How to Make a Quilt Sleeve for Hanging

In case you missed it, we just revealed the finalists for the Quilting Arts Magazine 2012 Calendar on my Editor's Blog.

We always get an incredible response to our reader challenges, and our Quilting Arts Magazine 2012 Calendar contest was no exception. It amazes me how our reader/artists can take a broad theme (in this case, "Getting Pet-ty") and translate it into a compelling, beautiful, heart-warming, thoughtful, or funny (sometimes all of the above) image through fabric, thread, and embellishment.

One thing that continually surprises me, though, is that when we require the finalists of any challenge to attach a quilt sleeve for hanging, we get numerous emails asking, "How do you make a quilt sleeve?" Or, "Exactly what kind of quilt sleeve do you want?"

Although attaching a quilt sleeve isn't necessary for every art quilt and it certainly isn't the most fun part of quilting, it is almost essential if you're submitting a quilt to an exhibit or contest.

For this reason, I asked Leslie Tucker Jenison to demonstrate how to make quilt sleeves on an episode of "Quilting Arts TV," airing in Season 7. She and her buddy Jamie Fingal did an entire segment on preparing your quilts for entering shows. Both are award-winning mixed-media and textile artists who are quilt show veterans.

Here's an overview of Leslie's quilt sleeve tutorial, with her photos:

1. Cut a piece of cotton fabric to the exact width of your quilt by 9 inches deep.
quilt sleeve step 1

2. Fold and press each edge into a ¼ inch fold.
quilt sleeve step 2

3. Then turn again and press so raw edges are concealed.

quilt sleeve step 3

4. Stitch the folded edge in place on both ends. Then stitch the length of the quilt sleeve "tube" (right side facing inward). 
quilt sleeve step 4

5. Turn the tube inside out. 
quilt sleeve step 5

6. Press the sleeve tube so the seam is on one edge and the fold is on the other.
quilt sleeve step 6

7. Baste the folded edge with the longest machine stitch possible.
quilt sleeve step 7
8. Then, roll the basted stitch to the top center of the sleeve so the basted stitch is situated over the other seam, which will be situated against the quilt back.
quilt sleeve step 8

9. Pin the quilt sleeve to the quilt back one inch below the top of the quilt. The width should allow the sleeve to be positioned approximately one-half inch from each edge.
quilt sleeve step 9

10. Stitch the sleeve securely in place. Be sure to whip-stitch the ends to the back of the quilt, which assures that the hanging device is inserted into the sleeve properly. It helps to take an extra stitch every 4-5 stitches so the sleeve won't become loosened from the quilt if it is hung in multiple venues. Check to be sure that the stitches do not go through to the front of the quilt!
quilt sleeve step 10
11. Once the sleeve has been securely stitched to the quilt back, remove the basting stitch from the sleeve. This tuck allows room for the hanging device to be inserted without creating excessive tension on the front of the quilt.
quilt sleeve step 11
NOTE: It is important to attach the name of the quilt and the artist's name and contact information onto the quilt sleeve, as well as the date the quilt was completed.

Want more tips and other quilting instructions? You can watch Leslie create a quilt sleeve in detail and get tips for preparing your quilts for shows from her and Jamie, on "QATV" Series 700, now available on DVD.

P.S. Do you have a special way of making a quilt sleeve? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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11 thoughts on “How to Make a Quilt Sleeve for Hanging

  1. First of all, I LOVE your site and all the techniques you feature. My question is on the sleeve that you show how to make, you never mention how far down to attach it to the quilt. I always wonder, since you make the pleat, if the rod isn’t that thick, will the sleeve appear above the quilt?

  2. I never turn my sleeves; I leave the raw edge seams to face the quilt back. It looks neater to me; and that way the seams don’t ravel with repeated in and out of any hanging dowels or rods. Plus it is a lot less work than turning those sleeves. I also put a small seam at the top and press the sleeve so that it forms a ‘D’ with the bulge of the ‘D’ towards the ‘wall’ , not the sleeve–this makes for no bulges on the front display side. S

    Sometimes the top and bottom are not square (unintentionally or intentionally); in this case I place the sleeve to be at exact ninety degree angle with the sides OR exactly parallel with the bottom–unless you want waves at the bottom.

  3. Since most quilt shows use a 1×4 board for hanging, I think those measurements are too skimpy. Instead I cut my fabric 11″x 3″ shorter than the width of the quilt. I finish the ends, but sew the raw edge into the seam when I put the binding on so this saves having to hand sew one edge & looks more finished. I use the same fabric as the backing or try to co-ordinate it. I use a yardstick to hang my quilt so it isn’t puffing out where it’s hung. It’s thin so no need for the pleat. I cut the yardstick 1 1/2″ shorter than the quilt & drill holes 1/2″ in from the end. Then I slip the holes over a finish nail in the wall. If I’m not planning to put the quilt in a show, I make a narrower sleeve. Linda Dunning

  4. You didn’t mention how much of a seam to create when doing the basting step. Or did I miss that??

    I concur with PoppyGirl59–no need to sew right-sides-together and then turn. (turning a long sleeve is a pain!) Keep the seam on the sleeve’s outside, sew sleeve with the seam facing the quilt back (to conceal it). The inside of the sleeve/rod pocket is then nice and smooth.

  5. We love all these expert tips on quilt sleeves from the community! To answer the question about how far down to place the sleeve from the top of the quilt, Leslie says 1 inch.

  6. I was taught it a little differently.

    For step 4, fold the sleeve wrong sides facing before you stitch raw edges together. This exposed long seam gets pressed open. The big pressed seam is then placed facing the back of the quilt. This way, there is no raw edge inside the sleeve that can fray or get caught when hanging. There is also no flipping the sleeve inside out then.

    Hope that makes sense!
    ~Monika K.
    My Sweet Prairie (Tutorial on the blog…)

  7. I am a new to art quilting or traditional quilting. I saw this on Quilting Arts TV and must say this is the first time I fully understood how to make a quilt sleeve. Thank you for sharing and making it so simple to understand. Love the program and magazine.

  8. For small quilts that I am going to hang on the wall I make the sleeve smaller (cut 7 inches wide) and then make it in two section with a gap in the center of about 2″. I use either a flat molding strip or a yardstick as the rod. I place one of those jagged tooth picture hanging bars to the molding strip in the center then I can hang the whole thing on a picture hook. I guess for a larger quilt one might want to have two gaps and use two hooks. I have not used the little pleat before but this seems a good addition, however I expect a 1/4″ pleat would suffice for smaller wall hangings. If your quilt ripples too much a second sleeve to add an additional strip of wood at the bottom could straighten it out.
    Anyway, a great and much needed description. Thanks guys!

  9. I wish I could see what goes in the sleeve and how it is hung on the wall. I have been wondering how to prepare a quilt for hanging in a exhibition setting. I have been at a lost to find info on this. I want to prepare myself before I enter work so I don’t feel like a fool. I hope this will be a topic covered more in detail in a Quilting Arts Magazine article…behind the scenes of a quilt exhibition. how quilts are hung and hwo to prepare them for hanging, what to expect when entering and exhibiting your quilts…specifically art quilts.

  10. I think I am going to buy the QATV DVD that covers this topic. Sometimes seeing it in action helps and I hope there are more tips and some insight into the process and what to expect from exhibition venues and what they expect when it comes to the hanging devices/techniques on art quilts and functional quilts.