Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday's To-Do List: Quilt a UFO + Start Cutting Out a NEWFO!

Good morning and Happy Tuesday!  If you're looking for my Long Arm Linky party, that's in a separate post here, where I've written about my favorite method of joining batting scraps together.  This post is my wrap-up/reckoning regarding what I accomplished last week and what I'm hoping to get done in this last full week of September.

Looking at goals from last week, I hear the band Meatloaf singing in my head: "Now don't be sad, 'cause two out of three ain't bad!"  

Recap of Last Week's Goals:

The veteran's quilt for my guild's outreach donations came out great, using a new-to-me pantograph design called Flirty Bubbles.  I know, it doesn't sound like it would be appropriate for a soldier's quilt, but when I quilted this pattern onto a top full of red, white and blue patriotic fabrics, it came out looking like confetti and streamers at a military parade welcoming soldiers home.  I love it!  You can see that finish and read about how I use my channel locks to ensure that a fully floated quilt top comes out square here.  

I didn't get around to piecing another block from my MMBB sampler, but I did get my 42" x 42" Baby Clam Shells quilt loaded on the frame, finally!  I was slowed down first by my backing being too small and needing to find a coordinating fabric in my stash to splice into it, and then by my backing being too small...  The motto for this week seems to have been "I Cut It Twice and It's Still Too Short!"

Meanwhile, as I was piecing my backing and my batting, and as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, my brain was working through how I want to quilt this one.  This is a baby/toddler quilt that is destined for heavy use, and it's also EXCEPTIONALLY late (the "baby" is almost two!).  So although I can see all kinds of possibilities in my mind for how I could custom quilt this, I need to keep it simple.

I really like the sweet simplicity of the Daisies Galore pantograph from Timeless Quilting, pictured above, but I cannot bring myself to just trample those broderie perse butterfly appliqués with an E2E (Edge-to-Edge).  If I had computer robotics on my long arm machine, I could designate each applique as a No Sew Zone and program the computer to stitch the E2E design across the entire quilt EXCEPT for the butterflies.  But I'll be doing this by hand, guiding the machine along a paper pattern from the back of the frame where I don't have good visibility of where I am on the actual quilt surface while I'm operating the machine.

Here's what I've come up with as a workaround: I'm going to get out that leftover butterfly print fabric and use my light box to trace each of my butterflies onto a piece of paper that I can cut out and use as a template.  Alternatively, I could sacrifice more fabric and just cut out the actual butterflies from the fabric to use as my templates.  When quilting a pantograph row that will encounter a butterfly, I'll position and tape down the butterfly on the clear plastic covering my pantograph pattern at the back of the table to mark a "manual no sew zone" for myself.  Then, when I'm quilting the pantograph row, I can stop when I get close to the butterfly, move to the front of the machine to work my way around the applique, and then complete the rest of that row of quilting from the back of the machine.  Wish me luck!

My Baby Clam Shell quilt was my one and only One Monthly Goal for September, and I really want to have it quilted, labeled and bound before October first rolls around.  With that in mind, here's my To-Do list for the upcoming week:

This Week's Goal(s):

  • Quilt Modern Baby Clam Shells

That's IT, y'all!  If I get just that ONE thing done this week, I will be doing the happy dance of success!  But, just for kicks, here are a few "bonus goals" to which I'll turn my attention in the even that quilting goes quickly and without incident, and I find myself able to accomplish a bit more:

  • Design & embroider Baby Clam Shells label
  • Trim Clam Shells, applique label, & bind
  • Begin cutting and piecing the quilt for Miss Clam Shell's baby brother, whose arrival is expected on or about October 1st (fabrics for his quilt are going into the machine for prewashing as soon as I finish typing this post)
  • Cut and piece one more block for Anders' Moda Modern Building Blocks sampler
That should be PLENTY!  I'm linking up today's post with the following favorite linky parties:


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

LAL#8: Fast & Frugal Method for Joining Batting Scraps by Machine

After loading the backing of my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilt on my frame a few days ago, I discovered that the package of crib sized batting I was planning to use was going to be too small for my 42" x 42" baby quilt.  Why do the batting manufacturers assume that everyone is making rectangular baby quilts, anyway?

