Friday, April 22, 2011

Grading a Quilt

Nope, we are not sending the quilt to school for one of the infamous tests.

At yesterday's meeting of Fiber Art Options, grading came up. Some of our members were not familiar with the term or concept. Those with some tailoring background were familiar with it, and why it is used.Grading is a tailors term and technique to soften the edge that is created under the top fabric when sewing multiple fabrics together.

A hard edge is produced by the layers ending at the same place. This hard edge is sometimes seen on the front of the quilt where the edges of the four layers (binding, batting, and top and backing) of the quilt show through.

The top photo shows the hard edge created by the four layers ending on the same line.

The hard edge can be softened by angle cutting the four layers so each ends at a slightly different place.

I have a pair of very special scissors for this job. In fact I have both a pair of Mundail's and Gingher's. They are very sharp, have one long skinny pointed blade and one blade that is rounded. On the Gingher's, the blade is beveled to allow for ease in grading. So I use the Gingher's for grading.

The Mundails are great for cutting out behind an applique as their finger holes fit my fingers better.

In the second photo, you can see the angle to hold the scissors to do the grading. The scissors are almost flat to the edge.

And the final photos show the graded or beveled edge of the four layers to reduce the hard edge. It is a bit raggy because I square up the quilt after quilting it. So the sewn lines are a bit harder to grade.

Do you grade your edges, or have you found another process to reduce the hard edge showing through on the front?

Happy Quilting,



  1. Thanks for posting this. I haven't sewn garments in 40 yrs and I'd forgotten all about grading. This will make a huge difference in how they lay.

  2. Also a clothing sewer at one time. Had forgotten about grading. Will try it on my next piece, Thanks

  3. I usually put extra wadding into the binding area. Why ? Cos quilt judges are always saying that the bindings are'nt full enough .. though you'd think by now they would be complaining about my stuffed ones being like pizza edges.
    Oh Oh Oh how I wish we got individual comments from the judges, not the general talk about all of them - it might remove me from this obsession with a lean binding.

  4. Helen, I pull my bindings to the back of the quilt as a facing, so the extra wadding would be unsightly.

    The best way to understand judging is to volunteer to help with judging if that is possible. I have done it a number of times, for both quilt shows and art shows. Our guild records judges comments and ratings on several categories. While my hearing and hands were better I loved to be one of the recorders of the judges comments. That is helpful.

    At one session, we asked the judges to talk with the volunteers about what they were seeing, just in general. That was also very helpful.

    One guild hired a judge to give oral critiques on a select group of quilts. The guild wanted to take a high prize for group quilts and wanted the feedback to help them reach their goal. I was able to sit in on the guild feedback session and that was one of the best learning set ups I have seen.

    I am sure that different locations have different ways of handling judging, but maybe your area group could try one of these ideas.