Saturday, June 13, 2020

Quilting Right Along On Spirit Song: Of Tension Tweaks and Replacing Dull Needles

Good morning, Lovelies!  Looky what I've been up to this week!

Nearing the End of the Peach Quilting

I've been slogging away at my long arm machine a little bit each day, working on my Spirit Song quilt.  Last night, when I finished quilting for the day and advanced the quilt, the border appeared!  Yay!!  This must be what it felt like for those 15th century European explorers, after months at sea worrying about sailing off the edge of the Earth, when they finally spotted LAND!

Of course, this is the second time I've advanced the quilt and "spotted the border."  I first basted and quilted all of the SID (Stitch in the Ditch) with monofilament thread throughout the entire quilt, then rolled back to the top and started the ruler work and free motion fills in the pink/coral fabric patches using So Fine #50 thread in Peach Tart.  Even though I'm seeing the bottom border now, I'm not close to finishing by a long shot.  Once I'm done quilting with peach thread, I'll be rolling the quilt back up to the top again to do the white/off white background fills throughout the entire quilt, which will probably take a small eternity at my typical snail's pace, and then I'll still have the borders to quilt, probably in a blue/purple thread color.

The FMQ (free motion quilting) parts are going SO much faster than the ruler work areas.  I love the way the ruler work looks, but it's super tedious and fiddly.  When I finish one of those ruler work triangles and move on to the FMQ, it feels like a reward for good behavior!

I'm still using my DIY vellum paper stencils with the original white Pounce Chalk to mark the FMQ.  Even though the chalk lines blur and disappear as soon as I begin quilting, they are still better than no guide at all.

Not sure you can see that quilting at all in the photo above.  Which was sort of the point initially -- practice wobbly FMQ using a thread that blends with the busy fabric prints, to disguise the bloopers that would be so much more obvious on a solid fabric.

The fairly thin batting I'm using (Quilter's Dream Select Cotton, rather than an 80/20 cotton/poly blend or a wool batting) is partly to blame, too.  More batting loft means greater textural difference between the places where the loft is compressed by dense quilting and the areas between stitches that puff up from the lofty batting.  It will be interesting to see whether the quilting design appears more or less pronounced after I wash this quilt for the first time and get some shrinkage.

It's interesting how that same FMQ design in the same Peach Tart thread color shows up so much better on some prints than others, isn't it?  That might be kind of interesting when I can step back and look at the whole quilt from a distance.  

I am still not great at echoing the first swirl line with consistent spacing.  I think some of these swirly-cues look like earthworms coiled on the sidewalk the day after a heavy rain.

But even my earthworm FMQ looks better from a distance!

I learned a couple of interesting things about my APQS Millennium long arm quilting machine yesterday.  First, I discovered that my tension is affected by the speed I'm moving the machine.  So if I adjust the tension just right to quilt a ruler work section, which involves moving the machine very short distances at a slow speed, and then I move to the FMQ section to quilt longer, faster swirly lines without changing anything, the stitches that were balanced a moment ago are now pulling to the backing side slightly.  Now that I know this, I can tweak the tension knob ever so slightly, like an eighth of a turn, when I go from one type of quilting to the next, to keep the stitching balanced and consistent throughout.

Do you see those little white batting pokies sticking out in the backing photo above?  I should have changed my needle so much sooner.  I mean, I HEARD the needle getting dull, when it started to make a punching sound as it stitched.  I loathe changing the needle on this machine, so I procrastinate.  The first time I changed the needle on my long arm machine, I unscrewed the set screw too much and it fell out, and it took me forever to get it back in again.  Also, my APQS machine uses industrial needles that have a rounded shaft, so you have to be really careful when you put a new needle in to ensure it's inserted correctly.  It's not the end of the world, but it's a fiddly interruption when you're in your quilting groove, so I ignored the sound of the dulling needle and kept quilting.

This is the second sign that I ignored.  See those white threads where the dull needle is snagging the fabric?  Instead of a sharp point piercing cleanly through the quilt fibers, my dull needle is pulling or twisting the yarn of the fabric as it struggles to get through.  This was most obvious on this dark purple print, since the wrong side of this particular fabric is so much lighter than its right side.  Yes, I DID see those little white thread streaks when they started appearing.  Did I stop quilting right then and there and change my needle?  No, I did not.

I kept quilting with that needle for a couple more hours, until it got SO bad that I could no longer ignore it!  Such silliness.  I wonder if I can find a permanent purple marker in the right shade to recolor those white threads so they don't stand out so much?  Whatever.  Lesson learned -- next time, I'll change the needle as soon as it starts sounding different!

I'm linking up today's post with:

·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


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

I think the quilting is really looking good! Too bad about noticing the dull needle after it started to pull bits of batting though but remember this is a learning quilt right? You are doing great

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

You are so patient!!! Doing all that beautiful FMQ. Plus, I'm feeling the urge to change my LA needle right now!

Gretchen Weaver said...

Spirit Song is so beautiful! You're not going to notice the bloopers when the quilt is out of the frame and you're standing back 4 feet. Happy stitching!

Tammy Hutchinson said...

Spirit Song is beautiful, for a practice quilt or any other reason. I often use Pigma pens to disguise problems I can't or won't bother to fix. It's so hard to stop and adjust when you have the momentum going.

SJSM said...

When you are feeling so immersed in a process, stopping for anything is difficult. I do the same thing. Once I do decide to stop and fix the problem, I wonder why I waited so long. It is our natural inclination to continue. It is wisdom gained when you stop to fix a problem.

Ila said...

What an amazing job you're doing! I love watching your progress. I know how you feel about changing the needle. I bought a "needle positioning magnet" and it's helped me. If I can help you in any way, please ask. Thanks for posting about your quilting!

KaHolly said...

Sounds as though there’s so much to learn with long arm quilting. I FMQ on my domestic, and freehand most of it. Imperfect echoing, etc., just gives it a nice organic look! Maybe paired with ruler work, you may not like it . This is a lovely quilt! I like the name of it.

Anne-Marie said...

I really enjoyed your post. First, I learned some things--you can successfully use monofilament thread. How?? I'd love to hear what you did to get that to work. Also, speed vs. tension. I hadn't considered that and will be looking out for that on my new machine. I laughed at your description of the earthworms. The reluctance to change the needle. Hmm. Maybe get the alignment magnet? People seem to really like that. Your quilting looks really good.

Preeti said...

This is going to be so awesome - absolutely show-stopping. Hope you are well. Big Hugs from afar.