With no nearby quilt shops open on a Sunday evening, I was determined to come up with a solution that didn't require shopping.  I briefly considered hacking a piece out of one of the batts I'm saving for larger projects, but then I started noticing all of the nooks, corners and cubbies throughout my studio where I had odd-shaped batting scraps squirreled away.

What you see pictured above is only what was left after I tossed the really skinny strips, the bits of batting that I couldn't identify, as well as remnants from battings that I tried but didn't enjoy using.  This left me with the remnants of Quilter's Dream Wool, Quilter's Dream Cotton Select in Natural and in White, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 blend in natural, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 in Black, and Hobbs Tuscany Wool.

I've been hoarding saving these batting scraps for about 20 years.  The smallest batting scraps are useful for cleaning the rails of my long arm machine, and I do use the bigger pieces sometimes for samples or for checking and fine-tuning tension, but I have not been using them up at a rate that keeps up with new batting scraps being trimmed away from finished quilts!  Desperate times (no batting for the baby quilt + batting scraps taking up WAY too much space in the studio) called for desperate measures.

How to Join Leftover Batting Scraps by Machine

First things first, I had to do my best to identify and sort the batting scraps.  If I cobbled together a Frankenstein batting that was part wool, part 100% cotton, part polyester, and part 80/20 blend, then the loft and feel of the quilt would be totally different from one section to another.  Even worse, those battings would shrink at different rates the first time the quilt was washed -- disaster!  So do as I say, not as I did, and try to get into the habit of bagging and LABELING your batting scraps as soon as possible after trimming them from a finished quilt, while you still remember what kind of batting they are!

Pictured below are two fairly large remnants of Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting in Natural, perfect for my baby quilt once they're joined together.  I laid both pieces on my cutting table, side by side, both with the right side up (dimples up, pimples down for needle punched batting) and overlapped the two rough-cut edges slightly in the center.  Then, I used my longest acrylic ruler and my rotary cutter to cut a clean, straight line through both layers of batting to create edges that abut perfectly.

The bits I'd just trimmed from each batting remnant were perfect for testing stitch settings, to see which stitch would hold the batting edges together securely without puckering or creating a ridge along the join.

I tried a few different stitches, but I was happiest with the 3-step zigzag (stitch #16 on my Bernina 750QE), once I'd maxed out the width at 9 mm and stretched out the length to a bit beyond 3 mm.  I'm using 50/2 Aurifil thread in a creamy Ivory to match the batting.

This is one of those tasks where I really appreciate the extra throat space in a 7 Series Bernina. You can't join batting with right sides together because you don't want any seam allowance at all, just raw edges butted together with a light stitch holding them together.  Once the batting is quilted into a quilt, the quilt stitches will be what keeps the batting where it belongs inside the qult.

I started out using my Open Toe foot #20D for this with my Dual Feed engaged, and that did work, but I quickly realized that the walking foot would be better because the walking foot helps feed the fabric from either side of the needle, whereas Dual Feed rides along in dead center position behind my needle -- right on top of the gap between the two batting pieces that I'm trying to make disappear!

It was a lot easier to keep the two batting edges right up against one another with the walking foot, so that was worth the minute it took me to dig it out of the drawer and pop it on my machine!

Ta-da!  Can YOU see the vertical seam going down the middle of that batting?  I'm not necessarily going to do this on a show quilt, but this is going to be just perfect for my baby quilt!

There it is on the frame, ready for the quilt top to go on next.  I'll spritz the batting with some water first and let those wrinkles hang out overnight.

But Rebecca, Aren't There Other Ways to Join Batting Scraps?

OF COURSE there are other ways to do this!  I'm writing this post so I can remember how I did it the next time I need to do it again, not because this is the only right way to do it.  Some quilters like to whipstitch the edges together by hand.  Some quilters prefer to use a regular zigzag or some other utility stitch built into their sewing machines.  There is a fusible batting tape that some quilters love using -- BUT -- you must be 100% certain that you have correctly identified your batting fiber before you go anywhere near it with an iron!  Wool batting should not be ironed, and neither should any of the polyester fibers, as they would melt.  If you know it's 100% cotton because that's the only kind of batting you have ever used, then go ahead and try the fusible tape method.

Speaking of wool, I haven't tried my machine stitched joining method on a lofty wool batting.  I am definitely going to have to join batting for my monster-sized 120" x 120" pineapple log cabin quilt when I get around to quilting that one, because I need at least 128" x 128" of batting and backing and batting doesn't come that wide.  I think I'll whipstitch the extra length I need by hand to ensure my stitching doesn't flatten the loft along the join.

What do YOU do with Your Batting Scraps?

I'd love to know what you all do with YOUR batting scraps.  Do you save them at all or throw them out?  Do you use them in small projects or join them together?  Do you have a good system for keeping your batting scraps organized so you know what kind they are, what sizes they are, and so you can find the right piece when you need it?  Let me know in the comments!  Meanwhile, it's Tuesday again...  And that means it's time for the Long Arm Learning linky party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, September 18, 2020

Fresh Off the Frame: Patriotic Star Quilt with E2E Confetti Parade Quilting

I tried out one of my new pantographs yesterday on this veteran's outreach quilt, and I love how it came out!  This top was pieced by a fellow member of the Charlotte Quilters' Guild and I volunteered to do the quilting.

70 x 80 Veterans' Hospice Outreach Quilt, "Flirty Bubbles" Pantograph

Now, I know that some kind of star pattern would be the first choice for many quilters, but to me, that felt too matchy-matchy.  Instead, I chose the Flirty Bubbles pattern from Timeless Quilting, because this design reminds me of baloons, confetti and streamers filling the air during a parade to honor returning soldiers.  I used Glide thread in a creamy ivory color, top and bobbin, and I don't know what kind of batting they gave me except that it was SUPER linty and it had a scrim.

Operation Welcome Home Parade, June 1991

This was my first time using the Flirty Bubbles pantograph, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.  You wouldn't expect anything "flirty" or "bubbly" to be appropriate for a soldier's quilt, but that just goes to show how the name of a pattern can sometimes limit our imagination as far as which quilting designs "belong" on which quilts.  Clever names make it easier to remember the name of a great panto design when we see something we like, and that's why pattern designers rack their brains trying to come up with catchy and unique names for each of their designs.

How I Use Channel Locks To Maintain a Straight, Square Quilt with the Fully Floated Loading Method 

I did a full-float load with this quilt, as I do with almost all of my quilts.  That means that although the backing fabric is pinned to the belly bar at the front of my frame and to the takeup roller at the back of the frame, the batting and the quilt top are not attached to any rollers at all.  Instead, they "float" on the surface of the loaded backing and are basted in place along the perimeter each time I advance the quilt.  Now, I know some quilters recommend and prefer doing a partial float, where the quilt top is attached to the quilt top roller, and this is supposed to give one "better control" so the quilt will come out straight and square.  However, in my own experience (YMMV!) I have tried pinning quilt tops to the quilt top roller several times, and I felt like I had LESS control over what was happening with the quilt tops that I pinned and rolled up for a partial float load.  Especially with a top that has "personality," I just could not get a not-quite-perfectly-flat, not-quite-perfectly-square top to roll up evenly on that bar in the first place.  By doing a full float with that quilt top bar totally removed from my frame and out of my way, I have maximum visibility of the entire quilt top throughout the quilting process, and I have full access between the three layers of the quilt to double check that everything is smoothed nicely and situated properly with every advance of the quilt.  If you're a new long arm owner, definitely try both methods to see what works best for you.

"Full Float" Loading Method, Quilt Top Roller Removed From Frame

(Note that the batting I was given for this quilt was NOT quite wide enough!  Definitely "cut too close for comfort," pun intended!!)

So as you can see in the photo above, I maintain a straight, square quilt by ensuring that my vertical and horizontal seam lines are all perfectly straight each time I advance the quilt, before basting the sides and proceeding to quilt.  I am visually checking any seam that falls near my belly bar, where the needle of my machine cannot reach.  Then I use my machine's horizontal and vertical channel locks to check that the sides of the quilt, the vertical seams, and the horizontal seams between blocks are all positioned as straight as can be, and scootch those seams as needed.  I just hover my needle above a seam line, engage the channel lock, and then drift the machine head along the seam line without stitching.

Basting a Generous Block to Maintain Straight Seam Lines

On this particular quilt, I discovered some manageable but definitely unwanted fullness in the "Home of the Brave" text print block shown in the photo above.  After adjusting the seams above and below this block to be perfectly straight, I used big flower head pins to distribute the fullness evenly along the raw edge before basting the side of the quilt.  That ensures that my hopping foot doesn't "snowplow" the fullness as I'm basting down the side.  There is no risk of hitting a pin with my needle because I'm taking these half-inch basting stitches manually, one at a time, rather than running the machine at a regulated stitch length that might result in hitting a pin.  After basting the side of this one wonky block, I just pull out those pins and then continue basting the rest of the way down the side of the quilt.

By taking the time to check and align each and every seam line with my channel locks throughout the quilt, I get a nice, straight edge when I get to the bottom of the quilt rather than the dreaded "smile effect."  

Note: I've got a couple of magnet bars from Harbor Freight securing the bottom edge of the quilt in the photo above, just because it was a convenient place to put them.  I use those magnet bars to temporarily attach a sample quilt sandwich off to the side of the quilt I'm working on, whenever I want to tweak or adjust tension for better stitch quality mid-quilting.  Normally I'd have an extra 4" of batting and backing on both sides of the quilt where I could lay down a scrap of fabric and test stitch quality.  That's the ideal way to do it, since the specific batting and backing fabric can affect tension and stitch quality in different ways, but I didn't have any extra batting to practice on with this quilt so I had to make do!

Fellow long arm quilters who DO use your quilt top roller to do partial float loading: Can you help me understand how you load a pieced top onto the quilt top roller, especially how you deal with areas of fullness in the quilt top?  I know about twisting along vertical seam lines to accommodate for their bulk, but what I could not figure out was how tightly the top is supposed to be wound on the quilt top roller in the first place and, specifically, how to roll up areas of a quilt that have excess fullness while keeping seam lines nice and straight.  My full float method is working well for me so far, but it would be nice to have more than one method in my "toolbox."

Next on the Frame: 42 x 42 Modern Baby Clam Shells

Next up for quilting is my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilt -- I can't wait!!  Originally, I was thinking of finishin up this long-overdue quilt quickly with simple E2E (Edge-to-Edge) pantograph design like what I quilted on the veteran's quilt.  But...  After putting so much time and energy into the design, the curved piecing, and the broderie perse appliqué, I just can't bring myself to do that.  Instead, this is going to be a custom quilt job incorporating my ProCircles rulers.  I know I want to accentuate my curved piecing and appliqué with SID (Stitch In the Ditch) quilting, but beyond that I'm just going wait and see where inspiration leads me.  Stay tuned!  Hopefully I'll have some progress to show with this quilt in time for my Long Arm Learning linky party on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I'm linking up today's post with my favorite blog party girlfriends:


·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

·       Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

·       TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here: http://tgiffriday.blogspot.ca/p/hosting-tgiff.html


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

·       Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd, open 22nd through end of each month: Kathleen McMusing

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