How to Sew an Ironing Mat: Part 2
If you've been following me on social media, you know that this project has taken ✨significantly✨ longer than anticipated. This is partially due to the project being more complicated than I expected and also due to being exhausted over the last few months. Like a 40/60 split. Probably.
The good news is, my craft room table vision is finally complete! If you don't know what I mean by that, you can read about the adventure so far (and duplicate it, if you wish) here:
In this post, we'll pick up where we left off - the ironing mat top and layers are assembled and basted together using quilting safety pins and hand basted with thread around the edges. By the time we're finished, it will be quilted, bound, and mounted on the table.
I've divided this part of the tutorial into four sections as I anticipate some of you may be more interested in the quilting rather than the overall ironing mat - feel free to jump around and ask as many tangential questions as your heart desires.
For any quilt - start quilting from the center and work outwards. This way, any bubbles of material will be pushed flat instead of stitched in place. For my ironing mat, this meant beginning with the design at the center and the darning foot.
Quilting with the Darning Foot
By far the most intimidating step, this was not as difficult as I anticipated. The darning foot, also called a free motion quilting foot, is typically operated with the feed dogs down, making the sewist entirely responsible for moving the fabric layers through the machine and setting the stitch length.
(Step 1) Before you begin, trace or sketch your design onto the fabric using a water-soluble marker (or heat soluble - anything that will come off later). I do not recommend using tracing paper or chalk, as they tend to rub off easily and the lines are tricky to follow at the machine.
I used a Mark-B-Gone felt-tip marker (the blue side) and a large printed diagram of my logo. You'll notice there are a lot of internal lines. I ended up cutting up the diagram into many pieces, tracing around them, then cutting back to the next shape. Rinse and repeat. The process to copy over took about an hour on its own. Use a ruler whenever possible for the straightest lines.
(Step 2) Set up your machine and practice with some scrap materials. Put the darning foot on your machine and remember to also change to a quilting needle. I recommend a medium weight needle - the lighter needles can actually bend from the force of the quilt being moved underfoot. I used a 14 for most of this project (and one ruined 12). Switch to a machine quilting thread if you have it. Remember to use a cotton or linen thread if you're working on an ironing mat!
Once everything is ready to go, assemble a mini-quilt for practice - fabric, scrap batting, more fabric. Put the feed dogs down and adjust the tension for a heavier fabric if your machine has that setting. Start practice quilting! Do some loops, do some straight-ish lines. Spell your name in cursive. Whatever makes you feel confident in your ability to use the foot correctly is the right practice design.
(Step 3) Quilt along your design lines using the darning foot.
Tips for using the darning foot:
Press the pedal for a fast sewing speed. The instinct here is to "take it slow," but by moving the needle slowly, you'll end up with very long stitches that can be uneven and you may even end up bending the needle by accident!
Sew in as long as line as possible. Plan your route before starting so you won't need to manually backstitch to stop and start as often.
Work at whatever angle feels comfortable - pay no attention to the "up" and "down" of your project.
Be prepared for your hands and arms to get tired - manhandling an entire quilt is harder than it looks! Consider buying a pair of rubber tipped gloves if you plan to quilt regularly.
Roll the quilt tightly to get it to fit between the needle and the upright of the machine. Unroll and re-roll as needed while working.
Have a box on hand for removing safety pins as you go. Don't remove them until absolutely necessary.
Skipping stitches? Try turning the feed dogs on low (or just regular on, depending on your machine's setting options). The small amount of extra grip just might do the trick. Be aware that the quilt will now be slightly more difficult to maneuver.
Quilting with a Walking Foot
Considerably easier to use compared to the darning foot, the most difficult part of using a walking foot is attaching it to the machine. There is a lever on the side opposite the attachment screw which needs to be mounted to a post on the needle bar before you can put the rest of the foot in place and attach it. Consult the instructions for help. When in doubt, google it. I've also included a closeup of the lever mechanism below, for reference.
(Step 1) Use a ruler or yard stick to draw out all the straight lines you want to quilt. Depending on how aggressive you were with the darning foot work, you may want to press out some wrinkles before drawing the lines.
I decided on a diagonal square background to make my main design pop. I set the lines at 45° to the border seams and 4 inches apart from one another. My yard stick was invaluable here. Pro-tip - I got mine for a few dollars at an antique store, but yard sticks can also be found for cheap at any hardware store.
(Step 2) Set up your machine and practice with some scrap materials. Put the walking foot on your machine and remember to also change to a quilting needle. If you took the machine quilting thread off your machine, thread it back through. Feed dogs up in their normal position.
Assemble your mini-quilt of fabric and batting and give the walking foot a try. This is much more similar to sewing with a regular foot as compared to the darning foot since you're working in a straight line. The clickity-clack of the foot is a bit different, but it's otherwise identical.
The purpose of the walking foot is to keep the layers moving in unison which is why it "walks" the fabrics under the needle.
(Step 3) Again starting from the center of the quilt, stitch along your lines. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. In addition to my diagonals, I also "stitched in the ditch" around the square border. Stitching in the ditch just means following along the existing seam lines. Surprisingly, I found this less forgiving and more difficult than following my diagonals.
