Let me first start by reminding those reading this post that the "quilting in sections" method is an innovative Marti Michell idea, and I read about it in the Jan/Feb '08 Quiltmaker magazine. (The very SAME edition that has Bonnie Hunter's Blue Ridge Beauty and her Leaders-n-Enders technique. I made the Michell design that is shown on the cover: Ramblin' Aunt Sukey, and my rendition is named Cathy's Aunt Sukey since it was a gift for a friend of the family named Cathy. (no surprise there, huh?)
When quilting in sections, there IS a bit of planning that needs to happen before you can jump right in. If there are borders, those are to placed on LAST after all quilting is completed and the sections have been sewn together. But before you can deal with any backing or batting, you need to know how large the final finished quilt will be. So, in my case of the OTR, I'm sorry, but I don't recall the exact measurements of my center, BUT I know that on each side there will be a 2.5" inner border, a 3" flying-geese pieced border, and a final 2.5" outer border (all finished measurements). Total, that's 8" of borders on each side . My final dimensions of the inside section were close to 70" x 90". Therefore, with the extra 8" needed for borders (on EACH side), PLUS the usual 2-4" of "extra" edging, I added close to 20-24" extra in length and width. So, my backing and batting were each cut close to 90"x110". Note: Marti Michell's article in the magazine has us piece the backing sections separately (there were three sections for that one). This takes a bit of math thinking when dealing with on-point quilts. Straight settings are very simple to plan out one piece at a time, but I have found for "on-point" quilts, it is easier for me to just oversize the backing/batting and then cut apart once everything is laid out (see next paragraph.)
I literally pulled the backing out of the dryer at 2:00 today and started piecing it together. Once the backing and batting are set, the layout is quite similar to what you've probably already done. Lay the backing right-side down, follow by the batting, and finish with the quilt top. However, in this case, there are two pieces that need to have about 4-5 inches of "dead-space" between them. This dead-space will be the point of separation soon!
Take your time to ensure you have enough border space. Recall that I will need 8" for borders (finished), so I tried to keep a MINIMUM of 2" more than that on all sides.
Once you've tripled checked all measurements, you can either slice away right away, or PIN the layers first, and then slice away! Since I don't like pinning on carpet, I sliced and then carried the smaller sections upstairs to the hardwood floor to pin the layers together.
Ohh-ohhh.....I actually get to say this....the FIRST TIME EVER!!!!
Quilt as desired
Okay...thanks. That was fun!
Ahhh....yes. A word of warning (but this goes ANYTIME you quilt---in sections or normal). WATCH YOUR BACK!!! Ummm......backing, that is! Yup....I got lazy and wasn't paying attention so THIS happened. BUT, maybe it was a blessing in disguise, because it happened early enough that I don't have much to rip out. And besides, when I took it out of the machine and "admired" the quilting, I didn't like how close I had the meanders. SO........I am now at the point where I need to rip out the little bit of quilting I accomplished today.
HOWEVER, I can fill you in on the rest of the steps for Quilting in Sections.
When you are done quilting the sections, trim ONLY the inner edges (backing and batting) to match the edges of the quilt top. (That would be in the inner diagonals on my OTR). You will then want to cut a 2.5" strip of backing fabric that will match the length of the entire inner diagonal to be used as a "connector strip." (Michell suggests 2", but I found that to be a bit small on the Sukey. I've been using 2.5" on my other QIS's) And actually, if you allowed enough inner "dead-space," you might have a wide enough piece of fabric from the trimmings you just performed. TIP: Make sure if you use that "scrap" -- trim it up to a nice 2 - 2.5" strip. Fold this, wrong-sides-together, and press to create one long strip about 1-1.25" wide (depending on how wide you cut the strip).
Layer the two quilted sections, right sides together. Place the connector strip on top, aligning all the cut edges together. I shot this pic even though I hadn't trimmed my sections yet, but the orange strip is my "connector strip" on top of my two sections that are right-sides together. (NO-I'm not actually using the orange strip for my quilt; it simply is easier to see in this pic than if I were to have used a brown piece.) PIN THIS BABY IN PLACE!!!! I'm usually not a pinner, but I am here! Sew all the pieces together using your standard 1/4" seam (using a Walking Foot if you have one.) YES, this means to sew the ENTIRE diagonal---even the "empty" border area.
Marti suggests to trim out some batting in the seam allowances to reduce bulk. I didn't do this on the Aunt Sukey, and I DID on Fun with Bricks. I really didn't notice much of a different either way, and I actually ALMOST snipped off too much when I trimmed out the batting. Just a heads-up there.
At this point, you should flip that connector strip over the seams and hand-sew to hide all the seams on the back (according to Michell). HOWEVER, I cheat! This pic is of my Fun with Bricks. I pinned the entire strip and then saved the hand-sewing until after putting on my borders. JUST BE CAREFUL to watch that strip and any pins once you start sewing the borders on.
To sew the borders on, just imagine how you usually do this when you only have the top. Place the side borders on the quilt top, right-sides together and sew. The only difference is you will sewing through all the layers! It's almost like you'll be creating an "in-the-ditch" quilt stitch by doing this. Neat huh???? I think so!
Next, (I know we're always told NOT TO iron batting, but) press the borders LIGHTLY before adding the top/bottom borders. Continue with the rest of your borders.
At this point, you are either DONE or you can quilt the borders "as desired." And the rest you know. Trim and bind.
I LOVE THIS METHOD!!!! I have Marti's book on my C'mas list because her article in Quiltmaker says that a "blindstitch" machine method is explained in the book when sewing that connector strip to the back. Besides, there may be some other goodies in it!
Good luck and let me know if this run-down helps :0)