Thursday, May 28, 2020

Happy Birthday to Me! 47 Is Gonna Be My Year of Fearless Free-Motion and Ruler Work Quilting

I am finally having fun with free motion quilting on my long arm machine!  Yay!  The chalk pounce stenciling is imperfect, as it smudges and disappears while I'm quilting, but all I really need is a vague guide anyway for spacing and the angle of the curls.  If I mark just one motif with chalk at a time and then quilt it right away, it serves its purpose -- and I have zero fear that the chalk won't come out of my quilt, since it's all bouncing right off the quilt without settling into the fibers in the first place.  


Not Perfect, But Not Hideous, Either.  I Like It!
After being punished for my impatience the other day with a tension tantrum on the back of my quilt that took hours to rip out, I resumed my practice of slapping fabric scraps down "in the margins" of my excess batting and backing, to test my stitching before I start quilting and after every bobbin change, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.


Extra Wide Margins of Excess Batting and Backing for Tension Testing

I have approximately 9 1/2" of excess batting and backing on both sides of my quilt top.  That gives me plenty of room for these little warmup/test stitching scraps on both sides of the quilt, and there's one additional bonus.  Having that much extra batting and backing on both sides means my side clamps are well out of the way of my ruler base, so I don't need curtain rods, yard sticks, pool noodles, or any other contraptions to lift the clamps out of the way of the machine.


Hobbs Tuscany Wool Batting, My Tabby Mountain Disco Kitties Quilt
Speaking of the batting...  Compare the batting in the photo above (my Tabby Mountain Disco Kitties quilt from 2018) to the batting in the previous photo of my Spirit Song quilt.  Spirit Song's batting is Quilter's Dream Cotton Select, much thinner than the Hobbs Tuscany Wool batting I used for the Disco Kitties.  The Hobbs 80/20 cotton/poly blend that I think of as my "basic" go-to batting has a little more loft than the 100% cotton batting, but not nearly so much as the wool.  If I had an 80/20 batting under my Spirit Song top right now, I would have better definition and dimension to my quilting designs so you could see them better, and I would also have a little more leeway with tension fluctuations because of the thicker batting allowing more room for the stitches to lock together inside the quilt sandwich.  However, the 100% cotton Quilter's Dream Select batting will probably shrink and pucker more in my Spirit Song quilt, giving it a nice crinkly texture and helping to camouflage the wobbles and bobbles of my developing skills.  Every batting has its plusses and minuses, and it all depends on what you want for each quilt.

But I digress...  Back to the quilt at hand.  This is one of my DIY 24 pound vellum paper stencils, traced with ultra fine Sharpie marker and perforated along the drawn lines by sewing with an unthreaded domestic sewing machine.  I've tried multiple different brands and colors of chalk powder for transferring the stencils and none of them would work if my design was super intricate or required a great degree of accuracy, but the regular white Pounce Chalk with the pounce pad is working best on most of my colored triangles, and on the fabrics that were too light for the white chalk to be visible, I used the Pounce Chalk in blue that is supposed to need to be washed out of the quilt.  Ha, ha, HA!  I WISH it stayed on my quilt long enough to need washing out, instead of bouncing right off the quilt surface immediately.  Your mileage may vary, though (especially if you're not a starch fiend like I am), so please do your own testing before using colored chalk on your quilts.


DIY Vellum Stencil, Ready for Pounce Chalk Transfer
It is definitely not perfect, but each one gets a little better.  This is where it pays off to be "practicing" by quilting a real quilt.  If I was doing this design on muslin with contrasting thread, all I would see would be the shortcomings.  On these gloriously cheerful fabrics, those oopses are less noticeable and it's a lot more FUN!


Ta Da!  Even Though the Orange Ones Look Like Snakes...
After quilting those free-motion curls around the center triangles, I move to the ruler work in the outer triangles, all of which is marked with the washout blue marking pen.  It's too humid where I live for the purple air erasable marker to work for me; that one disappears faster than the chalk powder.


