Sunday, April 12, 2015

Of Fractured Bones and Other Annoying Quilting Delays... And PROGRESS!!

Greetings from the Land of Humpty-Dumpty, in which Rebecca goes for a bike ride, has a great fall, and is still waiting for all the King's horses and all the King's men to put her bones back together again.    This happened exactly three weeks ago today, and in addition to the broken and displaced right clavicle bone that has disabled my right arm, I also broke my left thumb and smacked my head hard enough to crack my bike helmet and give myself a mild concussion.  So I have not been sewing for the past couple of weeks.  Or brushing my own teeth, dressing or showering myself...  But not sewing stinks the most, especially when my cousin's baby is coming any day and the quilt is SO CLOSE TO BEING FINISHED!  (Also, it is a surprise, so if you know my cousin, DON'T SPOIL IT).
The Unhappiness That Is My Collar Bone
I'm getting my collar bone screwed back together again surgically on Wednesday, but over the past week I've been sneaking up to my sewing room to work on my Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt.  With one arm in a sling and a thumb splint on the other hand, I'm not making great strides or anything -- I can get in about 15-20 minutes before the shoulder pain is unbearable, but every little bit gets me closer to the finish line!  A little bit of sewing is better than NO sewing.

In this post, I wanted to document some of the things that have worked for me in the final stages of this project so I can refer back to it in the future and save myself some trial-and-error:

Marking Stars for Free Motion Quilting
To mark the stars for free-motion quilting on the blue fabric squares, Don Linn's hooped tulle and Sharpie method wouldn't work because I couldn't see the faint black line against the blue fabric.  So I cut out an exact template of the star shape from a junk mail postcard, cutting just INSIDE the marked line, and used a Clover white marking pen to carefully trace the stars onto the blue squares.  The white pen works great on dark fabrics.

"Wave Stitch" Controls Fullness in Unquilted Border Perimeter
Once I had completed that last bit of quilting, I still had 2" of my teal border unquilted because that's the width of the satin binding that I'm planning to use.  I saw that the quilting stitches had drawn up the body of the quilt so that there was a faint ripple to the unquilted outer edge, and I did NOT want a ripply-edged quilt looking like I don't know how to measure for borders properly.  I considered stippling the border to flatten it out, but decided that I wanted to retain some of the loft and puffiness inside the satin binding.  So I scrolled through the decorative stitches programmed into my Bernina 750QE sewing machine and selected one that looks kind of like a wave stitch, and stitched that around the perimeter of the quilt just inside the raw edge using my walking foot.  It did the trick of shrinking the outer edge just enough without flattening out the loft that I wanted to keep.  Also, I think it makes kind of a fun quilting stitch, don't you?  I'll have to remember that one for another quilt -- it would be a great alternative to just straight line quilting.
My next trick when I am doing a Minky-backed quilt with satin binding is to enlist my serger to trim and clean up the edges of the quilt before binding.  That wave stitch also enabled me to remove the remaining safety pins from the quilt before they went anywhere near the serger blades... 

Two Thread, Left Needle Serger Overlock Before Binding
Why didn't I just trim the excess batting and backing fabric and get on with binding my quilt?  Well, Minky is an unruly pain in the butt whose edges like to curl up and shed all over the place.  I didn't want to deal with that when I was trying to attach the slippery satin binding.  A serged edge is much, MUCH more stable and easier to work with.  Moreover, when you see a well-loved tattered blanket, the satin binding usually shreds and disintegrates long before the rest of the blanket, and it is easy enough to give new life to a cherished blankie by replacing the satin binding.  My overcast quilt edges will be protected from fraying when the satin binding wears out, and will make it easier for whoever gets the job of replacing the satin binding.

One big, HUGE thing to remember as you're setting up your serger is that MINKY STRETCHES, but ONLY IN ONE DIRECTION.  It's important to test your stitch settings across both the lengthwise AND the crosswise grains before you start in on your quilt.  Otherwise the stitch that looked great on your sample might get wavy on the two sides of the quilt where the Minky wants to stretch on you. 
Test Your Stitch Settings on the Lengthwise AND Crosswise Grains!
On my Bernina 1300MDC serger I got a nice, wave free edge with differential feed set to 1.5, stitch length 3.5, cutting width 2.0, and the tension settings recommended in my user manual.  I used a size 80/12 Universal needle and YLI Elite serger thread.
Here's one more serger trick that I always forget when I'm trimming away the excess batting and backing fabrics as I overcast the edge of the quilt.  Just before reaching the corner, I cut away a couple of inched of the excess fabrics on the side I'm about to stitch with a scissor.  Then I can serge right to the edge of the corner, sink my needle just off the edge and raise it to the highest position, pull the work backwards to clear the stitch finger, and then turn the quilt to begin stitching the next side of the quilt right at the corner where I left off.  I always mess up the first corner before I remember the scissor trick.  If you forget, you try to turn the corner but the bulk of the untrimmed batting and backing is in your way so you can't get the quilt back under the presser foot far enough.
Approaching the Corner, Next Side Scissor Cut 2-3"
So the whole time I'm quilting my blue stars, stabilizing and overcasting these quilt borders, I'm stewing about the satin binding.  I have made a number of these Minky backed, satin binding baby quilts in the past, and the only reason I subject myself to the hassle of it all is that babies LOVE satin binding.  If you give a baby a blanket with satin binding, he will reward you by rubbing the satin binding on his nose while sucking his thumb and making sweet little baby gurgling noises.  So it has to be satin binding.  But it is nearly impossible to get the inside edge of that satin binding lined up perfectly on the front AND back side of the quilt.  Anywhere the edges are NOT perfectly aligned when you stitch the zigzag from the front of the quilt, you will get something that looks like this:
Stitched Right Side Up, so the Front Looks Good...

...But the Back Is Not So Hot!
Very annoying!!  So I had an idea of what I could do to get better results this time.  I decided to stitch a placement line for the inside edge of the satin binding using YLI Water Soluble Basting Thread in both the needle and the bobbin.  I'm going to use that stitching line to either glue baste or pin (haven't decided which) the satin binding in place prior to stitching.  In hindsight, I should have stitched that line before I quilted my curlique olives in the border, since I drew a chalk line there anyway to make sure my quilting design remained outside of the area to be covered by satin binding.

Water Soluble Thread Placement Line for Satin Binding
Water soluble thread is very cool because it just dissolves and washes away when your project is rinsed or laundered, but it is more fragile than ordinary sewing thread and it requires special care.  It is very important to store water soluble thread in the airtight ziplock bags it comes in, and handle it with very dry hands so you don't get it sticky.  It's probably also a good idea to store your bobbin thread right in the baggie with the spool of water soluble thread, clearly labeled.  It would be very sad to get caught in the rain in a dress you accidentally constructed using water soluble thread... 

Settings for Water Soluble Thread
I sew successfully with YLI Wash-Away Water Soluble Thread on my Bernina 750QE sewing machine using Straight Stitch #1, but I increased the stitch length to 3.50 and reduced the tension all the way down to 1.0.  I also reduced the speed considerably when winding the bobbin, and because I'm working on a 3-layer quilt, I used my walking foot.

I've decided on a triple-stitched zigzag stitch to secure the satin binding to my quilt.  I'll be using Mettler Poly Sheen thread for that, for reasons of strength, matching the color and the sheen of the satin binding, and because both the satin binding and the Minky backing fabrics are polyester.  I'm using a brand new size 80/12 Microtex Sharp needle to stitch the satin binding without any snagging or pulls (which are also possible pitfalls of pinning, which is why I'm considering gluing the binding in place).

Broken Thumb with Splint
But none of this is happening right now, because my thumb is sore and my shoulder hurts from all of this typing!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.  I'm linking up with Esther's WIPs on Wednesday linky and Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.


Anonymous said...

Oh Rebecca, your poor clavicle! and thumb! Speedy recovery, wish that you didn't have to wait three weeks before surgery. Lots of great tips in this blog: thank you for sharing ever with sore shoulder and thumb.
Diane in MD

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

why did they have to wait so long before surgery? recovery is going to take awhile also won't it - right arm and left thumb - I really do feel for you. And that is exactly why I have ridden a bike in years other than an exercise bike that remains stationary - I have osteoporosis and I'm just not going to chance it even though some have called me chicken and said you only life once why limit yourself? because I want to be able to take care of myself and do the things I enjoy - I know I don't enjoy riding a bike so much that I want to take a chance that I might fall. I do so hope your surgery goes very smoothly and that in another month or two this well be just a memory and you will be moving around well

Rebecca Grace said...

The first doctor wanted to leave it alone and said it would "probably heal just fine." He was also very condescending and defensive when I asked questions, and he said it would take about 3 months to heal. I wish I had been sent to the new doctor in the first place -- he's a sports medicine shoulder specialist. He explained that I have a lot of risk factors for it NOT healing well on its own: female gender, age older than 20, the fracture is displaced, and it is comminuted (broken into multiple fragments). He says I will heal a lot faster with surgery and the horrible shoulder pain will go away almost immediately, since I did not actually hurt my shoulder. Right now the weight of my arm is just pulling constantly on my shoulder and upper back muscles without an intact bone structure to support the weight. I feel much better about screwing my bones back together again than I did about leaving them to hopefully grow back together in a way that would be deformed and that would limit functionality and strength, but I'm still nervous about the surgery!

Thanks for your concern.

Barbara Sindlinger said...

Oh my gosh that brake looks horrible and I can't believe you can even move. I hope your surgery goes well this week and you are back on the road to recovery soon.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Oh that's awful Rebecca! All that pain and discomfort is bad enough but not sewing?? I'm impressed that you are powering through this. You have some clever solutions to vexing problems with that fabulous quilt. I enjoyed the post except your pain from the fall! Be well.

Lane said...

Healing thoughts to you! Hope you feel better soon. Love the information about the satin binding. Take care. lane

Unknown said...

Rebecca - Oh, that x-ray image made me wince in sympathetic pain for you. I am SO glad you got a 2nd opinion and are having surgery to repair. I'm sure you know this, but when you are prescribed physical therapy, be sure to comply with that order...physical therapy is the Best. Thing. Ever! So helpful! Best wishes for a speedy recovery! Claudia W

Paulamu said...

If you need me to be your right hand and help you get back to sewing while you are healing, let me know!

Colleen Bell said...

You are such a trooper to keep trying to quilt. I feel so bad for you and wish I could help you, but I will pray for your surgery. May the Lord be with you.

Proverbs 16:24 "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."

Anonymous said...

Oh, you poor thing:( Hoping your surgery goes well and you can get stitching again!

greg @ grey dogwood studio said...

Ohmigosh how terrible. I just read this and it's Wednesday night, so hopefully your surgery went well. I sort of can't believe that you were sewing through the pain, but I'd probably do the same thing. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Quilting Stories said...

I wish you a quick recovery Rebecca. You quilt looks wonderful!

QuilterinMotion said...

This is my first visit Rebecca, as I as curious about you since you left a comment on my blog. I'm super impressed with the great detail you went into...while suffering from a broken collar bone plus other broken bones! What a trooper you are!
I do hope you heal quickly and can get back to your quilting.
Marsha (QuilterinMotion)

Amy @ Amy's FMQ Adventures said...

Ouch! So awful to have both arms injured. I can't imagine that break healing well as is, glad you saw a better doctor. Best wishes for a fast recovery and continued stitching.

Julie said...

Not knowing you well, I hesitate at saying what a pain in the neck you are. (I'm sorry. I just had to.) I tensed up, and hurt all over seeing that x-ray. I'm so sorry this happened to you, especially when your quilt was almost ready, and baby arriving soon to claim it, too. I sincerly hope you recover quickly.

I was thilled when I started reading through your blog. You're a big process person, and give technical details that I find SO interesting. I like pretty pictures like everyone else, but get giddy when someone starts saying they adjusted tension to 'xyz', and it worked better, etc. It helps us all to grow. Not everyone digs that stuff out here, but it makes you my favorite blogger right now!

Again, sorry for the little dig there, but I will be thinking of you while you heal. Think of the quilting as your physical therapy.

Julie @ Pink Doxies

Carrie P. said...

Oh, my goodness Rebecca you did a big boo boo. That Xray hurts me just looking at it. The other ray of the pins is pretty amazing. I hope you have a speed recovery now that it all done.