Binding the Ironing Mat
This was by FAR my least favorite part of this project because I was unable to do it entirely by machine as I had planned. Meaning that instead of taking an afternoon, this took two weeks. Full disclosure: I heavily referenced this video tutorial by HeirloomCreations on How to Bind a Quilt in 6 Steps. It was very useful starting at about 2:49 (as linked).
(Step 1) Make your bias tape (store bought is fine). I've already done a how-to post on bias tape which you can find here. Importantly, you want single-fold bias tape instead of double fold as shown in my original post. The only difference is that instead of folding the sides into the center, you'll place and press one fold along the center of the length of the tape. I cut 2 inch strips for my bias tape. In retrospect, I would recommend cutting it 3 inches wide because of the extra batting layers.
Technically speaking - you absolutely CAN use double-fold bias tape to bind your quilt. I've now tried both types and I think the single-fold is just a touch more well behaved.
(Step 2) Beginning along one side of your quilt, about a foot or more from the corner, place your bias tape with the raw edges along the raw edge of the quilt. To make a pocket, open up your binding, then fold down a few inches on a diagonal. Refold along the normal bias tape center line. This should form a pocket at the top of the bias tape which we'll use to connect the ends with no gap when finishing.
Stitch along the edge of the bias tape using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. When you reach a corner, backstitch about 1/4 inch away from the edge to end the side seam. Move your quilt out from under the needle and foot to make a mitered edge. To do this step, rotate your quilt to setup working on the new side (bias tape raw edge is away from you at the top of the quilt). Fold the bias tape upwards at a 90° angle so the top layer of tape is now perpendicular to the stitched down bit. This should create a 45° fold in the bias tape.
Fold again down towards you so the top of the fold is even with the corner and the raw edge of the tape sits along the raw edge of the new side of the quilt. This should create a little triangular flap in the bias tape. Keep the flap flat against the fabric when stitching.
Hold in place and put back under the machine. Stitch along the side, continuing with the 1/4 inch seam allowance and repeating the mitered corner at each corner.
Once you've gone all the way around and are back at the beginning, trim the bias tape so there is about 1/2 inch left to stuff into the pocket. Fold it a bit and shove into the pocket, then do your best to flatten it out. Finish the stitching line, remembering to backstitch before cutting the thread.
(Step 3) From the right side of the quilt, fold and press the binding away from the quilt top.
(Step 3.5) If you will mount your ironing mat as I did, now is the time to attach the garment tape to the wrong side of the quilt along the binding line. I used two 20 inch segments on both of the short sides of the quilt. I also cut two 30 inch segments AND two 20 inch segments for the table. The 30 inchers will wrap around the quilt when rolled for storage while the 20 inchers are to tie the end of the quilt in place. Remember to double fold the edges and stitch down to prevent fraying later. No need to stitch the bit that will attach to the quilt as the raw edge will be covered by the binding.
(Step 4) This is where the frustration began. In the video tutorial, HeirloomCreations shows that you can (normally) pull the binding around the edge and grab it with the machine needle by stitching in the ditch from the right side of the quilt. Because my quilt has extra batting layers, this absolutely did not work.
And so we are left to hand stitch. Strictly speaking, I should have used a blind stitch here so that the stitching would be invisible. However, I 100% did not care about visible stitching and used a whip stitch because I knew it would be faster.
From the wrong side of the quilt, fold the binding over the edge and stitch all the way around. Try not to spit fire at passersby while you do it. They will not understand your frustration.
Once your binding is complete, so is the ironing mat!
Mounting on the Crafting Table
The final and most satisfying piece of the puzzle by far! For this step, you will need a hand drill, an awl, and screws appropriate for your mounting surface (I used 1 inch drywall screws).
(Step 1) Begin on the side of the table where the ironing mat will live when stored away. Decide where on your surface you will mount the ironing mat. Divide the space into thirds and mark the sections in pencil. Cross the mark about 1 inch down from the top of the table to space out your screws.
(Step 2) Use the awl to poke a hole in the finished end of your garment tape strips (the ones attached to the ironing mat). Check to make sure there is no twisting. Line the hole up to the pencil mark and secure with a screw. Repeat for the other side of the ironing mat. One short end of the mat should now be attached to one short end of the table.
(Step 3) Repeat steps 1 and 2 on the other short end of the table, attaching the 20 inch free segments to the table. These are NOT the strips attached to the quilt. When finished, you should be able to secure the ironing mat to the end of the table by tying these newly secured strips to the ties which are stitched onto the mat.
(Step 4) Back at the end of the table where the ironing mat is attached directly to the table, use the awl to poke a hole at one end of the 30 inch free strips. Screw the free strip to the table so that it is next to the strip already secured. Repeat on the other side. There should be 4 strips secured to this end of the table, with 2 strips going to the quilt and 2 strips hanging free.
(Step 5) Roll the ironing mat towards the secured end of the table and then over the edge. Holding it in place, use the free strips to wrap around the mat and then tie the strips to themselves close to the screw. I have been using a slip knot and am open to knot recommendations.
(Step 6) Revel in the success of another completed project and treat yourself to something tasty because you earned it!
I hope you've enjoyed this foray into quilting! As much as I found myself very frustrated, I'm so pleased with the way it turned out, flaws and all.
For those of you who have been following me for a while, I hope you can forgive my missing the last deadline - I've not been feeling great lately but am starting to improve so hopefully that won't happen again.