HandiQuilter VersaTool (with Pink Glo Tape Added)
I'm able to use the etched lines on my Quilter's Groove ProMini 2 1/2" x 6" ruler for most of my ruler work on this quilt, lining up the 90 degree and 45 degree angle etched lines on the rulers with my piecing seams in the quilt top.  But, for this little boomerang shape, it's not a 45 degree angle so there's no reference line to match up on my ProLine ruler.  The ruler needs to be positioned 1/4" away from where I want the stitching line to end, because that's the distance from the outside of the hopping foot to the needle.  With time, quilters are able to eyeballthat distance fairly accurately, but I'm not there yet.  Enter the HandiQuilter VersaTool ruler!

HandiQuilter VersaTool with Glow Line Tape 
They call it the VersaTool because each side of the ruler can be used for something different, but so far I've only used this ruler for the straight edge on the left that has notches for quarter inch alignment on either end.  Instead of guesstimating that your ruler is 1/4" from where you want your stitches, you match up the etched line on the ruler with where you want your stitches to end, and that automatically puts the straight edge of the ruler right where it needs to be.  I couldn't see that etched line very well with the bright lights and glare off the ruler, though, so I added little bits of low-tack adhesive fluorescent pink Glow Line Tape to the back edge.  I love that stuff -- bought it originally for marking where a quarter edge seam would be on one of my sewing machines, but end up using it all the time to clearly mark lines on rulers -- especially rotary cutting rulers, because sometimes when I'm cutting strips on autopilot I accidentally line up my fabric with the wrong ruler line and waste fabric due to miscuts...  It took me nearly an hour to find my Glow Line Tape in a messy pile in my studio, but it was totally worth the hunt.

The two donut-looking clear stickers at the top of the ruler are TrueGrip non-slip ruler grips.  They work well for preventing rulers from slipping, but they are pricey and they are a little on the thick side.  The long, clear, textured piece of tape along the left straight edge of the ruler is 3M's Nexcare Flexible Clear Tape, a super cheap solution for slipping rulers that you can find in the first aid section of your local pharmacy.  It tears easily, sticks to the back of your ruler, and prevents unintentional sliding of the ruler without giving it a death grip, making it perfect for a ruler like this one that you may need to slide on purpose to stitch a longer line.  It's also thin and transparent, so it doesn't obstruct my view of what I'm quilting like some of the other nonslip products do.

Pink Glo Tape Makes Etched Ruler Line Easier to See
Maybe you can see this better against my cutting mat.  The Glow Line Tape is exactly a quarter inch wide, and I believe the Nexcare tape is 1" wide.  Both of these tapes peel off acrylic rulers very easily when you want to remove or reposition them, leaving no sticky residue behind.

My VersaTool Works Even Better Now
At some point, when I get around to using that 90 degree angle or the curve on the left, I'll probably add a couple more pieces of the Nexcare tape near those ruler edges as well.



Feathery Swirls Look Better From a Distance
Aside from that little boomerang detail, the only other ruler I need for this design is my 2 1/2" x 6" Quilter's Groove ProMini.  I don't need to worry about eyeballing the quarter inch because the Quilter's Groove Pro rulers have clearly visible white markings that I can line up with seam lines, stitched lines, or drawn lines on the quilt surface to ensure the ruler is properly positioned to put my stitches where I want them to go.  You can tell these were designed by a long arm quilter, because when I want to quilt a straight line on a quilt, there is almost always a reference line etched into Lisa's rulers that matches up with some kind of reference line on my quilt.  


The One Ruler I Can't Live Without: 6 inch Pro Mini from Quilter's Groove
Here's what it looks like once I've finished quilting over all of those lines that I so carefully marked on my quilt:


Design Stitched Over Blue Marked Lines
That always looks kind of ugly to me, especially on this triangle where I accidentally set a wet scrap of batting on top of the marked design.  Whoops!  But then I paint over the stitched lines with water, using a cheap watercolor paintbrush, and voila:

It Looks So Much Better After the Lines Disappear!
I see some blurry blue in a couple spots in the photo that I missed in person, so I'll hit them with some more water and make sure all the blue is gone before I advance the quilt.

