We’ve been taking a break from blogging and vlogging, and it sure gives me a different perspective on life!
Changes in lifestyle–such as living through the aftermath of a hurricane, losing your vision, retiring from a high-paced career, or getting sick–can take a toll on the ol’ creative process.
Documenting our every creation adds a level of stress to each project. I like blogging; it’s Show and Tell for the Digital Age. But not having to immortalize an item via posting it, can sure be freeing. If the project does not live on in my [limiting] descriptive words, it still lives on as what it is: a creative accomplishment, a spark of ideas, a sense of wonderment, a nod for practical uses, shared audacity that might elicit a smile.
Here’s the latest, a quilt that finally assembled itself once I got on board with it…
I don’t think it would have come about if I hadn’t weeded out the fabric stash. I had a lot of fabric in there that was given to me, or that I had scooped up because it was cheap or free, and I didn’t really like it, I just kept it around “in case.” Well, that stuff was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, creating obligations that I didn’t want to have. I had been thinking in terms of clothes I wanted to make, and it suddenly occurred to me, I hate most of the clothes I’ve made. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. All the time and effort and angst I put into apparel sewing, and with lousy results! I’m over it! Stage One was a giveaway, now I’m waiting for Stage Two, the Yard Sale, and then Stage Three will be jettisoning the remaining cargo to the local Thrift Shop or Goodwill. And I’ll be free! [wait, not stone-free, I’m keeping all the quilting cottons, of course.}
It is lying on top of a king-size bed, so it is pretty massive, the biggest quilt I’ve made from scratch, so far. The backing is 108″ wide cotton fabric from JoAnn’s, one large sheet of fabric with no seams down the center. The binding is a discontinued color of Wright’s Quilt Binding: I bought three 3-yard packages of it on clearance and I used all of it but maybe 6 inches. Whew! It looks gray in the picture but it’s actually a grayish light blue-green color.
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.
In a previous post, I referred to the multitude of quilt tops I had ready for quilting.
Since I got the Qnique and Grace Frame, I may have quilted about 5 or 10 items. I hoped to have acquired expert status with this set up by now, but it hasn’t been like riding a bicycle. The brain and muscle memories haven’t automatically renewed every time I tried a new project. Each project has its own set of peculiarities!
Since most of the pile (seven of them) consisted of table runners, I thought maybe I could pin several of them up to the Grace Frame, and quilt them all at the same time, and see how it went.
This frame is supposed to accommodate fabric to make a king-size quilt. I was able to comfortably fit 5 of the 7 table runners across the width, with a little space in between each. The backing is pinned (with the right side facing down) onto the first (top, furthest back) leader cloth, and to the second (center) leader cloth. I have marked on each leader cloth a mid-point. Normally I would fold the fabric of the top, bottom, and batting in half and pin that half-way point to the mid-point on the corresponding leader cloths. To match up the mid-points on all these separate fronts and backs of the table runners, I just counted the marks on the top leader cloths and lined them up with the marks on the bottom leader cloths. I realized later, that not all of the table runners were the exact same length, so that was one major problem with this set up!
A while back I bought 2 big rolls of batting on sale, anticipating that I would be making a whole bunch of quilts. I use one of them most of the time, for the smaller baby quilts and lap quilts. I can position the roll on the floor in front of the frame, and just roll out the batting up onto the frame as I am rolling out the fabric to be quilted. The one end of the batting layer is pinned to the backing, and then the quilt top is pinned to those two layers, forming the quilt sandwich. I actually purchased a fourth rail for the Grace frame, onto which the batting roll can be wound. One of these days I will find that fourth rail and install it. The second of the two batting rolls is for larger-sized quilts. The batting is folded double, and then wound onto the cardboard roll. So it doesn’t conveniently unwind from the roll like the first one does. You have to unroll the estimated length of batting, cut it off, and then unfold the large section of batting in half, and pin it to the backing.
One thing I enjoy about the Qnique and Grace Frame set up is that pinning the fabric layers to the frame takes significantly less time than pinning the layers of a quilt for quilting on a home sewing machine. You pin the selvedge edge of the backing to Leader #1, then the opposite end to Leader #2, then roll it up on the rails, smoothing it out with your hands. No need for fifty-thousand pins with the little foam bobbers, or safety pins, or clips. However, in this case, since all the table runners were not the same length, and there were so many separate edges above and underneath the batting layer, a bit of mayhem ensued.
All five pieces were conjoined in the batting layer, as seen above. But when the ruler base attached to the throat plate of the Qnique slid across to continue quilting the top next to it, it sometimes slipped the backing layer of its neighbor (underneath the throat plate) out of alignment, which wasn’t easily seen from the top side. And because all the tops and bottoms were of slightly different dimensions, some of the backing layers had a bit of slack, which wasn’t easily seen from the top, and which resulted in a few big puckers.
DH (Skip) suggested that next time, I sew the edges of each runner together prior to quilting them on the frame. I don’t like that idea, because I feel that the seam ripper should be used for ripping out undesirable stitches that occur by accident, not on purpose. But, if I ever do 5 at a time again, it might be worth a try to see if sewing them together causes less shifting of layers.
After the quilting, and cutting out the separate runners, and truing up the edges, I found that I would need to rip and redo several areas of quilting, due to puckers, overlaps, and other unsightly mistakes. In a couple of spots, when I slid the Qnique over to the next runner, the hopping foot got entangled in the edge of the top fabric and had to be cut loose with scissors. Sheesh.
The worst shifting and puckering occurred in the inner three table runners. The outer two turned out with the least amount of rework needed, perhaps because the bungee clips which hold the fabric taut, are attached to the two outside runners. This is the reason for DH’s suggestion that all the lengthwise edges be seamed together for quilting, so that the tops and bottoms are one continuous piece of fabric during the quilting step. But I also feel that these errors can be chalked up to overall unfamiliarity with the process. Perhaps they could be prevented in the future by smoothing all the fabric pieces, exercising extreme vigilance of the under layer, and perhaps installing the fourth rail and rolling the batting on it, thereby keeping the batting layer more taut and uniformly stretched out during quilting.
Next pass, I pinned up the last two table runners to the frame. These, too, were of slightly different lengths, so one of them had some slack in it during the quilting step.
I pinned them up closer together, practically touching, but I didn’t sew the edges together. I ended up with a couple of minor puckers and overlaps. But the one with the pink backing, because of its additional length compared to the other one, had about a 5-inch space at the end that couldn’t be passed over with the machine, because its neighbor was already at the end of its quiltable area.
So this last little bit, as well as several areas on the previously mentioned runners that had to be picked out and re-quilted, were done on the Brother SC9500 with the free-motion hopping foot installed. BTW, that Brother is an awesome little machine, and very affordable!
I did manage to get all the quilts (3) and table runners (7) finished, reworked if necessary, and bound. Here are a few pics of the finished items.
The last one is not bound yet, because I couldn’t find anything in the stash right away that would make it “pop.” But the cats love it already. This is a slippery, satiny fabric that is possibly meant to represent snowy winter camouflage. For a backing, I used a silvery hologram-looking knit fabric. I love all of the camo remnants!
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!
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts