Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another Boring Post About the Drunken Dragons Quilt and Invisible Monofilament Nylon Thread

Are you sick of this Drunken Dragons quilt yet?  I know my father-in-law is.  Dad #2, feel free to stop reading right now, because I'm going to talk about invisible thread again.  This is for my own benefit, so I can remember what worked and what didn't work the next time around.  Anyone who never plans to attempt machine quilting, or who already knows how to do this well, will be dreadfully bored by this post.  Read on at your own peril!

As you can see, quilting is in progress (SLOW progress) with the walking foot.  First I was just going to stitch in the ditch (through the seamlines) vertically and horizontally, but then I read in Diane Gaudynski's book that she recommends stitching all the straight vertical lines first, then all the straight horizontal lines second.  Harriet Hargrave's book tells you to stitch the center vertical first, then the center horizontal, and then go back to quilt the rest of the vertical horizontal lines, but Diane's snow plow analogy won me over -- I've had the experience in the past of "snow plowing" fabric across the quilt until it hits the "brick wall" of the center seam.  So my quilting plan is:

  1. Ditch quilting with walking foot on all vertical seam lines (done)
  2. Quilt additional straight lines with walking foot, using width of the walking foot as a spacing guide (currently in progress)
  3. Ditch quilting and additional straight lines with walking foot on all horizontal seam lines
  4. Free motion quilting in the ditch with BSR function on all circular seam lines
  5. Fancy quilting with embroidery module and hoop, center of each circle
  6. Free motion echo quilting with BSR function around fancy motifs

Quilting "In the Ditch"
What's "ditch quilting?"  All of my seams are pressed to one side, which elevates the fabric on the side where the seam allowances stack and creates a lower "ditch" on the side without seam allowances under it.  When you're stitching "in the ditch," you're trying to stitch right along the seam on the lower side, with your needle rubbing against the raised side, but all the stiches laying on the lower side. 

All these straight lines with the walking foot are mind-numbingly boring, and it feels like I'm not accomplishing anything because of the invisible thread.  The invisibilty factor is nice when I mess up and the stitching line veers crooked, like this:

See how the quilting stitches that were supposed to stay on the black fabric, accidentally went up onto the red fabric briefly?  That would be obvious and unattractive in a regular thread, but with invisible thread you can barely see the boo-boo up close.  From a distance you can't tell there's any stitching there at all:

But even though I KNOW the quilting is important for holding the whole thing together, the invisible thread is bumming me out because, no matter how many lines of stitching I complete, the quilt looks just like it did when I started.  It's so much more fun to quilt with thread you can see!  I'm hoping that I'll get some shrinkage and puckering when I wash this quilt the first time.  In fact, I ran out of bobbin thread and had no idea -- just kept sewing nothing for ages.  I don't think I'll use this thread again, once this project is complete.

Back side of quilt: First line of quilting crosses the Scrabble label, color is a good match!
The 60 weight cotton thread I'm using in the bobbin is looking pretty good on the back of the quilt, though.  I chose the color so that it would "disappear" over the Scrabble label I appliqued to the backing, and I was nervous about how the off white color would look on the blue backing fabric, but I like how it's turning out.  Again, any sane quilter would have TESTED THIS OUT ahead of time on scraps of the backing fabric, but I am impatient, so I live and sew dangerously.

A few quick notes:

When all else fails, read the instruction manual!  The pre-programmed quilting straight stitch on my machine is #1324, and it doesn't work the way I thought it did.  With this stitch selected, you start sewing and the machine automatically takes five tiny locking stitches and then increases to 2.5 or whatever you have it set for.  Then, about 1/2" from the end of the seam, you're supposed to hit the little purple Quick Reverse button (looks like a U-turn sign) that's just above the needle on the machine, to signal that it's time to go back to the tiny locking stitches again.  Then I press the little auto thread cutter button and the machine clips the top and bobbin threads for me (I still have to trim them again later, but at least the thread tails are short enough not to get caught in subsequent quilting).

One more thing -- my locking hemostat tweezers are an absolute godsend for grabbing hold of the pesky monofilament nylon thread at the beginning of each seam, and for pulling up the bobbin thread so it doesn't tangle up on the backside of the quilt.


Joann Mannix said...

I know nothing of quilting or sewing machines or invisible thread but I have great admiration for those with the talent to create beauty out of cloth and thread. And that quilt is beautiful. I would be crying out of frustration the whole time I tried to make that and, trust me, it would not look half as gorgeous.

And as for your locking hemostats? I have a couple of them myself. And you'll never guess what I use mine for. I initially bought my first pair during an emergency. My mamma dog had chewed off too much of her puppy's umbilical cord. (I know. I'm just full of non gross stories, today.) The pup was bleeding profusely and we tried everything to clamp it off. My hubs ran up to the med supply store around the corner, grabbed a hemostat and then shouted to everyone in line, asking them if he could cut in line bc we had a pup bleeding to death. That hemostat did the trick. And my Sophie is now a huge, healthy dog. My other use for my hemostat is pulling the hair out of that same Sophie's ears. She has ear hair just like a poodle and it has to be plucked on a regular basis.

And now that I've filled you up with as many disgusting animal stories that I can think of, I'll take my leave. I bet you never thought you'd get a comment on a quilting post about dog umbilical cords. I'm fun like that.

Ivory Spring said...

I love stitch 324 - use it all the time. :)

cybele said...

wow! i have never tried the clear monofilament thread, but I am encouraged to try now, the quilt is looking great!