Saturday, August 29, 2020

Machine Piecing the Modern Baby Clam Shells Quilt, with Help from QNM

Hello, my lovelies!  My one and only weekly goal last week was to START -- just to start, not to finish, mind you! -- piecing my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilt.  I created the design in my EQ8 software in December of 2018, with a specific baby in mind whose due date was several weeks away...  Then it took me awhile to find the 9.5" acrylic clam shell templates I wanted to use (from an Australian Etsy seller who has since closed her shop).  Then I hemmed and hawed about the best way to cut out completely accurate 9.5" diameter circles (10" actually, since I needed a seam allowance).  After cutting out all the clam shells, circles, and partial clam shells, I then realized I didn't know how to sew them together!  I had my heart set on old school curved piecing, which I'd done for Lars's Drunkard's Path quilt eight years ago, but I wasn't sure how to go about piecing a clam shell quilt.  Do you start at the bottom and work your way up, or start at the top and work your way down?  Searching online, I either found instructions that confused me and explained only the part I already understood (how to sew a curved seam) and left out the part I didn't know (where to start and how to progress through the piecing of the quilt).  I also found patterns that subdivided the clam shells to simplify the piecing, or for using a prepared edge appliqué technique to avoid piecing altogether, neither of which interested me.  Ugh!  Annoying!  Set aside and ignored for a year and a half, until I made it my goal for THIS week:

So, as you can see, I've met that goal already because I did start the piecing!  Yay, me! 😉.  I'm using my Golidilocks machine for this -- my 5.5 mm Bernina 475QE, which is why I have my portable SewEzi table set up in my studio next to the big machine's cabinet.

So that's my quilt design rendering, created in EQ8 software.  It should finish at 40" x 40" unless I decide to enlarge it somehow.  There may or may not be embroidered butterflies before the top gets layered for piecing.

As you can see, I'm using a bazillion pins, because I want the smoothest, most accurate curve possible and I don't want to clip the seam allowances.  I prefer piecing with Patchwork Foot #37 on my little machine, and I bought a Bernina seam guide that I can snug right up against the side of my foot just like the seam guide that came with the #97D foot for my big 750QE machine.  Having that fence-like guide out in FRONT of the presser foot makes it so easy to to feed the curve smoothly with a deadly accurate 1/4" seam.  I'm also using my Patchwork Straight Stitch defaults (lower tension for my Aurifil 50/2 cotton thread and a shorter stitch length of 2.0).  On my 475QE it's stitch #1303, but the same exact stitch on my other Bernina is #1326 -- go figure!

Yay!  The first seam!!  As you can see, I started in the middle of my quilt.  Where should I add the next patch?  Let's put another clam shell onto the blue half circle!

Yay again!  Smooth round curves are making me happy!  This is awesome; why was I so afraid?!  Let's add a circle next!

But then I started second guessing how I was going about all of this and wondering if I was going to piece myself into some kind of a corner.  And I remembered an article I'd saved when I was going through a haul of ancient Quilters' Newsletter Magazines that a former member of the Charlotte Quilter's Guild gave me about a year ago.  (She wanted to donate them to a current member of the guild and I was the only person who raised my hand).  So I stopped piecing and (miraculously!) located the article, filed away in one of my ubiquitous 3-ring binders.

THIS!!  THIS is the information I'd been looking for, and I had to go all the way back to a March 1997 magazine to find it.  The instructions are for hand piecing, but all I really needed was that piecing diagram explaining that you start at the top, alternating between rows one and two, and then work your way down adding row by row beneath the first two.  That, the pressing direction for seam allowances, and the Fig. 6 photo showing that the seam allowances need to be kept open where two pointy clam shell sides meet up.  

Maybe I would have been fine if I'd kept working my way out from the middle of the quilt, but maybe there's a good reason for working top-down that would have caused frustration and swearing and, God forbid, seam ripping.  I'd rather not have to reinvent any wheels on this quilt that is already so far behind schedule, so I left off working on the middle rows and started working on the top and bottom rows instead, per the magazine instructions.

