Quilting Blog

Quiltmaking Basics: How to Make a Quilt Sandwich in 3 Easy Steps

New to quilting? You've probably heard the term "quilt sandwich" tossed about, and you might be wondering what it is. Simply put, a quilt sandwich is the two layers of fabric and one layer of batting that are "stacked" on top of each other just before the quilting process. You've pieced together a quilt top and back and you're hungry for the next step in making your quilt; now what?

Read our foolproof recipe below for how to make a quilt sandwich!

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

What is a quilt, anyway?

The quilt sandwich is actually what makes a quilt a quilt! What differentiates a quilt from a blanket is multiple layers of fabric and batting stitched together. The result is a somewhat lofty, puffy and warm comforter or throw, and the different layers of fabric allow the stitching to stand out. (It's worth noting that summer quilts sometimes leave the batting out on purpose, but they still include a top and a back.) In theory, making a quilt sandwich is easy, but here are a few tricks to make sure that yours is smooth, straight and free from wrinkles!

1. Prepare your pieces

Your quilt back should be at least 3" larger than your quilt top on all sides, and it's a good idea to make your batting the same size as that quilt back. While you'll trim your whole quilt after it's finished, now's also a good time to make sure your quilt top is straight and square; it will make quilting easier.

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

Photos via Right Sides Together

Perhaps the most important step in getting a wrinkle-free quilt is pressing. Press your quilt top and back, preferably with starch, and make sure that your seams are all pressed either open or to the side, as you decided when you stitched them together. If your batting has wrinkles, don't iron it! Instead, throw it in the dryer with a wet washcloth or sprinkle it with water first. This will get any residual folds or wrinkles out of the batting so that you're starting with a clean, flat surface.

2. Arrange and baste your layers

When you're reading to assemble the quilt sandwich, it will go together like this: the quilt back goes down first, wrong-side up, on your floor or table. Follow this with the batting, then lay the quilt top right-side up. Somehow, you will need to baste (or secure) the layers together. Again: easy in theory, a bit more difficult in practice.

There are many, many different approaches to arranging and basting a quilt sandwich. You can use basting pins (which look like bent safety pins), washable adhesive quilting spray or needle and thread to make long stitches across the quilt at regular intervals. If you're just beginning, pins might be the best option; if you make a mistake, they're less "permanent" than the stitches or basting spray.

It's better to err on the side of too many pins or basting stitches than not enough. If you don't secure the layers together sufficiently, they'll start to bunch or wrinkle as you quilt.

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

For larger quilts, I enjoy the board basting method, which I think is a great technique to avoid introducing wrinkles into the sandwich as you line up your layers. I also recommend using masking tape to tape down the quilt back to the floor so that it doesn't slide around.

3. Get quilting!

Once you've basted the layers together, start quilting! All the layers should feel securely fastened. If you're working on a home machine, begin quilting in the middle of your sandwich so that any irregularities can be smoothed to the perimeter. Happy stitching!

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

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9 Comments

Margaret Killgore

How to do putting Front back & batting together looks easy to follow.

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Shelley

I am confused! I thought the right sides of the fabric face each other and the batting goes behind the wrong side of the back. The way this is described one does not turn the fabric. Is that a different way ?

Reply
Lauren Lang

Hi Shelley! Yes, this is a different method and more common than the one you describe (which is also a perfect fine way to make a quilt). The difference is that the method above will have you square up and bind the quilt after quilting, where in your method the raw edges are enclosed inside the quilt itself.

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Kim

Hi! So I’ve sandwiched my top/batting/back and I’ve started to quilt on my home machine. It’s REALLY REALLY flat (like the sandwich was under a steam roller). Will it puff up some when it’s washed or should I rip it out and get a batting with more loft? Used Quilters Dream Request. Thanks!

Reply
Lauren Lang

Hi Kim,
That’s kind of the nature of cotton batting (I’m assuming you used QD cotton?). Your quilt will puff up a bit after being washed, but cotton is just more dense and flat than other types of batting. I think it looks great for wall hangings, but personally I don’t find it to be as comfortable for snuggling as other options. For a higher loft and comfier quilt, try wool or polyester instead.

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Sue

Not sure I can turn my quilt in all the directions I need it to in order to quilt around some elements on my quilt using my machine…. thinking about doing some basic stitch in the ditch outlining and then hand-quilting the details. Would that be weird? This is my first quilt

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Betty Fagan

I am doing some quilting and I love it I made a quilt block at a time quilt as you go I loved it and it was so much fun I was unsure how to put the blocks to gather, so I cut strips 2″wide for both sides folded them in half and sewed all to gather then again on the back it was so pretty I mailed it to my granddaughter for her birthday, Betty

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Denise N

how do you handle large quilts on a home machine? do I quilt two or four smaller sandwiches and sew them together?

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Corinne

Enjoy the comments on the subject of quilting. Wonderful to be reading similar spirts from all involved in quilting! So delightful and especially so when we think and know this has been going on for centuries!!! I love it and try to see daily in some quilting fashion.

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