Last but not least, I have to show you guys the View from Underneath the Quilt Frame!  


I Crawled On the Floor to Take This Picture For You 
Oh yes, I did mention a birthday.  I turned 47 yesterday, and it was a relaxing rainy day at home with no one trying to force-feed me cake.  My favorite kind of birthday!  My mom and one of my sisters got me some quilting books that were on my Amazon wish list, my other sister got me a fabulous new Nest reed diffuser for my studio, and my husband got me a grownup coloring book full of birds and flowers that contains all kinds of inspiration for quilting designs and appliqué.   

Birthday Goodies!  They Know Me So Well!

My sons bought me a Henry VIII coffee mug that has all six of his wives on it -- but they disappear when you fill it with hot liquid, and then it tells you how each one died.  Love it!

If This Had Been From My Husband, It Might Have Made Me Nervous...
Bless their hearts -- they know their mama likes her hot tea, her coffee, and her history -- and they spotted Margaret George's book, The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers. A Novel on my bookshelves.  :-)

Well, one more "quick blog post" that ran on longer than I intended it to!  I hardly know what day it is anymore.   If today is Thursday, then tomorrow my oldest is headed to Hilton Head Island for the summer.  He will be working at the grocery store and working on his independent living/adulting skills by balancing fun time at the beach with having to get up and get to work on time, and hopefully he'll save up some money for when he goes back to college in the Fall.  My younger son has his last full week of his high school junior year before we can all take a break from this hell that is "online learning."  

Stay safe, y'all, and happy stitching!

I'm linking up today's overly long post with the following linky parties:

THURSDAY

·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  
·       Free Motion Mavericks at Quilting & Learning Combo OR at Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing

FRIDAY

·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
·       Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
·       Beauty Pageant at From Bolt to Beauty
·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

SATURDAY


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Tension Wrecker Apprehended: Pigtail Guide on M-Class Bobbin Case Increases Bobbin Tension!

Good morning, friends, and happy Sunday!  I've just returned from "Drive By Communion" in my church parking lot!  I kid you not -- Crazy times.  We watched the live streamed worship online this morning as usual (or, as has BECOME usual since early March), but this is the first Sunday since early March that they've offered in-person communion in the parking lot, served by masked and gloved pastors.  We are blessed at Christ Lutheran with church leadership that is faithful, creative, and prudent.  We didn't see a lot of cars when we went for Drive-By communion following the Traditional service, but I'll bet there will be more who come at lunch time, after the Contemporary service.  My husband wanted to have his sins forgiven and then "get on with his day," as he put it.  Oh, and do you like the mask he decided to wear for Holy Communion, complete with a little red devil next to his nose?  It's not like that's the only one I made him, either.  Maybe the pastor didn't notice.  More likely, my pastor would not care.  [For more information about how I made my masks, and a link to download the pattern, see this blog post].

Check Out the Mask My Husband Picked Out for Holy Communion (?!)
I did head up to the studio for several hours after yesterday's overload of puppy cuteness.  It took me at least two hours to rip out the really bad tension stitches from my quilt, and it was disheartening work since I was so proud of some of that free motion work when I was looking at it from the top side of the quilt.  

Behold, Love's Labors Lost

Some days are like that, and it's all part of the process.  I only took out the very worst stitching, what I knew would result in thread hanging loose on the back side of the quilt after washing if I'd left it in.  The not-quite-perfect-but-structurally-sound stitches got to stay in.

All This Wretchedness Got Ripped Out
So in the photo above, the outlines of the rectangles had been stitched first, with nicely balanced tension, and then disaster struck a few days later when I decided to come back and fill in every other one with a squiggle.  But I think I figured out what went wrong that day, and as long as I learned something from all of this, it wasn't a waste, after all!  

