Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Project 3 - Fence Post & Panel - QUILTING

I'm back into the swing of my course, and have been working on finishing the first quilt I made from the book.  Now, strictly speaking, this quilt isn't in the book, cause I changed it.  I changed it because I had no idea what I was doing and the thing grew into something completely different - but for the purpose of this blog, it's my version of Carrie's Cowboy Corral Panel Quilt. 
Carrie's Version

My Version
I'm using Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting for all the lessons on thread, needles, batting, making a quilt sandwich, pin basting, quilt packaging, ditch stitching and of course free motion quilting.

I decided, after all, not to add a border, after taking advice from experts and because there is already enough going on with this quilt.

Making the sandwich took all of one day - and I managed to run out of pins after inserting 300 of them, only to find I'd 'missed' part of the backing at one end.  I waited a day or two till I calmed down and my thumb had a chance to recover (man, was it sore), then removed all the pins and tried a basting spray.  I like it!  I still used pins but not nearly so many.

I used Warm 'n Natural 100% cotton batting and a tie-dyed dark blue backing, which I hope will do a decent job of hiding my quilting stitches effectively within the pattern.  The top thread is smoke coloured .004 nylon, in the bobbin is blue quilters machine cotton and I'm using a size 70 Microtex needle (I started with a size 60, but after breaking 2 of them, went larger and had no further problems). 

First up was to ditch stitch it and I got to try out my brand new Stitch-In-The-Ditch foot. It took a bit of practice (you will be able to see the early dodgy bits in some of the pics) but by the 3rd day of stitd, I got the hang of how it worked, and it's brilliant!

Pull the seam apart, let the guide drop into the ditch and the needle follows dead on.

It took me three days to do all the ditch stitching, starting off with the centre seam down the length, then across the width.  After that I stitched around all the blocks, the panels and the rail strips.  By the 3rd day I was over it!

Time for some FMQ!  I had chosen the quilting design for this top some time ago and practised it on and off.  The pattern is a simple feathered wreath from Harriet's book and I thought it perfect as it matched my beginner quilting skills and reflected the pattern shape from the panel print.

Take a look

I took heart from Harriet's advice, when she says that once the guide markings are washed out, no-one can see where you've missed quilting on the lines.  I tried washing out the lines on a feather and she's right!  I'm happy to work with this design some more, as I think with more practice, I will eventually end up with a really nice quilt feather.

Oh dear - my stippling is not what it ought to be!  I thought I would enjoy doing this, as its a very popular technique - everyone seems to stipple!  I can't say I love the process.  I find it difficult to get a good rhythm happening, - the quilt gets hung up somewhere, I run into the edges of the hoop, the fabric won't slide fast enough or my machine speed gets erratic.  HELP!

I have tried doing this with just my hands, which is fine, but the hoop is better when working near the edge or when the fabric hard to hold.  I must be using this thing wrong, cause it manages to get in the way all the time.  True, the fabric is held nice and firmly and it's easier to slide around, but just as I get into a nice rhythm, I'll run into it or hit it with the needlebar.

Also, no matter how I package the quilt, it constantly gets hung up and stops moving.  I've tried bundling it on my lap or throwing it across my shoulder (which makes me ache) or simply unrolling it and making a 'puddle' where I'm quilting, nevertheless, as soon as I get a good rhythm happening, the quilt gets caught up somehow and everything comes to a sudden halt.  As a result, my stippling is a mixture of round and angular, really long and really short stitches and basically a real mess.  I didn't have so much of a problem when using the old Singer - I think the cabinet is better designed as it's much smoother.

I also found out something interesting too - if I am relaxed my stippling is even and curvy, but the second I tense up it gets all angular and jerky.  I have to make a conscious decision to relax, even when things are not going well.  Just a tip for other newbies and blockheads - deep breaths really do work!

You can see from the pics how uneven, jerky and angular my stippling is.

I had planned to stipple all the panels, but now am having second thoughts.  I should be binding this quilt by now, instead I'm avoiding finishing the stippling and busying myself with other things.  Maybe every second panel?  I sure could do with the practice.


  1. I am not being mean when I say this but I am glad to someone else is having trouble with this technique. So stitch in the ditch it is for me until the "penny drops".

  2. Hi Karen

    SITD is practical but not much fun. Persistance and patience will get us there eventually (in my case pig-headedness. The way I see it, I can't get much worse, so from here it can only get better!

  3. Hi Lesley,
    I must say that you are jumping into deep water with gusto. I have a few ideas for you, but how I wish I could get you in a class! First, just so you feel better, stippling is really a more advanced skill than other free motion processes. If you have trouble going back and forth, left and right smoothly, stippling is not going to be fun. Did you start doing the exercises on page 122 and 123? If you practice those pages until your stitches are even and flowing, that will help develop your rhythm. now for the biggest problem - your batting! YIKES! Warm and Natural has to be the toughest batting in the world to learn to quilt on. It actually was not mfg. as a quilt batting originally, but as window shade innerliner. It is very heavily needlepunched and has a scrim. No wonder you are fighting the bulk and having trouble moving the quilt through the machine. I will try to get your care package off tomorrow with many different batting samples for you to try. Hobbs battings are in Australia and they are really nice. The Heirloom 80/20 is a good starter batting. I will email you the information that will be in Volume 3 so that you can get a jump on learning about batting. Also, using a hoop is problematic, as you have found. Have you tried rubber fingers for grip? We have so many products that can help with all this, but I don't know how to help you this far away. As for the spray basting glue, just a heads up - the stuff will get into the workings of the machine through the needle, and it is truly not water soluble for very long. I would suggest you avoid using it on any of the quilts that you really like. There are safety pin covers that adds a 1/4" piece of plastic to the pin as a "handle" and makes them very easy to use. The Kwik Klip (you can see all this in the layering chapter in Heirloom Machine Quilting) saves your fingers by closing the pins as you go. If you were pinning with naked pins through Warm and Natural, you have every right to complain. Is there anything that I talk about in the book that you can't get down there that I can supply you with? I can send samples so you can try some things out. Let me know. Please don't hesitate to email me if you need some personal guidance. I will be on the road for the next 2 1/2 weeks and will have my computer and long evenings in hotels. It wouldn't be a problem to write to you if you need some help. You are a real trooper!! I have turned on a lot of people to your blog and they are amazed at how fast you went through the book and are so dedicated! You should be so proud of yourself! I am!!!

  4. Harriet! Thank you for your input, I really appreciate it. Point taken re the stippling - I'll gladly leave that alone for a while.

    Also, thanks heaps for the batting info - there is so much I don't know! Here's hoping my next FMQ effort will be easier (and better) with the right materials and equipment.

    I must say that now the quilt has been washed, the quilting looks a lot better and it's wrinkled and softened up nicely.