Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Machine Quilting Free-Style (almost)

It's time to reveal some of the truths about machine quilting.
Or, as Harriet Hargrave likes to say, "Hand quilting with an electric needle".
In this case, I am quilting on a top that was made by someone else, although I have only myself to blame for the basting.
You have to choose your own priorities, and mine is to sacrifice the back if it will make the top look better! So my first job was to wind some bobbins with thread to match the top...but I was out of bobbins!
When that happens, something has to go.

This pink rayon thread has been retired!

I found two bobbins that were less than half filled, and removed the thread. I worked really fast, and was able to throw this in the trash before my PackRat genes engaged and made me create some sort of craft project.
The quilt is red, white and blue (though not patriotic) so I wound a bobbin of each color.

I like to do any in-the-ditch quilting first, though there is none on this one, due to the way the seams were pressed (something I could have fixed, but did not...a terrible vice on my part!).
Instead, I thought I'd quilt 1/4" inside the seams. That was nice, using the regular foot and feed dogs up. All I had to do was pay attention to some odd angles when making a turn.
Straight line stitching will pretty much stabilize the quilt all over, so then you can remove pins (if you basted with them) and free-motion one area at a time.
Then I spent 3 days thinking about how I was going to quilt down all the white background without doing any stippling!

This is going to be a very puffy quilt!

I went for the easy part first, the little square in the center.
Using a blue washout pen and a ruler, I made a dot right in the center.
Starting at that point, I made a big loop into each corner. Then I made another loop toward each side. Suddenly, I had a flower!
OK, now I'm on a roll.....I figured how to do the same thing for the other white areas (the hexagon? the lozenge?).

The blue pen! I can see it! I can take it out!

I like the blue washout pen....you might, too, but follow the directions! COLD water only to rinse it out, don't leave it on for days & days, NO SOAP the first time you wash the quilt.

Yes, it does take two lines to find the center.

Usually there are all sorts of lines, corners or other places on a pieced quilt so you can line up ruler. All I am looking for here is the center of this space, to put a dot where I will start and stop. I am not going to draw anything with the pen.
I am going to draw with my sewing machine needle and thread!

Needle down...don't leave home without it!

I started at the dot with some tiny stitches, and then moved down towards the point, made sure to loop through the seam allowance, and then returned to the dot. After that I looped up to the top and cam back down. In the picture, I have stopped before getting back to the dot.
Stopping during free-motion quilting is tricky, and it helps to have "needle down" on your machine. When you start, don't move the quilt...let the needle go back into the hole before you start moving. This will tend to help keep the line smooth, instead of having a little jog in it.
No "needle down"? Just turn the flywheel with your hand for the same effect!
You do not need have to have a fancy machine for quilting, just a nice strong one with a good straight stitch. In fact, many old machines are better than the new embroidery ones.

The quilter's secret friend!

Occaisionally, that white thread jumps right out into the dark blue area! Why can't you see it? Because I have colored it over with a permanent pen.
IMPORTANT TIP: be sure the ink is dried before you do more quilting, or you may end up with a mark somewhere you didn't plan on! I sometimes wait until I'm done for the day, then cover up any stray lines and let the quilt lay flat to let the ink dry. (It may be possible to remove permanent pen marks that have not been washed & dried by using a Q-tip and alcohol).

My pattern for this shape is "Lazy 8s and Lollipops" (just invented today!). The 8s are the loops toward each point of the shape, and the lollipops are a straight line with a circle at the end, and then stiching right on top the line back to the center. That was because I need just 4 more areas to have the seam allowance held down.

OK, let's take a look at the back...and you would know, I chose the worst looking spot for this picture!

I still say the back is not as important as the top...NQA certifed judges would not agree!

The true queen of machine quilting is Diane Gaudynski. She uses a regular home sewing machine, so check out her tips on her website to learn what she does. She does not run the machine at a very fast speed and create a firm line of stitches too tiny to see.
That's what I am aiming at....even stitches that you can see.
My aim may not be so good, but I am getting there!

I also suspect that excellence has to do with the amount of quilting you are willing to take out and do over again.
So check out my quilting if you see my quilts! I will not be winning any awards for excellence!
But it's bound to make you feel much better about yours!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who puts a fair amount of energy into piecing my backs (enough that I'm proud of this), but I'm with you when it comes to quilting: It's about the FRONT.

My quilting has never coordinated with the back. It's the back, silly. :-)