Note to Self: Threading the Pigtail Guide on the M-Class Bobbin Case INCREASES Bobbin Tension

On the Disastrous Day of Stitching That All Had to be Ripped Out, I believe I unintentionally unbalanced my tension by slipping the thread tail through the pigtail guide, adding a little more tension to the bobbin thread without making any adjustment to the top thread tension.  After running the machine unthreaded for 15 minutes to warm up the motor, I was impatient to start quilting and figured "My tension was excellent yesterday, nothing has changed since then, so no need to do any test stitching today."  

APQS M-Class Bobbin Case, Pigtail Guide Threaded
I vaguely remember that, when I took my bobbin case out to oil the hook at the beginning of that Fateful Day of Frightful Tension, I dropped my bobbin case on the carpeted floor and my bobbin popped out of its case.  When I reinserted the bobbin, I had this split second of doubt about whether I'd been using the little pigtail thread guide of my M-Class bobbin case.  I knew I'd experimented both ways, with and without threading the guide, when I was adjusting the tension, but I hadn't made a note of which way I ended up doing it.  I figured I'd PROBABLY threaded the pigtail, and didn't think it would make a huge difference...  Wrong!

APQS M-Class Bobbin case, Pigtail Guide Unthreaded
APQS recommendations using this guide "for best results with most threads" because it helps to ensure that the bobbin thread is properly positioned to catch the hook with every stitch, but it does put some additional resistance on the bobbin thread.  Which I should have known, since previous Berninas that I've owned in the past had the same little pigtail guide and you were supposed to thread the pigtail for embroidery or satin stitches, where you want the top thread to pull slightly to the back side.  Don't misunderstand me; I'm not saying to never thread the pigtail guide.  I could still get balanced stitches with the pigtail threaded if I increased the upper thread tension accordingly.  And, if I was getting skipped stitches with the pigtail unthreaded, for example, threading the pigtail would be the first thing I'd try for an instant fix.  However, when changing from no pigtail to pigtail threaded midstream, it's important to check and adjust the upper thread tension again to ensure that the stitch is still balanced.  The pigtail is like adding one more person to Team Bobbin in the game of tug-of-war, without adding any more pulling power to Team Needle Thread!



With any thread combination, you can get balanced stitches both with and without threading the bobbin case pigtail.  You can have an evenly matched tug-of-war with three people on each team or with five people on each team, right?  I think I determined in my test stitching that my stitches were more attractive with the particular thread combination I'm using for this quilt (50 weight So Fine in the needle with 60 weight Bottom Line in the bobbin) when tension was balanced but a little looser overall versus balanced but tight overall tension.  Think two duds pulling from each side rather than four dudes pulling from each side. So I had skipped the pigtail and then adjusted my upper thread to balance the looser bobbin tension.  

Well, at least I've learned something, right?  I need to put a sticky note somewhere to remind myself of whether or not I'm using the bobbin pigtail guide on a particular project.  And I should probably get in the habit of ALWAYS doing some test stitching and/or crawling under the frame, run my fingernail along the stitching line on the back of the quilt, or SOMETHING after a few minutes of quilting to check that all is well under there before I put in thousands of stitches that will take forever to rip out.


I am remembering -- and now following! -- advice that quilter Jamie Wallen shared in his long arm tension video tutorial (above) several years ago.  Jamie recommends that you start by adjusting your tension so that the bobbin thread is pulled up to the top of your quilt and then loosening your top tension until you can just see the dots of bobbin thread in the needle holes.  When your quilt comes off the frame and relaxes, those little bobbin thread dots will settle back into the middle of the quilt sandwich, but seeing those dots of bobbin from the right side as you're quilting is your insurance that you are not getting flatlining and eyelashing on the back of your quilt!

