Quilt Hanging Sleeves

So, just what is a quilt hanging sleeve, and why would we want to add one to our quilts? A hanging sleeve is simply a tube of fabric that is sewn to the back of a quilt into which a pole can be inserted—thus allowing you to hang your quilt for display, both at home or a quilt show, without the undue stretching or distortion that other methods can cause.

You can add a hanging sleeve at two different points in the quilt-making process. You can add a sleeve DURING the binding process, or you can add a sleeve AFTER your quilt has been completely bound. The advantage of adding a sleeve to a quilt during binding is that it will reduce the amount of hand sewing necessary to affix your sleeve by nearly ½ when compared with adding the sleeve after the quilt has been bound. Sometimes, however, you will not have that luxury. For example, when you decide to add a sleeve after your quilt has already been bound. Finally, if you wish to have the option of easily removing the sleeve at some later point in time, for example, after a quilt show where your quilt was displayed, you will want to add the sleeve to the quilt after it has been bound.


When affixing your sleeve to your quilt, it’s important to always keep in mind that a proper hanging sleeve allows a quilt to hang evenly, without any distortions.


Choosing Fabric for your Hanging Sleeve

Too easy - you can use just about ANY fabric for your quilt sleeve. I know some quilters, for example, who select completely random fabrics for their sleeves. Typically, though, most quilters will use either the same fabric as the quilt’s backing or fabric that complements the backing. If available, use a wide piece of fabric for the sleeve, so you don’t have to piece together strips.

Adding a Hanging Sleeve AFTER a Quilt is Finished

  1. Measure the top edge length of your quilt, where the sleeve will be affixed. This will be your sleeve length.

  2. The standard width of a sleeve is 4 inches for all quilts except maybe miniatures. Since you will fold the material in half to create the sleeve tube and will use a ½-inch seam, you should cut a 9-inch-wide strip, the length of the quilt’s top edge.



  3. Eliminate the sleeve ends' raw edges by making two ¼-inch folds, wrong sides together, on each end of the strip of fabric. Machine stitch with either a straight or zigzag stitch.



  4. Fold the sleeve strip in half along the long edge with the right sides together.

  5. Stitch a ½” seam along the long edge, creating a 4 1/2 -inch tube.



  6. Press the seam open and turn the tube right-side-out. Then lay the tube down, center the seam, and press again.



  7. Along the bottom edge of the tube, on the backside, mark a chalk line ½" from the fold; you’ll later use this line as a guide for sewing the sleeve to the quilt back. You are adding some slack so that the quilt will hang properly on the rod, without distortions.



  8. Place the centered seam against the quilt back with the top of the tube approximately ½” below the quilts' top edge. Center the tube and pin it to the top edge to the back of the quilt. Take care to place the sleeve low enough that it will not show from the front when the quilt is displayed, and the weight of the quilt pulls the sleeve up toward the top of the quilt.

  9. Finally, hand-stitch the sleeve tube to the quilt along all four edges (even the short sides that touch the backing). Before stitching down the bottom edge, roll the sleeve back to the chalk line, then hand stitch in place along the chalk line. Thus, creating a “pocket” that will prevent the rod from creating a ridge on the quilt's front side when it is hanging. Make sure your stitches only go through the backing and batting. You should NOT see them on the front of the quilt.


Adding a Hanging Sleeve Before Binding a Quilt

  1. After your quilt has been quilted, carefully trim the batting and backing.

  2. Measure the top edge of your quilt, where the sleeve will go.

  3. A 4-inch-wide sleeve is appropriate for most quilts. Since you will fold the material in half to create the sleeve tube and you will use a ½-inch seam, you should cut a 9-inch-wide strip, the length of the quilt's top edge.



  4. Eliminate the sleeve ends' raw edges by making two ¼-inch folds, wrong sides together, on each end of the strip of fabric. Machine stitch with either a straight or zigzag stitch.



  5. Fold the strip lengthwise, wrong sides together, aligning the raw edges.



  6. Mark a chalk line ½” from the fold. You’ll later use this line as a guide for sewing the sleeve to the quilt back.



  7. Center the folded strip along the quilt's top edge, with the chalk line against the backing, aligning the sleeve's raw edges with the quilt's top edge.



  8. Machine sew the sleeve's top edge to the quilt using 1/8" – ¼" seam allowance.



  9. Finally, hand-stitch the sleeve along both the long bottom edge and the portions of the short, folded edges that touch the quilt back. Before stitching down the long bottom edge, roll the sleeve back to the chalk line, then hand stitch in place along the chalk line. Thus, creating a “pocket” that will prevent the rod from creating a ridge on the quilt's front side when it is hanging.



  10. Bind the quilt as you normally would.


Conclusion

Whether you plan to enter your quilt into a quilt show or wish to display it in your home, you should use a properly constructed hanging sleeve to display your quilt. By doing so, your quilt will be seen in its best light,  eliminating the stretching and distortion that can occur when you hang a quilt using other methods, including pins or fasteners.

Note: If you are entering a quilt into a quilt show, read the show rules before attaching your quilt sleeve. They may have different requirements.


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