Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Spirit Song Quilting Commences: Monofilament Invisible Stitching in the Ditch

Good morning and happy Tuesday!  My quilting goal for the past week was to complete all of the SID (Stitch in the Ditch) quilting along the seam lines of my Spirit Song quilt.  I'm about halfway there as of when I switched off the machine last night.

Invisible Monofilament SID Halfway Completed
For the SID work, I'm mostly using my 2 1/2" x 6" Quilter's Groove ProMini ruler, with Nexcare clear first aid tape on the backside of the ruler to reduce the slip-and-slide action without sacrificing visibility.  I also have the larger 10" version.

10 inch Pro and 6 inch ProMini Rulers from Quilter's Groove, Lisa Calle's Ruler Line
What I love most about Lisa Calle's Quilter's Groove line of rulers is that they all include helpful reference lines.  As I'm using this ruler for my SID work, I'm using those perpendicular straight lines and 45 degree angle lines on the ruler to line up with my piecing lines, helping me to keep the edge of the ruler nice and straight a quarter of an inch away from the stitching line.  I have a couple of other straight rulers without these reference lines that I bought before I took Lisa's ruler class, but this little ProMini has become my favorite.

How I Use the Ruler's Reference Lines for SID Quilting
You can see in the photo above how my palm, ring finger, and pinky are all resting on the surface of my quilt and acting as a "brake" in case that ruler decides to slide from the pressure of my hopping foot riding along the ruler's edge.  In the closeup below, you can see those etched lines on the ruler that I've aligned with my piecing seams to keep everything nice and straight as I'm stitching.

The Markings Are What Make These Rulers My Favorites!
And of course, when SID is done well and stitched in invisible monofilament thread, it truly disappears into the quilt, providing structure and support kind of like how a good foundation garment can make you look so much better in your dress!

Invisible Stitch In the Ditch: The Wonder Bra of Quilting!
...But from a distance, it looks like I haven't done any quilting yet at all:

Tedious, Invisible, But Crucial
SID takes a LONG TIME, and it doesn't give you that instant gratification of seeing your quilt transform before your eyes with beautiful designs and texture.  Done well, SID should be invisible -- we don't want to see those stitches at all, which is why I'm using Superior's Monopoly invisible monofilament thread in my needle.  By doing all the SID quilting first, I'm doing two things: First, I'm stabilizing my quilt and locking the three layers (quilt top, batting and backing) together with all of these seam lines as straight as possible and the edges of the quilt perfectly square.  That's going to drastically reduce the potential for things shifting and getting stretched out of whack during the fun quilting that comes later.  Also, SID along the seam lines gives more definition to the piecing lines, subtly accentuating those crisp points I worked so hard to create.  If I skipped the SID, the seam lines would actually puff UP after surrounding areas had been quilted down, which would have the opposite effect of obscuring or diminishing the piecing lines.  

Those Needle Holes Will Close Up When the Quilt is Washed
In the above photo, I've stitched on the low side of every one of those seams except the vertical seam between the yellow and hot pink fabrics at top right that extends down to the lower right corner between the mustard color print and the pink daisy print.  SID sinks the seam lines down into the quilt, but the only way to know the stitches are there are the needle holes (those will close up when the quilt gets washed).

Love Seeing the Backing Fabric Starting to Wrap Around the Pickup Roller!

I love seeing the backing fabric start to peek around the pickup roller at the back of my frame as the quilting progresses enough to advance the quilt!

I probably would already be done with the SID if I hadn't had a tension snafu.  Despite having tested and adjusted tension off to the side of my quilt before starting, I noticed with the first advance of the quilt that I had some flatlining (top thread too loose or bobbin thread too tight, causing the bobbin thread to lay flat on the back of the quilt rather than meeting the top thread in the center of the quilt batting to form a balanced stitch) on the back.  

Poor Tension, Bobbin Thread "Flatlining"
In this case, I knew my bobbin case tension was already set very loose (TOWA 150-ish and bypassed the little pigtail guide on my bobbin case) for my Bottom Line bobbin thread, so the upper thread was definitely the culprit.  I'd loosened it so much that it was being pulled all the way through the batting and the backing fabric, creating little loops that suspended a straight line of bobbin thread along the surface of the backing fabric.  I think my monofilament was getting caught on the edge of my thread net at one point, creating resistance, and I loosened my top tension repeatedly to try to "solve" that before I realized that it was a thread path issue.  Whoops!