One more thought: This is my first time using Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting on my long arm.  I know I read somewhere -- maybe in my APQS new owner class handouts? -- that a batting with a bit more loft, like an 80/20 blend or wool, is more forgiving for longarm quilting because more batting loft equals more room in the middle of your quilt sandwich for the needle and bobbin thread to lock together without showing through on either side of the quilt.  I am already seeing that the all-cotton batting is not giving me as much dimensional contrast between the unquilted rectangles and the squiggled ones, so I will probably steer clear of 100% cotton batting on the long arm going forward.

Recently Ripped Out and Requilted.  It Was Better the First Time
This section was all ripped out and requilted yesterday.  I thought that maybe I didn't need to use a stencil this time, since the needle holes were still visible from the previous quilting, but I couldn't see them well enough as I was actually stitching out the design.  The result: Notice how these curls are slightly square?  That was the problem I was trying to avoid in the first place, by stenciling guidelines onto the quilt before quilting it.  Well, the next one will be better, right?

I'm looking forward to making some progress quilting NEW areas of the quilt later today!  The other project that I've been working on in weekly dribbles is my FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned appliqué.  My bee group has been doing virtual Zoom get togethers every Monday throughout the pandemic shutdown, and this is what I work on during that time.  I haven't been sharing it because I'm trying to work efficiently, doing all 16 leaves on all 9 blocks before moving on to the next shape, and it would be really boring if I kept posting photos of the same block over and over again...  It is definitely getting boring to be STITCHING the same exact block over and over again!  That is one of the great benefits of sampler quilts -- variety!

Still Plodding Along with my FrankenWhiggish Rose Needle Turn Applique Project
As a reminder, this is what the first (and only) completed block looks like (below).  All eight of the other blocks are in the process of getting their leaves, like the block shown above.

One Block Completed, Eight Still In Progress at the Leaf Stage
I am definitely looking forward to moving on to the tulips soon.  Hope I still remember how to do the deep inside points and the reverse appliqué  but if I don't remember, I'll just have to relearn it!  I'm linking up today's post with:

SUNDAY

·       Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts  
·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

MONDAY

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Puppy of Procrastination

Remember that day when the only sewing I accomplished was an emergency rhinoplasty performed on a stuffed unicorn dog toy?  Totally worth it -- check out Samwise PuppyPants, napping with his unicorn like it's a pillow for his sweet, furry face.  I sewed up the gash where the unicorn's nose used to be nearly two months ago, and I'm astounded that the repair has held this long.  Let's hear it for heavy duty upholstery thread!!

Samwise Snuggling With His Best-Loved Unicorn Toy
Little Rottie dude is nearly 7 months old now, and he weighed 82 pounds the last time we weighed him (a few days ago).  

No One Can Resist This Face
Sam is such a snuggler.  He is also very much a lap dog, no matter HOW big he gets.  Anyone know where I can get a bigger lap?

THIS is What Keeps Me Sane During Quarantine!
Even though seven months is still very much a puppy for a large breed like the Rottweiler, every once in awhile I get a picture that shows me a glimpse of the big boy he's growing into, like this one.  Doesn't he look regal?

Majestic Mister Samwise, At Peace With Tennis Ball
Oh my gosh, you guys -- my mean husband just called out from the other room:

"Didn't you say you wanted to sew today?  Are you falling down a rabbit hole again?"


Umhmmm...  Shamed!!  Fine.  I'll go sew something, but only so I have something to write about next time.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Stencils for Long Arm Quilting, Part Three: None of the Magic Tricks Are Working

If you've been following along with me recently, you know that I've been experimenting with the use of homemade stencils and chalk powder to transfer quilting designs onto my Spirit Song quilt.  My DIY stencils are made of 24 pound vellum paper that I've stitched through with an unthreaded domestic sewing machine to perforate the design lines, and since I've already completed all of the SID (stitch in the ditch) quilting on this quilt, it's already loaded onto my long arm frame.  In case you're wondering, there is absolutely no way you could use chalk powder to mark an entire quilt PRIOR to loading it on the frame, because the chalk powder is just resting on the surface of the quilt and if you touch it, move the fabric after marking it, or even breathe on it, it's gone.

