Monday, September 25, 2017

Longarm Quilting Practice: Let's Play With Cheater Cloth!

Good morning!  I learned SO much at my APQS New Owner training last week, and I'm anxious to get some time in my studio now to put all that information into practice.  I came home with more thread, gadgets and gizmos, and a little less fear of routine maintenance.  

Rather than loading up a real quilt top just yet, I'm going to do a few more SMALLER practice quilts, to get more familiar and comfortable with the process of loading a quilt.  I have zipper leaders on order for my 12' frame but in the meantime, I'll still be pinning directly to my leaders.

My first practice quilt was a huge king sized monstrosity of different colored solid fabrics.  That was fine for experimenting with matching versus contrasting threads and doodling different fill patterns.  I halfheartedly quilted some straight lines with my ruler on that first practice quilt, but what I really want to do with those rulers is learn to quilt straight lines EXACTLY where I want them on my quilts, like SID (Stitch in the Ditch, along seam lines).  The big learning curve for me with ruler work in quilting is developing the ability to eyeball the distance from my needle to the outside edge of my presser foot, because that's how far away my ruler needs to be from where I'm trying to quilt my straight line.  So I'm going to be loading up a 45" x 45" Dresden plate cheater cloth that I bought on eBay for my next practice piece:

Dresden Plate Cheater Cloth from eBay
Although it resembles a pieced and appliqued quilt top at first glance, the Dresden Plate/Snowball blocks and the 54-40 Or Fight blocks are just printed onto the fabric.  My goal for this piece will be to use my ruler to quilt all the "seamlines" between the fake patches, and around and between the blades of the Dresden plates.  Then I can quilt some fills in the blocks and the plate backgrounds.  By the time I finish quilting this piece, I hope to have better control when quilting with the ruler so I can tackle a real quilt top more confidently.

The quality of this vintage cheater cloth is pretty lame, I must say.  The weave is not as tight as the quality quilting cottons I'm used to working with, and the piecing design is printed onto the fabric crooked so that it's off grain.  I tore opposite ends of the fabric along the grainline to ensure that it would load onto the frame nice and square, and look at how askew the printed design is from the straight grain edge of the fabric:

See How Off-Grain This Print Is?

Close Up
Since this is only for practice, I'm going with the straight grain even though that will make it look crooked.  The great thing about the cheater cloth is that it was super cheap and I have zero blood, sweat, or tears invested in it, so there is no fear or anxiety about "ruining it" like there would be with a pieced quilt top.

108" Wide Paisley Backing Fabric from JoAnn
I used my 50% off coupon at JoAnn's to purchase 9 yards on a bolt of the above 108" wide cotton backing fabric for this and other practice quilts.  I generally only buy fat quarters of fabric for my stash, and only purchase yardage when I specifically need it for borders or a backing for a current project.

I've gotta say, I'm surprised there isn't a greater variety of cheater cloth fabric available today, considering the sheer number of quilters interested in developing machine their machine quilting skills.  If this is something you're interested in, I've found a couple of options that are available as of today:

Available on eBay here
That's a 6-yard length of 34" wide vintage cheater cloth, available on ebay here.  The seller says it feels like a blend rather than 100% cotton.  This would be great for someone who has a real pieced lone star quilt that they aren't sure how to quilt.  You could try out different quilting ideas on each of the lone stars printed onto the cheater cloth to help you envision which one you want to do on your real quilt.

24" x 44" ColorWorks Mariner's Compass Panel, Available on eQuilter here
44" Sweet Tea Barn Star Delft Panel Available from here
The cheater cloth panel pictured above is a digital print from Hoffman, so it's going to be a much better quality than the one I'm about to load onto my frame today.  At 43.5" x 44", it's also a great size for a quick and easy baby quilt, and it's only $12.98 per panel -- and if you buy two or more panels, they are only $10.38 each.  You could slap borders on it if you wanted a larger throw size.  I might have to buy a couple of these panels for myself.

Meadow Dance Quilt Top to Go Panel, by Amanda Murphy for Benartex
Benartex is offering the above 24" x 44" panel, designed by Amanda Murphy, specifically for practicing machine quilting designs.  You can get this one from eQuilter here for $8.25.

By the way, I don't do affiliate links, so I'm NOT compensated from any purchases you make via links in my blog posts.  I have only included the links for the convenience of you AND me, so that I can find these cheater cloth options later, if I feel like I need more practice after quilting the Dresden plates, as well as for the purpose of photo credits.

My quilting goal for today is to straighten up the mess in my studio from the oven mitts project, find the right size batting for my cheater cloth in my box of batting scraps (I bought some fusible batting tape in case I need to piece it -- waste not, want not, especially when it's just for practice!), and just get this piece loaded onto the quilting frame, ready to go.

I have some design work to attend to and a VOX choral rehearsal tonight, so I'll be listening to the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem on my headphones all day while I'm working in my office and studio.  In case you want to listen to it, too:

It's another busy week full of meetings, rehearsals, doctor and dentist appointments for Bernie and the kids, but hopefully I can squeeze in some stitching, too.  Have a great week, everyone!


Ramona said...

What a great idea to use cheater cloth as practice on your longarm. I know people use panels to practice their quilting skills, too, but your idea is better. There will be larger areas to practice. Enjoy!

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

glad you finally had your class and I bet you learned a lot. those cheaters should make good practice - I really do not like cheaters and never thought of them being good for something like this but it really should!

Preeti said...

I have used cheater fabric to make baby quilts in a hurry. But using them to practice long arm quilting - well, that is genius!!!