So anyway, these really lousy tension stitches are very easy to remove from the backing side, just snip at either end of the bad stitching line and pull; the thread comes right out in one piece.  However, after pulling out the bad stitches on backing side, I had a horrible time figuring out which of my invisible seams had been ripped out and needed restitching when I got back to the FRONT of the quilt!  Really all I could see were the needle holes to begin with, and the bad stitching left holes that looked exactly like the good stitching.  I had pulled out the bobbin thread from the bad stitching, but the top thread still needed to be pulled out and clipped away in some cases...  I had to check EVERY STINKING SEAM, and I accidentally requilted a few seam lines by accident because I thought I'd pulled out the stitching there even though it was perfectly fine -- just couldn't SEE it.  Major time suck!  

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3...

These string pieced scraps, above, were good for testing stitch tension as well as for a quick refresher on SID, since I haven't done anything with my quilting machine for a few months.  It's also a good way of previewing what my thread is going to look like on a variety of different fabric prints.  I'm using the clear monofilament thread rather than the smoke because most of my fabrics are light colors, but the clear monofilament is slightly visible on the darkest blue fabric strips.

Not Quite 6 Months Old, Already 70 lbs of Sweetness!
This post has been a particularly boring one, even for me, so I'm ending on a high note with a puppy picture of my little Samwise Puppy-Pants.  He'll be 6 months old in 10 days, and this morning he weighed in at a whopping 70 pounds of sweetness!  :-)

So, what are my sewing goals for the coming week?

Tuesday To-Do List:

  • Finish SID quilting on Spirit Song
  • Change needle from 3.5 (for monofilament thread) to either 4.0 (for Bottom Line 60 weight or So Fine 50 weight thread) or 4.5 (for King Tut or YLI 40 weight cotton quilting thread), rethread machine (thread path is different from monofilament), and adjust tension as needed
  • Begin additional straight line ruler work quilting with thread that is meant to be seen!
Stay safe, everyone, and happy stitching!  I'm linking up today's post with:

·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us
·       Let’s Do Some Ruler Work at The Quilt Yarn
·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication
·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

·       Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd at Kathleen McMusing


Unknown said...

beautiful colors!

Kathleen said...

I like your explanation of what was wrong with the stitching. I am relatively new to longarm and trying to figure out what battings to use. I always used quilter’s dream cotton and loved it. I sometimes want a little more loft to either show quilting or hide some problems with the top.

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca! I just started some ruler work today for the first time in ages. I adore the suggestion of using first-aid tape on the back of the ruler! Annoyingly enough, my ruler is too short to span the block I'd like to stitch a straight line across. I eyeballed it . . . and was off a bit so they are not quite straight lines! I like and use all the reference lines, as well. I'll see if she offers a longer version of the mini. I didn't find your post to boring at all - not one bit. And the last photo of Sam the sweetest almost 6-month old puppy is just the BEST. He would probably be a great quilting assistant eventually. I am looking forward to hearing more about the quilting on this gorgeous quilt. Thanks for linking up this week! ~smile~ Roseanne

piecefulwendy said...

I don't do any longarm quilting, but I have to say that quilt is just gorgeous. Your pup isn't bad either! He's already a big fella, but handsome!

Unknown said...

Rebecca you are brilliant. Look at those points. Your piecing is perfect. I hope you will post about how to achieve it. You are a quilt artist. Carmen in the Netherlands

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Carmen! The secret to perfect points is a seam ripper!! Some of those seams took two or three tries before I got them just right!

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Wendy!

Rebecca Grace said...

Yes, there’s a 10” ruler as well as the 6”. I put an updated photo in showing both sizes.

dq said...

Your ditch work is near perfection! I knew people used rulers to do it, but I had not tried it much.

I was wondering about when you said your goal was to do all the ditch work. Does that mean you unroll the quilt to do the rest of the ditch work and then roll it back up again to do filler work?

By the way, I honestly love this quilt! The colors yell, "I am happy!"

Susan said...

Right on stitch-in-the-ditch work! Are you going to fill in areas? With this design, I would have gone with an all-over pattern and been done, but that's me.

PaintedThread said...

Spirit song is a beautiful quilt. Love the colors (and the quilting work). I do that first-aid tape thing, too. What a difference that can make with a ruler!

Kathleen said...

And thanks for linking up to the party! I love this and just got my 70/30 batting. I don't think it has as much loft as I was hoping, I will keep looking. I think it will be nice in the baby comfort quilts I do.

Zenia Rene said...

Everything looks so nice! and It sounds so simple but I know it's not. I assume you will switch thread to do the fun quilting. Does this mean you have to change your tension as well, every time you change thread types?

Preeti said...

So beautiful, so perfect - my mouth is still open while I drool on my keyboard. I love everything about Spirit Song. And it is because of your attention to detail - Every. Single. Detail. Absolute perfection - no compromises. I will be holding my breath (at least my drool) for the final finish. You rock, as usual!!!

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

So fascinating to read your process! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss

TerryKnott.blogspot.com said...

Well done to figure out fairly quickly it was a thread path issue! Your SID is beautiful!