Such a Quick Method of Transferring a Design!

Here's what I'm finding: When you see these stencils and powdered marking chalk products demonstrated at quilt shows or in online videos, they are usually demonstrating these products on a single piece of fabric that is laying on a table top.  Transferring a stencil design with chalk powder works much better against a flat surface, and I could not consistently achieve a clean, full design transfer unless I had some kind of flat surface pressing up against the bottom of my quilt.  With smaller stencils, I had good results transferring the stencil design with my machine head positioned so that I could support my quilt with the ruler base while transferring the design, but if I was trying to transfer a large design, like a border pattern, I would need to rig something up beneath my frame in order to get a clean transfer of the entire design.

White Zinc Stearate Magic Chalk on Left (Orange) and Pounce Chalk in Blue on right (Yellow)
However, that may be a moot point.  I have now tried both the original white Pounce Chalk product, the blue Pounce Chalk product, and the zinc stearate Magic Chalk that is supposed to stick to your quilt better than the Pounce Chalk product, removing with steam.  [I didn't have a separate pounce pad for the blue chalk, just a bag of the chalk powder to try, which is why I'm applying that chalk with a foam paint brush in the photo above].  You guys, I saw ZERO difference between these products.  If anything, the chalk powders that were supposed to stick better and were supposed to be MORE difficult to remove actually stuck to my quilt surface not at ALL and disappeared even faster!

80% of Magic Chalk Bounced Off As Soon as I Began Stitching
When you are trying to follow a design line that you've carefully marked on your quilt and it's vanishing before you can stitch it, it's very frustrating!  

The Blue Pounce Chalk That's Supposed to be Harder to Remove
I thought for sure the blue Pounce Chalk would stick to my quilt long enough for me to quilt the design, because a few quilters had warned me that they still had some of that blue pigment remaining in their finished quilts that they couldn't remove once the quilting was finished.  I am absolutely mystified by that.  In the photo above, the periwinkle chalk dust is the blue Pounce Chalk that bounced right off my quilt, completely removing itself as soon as I started stitching, and the couple of places where you see more of a teal line are spots where I filled in the incomplete stenciled design with my blue washaway marker.  All of the chalk disappeared the instant I began stitching, and only the marker lines remained.

This Time, I Wet My Fabric Patch Before Applying the Stencil with Chalk Powder
One tip that I'd read about was to mist the surface of your quilt with water before applying the stencil with chalk powder, to make it "grab" the chalk and hold onto it long enough for you to quilt the design.  Well, I can't spray water all over my quilt because I'm also using the blue water soluble marker to mark my ruler work lines and I don't want those lines disappearing on me.  But I did saturate a scrap of cotton batting with water and pressed that into my fabric patch to wet it prior to applying a chalk stencil.  Did this make any difference, though?  Nope!

Still Pretty Hard to See Once I Start Stitching
Theories as to why these products and tips may be working better for other quilters than they are for me:

1. Is there a difference in the amount of vibration between different quilting machines?  Is my APQS Millennium just "bouncier" than Jamie Wallen's HandiQuilter or someone else's domestic sewing machine that they are quilting with?

2. By the time a quilt top is loaded onto my frame, it has been HEAVILY starched.  I starched every seam of every block throughout construction, because starch helps me achieve a flat, square quilt top with nice, crisp points throughout.  But maybe the quilters who are using stencils with powdered chalk to mark their quilts are not starch fanatics like I am.  If we were to compare a heavily starched piece of cotton fabric to an unstarched piece of cotton fabric under a microscope, I'll bet the unstarched fabric has a rougher surface texture that the chalk powder is able to settle into, especially into those tiny holes in between the warp and weft yarns.  My starch has probably filled in those holes and smoothed any microscopic yarn slubs that the chalk powder could have grabbed onto, giving me a nonstick quilt surface kind of like Teflon in a frying pan.

