Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Machine Quilting with Leah Day - Week 8

Am I the only quilter without a stash of UFO's to draw upon? When I was a novice quilter I collected UFOs almost as quickly as I piled up completed projects, maybe even faster. Why? For two reasons. Either I reached a point in the quilt where I became stuck because I didn't have the design skills or technical know how to proceed or something new distracted me and I was off working in a new direction. Two years ago we moved from Massachusetts to Wisconsin and it became the perfect time to elminate several decades worth of UFOs. The result was that only a few tops needing quilting made the move with me and I have subsequently quilted them as practice pieces to master my George.

Stippling a Pieced Quilt

Week 8 required practicing on a full quilt with seams. Once again I found myself starting from scratch. Without a UFO quilt I had to make one. I did. I purposefully designed a quilt with a variety of values, solids, patterns and colors just for the challenge of selecting a thread that could work in all areas. I am partial to Superior's King Tut series when it comes threads. This particular variegated one features primary colors. I thought about using a yellow thread, but didn't have a vibrant enough yellow to blend with the bright yellow squares and of course it would stand out in the blue border.

It took me a full day of quilting to stipple this 43" x 54" quilt. I didn't time myself, but a good guess would be six hours at the machine, including a bobbin change. I always clean and oil my George between bobbins. It is a good practice and a good excuse to get up and move around the machine for 10 minutes. Leah took three hours, but I used 1/2" stipple which is mid sized versus large. I really liked Leah's tip to go around seam junctures. It helped avoid hopping when you hit a seam at full speed.

Navigating Around Seam Junctures

Now that I remember before I begin, that it is best start in the middle of an over all project and that I can stipple in quadrants and rows within each quadrant I no longer quilt myself into corners. With each passing week I find myself gaining confidence and problem solving skills on planning out my continouous line quilting. Although it took 6 hours quilt this, it is the fastest I have ever breezed through something of this magnitude.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Machine Quilting With Leah Day - Week 7

When I first started quilting in the late 1980's the Quilt As You Go method was very popular. I first learned about it from watching Georgia Bonesteel on a PBS TV program. Despite my curiosity about it and even its practicality I never gave it a try.

The point behind QAYG is two fold. When most of piecing and quilting was done by hand quilting was very portable. This method allowed you to bring your quilting with you where ever you went and when you had a spare moment piece or quilt a portable section of a quilt, usually a block. It was often used in friendship quilts when friends would make blocks for each other's quilts. This way a friend received not just a pieced block, but the block was already quilted. Today more and more quilts are being almost completely executed by machine. However, when it comes to quilting on a domestic machine large quilts are difficult maneuver, especially during the quilting phase since there is insufficient space between the needle on the left and the motor section of the machine on the right. By breaking down the quilt into smaller sections maneuverability is no longer a space issue.

QAYG works by butting up already quilted sections of quilt and hiding the juncture with a strip of fabric on both the front and back side.



Using samples made during earlier weeks, I created a table runner shape. On the front side I covered the junctures with a rose colored fabric. I chose a delicate floral design fabric for the back of the quilt. Note how the channels become a design element. That is one of the reasons I have never tried QAYG. My quilts are non traditional art quilts that don't lend themselves to vertical and horizontal strips. 

Front Channels

I was very, make that VERY pleasantly surprised by how flat and smooth the channels in the front came out. I am a persnickety quilter and these passed with flying colors.

Back Channel

After the primary work is done attaching the two quilt segments with channels front and back you are left with one side of the back channel to sew down either by machine or hand. I couldn't bring myself to sew it by machine. I am just too fussy and machine stitches would show on the front. I opted to sew the left side of the channel by hand. If you click on the image labeled Back Channel you should be able to see my hand stitches. It did occur to me that a Crazy Quilt, where decorative stitches are an integral element of the quilt, would be well suited to having the channels sewn by machine using a decorative stitch. 

I would change one aspect of Leah's directions. She has you cut the back channel strip 1.5" wide and fold it in half, creating a 0.75" wide strip. Folds, no matter how crisply pressed always take up a thread or two. Therefore, the 0.75" is more like 0.70" and falls slightly short of the machine stitch line it should be hiding. I would prefer to make my strip lightly oversized for the back and cut it 1.75" wide instead, thus guaranteeing coverage.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Machine Quilting with Leah Day - Week 6

This week was much easier, since we have been stippling for six weeks now, stippling has become second nature. Well, almost. There is still the occasional glitch, but that has less to do with stippling and more to do with equipment/technical difficulties.

The assignment this week was to finish the prior week's quilt with stippling in the background that surrounded the stars, as well as in the sashing and borders. The key to successfully completing the assignment was to devise a route to follow. I started at the tip of the star point in the center block that points to the right and headed down the sashing, filling in the star backgrounds that adjoined the sashing. When I reached the border I pivoted the quilt 90 degrees and filled in the lower background triangle of the center block. Once that was done I pivoted the quilt 90 degrees to fill in the other sashing and adjacent backgrounds.  At the top of the sashing I pivoted again completed the border by going around counter clockwise. I never boxed myself into a corner!

Micro, Mid-sized and Maxi Stippling

The image above showcases the three sizes of stippling used to make this table runner. I selected a Marathon polyester variegated thread to quilt the star and an unknown brand polyester thread from my stash for the background and sashing.

The rich plum  polyester thread I selected stands out nicely in the lilac background pieces and completely disappears in the sashing fabric. An issue I ran into with this thread was that it required a thread stand to glide smoothly off the spool. I struggle with the best place to locate the spool next to machine. If I place it behind the machine the quilt bumps into and can result in problems. I placed it to the right of the machine. Sometime in the process of unspooling the thread puddled, then snagged. I sensed something was up, but just a nano second before I snapped the needle. I moved the spool from the horizontal feeder to the vertical feeder and added a band of netting. That solved the problem this time.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Machine Quilting with Leah Day - Week 5

What an assignment this has proven to be. It was the most challenging for several reasons. The primary challenge was how time consuming it was to piece the "top" in order to have the appropriate design elements to do the free motion quilting. From a technical quilting stand point it was the very first time I enhanced a quilted design element with stippling.

The project was to continue to practice our stippling, but this time within a star block. The advantage of planning vertical and horizontal rows of stippling really became clear.

The star block on the left was what has become termed Goldlocks sized stippling, not too large or too small, but just right. I practiced my larger stippling on the block on the right. The middle block was the challenge block. I selected a Hari Walner design, the tricycle and quilted it. Next I started stippling in a counter clockwise direction. The key, I soon discovered was to do tiny, even micro stippling. I was THRILLED with the effect. I felt like a master quilter.

It seems I always learn something new with each lesson. This time it was how to bury threads when beginning and ending my stitching using a self threading needle. Leah where were you when I started free motion quilting 15 years ago? Now the back of my quilt looks almost as good as the front because there are no stubbles from multiple stitches where I stop and start. Thank you, Leah!