magazine feature,  tutorial

How to Waterproof a Quilt


A couple of summers ago I made myself a waterproof quilt because I was spending many evenings every week at the soccer fields with my kids, and while bringing folding chairs was an ok option, I kept forgetting to pack them when we had to leave in a hurry. So I decided I was going to make a quilt that I could carry around easily and leave in the car all the time. A couple of rainy practices later, I decided that it needed to be a *waterproof* quilt.

The most recent issue of Make Modern magazine, Issue 27, included a pattern and tutorial from me about how to make a waterproof picnic quilt. To get the full pattern, click on the link above to purchase the magazine’s issue, but if you have a different quilt top you’d like to turn into a waterproof picnic blanket, read on to see how it’s done.

There are a few key points when making a quilt waterproof.

First, you need to source your backing fabric before you decide on a pattern for the front. There are many options for backing fabrics available, but you can’t piece a backing together because it will let damp seep through along the seam. So, whatever fabric you choose, that is the maximum size you will be able to make your quilt.

Second, get creative when sourcing your backing fabric. There is the obvious option of oilcloth, but it can be very stiff. I used plastic-covered fabric from Ikea, and there are plastic-covered table cloths you can buy off the roll at hardware stores, or pre-cut in the home goods section of some box stores or department stores, or even some grocery stores. Stay away from the really thin, vinyl picnic table cloths from discount places, though. Those work well to sew on, but they, unfortunately, get brittle and start chipping and flaking after a short while, especially along folds. For an unconventional option, check out shower curtains. They have the advantage of being quite wide, so you can get a good-sized quilt with one of those.

And third, and most importantly, do not stitch through the backing. Any thread that comes in contact with the ground will wick moisture up along it, and if you quilt through the backing like you would on a normal quilt, you’re creating a whole bunch of holes in your waterproof fabric with wicks running right up through the quilt to the top, resulting in you getting a damp bottom.

Instead, you will quilt your top to your batting only and then attach the backing afterwards. It makes the blanket a bit more “shifty” in the wash, but as long as the batting and top are securely quilted, it really is not an issue.

Anyway, main points made, are you ready to waterproof your quilt?

1. Start with a backing fabric of your choice, and decide on a pattern for the quilt top based on the measurements of the backing. You will be using a 1/2″ seam allowance when assembling the top and backing, so it’s best to choose a pattern with a border, or another design where it doesn’t matter that you will be cutting off 1/4″ more of the design than you normally would with a traditional quilt.

2. Make your quilt top, then cut the batting to 2″ wider than the top, all the way around.

3. Lay your quilt top on top of the batting, right side up, and baste using your favourite method. I prefer spray basting because I’m a bit of a lazy quilter. Quilt the top and batting as desired and staystitch around the outside 1/4″ from the edge. Trim the batting to be even with the top.

4. Lay your quilt on the floor with the top facing you (batting down), and lay your backing on top, right sides together. Pin, then stitch around the outside of the quilt with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving about 15″ open for turning. Backstitch at the beginning and end. Trim the corners to make turning easier, but be careful not to cut too close to the stitching.

5. Turn your quilt sandwich inside out, carefully poking out the corners. Then fold the raw edges of the opening in and pin the opening closed. Topstitch around the quilt with a 1/4″ seam, closing the opening and giving the quilt a crisp edge.

6. Grab a glass of something delicious and a good book, and go enjoy some sunshine on your new waterproof picnic quilt!

If you want to attach straps and handles to the quilt or use the same pattern I did, you can get a copy of Make Modern magazine’s Issue 27 right here with all the detailed instructions.

If you’ve made a waterproof quilt and shared it on social media, please tag me so I can see it and say hi! You can use the hashtag #pennyspoolquiltspatterns or #psqpatterns or just tag me @pennyspoolquilts on either Instagram or Facebook. I’m looking forward to seeing what you make!

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