What I Learnt (About Fusible Wadding/Batting And Other Things)

Sometimes it is when everything goes wrong that you learn the greatest lessons (although not always lessons you wanted to learn).

Take Saturday afternoon for instance. DH was busy chopping up firewood from all the bits of timber the builder had removed from inside our house (yes, the renovations are still ongoing); Son#4 and girlfriend had gone out for the afternoon; The Most Adorable Granddaughters#5 to #7 had gone home; The Most Adorable Granddaughter#4 wasn't expected back for a few hours; and I had time to kill.

In fact, I had all the time I needed to put together a very, very special quilt I'm making. I'd spent the previous afternoon sewing the backing (I'm not fully convinced that I don't like the quilt back more than the quilt top) and the batting had been lying flat for almost a week to reduce wrinkles.


I pressed the quilt back and laid it out on the floor and pinned and taped it in place. So far so good. (Remember I said that this is a very, very special quilt so I can't show all until it's time for the big reveal but I can give glimpses.)

I then laid the batting on top and, according to the directions that I thought I remembered correctly, I sprayed the batting with water to fuse it to the quilt backing. I had never used a fusible batting before and had not even heard of one that required misting with water rather than ironing, but this was what was written on the small card at the top of the batting roll, and so I followed directions.

Nothing happened. No fusing. Nothing. Except that the batting was now wet.

Undaunted, and thinking maybe it would fuse as it dried, I pressed the quilt top and laid it on top of the damp batting. I added more water and smoothed the quilt out firmly. No fusing whatsoever. Again.

What to do now? Well, I'd read about using fusible batting where you had to press with your iron so I decided to give it a go. I got out my iron again and, on my hands and knees, pressed the top of the quilt top in situ, that is, on the floor. Now remember that I have posted recently re our renovations. This is critical because at this point in time I do not have carpet or polished floors which could be damaged by this step. If you do have carpet or floors that you're fond of, you might not want to try this at home.

Success. The quilt top fused to the batting.

But the backing was still loose and fancy free. There was nothing for it but to turn the quilt over and press the backing. I did just that and it too became fused to the batting.

Things were looking up.

But then, not fully trusting the adhesive that held all three layers together, I decided I wanted to add in some hand basting.

I managed to baste one eighth of the quilt with fingers still intact before giving up. It was nigh impossible to push the needle through the still damp batting and when I managed to do so I distorted the fabric.

Time for a cup of tea.

I returned to the quilt and removed the batting, the pins, and separated the quilt back, batting, and quilt top. It separated easily, which was a relief (and what it was meant to do according to the instructions).

I then started again by using the iron to fuse the backing to the batting. But alas the batting had shrunk, which cotton is prone to do. Where once I had had a good two to three inches all around, now the batting only just managed to meet the edges of the quilt top in places.

Carefully I fused the quilt top in place, hoping that not having any extra batting wouldn't be a problem. I then proceeded to machine baste the edges of the quilt top.

According to tutorials online this appeared to be a simple step: set the sewing machine to the longest stitch length and stitch around the outer edge of the quilt close to the edge.

It was at this point that I realised that I AM NOT a machinist. I had two or three basting stitches of a decent length followed by three hundred teeny tiny stitches that were almost impossible to see. Obviously my technique left a lot to be desired. Normally this would not have serious consequences, but as you shall soon learn, this was nearly my undoing.

It was also at this point that I realised that to even attempt to machine quilt this very, very special quilt (which had been my plan) would be absolute madness. Insanity.

But back to the machine basting. I finished, tied off, and then discovered that throughout this process the quilt had somehow shifted and neither quilt top nor quilt back were smooth and pucker-free.

What to do this time?

I had but one choice: undo it all and start again.

Remember that I said I had three hundred teeny tiny stitches to every two to three normal sized basting stitches? I had to unpick those teeny tiny stitches all around the four sides of the quilt in less than ideal-light. That's right, for the first time all year we had no sunshine to shed pools of beautiful natural light on my work.

I did my best but many a time I was close to wanting to shred the whole thing with my scissors.

Finally I had it unpicked but in the process several seams had started to come undone near the edges and the edges were beginning to fray. I repaired the seams and zigzagged around the raw edges and then turned my attention to the batting.

Not happy with the way it had not fused with water (as it was supposedly designed to do) nor with the way it had shrunk, I threw it into the washing machine. I had no plans to continue to use it for this project (given the headache and stress it had caused me) but I knew it could be put to use for Christmas stockings and other small projects as long as I could be assured that it wouldn't shrink any more than it had already done.

It came out of the machine crinkled and tacky. It has since dried and looks as if it will stretch back into shape but I think I might try washing it one more time to see if I can remove the rest of the adhesive or whatever it is that is meant to fuse it to the other layers.

Meanwhile I have ordered a lovely soft wool batting from a brand I trust and I will hand baste the three layers together before hand quilting this very, very special quilt.

So what have I learnt?

One: I do not like and will never choose to use in future, battings that are meant to fuse to the quilt top and backing. Some people like them. I now know that I definitely do not;

Two: Do not trust instructions (or at least my memory of them);

Three: I am not a machinist. Or a machine quilter. In future, I will limit use of the machine for what I know I can successfully use it for (which is precious little - straight seams and bindings);

Four: Stick to what I know best (and don't get any grandiose ideas about what I think I should be able to do after seeing what others are capable of);

Five: Stick to the old ways. Hand basting, hand quilting: there's a reason they have stood the test of time.

Other than that, look out for the reveal of this very, very special quilt in several months' time!