Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cindy Needham's June 2012 FMQ Challenge Tutorial: Divide And Conquer!

No, that isn't a typo -- this free-motion quilting challenge was released over a year ago, but SewCalGal has given those of us who are straggling a second chance to complete all twelve FMQ challenges from last year.  As of today, I have NINE completed and only THREE more to go...

11" x 22" June Challenge Piece, quilted with 40 wt King Tut variegated cotton
Cindy Needham's very thorough and informative June 2012 tutorial can be found on SewCalGal's site here.  The idea was to divide the sample quilt sandwich into random, odd-sized intervals with a meandering line, and to fill each space with a different quilting motif.  Cindy suggests a mix of circles, straight(ish) lines, and S-curves.  I tried to incorporate a mixture of those, as well as some other designs I needed to practice.  My soap bubble/pebbles are getting better, don't you think? 

The lettering was machine appliqued with the Jumbo Hoop on my Bernina 750 QE several months ago, and as you can see in the photo below, I initially did not have enough stabilizer and I floated an additional sheet beneath the hoop after the "U" stitched out.  I was able to easily quilt out ALL of the puckering and wrinkles.  This piece is destined to become a carpool tag to stick in the windshield when we're in the line waiting to pick the kids up after school.  Plain white paper with black lettering just isn't fancy enough for me...  ;-)

Machine Appliqued and Pin-Basted Prior to Quilting
I have had the best luck in the past using very fine threads for free-motion quilting, like 60 weight cotton embroidery thread or #100 silk thread, but these challenge exercises are all about moving OUT of your comfort zone and trying something new, so I used a spool of Superior Thread's King Tut 40 weight variegated cotton machine quilting thread.  I thought it would pop nicely against the solid black background fabric.

King Tut #906, Autumn Days 40/3 Cotton
What a pain in the butt this heavy thread is to quilt with, though!  I started out trying to use the King Tut thread in the needle as well as in the bobbin, and I just couldn't get the tension to look nice consistently on the front and back of the work. 

King Tut in the Bobbin, Back Side -- YUCK!
50/3 Mettler Cotton in the Bobbin
I consulted Superior's web site, where they recommend a 90 Topstitch needle (check!) and a much lighter weight thread in the bobbin.  I didn't have any of Superior's Bottom Line or Masterpiece threads, so I wound a bobbin of yellow and white variegated 50/3 Mettler cotton thread instead.  I experimented with much lower needle tension, and it got better, but still looked pretty beastly-looking on the backside, especially any place where I had to backtrack over previous lines of stitching.

I decided to just make sure the front looked as pretty as possible for this exercise, but it I ever use this King Tut stuff again I'm going to have to do a lot more tweaking to get an attractive stitch with it.  I don't really like the look of heavy weight quilting thread anyway, so I'm going back to my skinny threads after this!

It does look cool from the front, doesn't it?  I tried to follow Cindy's advice about balancing curved line designs with straight lines.  This finished piece measures approximately 11" x 22."  I've decided to make it into a pillow cover (which will hide the ugly stitches on the back) so it can serve double-duty for extra lumbar support.  Also a 10" x 20" pillow is just the right size to wedge between the windshield and dashboard so my carpool "tag" can be clearly read by school staff who are calling out names on their walkie-talkies. 

I'd like to thank Cindy Needham for providing this wonderful tutorial, and SewCalGal for hosting (and extending) the 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge!


Jenny K. Lyon said...

Gorgeous!! I really like this! Yeah, Tut can be tricky cause it's so thick. I have had success with it using wool batt on Radiance fabric-mushy+mushy+Tut worked. But anything with backtracking can be troublesome unless it's evenly distributed back tracking.I love the Tut on the black background with that fun letter fabric-bravo!

Marjorie said...

I really love what you did with this. You conquered beautifully. And the applique is the piece de resistance. I have a hard time on FMQ with anything except Aurifil 50/2 as a top thread. Although I do like Masterpiece as a second choice for the top. I have decided every machine has it's own thread preference and in the end you have to cater to the machine.

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Marjorie! I don't think it's that my machine refuses to play nicely with the heavier thread, though. Jenny's comment intrigued me, about how she has used King Tut thread successfully with a beefier wool batt and Radiance cotton/silk fabric. I wish I could see something like that. It occurred to me that I was using a very thin cotton batting with this piece, quilting fairly densely, and I probably just didn't choose the best thread for my fabric/batting or for quilting so densely. Also, Bernina has come out with a new part for the 7 Series machines that improves stitching in the bobbin area, and my dealer hasn't gotten that part in yet. It's possible that I'll have better luck with this thread once my machine gets its "fix" and is sewing up to Bernina standards.

If you have done well with FMQ using Aurifil, you should try #100 silk next. You can pair it with 60/2 cotton embroidery thread in the bobbin. Your FMQ will look even more fantastic, and backtracking will be virtually invisible! :-)

Hollie said...