Georgia Bonesteel teaches classes and writes books about quilting. (Georgia Bonesteel)

Georgia Bonesteel teaches classes and writes books about quilting. (Georgia Bonesteel)

Quilts have three layers: the top with the pattern, batting in the middle, and backing on the bottom.

Quilts have three layers: the top with the pattern, batting in the middle, and backing on the bottom.

Georgia Bonesteel sits at a sewing machine. (Georgia Bonesteel)

Georgia Bonesteel sits at a sewing machine. (Georgia Bonesteel)

Can you see the stiches holding the layers of this quilt together?

Can you see the stiches holding the layers of this quilt together?

Quilters pick out colorful fabrics for their quilts. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Quilters pick out colorful fabrics for their quilts. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

The Quilt Sandwich

Posted: March 1, 2021

Georgia Bonesteel is a professional quilter. She loves color, fabric, and design. She teaches classes and has written books about quilting. What traits do people need to make a quilt? Desire and gumption, says Mrs. Bonesteel. (Gumption is fun word for spunk!)

Before starting a project, quilters plan. How big will the quilt be? What job will it have? Who is it for? Next, a quilter selects a pattern and fabric. Some people use the color wheel to make sure fabrics go well with one other. Quilters like Mrs. Bonesteel love this part of the process.

Quilts have three layers. They’re put together like a sandwich.

Bread Slice #1: The Top

Patchwork quilts often have named designs. Pieces fit together like puzzles. Some pattern names sound fun like Flying Geese, Bear Paw, and Monkey Wrench. Other names come from Bible stories and are more serious, such as Jacob’s Ladder or King David’s Crown.

The Meat: Batting

The second layer is a fluffy, insulating material that makes the quilt thick and warm. It holds air amid the fibers. This layer separates cold air above from body heat below the quilt. The person under the quilt stays warm!  

Bread Slice #2: Backing

The third layer of a quilt is a huge, solid piece of fabric. It goes on the underside.

With all layers together, it’s time to quilt—or stitch—the “sandwich.” Some people use a large wooden frame to hold the piece smooth and flat. Then they hand-stitch the layers together. Others use a sewing machine. Mrs. Bonesteel likes to lap quilt. She stitches by hand, section by section. A small hoop holds each section as she quilts.

Quilters put stitches not just around the edges of the big blanket. Stitches go up and down, back and forth across the whole piece. Some work in crisscross patterns. Others like curvy lines. The stitches hold the layers together. They keep the batting from sliding around or bunching up. And they help make soft puffs of blanket—again, to hold more air for insulation.

What is the best part of the quilting process? “Getting done!” laughs Mrs. Bonesteel. By the time she places the final stitch, Mrs. Bonesteel is ready for a new project.

Pat Capone says there’s one last thing to do. “Always label your quilt. Who made it? When was it finished? Who was it for? What was the pattern’s name? Just like an artist signs a painting, a quilt should be labeled.”