All Stitched Out
I don't know -- now that I'm looking at these photos of the yellow triangle that I dampened with water before stenciling, maybe the chalk DID stay on better during stitching?  That would actually make sense, because wetting the starched fabric makes the layer of starch a little bit tacky to "grab" the chalk.  Maybe I was just having trouble seeing my little white chalk dots against this particular fabric that has such a profusion of dots and splotches all over the place.  Maybe I'll try wetting the fabric before stenciling again on a couple of different fabric patches with the different chalks before giving up and moving on.

These Look Better Than the Ones I Quilted Two Days Ago
One thing I can tell you is that I'm already seeing improvement from the first couple of times I quilted this motif to the ones I quilted last night.  My curls are more consistent on both sides of each triangle, the curly ends are more rounded, and the echo spacing of the curls is more even.  Also, in the places where the stitching IS a little wonky, my blending Peach Tart So Fine 50 weight thread is camouflaging the oopses nicely.

The First Two Attempts at Quilting This Motif
I don't know how obvious this is to other people comparing these photos, but in the one above there were several places where I lost control for a moment and a line that I intended to be smooth twisted away, or a line that I meant to echo back on a curl was super thick in some places and then super thin in others.  It should be interesting to compare these first attempts to the last ones that I will quilt when I get to the bottom of the quilt.

Still Not Great, But Better Than the First One!
In the photo above, the yellow and pink fabric patch is still wet -- that's why you see the seam allowance shadowing through so badly.  It will look fine when it's completely dry.


Still Wet.  From a Distance, Can't Really See Anything Anyway
You know, these crazy prints and my blending thread do a great job of hiding the skips and bobbles, but they also make it hard to see what I'm quilting WHILE I'm quilting it.  It might be better to plan the next quilt so I'm doing these designs on fabric that will show the quilting more distinctly.

Super Bad Tension MUST Come Out!
I also ripped out and requilted some of the bad eyelash stitching that I showed you last time.  A couple of you advised me to leave those stitches in because "no one will ever know," but I know better from experience!  If your tension is off so badly that you have eyelashes on the back of your quilt as shown in the photo above, it's not just an aesthetic issue.  That bobbin thread is just floating against the backing fabric, barely attached with long loops of top thread that were pulled clear through to the back of the quilt.  When you wash that quilt for the first time and it shrinks -- and yes, it WILL shrink, even if you preshrunk all of your fabrics -- you end up with loose thread all over the back of the quilt that will catch and snag and rip right out of the quilt.  Tension that bad is just not "structurally sound."  What's more, these stitches are faster and easier to remove than nice, balanced stitches that lock together within the batting layer of the quilt.  You just clip the beginning and end of the flat stitching line from the back of the quilt, grab the bobbin thread with your tweezers, and the whole line of stitching slides right out in one piece.  Hideous tension stitches are the only quilting stitches that come out faster than they were sewn.

So, where does that leave us?  I think I have some more lousy tension to rip out and restitch before advancing the quilt.  It's hard to tell for sure until I roll that bit up onto the pickup roller of the frame, because I get vertigo when I keep crawling under the frame and trying to look up to evaluate the stitching.  Now I'm wishing that I'd taken the time to attach the zipper leaders to my canvas leaders (I've had them for three years, still in the package), because it would be so much easier to unzip the top edge of this quilt from the pickup roller, flip the quilt backside up to locate and remove the bad stitches, and then zip that edge right back onto the frame to resume quilting.  Woulda, shoulda, coulda!  I can't attach zipper leaders while I've got a quilt loaded on the frame, though, so I'm just going to have to keep rolling the quilt back and forth to rip and restitch one yucky bit at a time.

Happy Thursday, all of you.  I hope you get some time in your sewing rooms today!

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