Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quilt "Sleeveology" (or, how to make a hanging sleeve for a quilt

It has been my experience that people are freaked out by the prospect of making a hanging sleeve for a quilt.  No matter that the quilt has taken weeks/months to construct using exquisitely tiny pieces. Never mind that multiple layers of dye and paint were used to create the cloth that the quilt was made from.  Nope.  It is always the quilt sleeve that seems to be the last straw.  Perhaps this will help.
See, making a sleeve is not difficult.
How wide is the quilt?  That is how wide your piece of cloth should be for the sleeve.  It is best to use a high thread count cloth to make a sleeve.  Sleeves take a lot of abuse when they are in a show, especially if the quilt is going to travel.  How well you construct your sleeve will reflect how nicely the quilt will hang.
Cut the cloth the width of your quilt by 9 inches.

My quilt is 16 inches.  I cheated and cut my sleeve "tube" about an inch shorter than the actual width.  This is acceptable, but not much shorter than this.
On each end of what will be the sleeve, fold one-half inch (wrong sides together), fold again, 
and press.  This creates the finished edge of the sleeve.  Do it at both ends.

Now, with the right side facing out, fold the length of the sleeve and, at the FOLDED edge,
stitch a 1/2 inch seam using the basting stitch (longest stitch length possible on your machine).
This creates a "tuck" which assists in the quilt hanging properly without puckering backward.

Here is the basted "tuck".

Now, I am folding the length right sides together, and stitching the edges to create the

Whew, something must be wrong with my tension.  Look at that gather in the seam!

Anyway, it is stitched. Now, I will turn the sleeve right side out.

Here I go....

Once it is turned right side out, roll the sleeve so that the tuck is directly over the seam.
Press with the iron to hold the sleeve in this position.

Oops.  My basting stitch is coming loose!  Too soon!

Okay, now I am placing my newly created sleeve on the quilt back.  I am placing it one inch from the top edge of the quilt back. I want to position it evenly between edges.  Pin in place.
Now, whip stitch this baby into place, top and bottom, and I recommend stitching downthe inner edge of the tube that fits against the quilt back.
You want to take care to go through enough of the quilt back that you have a good grip without penetrating through to the surface of the quilt.  I usually stop every 4 to 5 stitches and take a lock-stitch.
I don't want this thing to come off.  I have had it happen, people.  I got a quilt back after traveling for about a year and a half and I was horrified to see that a third of it was loose.  Ugh!

Now, I only use cotton thread on my quilt sleeves.  Those babies aren't going anywhere!!

Okay, I cheated and sewed this one on with the machine because I'm putting this panel on the back of a quilt that needs extra "support".  More on that later, but here you can see that the sleeve is, indeed, securely on the back.  Once the sleeve is stitched into place I removed the basting stitch that created the tuck.  See how the tuck has created a space for the rod to slide through?
If that tuck was not in place, the quilt would draw back around the hanging rod.  It really makes a difference.  Trust me:  I have struggled to hang plenty of quilts that do not have this tuck.  They simply do not hang as well without it, and often it is difficult to get a hanging device through the sleeve because there isn't enough room.

So, wasn't that easy?  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.  Also, I demonstrated this in a segment on Series 700 of Quilting Arts TV, if you want another source!


  1. You're right - that tuck is the key to successful flatness on the front, with no ridge from a dowel or a slat. My steps are different, and don't involve turning the tube inside-out, but the effect is the same.

  2. You know, I think you are right: turning the sleeve is unnecessary: instead, you could sew the sleeve edges together (right sides out) and simply press and roll the tube so the seam is directly under the tuck. That way, the raw edges are hidden against the back of the quilt. Good idea! See? I always learn something great from my blog readers! Thanks!

  3. Thanks, Leslie. I always get it done and don't really mind it TOO much, but this nicely eliminates a couple of steps I have been using.


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