Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quilting continues...

Finished outlining the dolphins tonight, and switched back to the walking foot.  There is a little improvement between the first and last dolphin. I definitely look forward to developing better free motion quilting skills.

For the body of the quilt, I'm going with a simple crosshatch design.  I'll probably add a few loops along the border/corners.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Definitely harder than it looks...

I finished the horizontal sashing, and switched feet on my machine, grabbed my practice square and decided to see just how hard it is to echo quilt and free motion quilt.

 If one doesn't look too closely, not too bad.  There is definitely a learning curve to figuring out how to pace the speed of the machine and the speed of the hands, but overall, it is fun moving around under the needle.

After looping around my test dolphin four or five times, I moved to loops and curlicues to see how I might consider quilting the blocks as my batting calls for 4 inches apart.  Following this experiment, I think I'm not ready to meander so will be reinstalling the walking foot and adding some diagonals.

Finally, I moved on to echo the first set of dolphins on the signature quilt.  Yep, it is harder than it looks, but my dolphins do have character...

I am enjoying this project, but am also looking forward to getting back to my Quilter's Academy projects. Once I finish the tops, I'm going to spend the next few months working through Heirloom Machine quilting (which I've now read twice) to work on my free motion skills.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-purposing household items for quilting

So - what common household items do you use when quilting?

For this project, I've grabbed
  • a salad bowl from the kitchen, which we never use for actual salad (may need to just grab the rest of the set as well as I like the size and weight) to hold my pinning supplies, 
  • along with a cruet dish which is currently accepting the pins as I remove them from the quilt (will likely go back to using my magnetic pin holder). 
  • my favorite - the coffee stir sticks, something of which there never seems to be a shortage - our Cub Scout pack has thousands of these. We are thinking about having the boys build things with them, but I digress (and due to the CS sticks being stored elsewhere, the ones I used are not from the Pack, so we still have thousands available...)
  • blue painters tape is wonderful for tacking items temporarily (emphasis on temporary) and for marking borders and the like
  • binder clips, not shown, are fabulous for clamps. I bought extra large clips fresh so as not to worry about transferring any inks from papers or previously clipped items.
So what items have you re-purposed from around the house?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

As ye pin, so shall ye unpin...

Well, the longer I spent removing stitches, the more I didn't like the way the back was aligning with the front. So I ended up unpinning the entire quilt.

For the re-pinning of the quilt, I adapted the method of pinning that Harriet Hargrave teaches in Heirloom Machine quilting.

Harriet's method recommends taping a toothpick at the center of each side of the table so that you can easily center the quilt layers on the table.  Because of the vertical sashing on both the front and back that I wanted to match as closely as possible and knowing my limitations as to keeping a straight line straight, I created a center ridge on my big board.  To raise the board to a better work level, I placed three fat quarter storage boxes under the board as I haven't replaced my ironing board yet.

I first wrapped coffee stirrers in blue painter's tape to thicken them, then carefully measured the center of the board in both directions and added more tape to secure the ridges.

Next, I folded the back of the quilt in quarters and lined it up on the center point.Using a ruler, I checked the position of the center over the ridge so that there were 3.5 inches on each side of the ridge.  I used large binder clips to secure the quilt to my board and adjusted as needed until I was satisfied that the back was correctly placed.

I folded the batting in quarters and unfolded it to center over the backing. This was a little harder for me as there wasn't an easy way to confirm where the center of batting was.  It did end up slightly off, but not enough to make me take the quilt sandwich apart a third time.

Finally it was time to add the top.  Once again, I used a ruler to center the quilt along the ridge, ensuring that 1.25 inches of the center strip fell on each side of the ridge.  After carefully smoothing the wrinkles out, it was time to start pinning again.

Starting from the center I worked my way out along the 9-patch blocks, pinning in the signature blocks as I don't plan to stitch in those, and then added pins to the sashing strips and finally on the borders.  I did manage not to pin the quilt to the fabric cover on the big board, but I also had to go back and repin some pins where I didn't manage to get the pin all the way through the layers.  I'll need to figure out a better surface to add next time - posterboard would probably work without adding too much bulk, and would allow me to keep my ridge intact.

After the middle third of the quilt was pinned, I moved the quilt and reattached three sides of the backing to draw it tight, smoothed the batting and the top and continued pinning.  Harriet points out that the weight of the pinned portion will keep the fourth side taut, and that does work when the portion dangles off the board versus pooling on the bed.  Even with the boxes raising the height of the board, there was too much support of the quilt to get a good taut hold. 

Finally it was time to roll the quilt and prepare to stitch again.  By the end of the evening, the ten vertical seams were in place again, and I am MUCH happier with how they look on the back as well.

Hard to see as I'm using invisible thread in the bobbin as well, but they really are straighter than the first time around.  Unfortunately, I confirmed that my math logic was off, so the seams on the back sashing are not where I envisioned they would be, but they are straighter than the first try.

One step I skipped when starting was the anchoring. Harriet recommends that the first two seams you put in anchor the layers - so at least one vertical and one horizontal.  The anchors would differ if there are diagonal lines.  When I re-rolled the quilt to get ready for the horizontal sashing lines, I learned why that recommendation is important. If you look carefully at the teal cornerstone on the right, you can see that it is no longer perfectly square - I sewed one of the seams top to bottom and the other bottom to top, and it did skew that cornerstone slightly.

My stitch in the ditch accuracy is improving, as is my pinning.  Off to start on the horizontal seams and then to decide how to handle the 9-patch blocks.

There really is nothing to fear but fear itself...

I mentioned in my previous post my fear of sewing with invisible thread - worry about tension problems and the like.  After stewing on the way the quilting looks on side two of the signature quilt for several days, I decided that it just doesn't work for me.

So - I grabbed several of my least favorite 9-patch blocks from the 9-patch challenge, sewed them together, then added a quick border to create a practice quilt.  In the process, I discovered that I really like working with small quilts.  I did this to try to create a piece large enough to create some of the drag that I experienced with the big quilt.  However, I don't think I accomplished that - it was pretty easy to maneuver and moved smoothly.

I then carefully wound a bobbin with YLI wonder thread in the 0.004 size. It is very delicate.  I spent some time on Monday reading up on what to expect when using nylon thread and adjustments one might make with their machine.  The tips I gathered for using invisible thread are as follows:
  • Wind the bobbin slowly (if  possible) so that you don't stretch the thread
  • Increase the stitch length
  • Use an 80/12 or a 70/10 needle (I have 75/11 in the house, and so far they are working)
  • Slow down, don't try to sew at top speed
  • Loosen the upper tension (or adjust as needed as you work your test block)
  • Bring the bobbin thread to the top when starting and remember to trim or bury threads as you work so as not to lose track of where the thread ends are later as the thread is very hard to see
On my practice block, I practiced stitching in the ditch and now have a grid that I can use later to practice some free motion quilting. Once I'm done with this, I'll probably bind it and then let my son donate it to the Animal Shelter (their school service project) as the blocks truely are my least favorite of the bunch.  The cats won't mind.

One other thing I tested last night was how the YLI thread responds to being ironed.  I set my iron on the cotton setting and gently pressed one portion of the quilt.  One of the big horror stories of using invisible thread that I read up on was that nylon thread melts when ironed.  I'm pleased to report that I did not melt any thread last night. In general, I don't think that this quilt will be ironed, but it is nice to know that the thread is safe.

So - on to the next stage of the project.  Last week, I put in the first 10 vertical seams to stabilize the quilt.  Last night, I carefully picked out the first two of those seams. I am hopeful that I'm recalling correctly that I didn't have as many points on the later seams where I managed to sew for stretches with what looks like a 0.5 versus a 3.0 seam as those were incredibly tedious to remove.  I did develop a pretty good technique using the threads and also the seam ripper to get the tight stitches out. And I'm re-pinning the sashing as I go along to try to not have to re-pin the entire quilt.