One quilt in particular stymied me last year. And it sat and sat and sat, taunting me. The Fire Truck Irish Chain is nearly DONE! It is not beautiful, and I'm hoping once washed it will shrink enough to hide my quilting. As with other quilts, I learned a lot along the way to completing this one.
A few weeks ago, I Google'd to find line drawings of fire hydrants - and then sketched several until I found a design I liked - and one I thought I could replicate on a sewing machine. It turns out I greatly overestimated my free-motion abilities... need to do much more practicing before trying a tight motif like this again - BUT the quilting is done. I stitched the design without thread, and at too high a speed, as evident by the short stitch length. Then redrew so that I would have a guide for which direction to stitch to keep it a continuous line design. Each one is a little different.
After finishing the center of the quilt, I then needed to figure out something for the borders. And again, the quilt sat and sat and sat. My first idea was to trace some of the fire trucks in a repeating design around the border. But after spending so much time on 17 fire hydrants (and then plucking out the golden threads paper scraps) that was a bit daunting. Finally on December 31st I returned to Google and searched for a flame motif I could adapt around a border. I came to my senses and then using a chalk pen drew a freehand flame and loop motif around the border - and stitched it.
So - what did I learn?
- PRACTICE the basics of FMQ before starting the next detailed project. I took this quilt with me to the Melody Crisp workshop I attended last March, and she suggested edge to edge straight line quilting off the points of the chains - which of course by then had been stitched and all threads buried from inner border to inner border. I will remember that for the next kids quilt. Her point is that for a quilt that will be loved and dragged behind a three or four year old that simple quilting is perfectly okay.
- Little detailed motifs are much easier to draw than to follow on a sewing machine... especially when your closed toe foot gets caught under the paper on the way in (may have to try taping rather than pinning the Golden Threads paper next time I use it. Refer back to point 1- more practice is needed.
- DONE is better than not done!
- REALLY IMPORTANT! When unpinning a border because it is well anchored, both by water soluble thread and previous quilting - it is a good idea to leave pins in the corners. When I flipped the quilt over before trimming it, I found that I had crumpled the backing in not one but 2 corners - unfortunately, I thought it was only 1, so I had to make 2 trips back to the machine to restitch the border corners as I found the second error while trimming that corner - fortunately I hadn't made a fatal cut yet.
- Watch out for the open toe foot - which is, at least for me, much easier to use when following a pattern - I managed to catch it under a line of stitching at least once.
- SLOW DOWN! Quilting is not a race - and when I slowed down, it was much easier to follow my pattern. I am also adjusting how I work the foot pedal to reduce stress - though this is still a work in progress.
- I'm not wild about my chair. From a support perspective it is great for my back. But the arms are not adjustable - a key factor I missed while sitting and testing a few dozen chairs one afternoon - and it makes it very hard to get close to the machine because of the way my table is built.
- Pressing and starching the binding after attaching it makes it easier to work with - the last few quilts, I felt like I was wrestling with the quilt to get the binding to fold over. The binding was made months ago, once I decided which print to use to bind it. Turns out, I really like making binding strips - kind of relaxing.
- Think outside the box for quilting motifs... Initially, I fixated on the Irish Chain and felt the need to to "frame" a quilting motif inside each Dalmatian square. I wanted to avoid an all-over meander/stipple. A few days ago, reading someone's description of how they practiced free-motion quilting, I had an epiphany - which will be saved for future quilts... look to the backing for options. This quilt is backed with scattered fire trucks - and it would have been both fun, and probably a lot easier to meander around the quilt outlining the trucks and rescue vehicles. I will remember this for future projects.
The quilt is trimmed and the binding machine stitched to the front. The quilt is now "portable" and suitable for stitching while waiting for hockey practice to finish. And it WILL be ready for my nephew's birthday in a few weeks.
As I stitch the binding on, I'm finding that I must have been slightly off center of my machine when I applied the binding. I mismeasured and cut the binding strips 2 inches instead of 2 1/4 inches, so the binding is applied a scant quarter inch from the edge. At one end, there is almost a perfect balance of filled binding and even on each side. However, towards the middle, there is much more of the binding on the back of the quilt than the front. So far, I am not having a problem covering the seam from where it was sewed on the front.