Been busy and my little projects are humble! But I’ve had other things to do.
This red satin (polyester) comforter was old and the batting inside had gotten all bunched up. I was going to throw it away, but the top of it was really a very savory huge piece of fabric. The bottom layer was a nasty old threadbare rag covered with fabric pills; if the skin of my foot ever accidentally touched the backing during the night, I would wake up recoiling in disgust. (My feet are very sensitive to substandard fabric!)
While shopping at JoAnn’s, I spotted a bolt of that extra-wide (108″) fabric that can be used as backings for large quilts, without having a seam. So I slashed the quasimodo comforter, removed the hump of bunched up batting and the nasty backing, and replaced both with something new. I thought of my grandmother, who told me that when she was young (in the Great Depression) they would cut the worn bedsheets down the middle and then re-sew them with the outer sides now seamed together in the middle. Waste not, want not!
For quilting, I loaded it up on the king-size Grace frame, and I mostly traced over the embroidery on the satin top, and experimented a little with the Qnique. I didn’t care about making it perfect.
I still haven’t mastered getting the bobbin tension right with the Qnique.
If you look closely at the quilted back of this table runner, you can see the ugly bobbin stitches.
This Fourth of July table runner was made from a cute little remnant, a remnant piece of fusible fleece for batting, and a collection of red, white and blue remnants die cut into tumbler shapes with an Accuquilt template. Binding is Wright’s double fold bias tape.
After a noticeable interval of time since the quilt frame and Qnique quilting machine were set up, I decided to quit ruminating about whether I was ready to quilt a real quilt (as opposed to practice swatches) and I just loaded one up.
Probably I should have kept working on practice swatches a while longer…
The top looked pretty decent, but when I took it off the frame, there was a big long pleat across the back. If the big pucker was near one of the edges, no problem to rip away and redo. But since this is in the middle, I’d have to rip and redo fully half of the whole quilt.
Oh, I found several other bloopers and blunders in the quilt top too. This quilt top has been lying around in plain sight, to the point where I was just a bit sick of looking at it. The pattern is Irish Chain, which I dearly love, especially in shades of green and white. I can see myself doing rather many more of these in the future. But this one? It’s going to UFO land for now. I can’t give it to anyone in the shape it’s in.
Part of the problem here was the way I rolled it onto the take-up rail (see photo below),
Because of the direction in which the quilt was rolled onto the take-up rail after it was quilted, the rolled quilt became so large in diameter that the ruler base–a flat, hard plastic panel that is attached to the bobbin case under the throat plate of the machine with magnets, bumped into the big roll and got shifted off its magnetic perch. Then the needle went down onto the hard plastic, which had shifted onto the top of the throat plate, and got stuck in the plastic, breaking off a chunk. And I couldn’t get the needle unstuck without trying lots of different tools and strategies, but of course, finally I did.
Now, if I turn the take-up roll the other way, the surface to be quilted will remain flat, but rolled over like I did it, an angle is created from the top of the rail to the ruler base on the throat plate. In this angle, the stitching got distorted.
The frame has a fourth rail, upon which a roll of batting can be installed; then you can just roll it upwards, pin it to the take-up rail leader, and then cut it off when you get to the last section of the quilt. I am not sure how the big pucker got there. Possibly because I used a roll of batting that was wrapped double on the roll. As the batting unrolled, one side was pinned to the left edge of the quilt, and the double wrap was unfolded and the other side was pinned to the right edge of the quilt. And since the batting was actually way wider than the quilt top, unintentional ripples got rolled up. Unless you climb under the frame and look up, you cannot easily see the underside, which was the territory of the big pucker all the way through the center. Next time, I think I will try to cut the backing and batting to more closely match the dimensions of the quilt top before installing the 3 layers on the frame.
Meanwhile, see that window back there? I was getting extremely hot quilting back in that room, even with the ceiling fan and AC on. In our locality, the summer glaring heat and heavy humidity usually abate somewhere around October. If I keep practicing, maybe by then, longarm quilting will become easier and I’ll be happier with the results!
Even though I looked at tutorials and pictures of many stitch patterns, I went with the tried and true simple meandering, stippling type stitching. Practicing on swatches is good to do, but I learned lots of lessons by practicing on a real quilt top that I don’t think I would have had drilled into my psyche as deep, with a throw-away swatch!
Quilting in the 21st Century is an art form. I’m fascinated by what exactly influences a person to become a quilter, and to find out from them what keeps them interested. Some quilters love to enter their quilts in competitions. Others say the competitive arena turns them off. Some love to teach others. Some love to make gifts, those that document history. My grandmother and mother were quilters. Sometimes I think of sewing as an albatross across my neck, sometimes as a badge of honor. People have all sorts of aims and reasons for engaging in fabric manipulation.
I’ve enjoyed quilting on a regular domestic sewing machine, but it does have a few draw-backs for me.
Using a long-arm sewing machine with a frame is different, and in my mind, better in some ways. 1) You can stand up while quilting. Sitting down for hours every day can be a drag, when almost everything you like to do must be done sitting down. 2) You don’t have to insert 200 or more pins in the quilt with the longarm. The rollers on the frame keep it together pretty well, and it has bungee clips for keeping the layers taut while they’re being quilted. 3) You don’t get as hot quilting with a longarm as you do on a sit-down machine, because the quilt is on the frame, not drifting around on your lap, and you don’t work up a sweat moving the heavy thing around under the needle. 4) It looks like the quilting goes faster using a longarm.
We looked at lots of brands and types of machines, and ultimately chose the Qnique because it was certainly the lowest-priced longarm, although it does come up in lots of online searches for “mid arm.” I’m understanding that the term “mid arm” usually refers to a “sit-down” type long-arm, one that you put on a table, and move the quilt around underneath the needle as if you were using a big ol’ domestic sewing machine. The Qnique is more like a petite little longarm machine.
We got a good deal on it, and actually developed a rapport with the company before deciding to buy. Since there are no retail outlets in our vicinity that we could buy from, we wanted to know what sort of maintenance we might need, and who could work on the machine if it needed fixing or parts or if we couldn’t figure out how to put it together. They have lots of You-tube videos for all the various questions a customer might have. We did have to wait about a month to get it delivered, because there were lots of backorders for this machine.
I’ve been doodling around on practice fabric–you know, the fabric that you don’t really like but would feel guilty throwing away because someone important gave it to you. And it needs to be solid-colored fabric, so you can see what the stitches look like. The first few things I’ve done have a few ugly bobbin-tension-challenged stitches on the underside, so I will have to nip that little problem in the bud. I must say, though, the top stitching looks pretty good.
After checking around the net, I’ve been surprised to learn that most quilters do free-motion quilting on a longarm. Some use templates to create geometric quilting patterns. Some quilt machines use a laser stylus to trace patterns, and some are controlled by a computer, making the quilting process automated. Thus, the 21st Century has wrought technological advances to the formerly time-consuming task of making covers out of smaller pieces of cloth. The modern quilts may not turn out more beautiful than the ones our ancestors made, but we can finish them quicker.
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts