Friday, July 25, 2014

The Emperor's Invisible Quilting: A Sewing Machine Cover for the Bernina 750 QE, Part One

Tedious, Unrewarding, Utterly Invisible Quilting In Progress
No, I have not been away on a glamorous vacation during the two and a half weeks since I last posted.  I have merely been busy cleaning, organizing, and shedding things (especially hoards of fabric remnants) that I don't really want, will never use, but that have been taking up valuable real estate in my office and studio.  Meanwhile, I concocted a scheme for what I thought would be a "quick and easy" project to sandwich between all the big, long haul projects I've got going on.  I started making a dust cover for Big 'Nina, my 750 QE.

Sewing machines don't like dust, so you're supposed to cover them up when they're napping, just like little birdies.  My Bernina 750 actually did come with a dust cover for this purpose, but first of all it's UGLY, and second of all, it doesn't fit the machine when I have it lowered into a custom cabinet with an accessory thread stand attached to the back -- and that's how my 'Nina ALWAYS takes her naps.
See? The Bernina Dust Cover is Too Tall for a Recessed Machine

New Cover Will Need a Cutout for my Thread Stand

If you do a google search, you can find LOTS of creative tutorials for making elaborate patchwork sewing machine covers that are embellished with decorative stitches, ribbons, buttons and beads.  My idea was supposed to be simpler -- no pockets, no frills, just a streamlined version of the ugly Bernina cover, about four inches shorter and with a cutout at the back.  I found the perfect fabric in my stash:

'Nina Tries On the Fabric, Kaffe Fassett's Millefior

The fabric looks good on 'Nina, and more importantly, it looks good in my studio:

Fabric In Situ
It even goes with my coffee cup!  But it's a quilting weight cotton, and I wanted to give it more bulk, body, and stiffness so it would hold its shape instead of draping limply over the sewing machine like an old sheet.  So I decided to quilt it, densely but unobtrusively, so as to give some stiffness without detracting from the fun, busy print.

Since I'm not working from a pattern, I took some measurements of my machine and did a mockup out of the cheapo muslin first. Once I checked the fit and marked the location and size of the cutout for the thread stand attachment, I ripped out the basting stitches holding the muslin cover together so I can use my mockup as pattern pieces.  My plan is to quilt the snot out of a square yard of my Millefiore fabric, and then cut it up and use it just as I would use a fabric that came quilted from the mill.  That way I don't have to worry about predicting exactly how much shrinkage happens during the quilting process.

I had some fusible polyester craft batting left over from a purse project my mom made several years ago.  Since I WANT stiffness for this project, that's what I used for the batting.  Plain old bargain bin white muslin for the backing, which no one will ever see, and a 40 weight cotton variegated machine quilting thread from YLI in the needle with 50/3 red cotton thread in the bobbin, size 90 Quilting needle.

As I said, the quilting is fairly dense because I'm deliberately trying to make my quilted fabric stiff enough to hold its shape nicely.  As usual, I vastly underestimated how long it would take, and how boring it would be, to execute this quilting plan.  Behold, the right side, after hours of stitching and at least THREE entire gargantuan 7 Series bobbins' worth of thread:

The Emperor's New Quilting, Which We Can't See Because We're All Fools

You can't see anything, can you?  Just a bumpy texture.  That's exactly how I wanted it to look and feel...  But you can tell how much time I've put into this when you look at the BACK side:
From the Back Side: What the Smart People See

Sharp-eyed smart people will notice that the back of this piece is very messy, with thread tails and knots where I stopped and started and some lint fuzzies caught in the bobbin stitches.  I made an executive decision to use my auto thread cutter and ignore the resulting thread tails and other issues on the back of the quilt because it's NOT a quilt, and this is going to be on the INSIDE of the sewing machine cover where no one will see it.  So this has turned into yet another example illustrating that I am incapable of coming up with ANY ideas that are either quick or simple.  As you can see, I'm practicing several different free motion quilting fills, and that's good for me whether it's invisible or not because quilting is all about developing muscle memory, like dancing.  Hopefully not TOO much like dancing, though, because I'm not much of a dancer...  I can't work on this for longer than an hour at a time because it's repetitive and it's boring to be putting in a lot of quilt stitches and then stand up from the machine and not be able to see any of the stitching, but there's still SO MUCH left to be quilted...

Thus the quilting continues.  I'll blog about my machine cover again when I've finished custom quilting the yardage.

Meanwhile, I have been attending the boys' summer drama camp performances, Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr. last week and Anders' Good Kings Come in Small Packages performance this evening.  Lars has been away at sleepaway camp with his confirmation class compadres all week long, so we're looking forward to having him home again tomorrow.  Also, Quilt Week is coming to Charlotte next week, and although I wasn't planning far enough ahead to preregister, I am planning to pop over there and try to get into an EQ7 workshop and perhaps a few lectures if space is still available.  Wish me luck!

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!


Barbara Sindlinger said...

Oh the cover on the Bernina is really ugly and I have been thinking about making one for this machine too. But....time. I can't wait to see how your cover turns out.

Carole @ Fresh off the Frame said...

LOLOL! Incapable of coming up with simple I think of the quilt you made using student art, I believe you're right! Ah, well, at least you are getting lots of fmq practice. Good luck getting to the finish line! It will be beautiful.

Joanie's Trendy Quilts said...

You are going to have a very beautiful machine cover. Quilting is awesome! Oh yes you reminded me that the big quilt show will be in Charlotte this week! I live in Charlotte.

Val's Quilting Studio said...

This cover is beautiful and I love your detail of quilting. After poking around your blog and getting to know ya....I added myself as a GFC follower and look forward to following. Glad to have found eachother's blogs. V:)

Andrea said...

Your quilting is beautiful...even from the front. I was ogling it even before you revealed a picture of the back. I just splurged on the 750 QE yesterday and should have it by Wednesday...I am hoping my new machine will magically transform my quilting skills into what you have accomplished here.

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Andrea! The 750 QE is a fantastic machine for quilting, and the BSR is a huge help, but free motion quilting still has a learning curve, kind of like learning to write your name back in preschool. The first time you try it, it might look awful, but if you keep at it and practice a little bit every day it will get better and better, I promise. Everything seems difficult before it becomes easy! 