Friday, September 18, 2020

Fresh Off the Frame: Patriotic Star Quilt with E2E Confetti Parade Quilting

I tried out one of my new pantographs yesterday on this veteran's outreach quilt, and I love how it came out!  This top was pieced by a fellow member of the Charlotte Quilters' Guild and I volunteered to do the quilting.

70 x 80 Veterans' Hospice Outreach Quilt, "Flirty Bubbles" Pantograph

Now, I know that some kind of star pattern would be the first choice for many quilters, but to me, that felt too matchy-matchy.  Instead, I chose the Flirty Bubbles pattern from Timeless Quilting, because this design reminds me of baloons, confetti and streamers filling the air during a parade to honor returning soldiers.  I used Glide thread in a creamy ivory color, top and bobbin, and I don't know what kind of batting they gave me except that it was SUPER linty and it had a scrim.

Operation Welcome Home Parade, June 1991

This was my first time using the Flirty Bubbles pantograph, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.  You wouldn't expect anything "flirty" or "bubbly" to be appropriate for a soldier's quilt, but that just goes to show how the name of a pattern can sometimes limit our imagination as far as which quilting designs "belong" on which quilts.  Clever names make it easier to remember the name of a great panto design when we see something we like, and that's why pattern designers rack their brains trying to come up with catchy and unique names for each of their designs.

How I Use Channel Locks To Maintain a Straight, Square Quilt with the Fully Floated Loading Method 

I did a full-float load with this quilt, as I do with almost all of my quilts.  That means that although the backing fabric is pinned to the belly bar at the front of my frame and to the takeup roller at the back of the frame, the batting and the quilt top are not attached to any rollers at all.  Instead, they "float" on the surface of the loaded backing and are basted in place along the perimeter each time I advance the quilt.  Now, I know some quilters recommend and prefer doing a partial float, where the quilt top is attached to the quilt top roller, and this is supposed to give one "better control" so the quilt will come out straight and square.  However, in my own experience (YMMV!) I have tried pinning quilt tops to the quilt top roller several times, and I felt like I had LESS control over what was happening with the quilt tops that I pinned and rolled up for a partial float load.  Especially with a top that has "personality," I just could not get a not-quite-perfectly-flat, not-quite-perfectly-square top to roll up evenly on that bar in the first place.  By doing a full float with that quilt top bar totally removed from my frame and out of my way, I have maximum visibility of the entire quilt top throughout the quilting process, and I have full access between the three layers of the quilt to double check that everything is smoothed nicely and situated properly with every advance of the quilt.  If you're a new long arm owner, definitely try both methods to see what works best for you.

"Full Float" Loading Method, Quilt Top Roller Removed From Frame

(Note that the batting I was given for this quilt was NOT quite wide enough!  Definitely "cut too close for comfort," pun intended!!)

So as you can see in the photo above, I maintain a straight, square quilt by ensuring that my vertical and horizontal seam lines are all perfectly straight each time I advance the quilt, before basting the sides and proceeding to quilt.  I am visually checking any seam that falls near my belly bar, where the needle of my machine cannot reach.  Then I use my machine's horizontal and vertical channel locks to check that the sides of the quilt, the vertical seams, and the horizontal seams between blocks are all positioned as straight as can be, and scootch those seams as needed.  I just hover my needle above a seam line, engage the channel lock, and then drift the machine head along the seam line without stitching.

Basting a Generous Block to Maintain Straight Seam Lines

On this particular quilt, I discovered some manageable but definitely unwanted fullness in the "Home of the Brave" text print block shown in the photo above.  After adjusting the seams above and below this block to be perfectly straight, I used big flower head pins to distribute the fullness evenly along the raw edge before basting the side of the quilt.  That ensures that my hopping foot doesn't "snowplow" the fullness as I'm basting down the side.  There is no risk of hitting a pin with my needle because I'm taking these half-inch basting stitches manually, one at a time, rather than running the machine at a regulated stitch length that might result in hitting a pin.  After basting the side of this one wonky block, I just pull out those pins and then continue basting the rest of the way down the side of the quilt.

By taking the time to check and align each and every seam line with my channel locks throughout the quilt, I get a nice, straight edge when I get to the bottom of the quilt rather than the dreaded "smile effect."  

Note: I've got a couple of magnet bars from Harbor Freight securing the bottom edge of the quilt in the photo above, just because it was a convenient place to put them.  I use those magnet bars to temporarily attach a sample quilt sandwich off to the side of the quilt I'm working on, whenever I want to tweak or adjust tension for better stitch quality mid-quilting.  Normally I'd have an extra 4" of batting and backing on both sides of the quilt where I could lay down a scrap of fabric and test stitch quality.  That's the ideal way to do it, since the specific batting and backing fabric can affect tension and stitch quality in different ways, but I didn't have any extra batting to practice on with this quilt so I had to make do!

Fellow long arm quilters who DO use your quilt top roller to do partial float loading: Can you help me understand how you load a pieced top onto the quilt top roller, especially how you deal with areas of fullness in the quilt top?  I know about twisting along vertical seam lines to accommodate for their bulk, but what I could not figure out was how tightly the top is supposed to be wound on the quilt top roller in the first place and, specifically, how to roll up areas of a quilt that have excess fullness while keeping seam lines nice and straight.  My full float method is working well for me so far, but it would be nice to have more than one method in my "toolbox."

Next on the Frame: 42 x 42 Modern Baby Clam Shells

Next up for quilting is my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilt -- I can't wait!!  Originally, I was thinking of finishin up this long-overdue quilt quickly with simple E2E (Edge-to-Edge) pantograph design like what I quilted on the veteran's quilt.  But...  After putting so much time and energy into the design, the curved piecing, and the broderie perse appliqué, I just can't bring myself to do that.  Instead, this is going to be a custom quilt job incorporating my ProCircles rulers.  I know I want to accentuate my curved piecing and appliqué with SID (Stitch In the Ditch) quilting, but beyond that I'm just going wait and see where inspiration leads me.  Stay tuned!  Hopefully I'll have some progress to show with this quilt in time for my Long Arm Learning linky party on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I'm linking up today's post with my favorite blog party girlfriends:


·       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:


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

·       Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd, open 22nd through end of each month: Kathleen McMusing


Carol R. said...

I float my batting and top, but did not remove my top bar because I found that it helps me keep the quilt under control - maybe the belly bars on my machine are closer than on other machines ( I have a Janome Artistic mid arm). I did take the canvas 'sleeve' off because it was just annoying, and the exposed velcro that held the canvas to the bar was catching on 'everything' at first, but over time it has become less'catchy'.
I tried basting "Lori's Way" just once.... it was a mess!! Nope, I'll baste as I go.
Kind of interesting how methods of quilting vary from quilter to quilter... what works for one might not work for the next two. ;)

Vicki in MN said...

Fabulous finish! Don't you love those magnets, so strong. I have also taken them outside when I have a large quilt and use them to hold my quilt to the garage door for a photo! I always do a full float too.

chrisknits said...

Wonderful finish! And I so appreciate all the talk about your long arm journey. It is helping me decide what to buy and what I need to know!

piecefulwendy said...

What a thoughtful quilting design for the quilt, a perfect way to celebrate and honor their service using needle and thread. I have no wisdom on the long arm issues, but I am excited to see you clam shell quilt!

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

I can't help you with these issues, as I only own a domestic sewing machine... Beautiful quilt, and quilting!
Lovely 2020 finish ;)