Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Continuous Curve Quilting on the Amish Baby Quilt

Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight with Continuous Curve Quilting
I finished the stipplish quilting throughout the black background areas of my Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt (I say "stipplish" instead of "stippling" because I intentionally mixed in some pointy little horns and flames along with the smooth jigsaw puzzle curves.  The Quilt Police say you're not allowed to put any points or corners in stippling).  I tried to keep my stipplish quilting as open as possible because I don't want this baby quilt to end up too stiff.  With the stippling and ditch quilting completed, I could have declared the quilting finished from a stability standpoint, but I wanted to add some quilting that I could see, and I wanted to try a new-to-me quilting technique.  So I decided to quilt double continuous curves inside the square patches of the quilt.

Theoretically, this should be easy, but the first attempt looked so bad to me that I debated ripping out the quilting. 

First Attempt at Continuous Curves, Without Marking
After leaving the quilt overnight and coming back to what I'd done the next day, I could still see that it didn't look like "professional quilting," but I decided it looked good enough for a beginning effort.  The thing about free-motion quilting is that you need to build the muscle memory for every design you want to quilt, and that takes lots of repetition.  The best, and really the only way I can get better is to quilt a new design all over a quilt.  That's how I learned to quilt the paisley motif on Lars's Drunken Dragons quilt, and that's how I learned to quilt stippling on the school fundraiser quilt.  I'm using quilting thread that is color matched to my fabrics for the continuous curves and the wobbles and inconsistencies that look so glaring under the bright lights of my sewing machine with my nose 2" from the quilt are going to be difficult to discern on the finished quilt, and will add to the handmade character if they are noticed.  The great thing about baby quilts is that, when they are wrapped around an adorable baby, everyone will be so excited about the baby that no one will be scrutinizing my quilt for mistakes!

So I went back to my quilting books and found that Harriet Hargrave's book Heirloom Machine Quilting and Diane Gaudynski's book Guide to Machine Quilting both describe this quilting technique, and they both suggested making little guide dots about 1/4" in from the seam in the center of each side of the square.  That way you have something to aim for when you're trying to quilt that smooth arc. 
Curve Centers Marked with Chalk Dots, Ready to Quilt
Since my fabrics are dark, I made my dots with a white chalk pencil that easily brushed off after quilting.  This did help me to quilt smoother, better continuous curves, but it was annoying to have to fuss with marking all those dots.  Since I have a lot of squares left in the quilt that I want to quilt this way and they are all the same size, I might just make myself a little template to trace around for the rest of them.  Ah, well -- everything is difficult before it becomes easy, right?

I am struggling with the weight and bulk of this quilt, despite the large throat space on my Bernina 750 QE, the Supreme Slider Teflon sheet, and the relatively manageable size of a 54" square baby quilt.  I'm not sure if it's the extra bulk and weight of the Minky or static buildup with the polyester, or what, but I really have to push and "scrub" the quilt to move it under the needle at times and it makes my neck and shoulders sore.  I am really questioning whether I'll be able to quilt my king sized pineapple log cabin when the time comes.

I won't get any more quilting done on the Amish Baby until next week, though, because I'm headed to Atlanta this afternoon for the Sewing & Quilt Expo.  Yippee!  I'm mostly going to take pattern alterations and fitting classes for garment sewing, but I did sign up for a 3-hour hands-on background filler workshop in the Gammill Longarm Studio.  The class description says it is for "Advanced Beginners," so hopefully having spent a total of about 15 minutes playing on a demo longarm machine will be enough preparation for me to get something out of the class.  My primary goal in taking the longarm workshop is to get a feel for what it is like to quilt on a frame with a longarm machine where the quilt is stationary and you move the machine to draw your quilting designs, versus quilting on a domestic sit-down machine where the machine is stationary and you draw your quilting designs by moving the quilt around under the needle.  I don't have unrealistic expectations about mastering longarm quilting in a day, but I should be able to get a better idea of whether that mode of quilting would suit me. 

If any of you will be in Atlanta for the Expo this weekend, I'd love to hear from you!  Have a great weekend and happy stitching.

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and with Esther's WIPs on Wednesday linky party.  Grab a cup of coffee or whatever gets you going in the morning and check out what everyone else is working on this week!


LA Paylor said...

here's what i love
you are trying for excellence. You keep learning. I love that! Your quilting looks great and after it's washed a couple times, I think the shrinking and crumpling creates so much texture it improves the whole.

LeeAnna at not afraid of color

~Diana said...

We aren't perfect~we learn and improve. The thing I love about quilts is~people seldom see what we do, the "technical" issues. Your quilt is lovely, it's for a baby~great chance to practice and improve your skills :) Lovely design and colors!

Sandra Walker said...

Your nose is too close to the quilt! Who else is going to look that close? When I first saw the picture of the continuous curve quilting, I thought "WOW! That is so cool! FMQ is NOT perfect; if people want perfect, they need to have computerized quilting, and that, to me, is not at all the same as far as putting yourself into the quilt. I look back at some of my early FMQ attempts and I smile because ya, they're wobbly (they still are at times, and for new designs) but the quilts are done, the quilts are loved and the quilts are being used. Period. Angela Walters made a great short video on her blog last week about this very thing. So worth the few minutes' watch. You are doing great! And I LOVE that Amish baby quilt, makes me remember how much I have always wanted to make one.

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

I think it looks great! Everyone was a beginner once, and yours does not look like beginner quilting. Also remember that when the quilt is washed, all the stitches will be hiding in the folds of the fabric. On my very first free motioned quilt, I too was very worried about how the stitches would look, but everyone who sees it loves it the best, probably because it is one of the few that have been washed!

Ruth said...

Bet when its washed you won't be able to find the spots that bothered you! I had a problem moving a quilt around and I found it catching in one spot on the table. I put an oil cloth table cloth over the whole table and squish it into the throat rather than rolling and it got easier.

Lorna McMahon said...

Your quilting is simply stunning! Such a compliment to this simple but effective design. Love the colours you have used. They really pop against that black background. Gorgeous work!

Barbara Sindlinger said...

I think your quilting looks great. Thanks to your suggestions, I'm trying monofilement on another quilt. Thanks for the tips.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I like what you've done and think it looks beautiful. And I like a wee bit of "hand of the maker" on my quilts.I'm interested I'm your thoughts on the long arm!

Anonymous said...

Looks great! Have fun in your long arm class. I've played around on a long arm machine a few times but haven't been brave enough to do anything freehand yet.

greg @ grey dogwood studio said...

I agree that washing and drying will hide any of what you perceive to be imperfections. But I gotta wonder if you'll come home from Atlanta with a new longarm machine!