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How to Add a Hanging Sleeve on a Quilt
What is a Hanging Sleeve
A hanging sleeve, also called a rod pocket, allows you to hang up your quilt. It is generally made of fabric that is attached to the back of the quilt. A rod is inserted through the sleeve and attached to the wall.
When Should You Add a Hanging Sleeve?
When to Add a Hanging Sleeve
I don't put hanging sleeves on bed quilts. The bed does a fine job of holding them up without any help. Same with lap quilts.
Also, if the quilt is very small, and can be held up with pushpins, or safety pins, buttons, a frame, or duct tape or any other hanging device, I wouldn't put on a sleeve.
If I had a fancy quilt hanger that grabs a quilt without the use of a sleeve, I wouldn't add a sleeve.
If you are going to submit your quilt to any quilt show, you will need to put in a rod pocket so that they can properly display your quilt. Follow the show guidelines on how to put in that sleeve. I've never submitted a quilt, so wouldn't know the details, and I am pretty sure they would vary from show to show.
If your quilt is a wall hanging, you need to install a hanging sleeve so that you can display it.
If your quilt is a lap quilt and / or a baby quilt, you can consider adding a hanging sleeve so that the owner has the option of hanging it up. Yes, you can put it on when that decision is made, but it is easier to do it now rather than later.
When to Add a Hanging Sleeve
The best time to think about them is BEFORE you sew on the binding. This way, you can sew it in with the binding. Not only is this easier, it also makes your sleeve stronger than if you put it on by hand later. If you think of it too late, you can't use that as an excuse to not attach one. You can put it on at anytime.
What Size of Fabric to Cut for a Hanging Sleeve
What Size to Cut
The hanging sleeve should go all the way across the very top of your quilt. This will keep the top or the sides from flopping over.
In order to figure out how big you want the rod pocket to be, you need to figure out what you are going to hang it up with. You can use a dowel, a bamboo stick, just about anything stiff and straight-ish that can be held up on a wall. I particularly like decorative curtain rods. You need the hanging sleeve to be large enough to fit that through. The book I have in front of me, Sweet and Simple Baby Quilts, says you should use leftover backing fabric and cut a piece that is the width of your quilt by 8". I am using 3 1/2" right now, because that was the size of the sashing and therefore the size of my leftover fabric. It is probably better to err on the side of having a pocket that is too big rather than too small, but if your quilt hangers are fairly small, you don't need to use that much fabric.
How to Make a Hanging Sleeve
First gather up your scraps and see what you can find that you can make the sleeve with. I like to use the sashing or border strips particularly, since they are already cut. You need something that will go the entire length of the quilt and will be wide enough to fold over, include a seam allowance and still have room for whatever you are going to use to hang it up with.
First, check your measurements against the quilt and make sure you have enough but not too much fabric. Then hem both short sides by folding under a quarter inch and folding again and sewing. Since the sleeve is on the back, and since I don't want the stitches to catch on the rod, I machine sew this. Then fold the long sides WRONG sides together to make a tube and press. Put the raw sides of your tube against the raw edges of your quilt.
The 7-layers of the quilt are:
Binding, 2 layers-folded wrong sides together, assuming double fold method
Quilt top face up
Quilt backing, face down
Hanging sleeve, 2 layers since they are folded wrong sides together
How to Attach a Hanging Sleeve AFTER the Binding
Let's say you got the bright idea that you needed a hanging sleeve after you thought you were done with the quilt. Then you have to do everything by hand.
Hem the short sides and fold the fabric wrong sides together, as before to make a long tube. Sew the long sides together. This leaves the raw edges on the outside, where they can't interfere with the curtain rod. Fold the tube so that the raw edges are in the middle of the back, and press. The picture shows the sleeve folded over so you can see how the seam allowance is pressed in the middle of the back.
Then pin the sleeve as close as you can to your binding. Use a blind hem stitch to sew by hand all around the edges of your sleeve, being sure to leave the opening open.
How to Attach Hanging Sleeve With the Binding
You have several choices about when to do this.
1. The preferred method is to baste it first, slightly less than the seam allowance you will use when you sew on the binding and then sew on the binding. 2. You can put it on at the same time, if you are in a hurry and adept at keeping layers together properly.
3. Or you can put on the binding on first, and then put on the hanging sleeve slightly into the seam allowance.
Then you fold over the binding, and stitch it down by hand or machine, covering up all your raw edges and stitching, and then blind hem the rest of the hanging sleeve down by hand, being sure to leave the opening open, and being careful to avoid the thread showing through the top of the quilt. Oops, the book didn't tell you to sew the bottom of the hanging sleeve down. If you don't do this, the sleeve will pull up, and you will be able to see it over the top of the quilt, especially since it will make the top of the quilt bow down. Not that I would have any experience with this. Um, not sure if I should tell you this, but safety pins also work, but then you are always worrying about rusting, not that I would have any experience with that either.
Other Ways to Hang Quilts
What If you Don't Have a Lot of Fabric
You can go shopping for more, find a coordinated fabric from your stash, or just grab any clothing from your DH's closet. Otherwise, you can go to Plan B. Use what you have. I made lots of little pockets strips and hand stitched them down. Make sure you have enough of them and they are evenly distributed throughout the quilt. Hey, it works. It took more stops and starts, but really less sewing overall.
Hanging sleeves or rod pockets let you hang up your quilt on a wall and allows your quilt to be seen at its finest. A properly made hanging sleeve will keep the quilt smooth and straight and avoid any damage to the quilt caused by the rod. They are fairly easy to add as one of the final finishing touches to your quilt.