By the way, in the QNM illustrations they have cut out their clam shell using tag board templates to mark the seam lines and then adding 1/4" seam allowances beyond the drawn line.  That makes it easier for hand piecing, since you can check periodically as you're stitching to make sure your stitches are landing right on the seam line on the back of your work as well as on the front.  My acrylic clam shell template has small holes along the edges that I'm using with a Frixxion heat erase pen to mark alignment dots on my clam shells.  I know some people have had horrendous issues when they've used Frixxion pens to mark quilting designs on the front of quilts, with "ghost marks" left behind or the ink reappearing in certain situations, but I am just twirling the tip of the pen inside the hole to make tiny black dots on the WRONG side of my fabric.  They disappear pretty well when I iron them, and if they are not completely gone, well, they are on the wrong side of the fabric where no one can see them anyway!

So here you can see the completed bottom row of my quilt, all pieced and pressed!  I now know that a normal quilter would have used whole clam shells along the outside edge and trimmed after piecing, but it seems to be working just fine.  I think I planned for a 2" wide border in that same blue so the clam shells would float away from the binding. My top row is completely pieced now, too, in addition to that bit in the center that I'd already started before locating my instructions.  My plan now is to continue piecing down from the top and up from the bottom per the QNM instructions, joining the sections together at the center circles.

SO, having met my goal of STARTING the piecing this week, what are my quilting goals for the week to come?

This Week's Quilting Goals

  • FINISH piecing Modern Baby Clam Shell Quilt!  
  • Load next charity top on the long arm and decide how to quilt it
  • Write next post for my Long Arm Linky party and schedule publication for Tuesday morning!

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


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

·       Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

OMG! I Met My Goals for August, Early! What Should I Do With Myself?

 Oh my gosh, you guys -- this is a rare surprise.  There are still 7 whole days left in the month of August, and I just realized that I have finished all of the quilting goals I'd set for this month.  Finished them EARLY.  I know, right?!  Who IS this imposter, and what has she done with the REAL Rebecca Grace?!

And it's not like I was wimpy with those goals, either.  Let's recap:

August Quilting Goals:

  1. ✅ Finish cutting out the next four blocks for MMBB & move them off the cutting table.
  2. ✅ Trim excess batting and backing from Spirit Song quilt
  3. ✅ Make the binding for Spirit Song
  4. ✅ Digitize & machine embroider a label for Spirit Song; appliqué to back of quilt
  5. ✅ Machine stitch binding to the front of Spirit Song
  6. ✅ Hand stitch binding to the back of Spirit Song.  Launder & photograph.
  7. ✅ Decide what's getting quilted next and load it onto the long arm frame
  8. ✅ Piece one or more of those MMBB blocks that are printed up, cut out, and ready to sew
  9. ✅ Launch & promote Weekly Long Arm Linky party, beginning August 4th

My Spirit Song quilt, renamed Sermon Scribbles, is completely finished.  You can read more about that one here:

I finished all four of the blocks for my version of the Moda Modern Quilt Blocks that were printed up and ready to start at the beginning of the month.  Twelve blocks down, 36 more to go on that one.  To see more about that project, click here:

And my fourth Long Arm Learning link up published automatically an hour ago, just as scheduled.  If you're looking for today's LAL linky party, click here!  I've been learning so much from what other machine quilters are sharing in that space.

I also managed to finish all of the items on last week's To-Do list.

Last Week's To-Do List:

  • ✅ Piece backing for tumbler outreach top pictured above (next in line for quilting!)
  • ✅ Load tumbler quilt on frame
  • ✅ Select pantograph and thread
  • ✅ Quilt tumbler quilt
I'm not sure the pantograph I chose (Wild at Heart) was necessarily beginner friendly, but it was one that I owned, the scale was right, and it came out better than expected.  Win!  This quilt will be donated to a pediatric patient in one of our local hospitals, through the Charlotte Quilters Guild.

So, I find myself with a whole freebie week at the end of August, with everything crossed off my quilty To-Do lists early!  What should I do with it?  

I think my goal for this week should involve a project that I've been neglecting, something like this tumbler top that languished for over a year in my Purgatory closet...  This week, my goals are going to be about anti-procrastination.

