Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Bernina Mending Magic Strikes Again + Mildred's Tarnished Star Quilt

I know mending is boring, but it's way more boring to my neighbors and to random people I approach in the grocery store than it is to the people who read my blog.  (Tip: You can scroll past my mending adventures and skip ahead to the pretty quilt at the end if you want to -- I will never even know!)

I had a ridiculously fun time reacquainting myself with some of the features of my Bernina B 790+ sewing machine yesterday while saving two of my favorite pairs of shorts, and I had to tell SOMEBODY about it.  I picked YOU!  Do you see signs of mending in the photo below?  No, you don't, because it turned out perfect!

Left Tushie Pocket of My Favorite Shorts, After Repair

These are my favorite shorts because they have an elastic drawstring in the waist so I can cinch it in just enough to avoid Back Waistband Gaposis that plagues me so much in ready to wear clothing, but also because they are made of a very lightweight and breathable fabric that doesn't get all hot and sticky in the muggy Florida summer like most of my other shorts.  They came from REI several years ago and I bought three pairs of the same style, the khaki ones pictured here as well as a light gray pair and a dusty blue green color.  I've been wearing them a lot more since I moved to Florida in February, and the buttons on the left back pocket ripped right through   the fabric on the blue pair and the khaki pair.  How do you reattach a button when there's a hole through the shorts fabric in the place the button needs to be sewn?

Mending Program 22 Stitched in Aurifil 50/2 Cotton Mako Thread

I needed to darn the hole and reinforce the area around the hole before reattaching the button, so I grabbed some Steam A Seam 2 double-stick fusible web from my appliqué supplies, fused it to the back of this pink scrap of tightly woven cotton batik fabric and cut out a circle about the size of a quarter, and fused it to the wrong side of the pocket, carefully coaxing the loose threads surrounding the tear back into place to fill the hole on the right side.  

Then I used one of three automatic darning programs built into my Bernina B 790+ machine to stitch back and forth from the right side of the pocket with lightweight Aurifil 50/2 cotton thread to reinforce the entire area around the button and secure the batik patch permanently so it wouldn't work loose in the wash (this post contains affiliate links).

Inside/Wrong Side of Pocket After Securing Batik Patch with Automatic Machine Mending

The automatic darning programs work a lot like programmable buttonholes on modern machines in that you select the darning program (Stitch 22 on my model machine), start sewing the first row of stitching, and then you touch the Quick Reverse button to tell the machine you've reached the desired length.  After that you keep sewing and the machine automatically goes forwards and backwards, sewing closely spaced lines of straight stitching until you have covered the whole area of concern and stop the machine.  I love how tidy it looks!  Especially with a lightweight fabric like what my shorts are made of, I like to use a lightweight thread for the darning stitches to avoid creating a thick lump of stitching that I might notice when wearing the repaired garment.

Button Reattached Over Repaired Pocket Fabric

However, I'm not foolish enough to sew buttons on with that skinny 50 weight 2-ply cotton thread!  I used a strong, dark gray Mettler Metrosene all-purpose polyester sewing thread in a shade nearly identical to the thread securing the button to the other pocket on these shorts.

And did I sew this button back on my shorts by hand?  No, I did not -- I used the Button Sew On Program with the special Button Sew On Foot #18.  Bernina has a video showing how that works (you can see it here) so I'll just say that it really is as fast and easy as it looks in the video, and the button I reattached with my Bernina has much tidier looking stitching than the way the other button was sewn on originally by the factory.  I did not scrutinize the button stitching before I purchased these shorts!  After the machine stitching was completed, I threaded the thread tails through a hand needle, brought them to the underside of the button between the button and the right side of the pocket, wrapped them around the thread shank a couple times, and then stuck them through to the wrong side of the pocket where I could tie off the loose ends and trim them neatly as you see below.

Machine Stitched Button, Wrong Side, After Tying Off Loose Ends

And now this is what makes me happy, after my 15 minutes of fiddling around (including the time to locate and reference the appropriate sections in my sewing machine manual to remember how to do these things): my button is now more securely attached than it was on the day I bought these shorts, and when I button the flap you can't even see the darning stitches.  It's a totally invisible repair.

What Mending Stitches?

Let's take a step back because no one is going to be inspecting my derriere from 4" away when I'm wearing my shorts, are they?!


