Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wrapping Up Loose Edges: Binding the 5th Grade Raffle Quilt Today

Binding In Progress on 5th Grade Raffle Quilt
So, you know that 5th grade class raffle quilt that was due on May 1st?  I got an extension until this Friday, since the fundraiser isn't until May 15th at the school's annual Night of the Arts performances.  Why do I ALWAYS underestimate how long these projects will take?  Especially the Final Stretch steps that come after the quilting is complete: the quilt label, the hanging sleeve, and the binding. 

Embroidered Quilt Label, Created in Bernina Digitizing Software
For instance, I had in mind to do a "quick" embroidered quilt label.  I thought I would use the Auto Digitizing feature in my Bernina Designer Plus embroidery software (I'm using Version 6 since I have not yet upgraded to Version 7) in order to include the school's logo on my label, but unfortunately the image file of the logo that I was working with was not high enough resolution.  So I had to haul out my two-volume software owner's manual (I had a print shop print and spiral bind the online manual) and re-taught myself how to import the logo image into the digitizing software, how to redraw each of the shapes in the logo using left and right mouse clicks, how to adjust things like pull compensation and stitch density for my lightweight Kona cotton fabric, and how to select a nice fill stitch for the gray eagle and satin stitches for the colored shapes.  I adjusted the stitch angle for each of those colored shapes so they radiate outward from the center as well.  Digitizing software is SUPER cool, but it's not as simple as scanning or importing clip art and then hitting an "embroider" button the way you just click "print" to send something to a printer.  You're actually creating a program that tells your embroidery machine's internal computer a sequence of 5,000 or more movements to create your embroidery design one stitch at a time. 

As far as what to include on the quilt label: The students will each be signing their individual blocks with Sakura PIGMA Micron permanent extra fine point marking pens, right on the front of the quilt.  So on the label I put "Created by Ms. Hinkelman's 5th Grade Students" to identify which homeroom class made the quilt, and added "Under the Direction of Ms. Suzanne Tans" because all of the student art work was created in her art class under her supervision, and the concept of bringing the students outside to collect natural objects and then use them in an abstract painting was entirely her idea.  I put "Charlotte, North Carolina 2014" because the Quilt Police and Quilt Historians would definitely come after me if I left off the date or where the quilt was made, and, after hemming and hawing about whether I should put my own name on the quilt at all, I finally decided to include "Machine Quilted by" me. 

Throughout this project, I've tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible so the finished quilt would be all about the students rather than all about Rebecca.  That's why I didn't add any pieced blocks or borders or try to do anything fancy with the quilt construction.  I tried to quilt the blocks in a way that supported and accentuated each child's artwork, but as I look at the finished quilt, my far-from-perfect free-motion quilting skills look like they could have been the work of a child as well, especially considering that most of the people viewing the quilt are not quilters and will have no idea that quilting spirals and squiggles is any more difficult than drawing those motifs with a pen and pencil.  So I put the "quilted by me" disclosure primarily to ensure viewers would not be misled into thinking I taught the entire class how to stitch a quilt from start to finish in 3 weeks -- which would have been a MUCH more impressive feat than what I actually did! 

I decided to incorporate a permanent quilt sleeve because, for one thing, the quilt will need to be hung for display at school on May 15th and 16th for the art auction or raffle or whatever during the Nights of the Arts performances.  Whoever wins the quilt may want to display it in their home on a wall, and having a quilt sleeve pocket for a rod gives them that option without precluding more conventional use of the quilt for snuggling on the couch.  But in order for the quilt sleeve to be attached to the back of the finished quilt with stitches that don't come all the way through to the front, I machine stitched the top of the sleeve to the raw edges at the top of the quilt but had to stitch the bottom edge and sides to the quilt by hand.  Same thing with the quilt label, stitched by hand with an invisible applique stitch in the lower left corner of the quilt, with two edges of the label stitched into the binding. 

Attaching Binding with Walking Foot, Regular Sole
Once the label and sleeve had been hand stitched to the back of the quilt and I'd basted 1/8" from the raw edges with my walking foot, I was FINALLY ready to get started on the binding yesterday.  I cut 2" wide cross grain strips for my binding and I'm stitching them to the quilt with my walking foot.  I switched the sole of the walking foot to this one that has markings indicating 1/4" to the left, right, and in front of the needle, which helps with mitered corners because I don't have to mark or guess where to stop and fold the binding strip back at the corners.  Even though my Bernina 750 QE sewing machine has built in Dual Feed that helps two fabric layers feed more evenly, the walking foot is recommended for best results in situations where you are sewing through three or more layers.  When attaching French fold binding to my quilt, I have the quilt backing, batting, quilt top, plus two layers of binding fabric to stitch through, so that's five layers in all -- it's definitely worth taking 30 seconds to swap out my presser foot and attach the walking foot.

The quilt is still under the machine at the moment with just that first side and corner of the binding stitched on.  But of course, once the binding has been machine stitched to the front of the quilt, it needs to wrap around to the back side and be stitched down by hand all the way around the perimeter of the quilt.  That hand sewing could take me several days, but at least it's PORTABLE -- I can carry the quilt around with me and work on it all day long if I have to. 

Finally, I think I want to wash the quilt before I hand it over to the PTO.  I use glycerin and/or Neutrogena hand lotion on my hands to grip the quilt throughout the quilting process rather than wearing yucky rubber gloves, and I used a lot of starch throughout the construction process to help me straighten the blocks and to get things lining up properly.  I also used water soluble stabilizer when I embroidered the quilt label and wasn't able to remove every little speck of that, but it will dissolve and wash away when I launder the quilt.  I'd like to get all of the dust, grime, starch, stabilizer, and lotion residue washed out of the quilt before I send it off to its permanent home.  I feel like a quilt isn't really, REALLY finished until I pull it out of the clothes dryer and it's all soft, snuggly, and crinkly-textured.

Wish me luck! 


Barbara Sindlinger said...

Wow - very detailed step by step of your process. I too use glycerin on my hands for machine quilting (and piecing sometimes because my hands are so dry). I like that way more than the gloves.

Carole @ Fresh off the Frame said...

I'm so impressed with your digitizing prowess!!! I'm pretty sure I would have taken a shortcut there, but going the extra mile definitely adds a special touch. I hope you get pictures of the students when they see the quilt for the first time - I'm sure they will be thrilled with it!

Vivian said...

Glad you shared this, thanks for the lesson on digitizing software. I'm considering getting an embroidery machine and things like this are good to know. Love the final label, it was really worth all the effort that went into it!

Val's Quilting Studio said...

I've been "eyeing" an embroidery machine and your little label is just one more reason to take the plunge!!