This Week's Tuesday's To-Do List:

That's it, just the one thing.  It's enough.  It's just a 40" x 40" baby quilt, and all of the pieces are cut out, but I stalled out because I was unsure of how I wanted to construct them.  I'm still unsure, except that I know I want to actually piece them rather than doing an appliqué method.  So I need to get these out again and figure out where to start -- do I build out from the center circles, or do I start at the top and work my way down.  And I need to decide whether a 40" x 40" quilt is even big enough to be useful to a 2-year-old or if I should enlarge it somehow...  Ugh.  Dread.  See?  This was supposed to be a "quick and easy" baby gift two years ago.  I want it off my list of works in progress projects left abandoned!  One goal is enough for this week!

I'm linking up today's post with the end-of-August One Monthly Goal link up at Elm Street Quilts, and with To-Do on Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us.  

LAL#4: The One Where I Organized My Pantographs, Apprehended a Worn Eyelet Guide, and Discovered Anti-Vibration Pads

Outreach Tumbler Quilt, 40" x 54", Wild at Heart Pantograph

Hello and Happy Tuesday!  Welcome back to the Long Arm Learning linky party!  I have to say, I am learning so much from what you all have been linking up here each week.  Cheree of The Morning Latte and Katy of KatyQuilts both linked up posts with terrific tips for choosing beginner-friendly pantograph patterns.  Reading through their suggestions, I realized that my disappointing pantograph attempts when I first got my long arm machine three years ago owed a lot to the pantograph patterns I was trying to quilt.  I wanted a "breather" after the intensive custom quilting I'd just finished on my Sermon Scribbles quilt, and I had a small outreach tumbler quilt top waiting in my Quilt Purgatory closet that needed to get finished so it can be donated to the pediatric ward of one of our local hospitals to cheer up a child with a life-threatening illness.  I decided this was the perfect time to take another shot at following a pantograph pattern from the back of my machine.

Although I've only quilted pantographs on a couple of quilt tops before, I already had a collection of about 40 pantograph patterns that I'd purchased from another quilter who had moved to a computerized system.  I had been told that pantographs were the easiest way for a new long arm quilter to learn, so I purchased all of these in one big lot rather than selecting designs individually that appealed to me.  I didn't even know what all I had, they were jumbled in a cupboard, and I had to unroll them one at a time if I wanted to see what they looked like.  

So actually my biggest accomplishment this week is that I went through all of those pantographs, located images of all of them on the manufacturer's web sites, and also managed to locate photos of almost all of the designs stitched onto an actual quilt so I could get a better idea of what each one looked like.  I found that, especially with the "beginner-rated" patterns, a lot of the pantographs that look pretty lame as a line drawing actually look really effective sewn into a quilt, so in each of the clear page protectors I have the line drawing of a pantograph pattern on one side and a photo of that design quilted out on a quilt on the reverse side.  

Then I printed out all of those pictures in full color (my husband is still mad at me about the printer ink) and organized them into a binder by subject.  I also ordered a few more pantograph patterns to fill "holes" in my collection, making sure I have a nice assortment of versatile, mostly very forgiving, beginner friendly patterns that Cheree and Katy would approve of.  And Nancy from Grace and Peace quilting, who is also a computerized quilter these days, very graciously offered to send me even MORE beginner-friendly pantograph patterns to try, which just arrived in today's mail.  YIPPEE!!!  

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not turning my back on custom quilting and ruler work.  I just want to have other options in my "quilter's tool box" because not every quilt needs or can have 100 hours or more of quilting in it.  I want a speedier method for finishing charity quilts, everyday bed quilts, and quilts like Spirit Song Sermon Scribbles where the piecing design and prints were so strong, custom quilting wasn't going to show up much anyway.  

Also, although I read Cheree's and Katy's advice about picking beginner pantograph patterns and did take it to heart (pun!), I didn't end up choosing a very beginner friendly pattern for this quilt.  That's because, even though I'd gotten a lot of patterns from that other quilter, none of the other patterns seemed like it would enhance this quilt top as much as Wild at Heart.  The other patterns I had that seemed easier were either the wrong scale for my 4" tumbler blocks, or they were designs that looked too grownup for the playful novelty prints.  I know this would look so much better if a more experienced pantograph quilter (or a computerized quilter) stitched it out so the long curves would be smoother and the echo lines would be spaced more evenly and accurately -- but all in all, it came out better than I expected.  Which is a good thing, since that pale lavender Glide thread really stands out against the deep purple solid!  