I did the same exact repair to the blue shorts and they turned out great as well.  If I seem overly enthused about this, it's because two of my three favorite pairs of shorts have been out of my wardrobe rotation for the past week or so while I was procrastinating doing this and trying to decide my best course of action for sewing a button back onto a hole -- I dread mending!  But it's oddly satisfying when you can play with fancy features on your sewing machine.  Now I want to go digging through everyone's closet in my family, searching for more holes to darn and missing buttons to reattach...

Today's blog post was written primarily for my own benefit, to jog my memory about how I did this the next time I need to undertake a similar repair.  To make it up to you for boring you with so many pictures of my butt pocket, I will end with a couple pretty quilt pictures:

Mildred's Tarnished Star Quilt

The quilt I'm about to share with you is the very last one that I quilted in my North Carolina studio before we disassembled my long arm frame and packed up my studio for our move to Florida.  Sniffle, sniffle -- I miss that giant workspace with its soaring ceiling, natural light from all the windows, and kooky black chandelier!  A moment of silence for my Dearly Departed Former Studio, and then we can move on...

Mildred's Tarnished Star Quilt with Abundance E2E Quilting

Here's the background story to this quilt: my client and fellow Charlotte Quilters Guild member Mildred is a very experienced quilter who gravitates towards challenging patterns, but even so, she really struggled with this Tarnished Star quilt pattern by Robin Ruth Designs.  She ordered the project online, a kit with the Tim Holz fabric included, and right off the bat when she received the kit in the mail she was disappointed that the fabric colors were duller and dingier in person than they appeared in the marketing photos of the quilt, as though the cover image of the sample quilt had been manipulated in photo editing software to make the colors appear more vibrant and saturated than how they look in real life.  (We'll come back to that later).  More crucially, Mildred found the instruction booklet to be confusing and difficult to follow, and I don't blame her because she brought those directions to one of our Sit-and-Sew guild events in hopes that one of us could make heads or tail of them and we were ALL thoroughly confused.  Instead of just laying out the instructions step by step from start to finish, the instructions for Tarnished Star have you flipping back and forth all over the pattern booklet, following steps 5-9 here and then back to steps 1, 3 and 8 in some other section of the book.  I admire Mildred for sticking with this project and seeing it through to a completed quilt top despite the many frustrations she encountered along the way.

When the top was finished and she brought it to me for quilting, Mildred was very frank with me that she was disappointed in how it had turned out.  Originally she'd hoped this would be her big show quilt entry of the year that she would want custom quilted, but due to the challenges of confusing and contradictory instructions she ended up with a quilt top that had significant fudging and fullness issues that we could not guarantee disguising with custom quilting.  She just wanted this quilt DONE so she could count it as a finish and not a surrender.

Given all of that, here's what I suggested for this quilt:
  • We used two layers of Hobbs 80/20 Black batting, black to keep those jewel tones as saturated and dark as possible, and the double layer because that additional loft would enable me to better distribute and disguise areas where excess fabric in the quilt top was creating puckers, waves and rippling
  • We chose Karlee Porter's Abundance quilting design because I felt its graffiti-notebook-doodling style was complementary to the "urban decay" vibe of the Tim Holz fabrics, but also because I knew that Karlee's designs of this type have stitch paths that are especially helpful in quilting out fullness -- the design sweeps across a large area first, dividing it into smaller sections, and then the machine travels through those areas stitching pearls and swirls that work miracles to "suck up" unwanted fullness areas in a quilt
  • Since one of Mildred's disappointments with the quilt top was due to the gray background print fabric being too dull and drab for her taste, we chose YLI's 40 Tex Machine Quilting Cotton in variegated Rio de Janeiro for the quilting to spice it up a little and inject more energy, amplifying the impact of the brighter colored fabric prints that she liked better

So, let's see some quilting magic!

Example of an Extreme Fullness Area of Mildred's Quilt

Here's that same exact section of the quilt, after quilting it.  Yes, I was standing at the machine and using my fingers lightly on either side of the moving needle to distribute fullness evenly as the machine was stitching; this would not turn out as well if I'd just let the computer quilt the design unattended!

Same Exact Area, After Quilting

Can you even believe that's the same quilt after quilting?  Only under close inspection with bright lighting can you notice the remaining wrinkles radiating from that one corner, only because you know to look for it.  The lofty batting and swirling path of the quilting design have performed a Quilting Miracle.  When you step back and look at this finished quilt from a distance, you don't see any piecing imperfections, you just see a glorious, colorful patchwork design enhance by joyful, exuberant quilting.  

