Tuesday, October 6, 2020

LAL#10: Creating a Manual "No Sew Zone" for Appliqué in a Hand-Guided Pantograph Design

 Good morning, my lovelies!  Welcome to another episode of Long Arm Learning, where the focus is on honing our machine quilting skills, regardless of what kind of machine you're using.

As for myself, although I spent much of the week mired in English paper piecing of another baby quilt top, I did finally get around the impasse of procrastination and got about 2/3 of my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilted yesterday.  The hardest part was starting; I really did not want to mess it up after spending so much time on the curved piecing and the appliqué.  I know a lot of quilters feel that way -- worried that they will "ruin" the quilt tops they worked so hard to piece, so they just never quilt them at all.  That's where the adage "finished is better than perfect" comes in handy.

Daisies Galore Pantograph, Quilted Around Butterfly Appliques 

In this case, I was nervous about whether or not my bright idea for quilting an edge-to-edge pantograph design WITHOUT quilting on top of my butterfly appliqués was going to work out.  I got the idea from how, in a computerized long arm quilting setup, you can program No Sew Zones in embroidered or appliquéd areas and tell the computer to sew an allover design everywhere else EXCEPT the area you've masked off.  The computer robotics package I've ordered for my machine won't be shipping until the end of the month, and this quilt needed to get done YESTERDAY.  

When quilting an edge-to-edge pantograph design with a hand-guided long arm machine setup, the quilter is at the back of the table, guiding a laser light along a printed paper pattern on a table that sits just below the quilt surface.  To do this successfully, you have to keep your eyes on the paper pattern just ahead of your laser light, kind of like how you have to keep your eyes on the road while driving to avoid ending up in a ditch.  You can't actually look at your quilt at all while you're quilting -- which means I can't see when I'm coming up to one of my butterflies that I don't want to cross over with quilting stitches.

Extra Fabric Butterfly Taped In Position on Pantograph Plastic

My idea was to create my own equivalent of a No Sew Zone on the pantograph pattern so I could stop the machine, move around to the front of the frame, stitch in the ditch around the appliqué  and then resume quilting the pantograph design from the back.  I positioned the butterfly by moving my needle to points on the edges of the applique on the quilt surface and nudging the butterfly into position on the pantograph shelf so that the butterfly on top of my pantograph plastic was positioned as closely as possible to the butterfly on the actual quilt top.  Then I stuck a couple pieces of Scotch tape to the edges of my spare butterfly to ensure it stayed put while I quilted that row.

I altered the stitching path a little to go around one wing and marked where I wanted to stop when I was approaching the edge of the butterfly.  I knew that my positioning of the butterfly on the template plastic was as good as I could get it, but not as exact as it would be if I was marking its location with a computer from the front of the quilt frame.  I also knew that fabric shifts as it draws up during quilting, so I was nervous about whether the edges of my butterfly would be in the same place by the time I reached them in my stitching path.  The last thing I wanted to do was accidentally stitch up over the edge of the butterfly.  My palms were sweating quite a bit when I began quilting that first row!

One Butterfly Down, Two to Go!

It worked!  It really helps that this pantograph is such an easy pattern.  I was able to stop quilting from the back about a centimeter or so away from the butterfly and then scootch right up to the edge of it from the front without any noticeable deviation from the pattern.  Whew!

I am using a new hopping foot and a new ruler for the first time with this quilt, too:

APQS Clog Foot with White Arbor Lotus Ruler for Appliqué SID

This APQS "clog foot" is a true 1/4" ruler foot with an open toe for greater visibility.  That made it the perfect choice for quilting "in the ditch" around my applique, especially because I was able to use my Lotus Lines Appliqué Aid ruler from Bethanne Nemesh's Garden Lines collection.  This ruler has a hopping foot "entrapment" -- so I can slide the ruler on over the ankle of the hopping foot and it locks onto my hopping foot, allowing me to guide the needle very precisely with my left hand by dragging the ruler along the edge of the appliqué   It's like having the control of holding onto the hopping foot itself, but without risking the emergency room visit!  LOVED how this ruler worked and I'm looking forward to using it for the other appliqué WIPs in my to-be-quilted pipeline.

Using Bethanne Nemesh's Lotus Ruler to SID Applique

So...  The verdict?  This is definitely doable, but fussing around to position the spare butterfly just right on the pantograph and stopping to SID around the butterfly from the front definitely slowed down the process of pantograph quilting.  If I wasn't taking pains to quilt around the butterflies, I'd have finished the whole quilt today instead of getting 2/3 of the way through.  If you're quilting as a business and thinking about doing this on a customer's quilt, you'll want to factor in an upcharge for the extra time involved.

If you wanted to use this technique on an area of machine embroidery or regular applique (not broderie perse like mine, where I was able to just cut out extra motifs from the applique fabric), I think the easiest method would be to photocopy the areas of the quilt top with the embroidery or applique designs (making sure your copier was set to Actual Size, 100%) and then cut out the photocopied motifs to position on your pantograph table.  I do like the effect for this quilt.  After I finish the pantograph quilting, I'm going to want to go back and add some very minimal quilting inside each butterfly appliqué as well, to prevent it from sagging.  Still mulling the possibilities for that "icing on the cake."

My weekly Tuesday To-Do list for Roseanne's linky party is to finish quilting this quilt, AND get it labeled and bound, AND get my Letter Home baby quilt top finished and ready to load on my frame.  Wish me luck!  I'm also linking up with:  Midweek Makers at Quilt FabricationWednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring QuilterNeedle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, and  Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree.

And now, without further ado -- it's time to link up YOUR latest adventures in machine quilting!  I can't wait to see what you've been up to.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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

the quilt looks delightful! glad you figured out how to not quilt over the applique

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca! You did a fabulous job using that pantograph and stopping right where you wanted to. I wonder if you use the beautiful lines within the butterflies themselves and stitch around them, if that wouldn't be enough? On the reverse side, you will see the outline and then some of the details that the appliquéd fabric provide. Good luck with this week's list and thank you for linking up this week! ~smile~ Roseanne

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

that is an awesome technique!!

TerryKnott.blogspot.com said...

Brilliant fix to how to not quilt over the applique! The quilting is perfect and the quilt is going to be so loved!! Well done!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

I'm not a long-armer, but do love the flowers and loops you decided on for your clamshell quilt!

Cheree @ The Morning Latte said...

That's a great idea! I'll have to file that one away!

Angela said...

Such a pretty quilt! I completely agree that done is better than perfect. After all, what is perfect!

The Joyful Quilter said...

Brilliant, Rebecca! (And yet another ruler I need to check into buying.)

Karin said...

That looks really nice...what a process! Really enjoyed reading about it.

Susan said...

Tricky process, yes, but well worth the effort for sure.

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I knew you idea would work! So glad you accomplished your goals and with such beautiful results! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Muv said...

Hello Rebecca Grace,
Great technique! Appliqué always looks so much better if the quilting serves as an outline. Such gorgeous prints, too.
Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!
Love, Muv

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your instructions for the "no sew zone". It worked so well, and took the guesswork out of this project. Thanks much.