Again, I knew that this highly contrasting thread wasn't going to be very forgiving of my wobbles and bobbles, but I like the way the pale quilting thread breaks up the solid, somber eggplant solid, softens the harsh geometry of the geometric piecing design, and adds some whimsy that complements the juvenile conversation prints.  The photo above shows the quilt after machine binding with a zigzag stitch (wish my machine binding looked neater!) and a tumble through the laundry machines.  I don't have a full size finish photo to share because it was already dark out by the time this came out of the dryer!

I have two little tidbits to share with y'all today.  First, even thought I was using 40 weight Glide thread that my long arm machine adores, it started shredding and snapping on me with this quilt, worse and worse.  This was driving me crazy and really slowing me down, until I finally stopped to check my thread path.  Check out this groove that had worn into the eyelet thread guide just above my needle:

This groove must have been worn into the thread guide gradually over time.  I'd heard that this can happen, but never seen it on my own machine before.  That little eyelet guide costs all of $1.50 from APQS and I've ordered a replacement as well as a spare.  In the meantime, to keep me quilting and happy, my husband had the idea to just rotate that thread guide 180 degrees so the thread rubs on the opposite side of the eyelet, away from the groove that was shredding my thread.  Brilliant!

I also experimented successfully with adding anti-vibration pads under the legs of my long arm frame to reduce the vibration I was feeling from my machine at higher speeds.  My husband thinks this has less to do with my long arm machine than it does with the way the ceiling of our garage/floor of my "bonus room" studio was framed out when our house was built, and he thinks that I might experience less vibration if my machine wasn't set up perpendicular to the floor joists.  Well, I'm not ready to rearrange the whole studio on that hunch, but I did some online research about and ran across an Innova dealer who was selling industrial anti-vibration pads on her web site.  So we went out to Home Depot and bought a set of four of these things for less than $20.  The ones I got are made of rubber and MDF and are sold for use on air compressors that can vibrate to the extreme that they go bouncing away from you when you turn them on.  Anyway, I slipped one of these under each leg of my frame about midway through this quilt, and OH MY GOSH, what a huge difference!!  Definitely a noticeable reduction of the vibration at higher speeds, which translated into me instantly getting better at following a curve smoothly now that my machine wasn't bouncing!!  Wish I'd discovered these little magic squares AGES ago!  The pads I bought at Home Depot are Husky Heavy-Duty Vibration Pads for Air Compressors and my local store had them in stock, but you can find similar products on Amazon here.  

And Now, Let's Party!

I'm linking up today's post with my favorite linky parties:


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

·       Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

·       TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here:

That's enough from me for today!  I want to hear what all of YOU have been up to with your quilting this week!  If you're linking up on Instagram, please use hashtag #longarmlearning! 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

LAL#3: The One Where Rebecca Finally Finishes a Quilt, but Doesn't Love It Anymore

 Happy Tuesday, friends!  Welcome to another Long Arm Learning linky party!  I actually have a finished (long arm quilted) quilt to share with you today, my FIRST finished quilt of 2020 -- and yes, I do know how pathetic that is to be finishing my first quilt of the year in mid-August.  My Sermon Scribbles quilt is FINISHED, as in quilted, labeled, bound, washed, and photographed!  

I started piecing this in November of last year, and loaded it on my frame for quilting in April, just as this crazy pandemic lockdown was settling in.  From beginning to end, this silly quilt has taken 9 months to complete.  Like the gestation of a child, for crying out loud.

We were taking these photos just past 6 o'clock, with the sun sinking in the sky, and the light was kind of electrifying -- the quilt doesn't look quite so fluorescent in real life!  Here's a shot of the same quilt indoors, spread across the bottom of my bed with morning light flooding in from the window:

See?  Not nearly as bright as it looked outdoors.  By the way, I'm disappointed by the extent to which my custom quilting was minimized by the shrinkage and crinkling that happened in the first washing.  A single layer of Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting was not enough to do justice to 5 months' worth of custom quilting.  For your reference, here's what this quilt looked like prior to washing, fresh off the frame:

And now I can understand more clearly why quilters use a batting with more loft, or even a double layered batting, for heavy custom and heirloom quilting.  Live and learn!  This quilt lost approximately 8% of its length and width from heavy quilting takeup and from shrinking in the wash.  On the positive side, any wobbles or wiggles in my quilting that I wasn't happy with certainly aren't going to be noticed now.  And I still got the benefit of practicing all of those different quilting motifs, even if you can't really see them in the finished quilt.  This would have been an excellent candidate for an edge to edge pantograph quilting design, IF my objective in making it hadn't been furthering my free motion quilting practice.

