Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Project 12 - Practice quilting (warning - lots of pictures)

Ever had one of those days where the harder you try, the worse the result?  Yep, I practiced the chosen quilt designs today, and oh boy, what a mess! 

Ewwww - even for a raw beginner that's bad!

Border practice

Then, remembering how shrinkage and puckering go a long way to disguising dodgy quilting, I decided to play with different threads.

Dodgy quilted feather wreath is well disguised after shrinkage!

I tried clear poly nylon in the needle and grey cotton in the bobbin.  I also tried golden yellow machine embroidery thread in the needle and a purple/grey embroidery thread in the bobbin. 

clear poly nylon in the bobbin (purple marker used)

grey cotton in the bobbin

I then washed the samples (more than are shown here) and tossed them in the dryer, trying for maximum shrinkage.  The results are pleasing.

Gold thread on washed yellow cotton.

Purple cotton on multi coloured backing.

Clear nylon thread after washing

Grey cotton after washing

I think I will probably settle for clear nylon in the needle and purple embroidery thread in the bobbin. 

I also experimented on both the Pfaff and the vintage Singer, to see which worked better, and I'm going for the Singer.  The darning foot on the Pfaff is fine for forward sewing, but when working backwards, I can't see a thing!  The open round darning foot on the Singer allows for a much clearer view in all directions. 

I am a fan of not pre-washing fabrics, but I do get concerned about colours running in the wash. I've discovered a nifty product called Colour Catcher, and so far they've worked really well.  The last 2 quilts  had red fabrics in them which makes me nervous, but simply throwing a couple of these cloths into the machine with the quilt and there is no worries at all!  They even stop dark colours from dulling up the brighter ones.

Those 2 grey pieces are the colour catcher's after washing the quilt.  They started off white!  The red fabric is hand dyed but there is no sign of colour running anywhere on the quilt.

Like the last one, this quilt will also have some grid quilting.  I'm not sure if it's the batting I used (Warm & Natural Cotton) or the 1/2 inch grid quilting, but after 2 washes, the quilt is still rather stiff and heavy.  I want this next one to be really soft, so the grid quilting won't be so close together (and a different batting).

A little while back, I made some grid quilting samples, as recommeded by Harriet in Heirloom Machine Quilting.  I still have some more to make, but they are great practice and a handy reference to have on hand.

Grid quilting samples

I think I'm going to be boring though, and do a square diagional grid as on the previous quilt, but this time it'll be at least a 1 inch grid.

After a lot of playing around with samples, I finally got down to work and transferred the designs onto the quilt top.  I chose a circle of hearts from Harriets HMQ book and I also found the hearts border in the same book!  I had to adapt it a bit, but it's the one I was looking for.

Leaving out the tulips in the centre of the hearts, gave me the border pattern I wanted

I used my light box to tranfer the design onto the top.  To keep the design straight, I put a piece of 1/4 inch masking tape along the border seam line, making sure I lined bottom of the design with the tape.

Quilters tape along the bottom seam line

Eventually I got around to making up the quilt ready for the machine.  I had to piece the backing first, settling for a horizontal layout, so as to make a nice 'picture' on the back of the quilt. 

Lost amongst the rolls of Warm & Natural, I managed to find a crib size bag of Fairfied Cotton Classic Batting from a dusty corner in Spotlight Hobart.  It was the one and only bag I could find and I'm not sure they are still stocking it, so don't know if I can get any more.  It's very different from other battings I've seen.  It feels quite rough but is a lot lighter and 'airy' compared to others.  It's bonded and doesn't have a scrim.  Check out the photo for a comparison

Left Warm & Natural - Middle Fairfield - Right Matilda's Own

The Fairfield is the thickest and Matilda's Own the thinnest. In my samples I used Matilda's Own and Warm & Natural and they both shrank up well.  As I don't have any of the Fairfield to spare, I will have to wait and see, the packaging says it will shrink 2 - 3 %

I used a chalk pencil to mark the designs on the quilt top, and I worry about wiping them off while smoothing out the quilt top over the sandwich.  They are still there, but harder to see now - I think I need to find a better marker than chalk.

Laying and pinning are all done and tomorrow I quilt!


  1. Lesley - when you practice, really focus on looking ahead of the foot. For your Pfaff, try to get the little embroidery foot that is pictured on page 31, lower left photo, left end of the Pfaff feet. This will give you more vision than the plastic feet. Look ahead about 1/2" and actually "draw" the line with your eyes as you are quilting - your hands will follow in a much more fluid manner. It will take concentration and a bit of time, but it is truly the secret to staying on the line. I think you will really like Fairfield Cotton Classic batting. It does feel rough in its raw state, but when quilted and washed, it is very soft and drapey because it is not needlepunched. It is not how the "batting" feels, but how it is constructed and how it will feel after quilting.
    You are gathering a fan base here in the States. I keep singing your praises - you are the ultimate student and hopefully an inspiration to those that don't see the value in taking the time to learn and explore. Thank you!!

  2. Hi Harriet - thanks for the tip on the foot, I didn't realise that was a Pfaff foot. I'll trot down next week and order one.

    I remember the mantra from motorcycle school "look to where you want to go and the rest will follow" - I think I'll use it for quilting too!

    Awww Harriet now I'm getting self conscious about my work. I put it up as is, warts and all, the good, bad and ugly. Still, if it can encourage others to keep plugging away, it's worth it.


  3. Hi Lesley,
    Never be self conscious - you are an inspiration! What is it about adults that forget that everything you learn will have warts until you get it, and the only way to get it is to do it - which is what you are doing! I only wish more people had what you have in determination and desire. You should see some of my first work when I first started quilting (back in the dark ages)! My Mom would pull them out every once in a while to remind me where I started - kept me humble!I am still not a ribbon winning quilter - never wanted to be one - I just love to make lovely quilts. You will be amazed in a few months when you come back and review where you started to where you will be. You don't have a choice but to be successful because you have made a decision to do it.Just look at the piecing progress you made very quickly - the quilting will take a bit more work, but oh so worth it! The motorcycle mantra is exactly right - see you already have the concept.
    Be proud - never self conscious