Last December, I saw a quilt made entirely of minky at one of the fabric stores near me. Pieced front, solid back, and the binding: all crafted with minky, which is a luscious, lovely, soft, silky, and maddening fabric. It was gorgeous but not something I’d ever attempt.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a dedicated fan of minky. I used it first way back in 2005, when it wasn’t quite as easy to find in the fabric store. I’ve used it as the backing (or part, at least) of several quilts and made a couple of quilts with a mix of cotton or flannel and minky. It’s a completely me sort of fabric, especially the one that has an embossed paisley pattern. Luscious, lovely, soft, silky, and paisley? Sign me up!
(A close up of the paisley detail, with lots of contrast so you can see the pattern)
But, it’s incredibly hard to work with, especially for a quilter like me, who tends to be just a little left of perfect. Try as I might, my cotton pieced quilts are rarely exactly square. Throw in some stretch, and some curling, and yeah: every time I use minky I swear it’s my last time.
Until I make another quilt.
I especially like it for backing quilts. It quilts up beautifully—you’d think the pattern would get all ugly, but it just sort of swallows the stitches, creating an alternating pattern-within-a-pattern effect. It washes well. And, well: it’s just so soft. It’s irresistible.
If you find yourself under the sway of minky, too, here are a couple of things I’ve learned about working with it—all discovered while sewing! (Which means these are real-life tips)
1. Perhaps most important: always use a 1/2" or 5/8" seam. The first pieced blanket I made with minky, a nine patch with minky as the center squares and flannel everywhere else, I pieced with 1/4" seams. Big mistake. Every time I wash it, another minky-meets-flannel seam pulls open. This is one of Kaleb’s favorite baby quilts and I’ve repaired it more times than I can tell. It’s not very pretty anymore! (He still loves it.) Especially if you’re working with different fabrics, this is essential. But minky-on-minky requires wider seams, too.
2. Prepare yourself for the stretch. Minky stretches widthwise, but not lengthwise. This is occasionally frustrating. (Read: always frustrating.) With a minky quilt back, this might lead to the dreading puckers! Avoid these by alternating the direction you quilt in—quilt a lengthwise row, then a widthwise, then back the other way. (I don’t do freeform quilting so I have no minky + freeform advice.)
3. One of the least stressful ways to make a minky backing is to frame it with a cotton or flannel. You’d have one big square of minky in the middle, surrounded by that other fabric. Having the less stretchy fabric on the outside edge makes the quilting go much easier and the chance for puckers smaller.
4. If you piece the back, use spray adhesive to hold the minky seams open flat. Or baste them open.(Ironing won’t do anything other than muck up your minky. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.)
5. Watch the nap—make sure it flows the same way. Or, make it flow different ways on purpose, but remember: minky nap matters. Especially if your little ones are wont to pet their blankies!
6. If the minky goes all the way to the edge of your quilt (front orback), serge or zig zag stitch the entire edge of the quilt before you add the binding. I know lots of people who do this regardless, but I tend to skip this step—unless I’m working with minky. The extra row of stitches does wonders for making your binding lie straight.
7. If you’re piecing with a combination of fabrics, put the minky on the bottom, but no matter what, use your walking foot if you have one.
8. Prepare yourself: this is messy stuff. It will get everywhere. Your spouse will be annoyed. Your vacuum and your needle plate will quickly get clogged with fluff. The only way to combat this is to just get the damn quilt finished! Also, it’s expensive. When I first found the paisley stuff, it was $20 a yard. TWENTY BUCKS!?! It’s gone down a little bit. I still will only buy it with a coupon or at a sale.
9. There are various opinions on whether to use batting or not with minky. I’ve used high loft, low loft, and no batting with minky. My favorite is low loft for ease of use, although the high loft + minky combo is so cloudlike it’s worth the extra frustration. I didn’t like the no batting look because the minky is sort of sheer (I was using the pale pink one) and you can see the pieced back of the front through the quilt back. Plus, it doesn’t bother me that the quilts are heavy. They feel warmer that way. This topic is all opinion—you’ll have to try the options to see which one you like best.
10. Be flexible! I think this of every quilt I make, but you have to be especially anti-perfection to work happily with minky. Or a better quilter than I am. The fluffy nature of the stuff sort of covers up some of the off-square quality. If you want perfectly exact squares, this probably isn’t your fabric. Triangles might be impossible! The fact is, though, that the resulting quilt is so cuddle-able, the slightly off-square quality won’t matter to the person who loves it!