The truly weird thing is that I don't know what to do with this one, now that it's quilted.  The colors are all wrong for it to live anywhere in my house -- it doesn't go with any of our bedrooms and, at 54" x 70", it's not bed sized anyway.  It's all wrong for my traditionally decorated living room and family room.  It wasn't meant as a gift for anyone and it's too big to be a baby quilt for a shower gift.  So this is my first Completely Useless Quilt Going Straight Into Storage!

54" x 70" Sermon Scribbles

Nothing But the FAQs, Ma'am:

Ah, well -- here are the stats we quilters always want to know about a quilt:

Name: Spirit Song Sermon Scribbles

Size: 54" x 70" Throw

Pattern: Traditional 8" Airplane blocks, no pattern used

Fabrics: Mostly from stash, with a Kaffe Fassett border print

Batting: Quilter's Dream Cotton Select

Thread: Superior MonoPoly for SID; everything else is Superior So Fine #50 in the needle with Bottom Line in the bobbin

It took me three days to bind it, and yes, I'm happy with how my binding came out.

Here's what the back of the quilt looks like, post-washing:

If I Had This Quilt to Do Over?

What would I do differently, if I were to make this same quilt again?

  • I would rotary cut my HSTs instead of using the AccuQuilt GO! HST triangle dies
  • I would quilt this with a much simpler design since the heavy piecing and dizzying array of prints makes it hard to see the quilting anyway.  This would be a great candidate for an edge to edge (E2E) pantograph design
  • I would have used a single thread color for the whole thing, something like a pastel pink or yellow Glide, to reduce the hassle of thread color changes -- and so the quilting would show up better when all is said and done
  • I would have used either an 80/20 blend batting or a wool batting, something with minimal shrinkage and more loft to show off the quilting design better
  • I would have made sure all of the fabrics in the quilt had been prewashed and preshrunk prior to using them in the quilt, because the use of so many unwashed precuts surely factored into the amount of shrinkage and puckering that happened with this quilt as well.  Again, not a bad thing necessarily -- I like the crinkly shrinkage with certain quilts, but it's working against my quilting in this particular quilt
  • I would have done the more elaborate quilting designs in the background fabrics, where they would show up better, rather than on the busy pink and orange print fabrics, where they disappear

But I won't be making this quilt again, because I've fallen a bit out of love with it, now that it's done.  What I can say is that I'm very glad I decided to make a quilt top out of fun, cheerful fabrics for the sole purpose of practicing quilting on it.  It's been far more fun than endless practicing on muslin, and I've learned a lot with it!

And Now, Tuesday's To-Do List:

Last Week's To-Do List:

  • Finish that 15" orange block with the flying geese for Anders' sampler quilt
  • Trim the edges of my Sermon Scribbles quilt
  • Applique my label to the back of Sermon Scribbles
  • Make binding for Sermon Scribbles, machine stitch to front of quilt & hand stitch to the backing
  • Wash Sermon Scribbles and take that quilt out for a photo shoot!
  • Piece backing for tumbler outreach top (next in line for quilting!)

Wow -- I actually did pretty good with my list last week, didn't I?!

This Week's To-Do List:

  • Piece backing for tumbler outreach top pictured above (next in line for quilting!)
  • Load tumbler quilt on frame
  • Select pantograph and thread (Do you have suggestions for a thread color and/or a good beginner-friendly pantograph design for this quilt?  If so, please comment away!)
  • Quilt tumbler quilt

I'm linking this post up with the To Do on Tuesday linky party over at  Home Sewn By Us.  I'm also linking up with the following "finish!" parties, since I finally have a finish to share:

·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

·       Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

·       TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here:

But I'm also inviting YOU to link up, right here and right now, with your latest machine quilting post for Long Arm Learning!  This linky will be open until midnight on Friday, with a new linky opening up every Tuesday morning.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter