Minky–that deliciously soft faux fur fleece that elevates a quilt from cozy comforter to toasty burrito. The snuggle is real. The unparalleled comfort and warmth it adds to quilts has now made it my first choice of backing for all the quilts that I plan to use as blankets. But other quilters haven’t been swayed. In fact, many are afraid of quilting with minky, calling it ‘hard to work with’.
When I first found out about minky, the internet had scared me away from quilting with it, too. Was I skilled enough to take on this beast with a domestic sewing machine? For the longest time, I didn’t think so either. I still had trouble with puckering when using quilting cotton for a backing. Only my impending niece swayed me. She deserved the softest, warmest blanket I could make. So, I did all the research I could on the web and bought embossed minky.
Surprisingly, I had no problems quilting with minky. Not for my niece’s baby blanket. Not for my best friend’s baby blanket. And not even as the backing for my 80″ x 81″ Space Travel quilt. Now that I have a few minky quilts under my belt, I wanted to share what I have learned about minky from why some quilters think it’s ‘hard to work with’ to how to make it work for you.
Why minky is hard to work with:
Weight isn’t as much of a factor for small quilts but for large quilts it can be a huge problem. When you’re quilting with minky, the weight can make it difficult for the feed dogs to pull the fabric through the machine.
This causes three problems. One, if you need to piece your minky together to make a larger backing (the widest minky is only 90 inches) you can feel the seams a lot more than with standard quilting cotton.
Two, the added thickness makes it harder to ‘tuck and roll’ the fabric through the small throat of a standard sewing machine. This can be daunting if you like to free motion quilt or are not as confident as a quilter.
Three, the thickness can make it harder to baste. I have bent several a pin trying to pin baste. In fact–I don’t even pin baste anymore because of it.
Don’t forget stretchy
Stretchy fabric can mean warping if you drag it through your presser foot (which can often happen because of minky’s weight). And warping can lead to the dreaded puckering. And with minky’s thickness, the puckering feels mountainous and can be visually much more noticeable.
Okay… At this point, I’ve probably convinced you to never, ever touch minky, but don’t worry, friends.I’ve got you! All of these problems can be easily managed with some simple steps you should think about before starting to quilt (even if you choose a different type of backing!).
How to make minky work for you:
Proper basting is paramount to getting a sleek finish for your backing. No matter what basting method you choose, spending the time to prepare your quilt sandwich will pay off. Now, I’m not going to go through all the basting methods or how to baste in this article, but I will say that I have only tried pin basting and sew basting with minky backing.
Sew basting has, by far, given me the best results, and is now my go-to basting method for minky. It’s also super important to make sure the backing is tight when you go to baste. Pin/tape the minky taunt to your carpet/floor before you lay out your batting and quilt top and start to baste.
Choose a quilt design within your machine’s limits.
How large is your throat space, and how big is your quilt? With the ‘tuck and roll’ you can make almost anything squeeze through the throat space of your machine. Trust me, I quilted the Space Travel quilt on the Brother FS50, and that throat space is smaller than a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut! But the 40+ hours I spent quilting that baby taught me just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Again, it depends on your experience, skill, and patience (patience being key). If you’re new to minky, it might be best to sick with an easier quilting design until you understand how minky works.
Learn how to support your quilt.
Knowing how to support the weight of your project while quilting is important for a quilt of any size. It all starts with setting up your quilting space. You need to have enough table around your sewing machine to hold your quilt without it falling off the back or the sides. I swing the part of the quilt hanging off in front of the sewing machine up over my shoulder. This way, the weight of the quilt isn’t pulling in the opposite direction of the sewing machine.
Use a walking foot.
The feed dogs (the little ‘teeth’ that pull your quilt through the machine) are not enough to pull all the thick layers of your quilt through your machine. A walking foot adds a set of feed dogs on the top of your quilt, so there are two sets of feed dogs pulling your quilt through the machine. This helps to evenly pull all the layers of your quilt through your sewing machine together.
Sew slow and don’t pull.
There are no blue ribbons for the fastest quilter. Slow down and enjoy the process. Sewing slow helps your machine pull the quilt through the machine, so you won’t feel the need to help tug it along. Remember what I said above? Minky is stretchy, and stretchy can warp if you tug on it.
You, too, can take advantage of all the cuddly warmth minky has to offer. Following basic quilting guidelines, minky should be no trouble for anyone–even on a small domestic machine!