Preparing Your Quilt to Hang in a Quilt Show

A quilt is not just something you place on a bed or snuggle in while sitting by a fire. A quilt can also be a piece of art proudly displayed on a wall. There are about as many ways to hang a quilt as there are different types of quilts, and over the next few weeks I hope to show you them all.

Most quilt shows require you to sew a 4” sleeve to the back of your quilt for hanging. This kind of sleeve is called a D sleeve because it poofs out like the letter D. The “poof” provides just the right amount of space to accommodate the hanging rod while allow your quilt to hang nice and straight.

You can save a bit of handwork if you attach a sleeve before you attach the quilt binding. Of course, this will make the sleeve a permanent part of the quilt. You can also attach a sleeve after a quilt has been quilted and bound. Such a sleeve can be temporary or permanent.

Note: If you’re submitting a miniature quilt to a show, you probably don’t need to add a sleeve as the show organizers will typically use a different method (such as pinning your quilt to a banner) to display your quilt. Check the quilt show rules to be sure.

1. First, cut a piece of fabric the width of your quilt minus 1” by 9” to 9-1/2” wide

Note: The Quilt Police won't get mad at you if you don't make your own hanging sleeve--I promise! You can purchase a pre-made sleeve such as "The Quilter's Hangup" from your local quilt store instead of making your own. Use a blind (applique) stitch to attach the sleeve.

Cut your sleeve 9-1/2” wide if you haven’t yet attached the binding. The extra 1/2” will give you the room you need to attach the top of the sleeve under the binding. Let’s suppose that your wall hanging is 40” wide.

If your quilt is already finished—binding and all—then cut your sleeve 39” x 9”. If your wall hanging is unfinished, then cut your sleeve 39”x9 1/2”.

I typically use the fabric leftover from making the quilt backing to make my sleeve so it blends in. If I want the sleeve to be temporary for a show, I’ll make it out of muslin because that’s a lot less expensive.

If needed, I sew a couple of scraps together to get a sleeve that’s long enough. If you do that, make sure you use a wide seam (1/2”) to sew the sleeve pieces together and backstitch at each end of the seam to make the seam good and strong. Press open the seam.

2. Fold over each of the short ends by 1/4”, then fold over again

Sew these folded ends down to create a hem at each end of the sleeve.

3. Fold the sleeve lengthwise so that the wrong sides are together (wst) and then press, creating a nice crisp fold at the bottom of the sleeve

4. Open the sleeve up, then fold each edge to the center crease and press again

5. Open the sleeve up again, folding it in half and matching the raw edges

Be sure to fold the sleeve wrong sides together (wst). Sew 1/2” from the raw edges, backstitching at the beginning and the end of the seam.

I know; it seems just plain wrong to sew a seam with the wrong sides together. But in this case, doing so will save you the trouble of having to turn the tube right side out later on. It won’t matter that the seam is on the right side of the sleeve because you’re going to hide the seam against the quilt.

6. Press this seam open

You need to preserve those earlier creases, so lay the sleeve on your ironing board, with one crease at the top, nice and flat. Notice that the bottom crease does not lie flat. Press the seam open, being very careful not to press the lower crease. You can repress the top crease as you’re pressing the seam if you want.

7. Lay the sleeve flat on a table, so that both creases are flat and the seam is underneath.

See how the sleeve looks like the letter D? This extra space will make your quilt hang straight after a rod is inserted in the sleeve. You’ll sew the sleeve to your quilt where these creases are. That way, this D space is preserved, and there will be room for the hanging rod later on.

Sewing the sleeve to a quilt that’s already bound

Follow these steps to attach the sleeve to a quilt that’s already quilted and bound.

8. Pin the sleeve at the crease, 1/2” from the top of your quilt

Pin the bottom of the sleeve as well, taking care to retain the D shape.

9. Hand-sew the top and bottom of the sleeve to the quilt

Sew the top edge, then the bottom edge. Use a matching thread--I've sewn this sleeve using a contrasting thread so you can see the stitching.

You can use slightly larger stitches if the sleeve is a temporary one, but remember that the entire weight of your quilt will be held by this sleeve, so you do not want it to rip away from the quilt. I normally use the blind (applique) stitch to attach the sleeve.

10. Sew down the ends of the sleeve

Hand-sew the side ends of the sleeve to the quilt so the hanging rod doesn’t get caught up at the edges when the rod is inserted. This makes it easier to run a rod quickly through the sleeve and not along the back of your quilt!

Sewing a sleeve to a quilt before it’s bound

Follow these steps to attach a sleeve to a quilt that has been quilted but not yet bound.

8. Pin the top edge of the sleeve at the crease to the top edge of your quilt.

9. Using a 1/8” seam, sew the sleeve to the top of the quilt.

This seam will be covered later by your binding.

10. Pin the bottom of the sleeve to the quilt, being careful to retain the D shape.

11. Hand-sew the bottom of the sleeve to the quilt.

I normally use the blind (applique) stitch to attach the sleeve. Use a matching thread--I've sewn this sleeve using a contrasting thread so you can see the stitching.

12. Sew down the ends of the sleeve

Hand-sew the ends of the sleeve to the quilt so the hanging rod won’t slide along the back of your quilt and not into the sleeve when it’s inserted.

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