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DIY 20°F Ultralight Backpacking Quilt Part 3 - Pinning and Sewing

Stacking and Pinning

If you are using thick insulation like I am, you will definitely need 'quilting' length straight pins. Using regular length pins will not work. I bought 1 3/4" pins for 7.5oz Climashield and it worked. If I had 10oz I would need longer pins. 
  • Pin your Shell and Liner fabric with right sides together. If your fabric has a side that is more shiny, that is the 'wrong' side
  • Sandwich the straps or draft flaps between the shell and liner, with the end of the strap/flap you want to be on the outside edge of your quilt pointing toward the center line of the quilt
  • After you've pinned the shell and liner to each other, pin the insulation on the bottom to them. The insulation will run against the feed dogs of your sewing machine

The ripstop nylon is very slippery and lightweight and does not like staying still. Pinning the liner and shell to each other (top of the photo) make it much easier to then pin them to the insulation (bottom of the photo)

**Note: I stupidly only ordered exactly two yards of fabric which is exactly 72" - not enough for at least 3" extra beyond the insulation on both the top and bottom. I had to stagger the lining and shell and then take scraps and sew them on to make up that distance. You'll see those seams in the sewing section. Don't make my mistake!**

Preparing to Sew

Make sure you have the right equipment

  • Needle- A universal (sharp) needle size 80/12 or 70/10
  • A walking foot
  • Size 70 thread -  make sure its 100% polyester!
  • A rubber band (you'll see why later)
  • A bobbin filled with your thread- if you're picky and you want your thread to match both your liner and shell that are two different colors, make a bobbin of both colors so you won't worry about which side is up, you can sew with whichever side is best to sew facing up and adjust bobbin color accordingly.

Do a test run

This part is so important! You do not want to ruin your quilt, so do a test run first with your scraps. Pin together a piece of insulation, a piece of shell and a piece of liner and sew. You'll see immediately if something needs to be adjusted- like stitch length, thread tension etc.  

Somehow, miraculously, I had absolutely no problems with my test piece. The 7.5oz insulation was much easier to squeeze under my presser foot than I anticipated and I didn't have to adjust the thread tension at all. My stitch length is 5.0, the longest my sewing machine will allow. 


Remember that rubber band in the equipment list? We will use that as a seam allowance guide. Simply put it around the bottom of the sewing machine to the right of the needle. Use a ruler to measure from the center of the needle to the rubber band and adjust the rubber band to match your desired seam allowance.

Sew down the sides of your quilt and don't forget to back-stitch at the beginning and end so your stitches don't come undone! I used 5.0 stitch length and automatic thread tension.

Now the exciting part! Flip your quilt inside out. It's starting to look like a finished product!

If you want to, you can trip away some of the insulation in the seam allowance to reduce bulk. I started to trim mine away but then realized that I didn't really care and the extra bulk might keep me warmer so I stopped halfway through.

Notice that both the top and bottom of the quilt are still open. We'll use this extra fabric at each end to form the casing for the elastic.

OOPS! Notice what's missing? There should be straps sticking out the sides of my quilt to put buckles on. I got so excited to get on with the sewing that I forgot to pin my straps in the stack. I'll have to carefully hand sew my straps on to the liner. Not the end of the world.

Making the Casing
Now we need to create our casing. A casing is a sewn channel of fabric for a draw string. In my case, I'm using bungee cord. I wanted a casing that was super easy to execute so I totally copied the way another blogger sewed their casing because it looked easy and simple. And it should have been except that I was dumb and had to sew on extra fabric. I am going to show you how I did mine, but remember I screwed up the lengths of my fabric so its a little harder to show you how to do it. Definitely check out the Tier Gear Under Quilt Tutorial to see very clear instructions on sewing the casing.

Turn the sides in and pin so that you have smooth edges and stitch. You're stitching from the corner
toward the insulation and stopping right when you get to the insulation.

**You may need to change your sewing foot back to a normal one for sewing through the thin layers of fabric without the insulation between them. I had a tough time getting straight even stitches using the walking foot**

Top stitch right at the edge of the insulation along the top and bottom of your quilt, sandwiching the insulation between the shell and liner. Sew as close as you safely can to the edge of your insulation

**Remember how yours should look- the blue should extend all the way to the edge of the gray. See that I've sewn through the insulation right at the edge.**

Turn the top edges toward each other to hide the raw edges and stitch with a small seam allowance maybe 1/4"-3/8" (I didn't have to do this step because of my too-short fabric fiasco)

Now fold over your flap of fabric so it makes a channel and pin it just beyond where the first horizontal seam is. Sew that down with a small seam allowance. 

Repeat the process at the bottom and you're ready for the last step!