted in several days of frustration as I readjusted it.  I am now well versed in the art of adjusting my needle bar height.
  6. Because flannel frays and stretches, allow extra border width so that the quilt can be trimmed square after quilting.

Although flannel can be challenging to work with, don’t despair.  Nothing feels better than a flannel quilt and a cup of hot chocolate on a day when the high temperature is -40°.  It’s hard to imagine in July, but we  know that ‘winter is coming.’

Have a quilty day!!

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