I stocked up on Marty goes to Mars fabric this summer during a couple trips to the S.R. Harris outlet. I got enough for 2 toddler-size pillow cases, a quilt, and some leftovers. The quilt is made of mostly 4" squares, with a couple 4x8 and 8x8 pieces thrown in. It's 52x36 inches, the perfect size for Isaac's toddler bed. Which he used for a month before he switched to a twin bed. Sigh.
I wanted this to be perfectly square since (I thought) it was going on a toddler bed (for at least a year) it would be painfully obvious (to me, anyway) if it wasn't square. I also had pieced the back and I wanted the quilting lines to be parallel to the seams on both the front and the back of the quilt. I have been making quilt sandwiches by taping baby quilts to the floor with painters tape, but I've noticed that method doesn't always guarantee that the front and back seams line up perfectly. Painters tape is only so sticky, and it can only hold fabric for about an hour before it starts to give up. To make sure everything lined up I used a quilt frame.
My husband helped me make the frame. It's canvas tacked on to strips of hard wood. I think the strips are 2.5 inches x 6 feet. There are 4 strips. The first two are set up on parallel sawhorses. I use a tape measure and carpenter square to make sure the frame is set up squarely.
I start by laying the back of the quilt wrong-side down and pinning it to the frame, starting with the center of each side and working out. I pull it pretty tight. Then I smooth the batting over the back but I don't pin it. Last I pin the quilt top down, again starting with the center of each side and working towards the corners.
Once everything is pinned in place I baste the quilt using really long - about 3 inch - running stitches. Then I take it off the frame and it's ready to be machine-quilted.
My grandma taught me how to stretch quilts like this. It does take more time and I don't do it for every quilt, but this is my favorite way to stretch quilts.