Another View of the Fullness Issues Typical to This Quilt Top

I'm so glad Mildred brought this top to me for quilting instead of wadding it up in a corner and writing it off as a fail!  Meanwhile, look at the scrumptious quilting texture created by the double batting in this quilt.  I love double batted quilts!

Double Batting Creates Amazing Dimension and Texture

One of the many benefits of an edge-to-edge, allover quilting design for a quilt top that has extra "piecing personality" is that, whereas custom quilting accentuates your piecing lines and draws attention to points that meet perfectly (as well as drawing attention to every little piecing imperfection!), edge-to-edge quilting designs tend to deemphasize the patchwork seams, making little errors and minor mismatches a lot less apparent in the finished quilt.

Quilting Detail, Abundance E2E Design in YLI Variegated 40 Tex Cotton Thread

Mildred was thrilled with how beautifully this top was transformed by quilting when she picked it up in January.  It was a fitting finale for my Charlotte Quilting Adventures!

Could Not Be More Pleased With How This Turned Out!

The moral of this story is, don't ever give up on a quilt without talking to a long arm quilter first, even if you normally do your own quilting on a domestic machine or by hand.  It is a lot easier to coax an unruly quilt top into submission and "quilt out" fullness and other issues on a frame mounted long arm where you have the parallel edges of the quilting frame to control for squareness and a wealth of computerized designs at your fingertips to absorb that extra fabric that is detracting from all of your hard work.

That's about enough from me for today, don't you think?  Maybe next time I'll have more to share about my Style Arc Nova Dress.  Happy sewing!


Kathy R. said...

Thanks for sharing your mending. I enjoy any type of sewing adventure. The quilt turned out beautiful. You did a great job.

Gretchen Weaver said...

Your performed your wonderful magic on this quilt, I'm sure Mildred was shocked by how lovely her quilt turned out to be! Your mending job was awesome, happy stitching!

Linda said...

I enjoyed very much your mending details, and that video of button sewing was pretty amazing. Your mending is excellent. LOL on "butt pocket"!
What a beautiful quilt, I bet Mildred was ecstatic to see what your brilliant quilting did for it!

PaintedThread said...

That Tarnished Star quilt is a beauty. Impressive how you eased out that corner. And of course that quilting is spectacular. Love it!

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I must be a total geek because I thoroughly enjoyed your mending discussion. I don't know if I would have been as patient to review how to mend with my machine, much less sew on big buttons, but I get the thrill of having done so. We so often simply piece with our machines that it's wonderful to do something else.

I'm a big Tim Holtz fan and I love Tarnished Star! Yep, the colors are more dingy than most would like but the effect is eye catching. Thank goodness she had you to help her quilt this into a thing of beauty because the top did have daunting issues. The result though is gorgeous! As you say, a great way to end your quilting service before you moved. I'll have to remember the double batt idea. For a special quilt like this, it really brings out the beauty.

Thanks for sharing on my weekly show and tell, Wednesday Wait Loss.

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

I think the quilt turn out great - she of course knows where her mistakes were but if she doesn't point them out to anyone they will not know. You did a great job with it.
Yes light weight clothes are a must for Florida - save the denim for the couple months out of the year that might be chilly. I think your mending turned out great. I never wear sundresses but living in Florida might be what I would need to change my mind.

Chris said...

I, too, loved reading your mending tale. I am in awe of what our machines can do and I geek over reading my manual and trying things out. I've never used my (B830) mending program but you have inspired me. My husband demolishes clothing on a regular basis (forester, now retired but nevertheless, no less prone to holes in his clothing when coming in from our acre yard). And that quilt? Absolutely amazing!

TerryKnott.blogspot.com said...

Kudos for the mending jobs well done! Now you can get even more mileage out of those shorts than likely the manufacturer thought possible. I'm glad your friend finished the quilt in spite of all the hardship she had making it. Finished is better than perfect.

Elizabeth V Kelbaugh said...

Wonderful job on the mending and amazing quilting on the difficult pieced quilt. Turned out stunning.

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

I hate mending too - but you did a great job! I laughed that your wrote this post for you haha - I tell everyone - ITS ALL ABOUT ME - all the time... you can join my club haha!!

The quilt - oh wow - the quilt... The quilting really did bring it back to life - go you! I am glad she did not give up!

Gwyned Trefethen said...

I'm all agog. OK, a little jealous, too. I love my Bernina, but it was built prior to the auto darning feature yours has. I must hoop the open area and basically FMQ vertical and horizontal lines with the feed dog down.

Once again, I picked up a hint from you on how to divide and conquer in order to ease in fullness. Thank you!