Saturday, March 9, 2013

And the Quilt Goes On... Tips for Embroidery Repair and Perfect Patchwork Seams

Quilt Top is Complete!
I finished up the Dresden plate quilt top for my niece's birthday yesterday -- Yay!  Of course her birthday is TOMORROW and I still have to layer, baste, quilt, and bind this before I can ship it out, but at least the end is in sight.  I figure that as long as Sarah gets her gift before her brother James gets his (their birthdays are 6 days apart), I'll be okay.

Embroidering the Monogram Label with the Jumbo Hoop
I embroidered the monogram block on Thursday with my new Jumbo hoop.  This monogram/quilt label is approximately 7 1/2" wide by 8" tall, so it would have been impossible to embroider this on my old 200E/730E.  (If I had an 830 E machine, I could have made this design even bigger, up to 10" wide, but as you can see on my sewing machine's screen, the 7 Series machines cannot embroider in the leftmost 2" of the Jumbo Hoop because there isn't enough space in the harp area for the hoop).  Can I just tell you how much I LOVE this hoop?  It has an entirely different closing mechanism than the smaller hoops; it clicks into closed position and distributes the tension more evenly across the entire hoop rather than just at the location of the screw, if that makes sense.  After my recent research on machine embroidery best practices, I opted to fuse a layer of Polymesh to the cotton quilt fabric, and then floated a layer of midweight Clean and Tear stabilizer under the hoop.  My design stitched beautifully with NO puckering or distortion. 

Thread Loops (Circled) Due to Dull or Damaged Needle

The first color to stitch in this design was the blue scrollwork, and I noticed some little thread loops as this was stitching out.  My books say that thread loops are caused by a dull or defective needle.  This made sense, as I had the same embroidery needle in my machine that I had used for all of the blanket stitch applique to attach my plates to their background squares.  I switched to a brand new 80/12 Titanium plated Organ embroidery needle, and the remainder of the design stitched out perfectly with no more loopies. 

[Updated April 2013: Thread loops can also be caused by using a ballpoint needle rather than a sharp point needle on woven fabrics, or by using a needle that is too SMALL to allow thread to pass smoothly through the hole in the fabric while forming that satin stitch.  Next time I do a design like this on quilting cotton fabric, I'm going to use a size 90/14 Organ Embroidery SHARP needle, a 90/14 Topstitching Needle, or a 90/14 Microtex needle.  Using a thread net on slippery embroidery thread spools helps to eliminate the loops as well.]

However, what to do about those loops that were in the scrollwork?  I did NOT want to start over again, because it took about an hour and a half to sew out the design.  If I just trimmed the loops off with a scissor, the rest of the embroidery design would be compromised.  So, after unhooping my fabric, I used a snag repair tool to pull the loops to the back side.  It worked like magic. 

After removing the tearaway stabilizer and trimming the polymesh to within about 1/2" of the embroidery design, I pressed my embroidered fabric and then cut it into a 13 1/2" square for my center block.  I did not cut out the block prior to embroidery because the block was smaller than the size of the hoop.  I sewed the blocks together with the sashing and posts yesterday afternoon, and finally added 3" borders to the quilt (I'm planning to use 2" wide satin binding on the edges, so only 1" of my border will show on the finished quilt.  I have one more quick tip to share: You may already know this, but I had sewn on Berninas for years and it was still news to me when Kaye England told us in class how to get a perfect 1/4" patchwork seam on a Bernina machine. 

For a Perfect 1/4" Seam, Look at the Line on the Stitch Plate, NOT the Presser Foot
First of all, you should have a straight stitch plate on your sewing machine, especially if you have a 9 mm machine like my 750 QE.  Kaye recommends regular 80/12 Universal needles for patchwork pieceing and 50 weight Aurifil Mako cotton thread, so that's what I'm using here.  I have my #37 D Patchwork foot on my machine (the D indicates Dual Feed, so I have that little Dual Feed footsie engaged -- I really feel like it helps feed the fabric evenly, especially with the little 1/4" seam where the right feed dog is not in contact with the fabric).  Now, I've always used a #37 foot for piecing, and I've always used a straight stitch plate.  But I used to watch the presser foot when I was sewing, trying to keep the fabric edge even with the edge of the foot.  Kaye pointed out that there is a little groove line on my stitch plate for a 1/4" seam, and that you can get a perfect 1/4" seam by lining up your fabric edge with that little line on your stitch plate.  As long as your fabric is right next to that line, but not covering it, you'll get a perfect 1/4" seam every time.  I can't believe no one ever told me that before!

Borders Attached, Ready for Quilting
Now that the quilt top is assembled, I've decided to trim away the backing fabric behind each plate.  As usual, I did some internet research before coming to this conclusion, and found that removing the bulk of the backing fabric is strongly recommended for hand quilters, and optional for machine quilters.  My concern is that the extra layer of fabric behind each Dresden plate is making the quilt top feel too firm and stiff to me.  I want the finished quilt to be very fluid and snuggly, so I think trimming the backing fabric is the way to go. 

After that, it's time for my least favorite part of the quilting process -- layering and basting.  Since the Minky fabric I chose for my backing has stretch in one direction, it's especially important to do a good job of stabilizing it prior to quilting.  My internet research indicates that most quilters who are successful with Minky use a temporary adhesive spray for basting, and some even spray-baste first and then add pins for additional security.  Most quilters who spray baste seem to prefer 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive spray, which is what I use for embroidery so I already have a can of that upstairs.  I may or may not already have a good thread for the actual quilting in my hoarde, but even if I have the basting spray and quilting thread I will still have to run out to JoAnn Fabrics at some point over the weekend to purchase satin binding for the quilt edges.

The boys have piano lessons this afternoon and they each have some homework that I'll need to supervise, but I'm optimistic that I will be able to wrap this project up by Monday at the latest.  Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Lane said...

Beautiful quilt, Rebecca. Hand quilting through my dresden plates and the background fabric is a new adventure in hand cramps. Glad you thought to take it out before it was too late. Lane