Quilt Backing Tutorial

After Kathy’s great and precise tutorial at Pink Chalk Studio, this one probably seems a bit slap-dash, but hey, there’s always more than one way to go about it! If I had a set of those ginormous cutting mats in my studio, I might be a bit more precise and exacting when I cut my backings. I work with a 24″ x 36″ mat however—while it isn’t exactly tiny, you can’t cut huge backing-sized pieces of fabric on it. I did think about getting those mats and adding another giant cutting table to the studio, but at the moment, I’m more in love with the floor space than I would be with more furniture in the room. 🙂

So here’s Nadine’s quick and dirty, rip-it-up backing tutorial: Continue reading Quilt Backing Tutorial

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Some Swanky Quilting

Here’s a little more “stream of consciousness” quilting on the Swanky quilt:

I drew a loopy little quilt design to coordinate with the border stencil I chose, and then only used part of it! I decided the middle part was okay since it was just four little loopy bits, but the side parts were just too strange looking, like some alien spider thingy maybe. My oh-so-excellent drawing skills were hard at work again!

I found the perfect thread in my stash! Superior Threads Rainbows #808. Just look at it, the perfect combination of colors to go with the Swanky fabrics! I’ve used this type of thread for machine quilting a lot lately, so I was expecting it to be easy to quilt with. It wasn’t, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Hobbs Thermore has been my batting of choice since Hobbs Bonded Fibers was generous enough to donate a queen-size package of it to me when I was at Quilt Market last October. Did you know that Hobbs also makes fibers for industries other than quilting? One of their newest products called Fibertect is “A three layer, inert, flexible, drapable, nonwoven composite substrate for decontamination that is effective in neutralizing and adsorbing toxic chemical agents potentially used in chemical warfare, toxic industrial chemicals, and pesticides.” Wow! Interesting…next time I need to clean house, I’ll know where to go for my outfit!

Anyway, Thermore is my favorite batting right now. From Hobbs: “This unique and patented product was developed as a thin, drapable, migration free polyester batt. ” Yup, that “migration free” part is why. After I tried Quilter’s Dream and it was bearding like crazy, I switched to Thermore and found that Hobbs doesn’t lie. Thermore just doesn’t beard, period.

But like all battings when they come out of the package, it’s a bit wrinkly and crinkly, so I’ve just been laying it on the ironing board and steaming it before basting. Just float the iron over it, not actually touching it, with the steam function cranked up to high and then smooth the wrinkles out with your hand as you go. Flip and repeat for the other side if necessary. You can also pop it into the dryer on low heat for five or ten minutes, but my dryer is two floors down so I use the iron on small pieces.

Since all the quilts I’ve been making lately are pretty small, I’ve been pin basting (with straight pins, not safety pins) instead of my usual trick with the tagging gun. I really like the pin basting because the holes are smaller! It’s also just quicker to pin it than get out the gun and the tags on something smallish.

I think I’ve also solved the “human pincushion” issue when using straight pins. I call these my Basting Buddies! They’re little caps that fit on the ends of the straight pins, so they keep the sharp ends from putting holes in me and they keep the pins from slipping out of the quilt as it’s moved around during machine quilting. It’s just as easy to get these on and off the pins as it would be to close and open safety pins, maybe even easier, and the point quality is much higher on a straight pin than it is on a safety pin, so it’s better for your fabrics.

I love the way the quilting turned out on this little quilt! Simple and easy quilting designs, but totally effective! But the quilting itself was NOT easy. I think this spool of Rainbows thread is some of the original version, and Superior Threads changed the thread slightly a few years ago and made it better. The newer spools that I have are quite easy to machine quilt with; I’d even say as easy as quilting with cotton, but the thread on this particular spool shredded and broke a lot during quilting. It happened so often that I was getting really frustrated with it, and I usually don’t get that way! Well, not about machine quilting anyway! I did get through it, but if I need this color combination of Rainbows thread again, I’ll probably just buy a new spool.

All in all, this was a really fun little quilt to make. I still have some more pictures that I took of the process, some while fitting the border quilting design (since Joyce asked) and some while hand stitching the binding down with a ladder stitch. I’ll share these in the next week or so!

Let’s Talk Machine Quilting (and a Giveaway!)

I treated myself today, and spent a little while machine quilting on a small quilt. Many of my projects these days are small-ish, and I’m really enjoying the machine quilting breaks that come along every few days. (If you’ve been following along, you’ll probably be able to figure out why most of my projects these days are on the small side… 🙂 ) I’ve spent years making these huge, long and involved show quilts, where they take forever to piece, then forever to mark for quilting, and then when I finally get to the quilting part, it’s just so huge that it’s daunting. That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable (mostly), but making smaller projects, where I can piece a little, mark a little, and then quilt the thing is just a really nice change.

And I do mean “treat myself” when I talk about machine quilting. It’s my favorite part of quilting, hands down. It’s just so cool to see a flat piece of fabric take on texture and dimension and life when it’s quilted. I love playing with all the cool threads I’ve collected over the years, like this variegated one:

Rainbows thread from Superior Threads

Which looks like this when quilted:

Quilted with Superior Threads Rainbows Thread

How fun is this? For the curious, the thread is Superior Threads Rainbows, which is a Trilobal Polyester, 40wt., color #801, with 50 wt. Mettler Silk Finish in a blue that matches the fabric in the bobbin; the fabric is an old Nancy Crow design that looks like crushed suede, with a scene from a Laurel Burch Fanciful Felines panel; batting is Quilter’s Dream Poly Request Loft; the quilting stencil is the continuous line 4″ Dancing Flowers by Judy Allen.

Quilted with Superior Threads Rainbows Thread

Another thing I like about small quilts is that I can quickly pin-baste on the cutting table with flower head pins and they don’t get caught up in the free motion foot since the heads are flat against the quilt. With large quilts, I spend hours crawling around on the floor basting with the basting gun, and then I’m just wiped out for the rest of the day when it’s done. You can pin-baste just about anything up to a certain size, as long as it’s not so big that you become a human pincushion while trying to push it through the machine. Heck, if you’ve been sewing all your life and a few pinpricks don’t even faze you anymore, you could pin-baste even larger quilts this way. 😉

I realize that not everyone feels this way about machine quilting, and some folks don’t find free motion quilting to be relaxing at all. So let’s have a chat about that, shall we? What don’t you like about machine quilting? What’s the part that you feel like you just can’t get right? If you do like machine quilting, and you have wisdom or a fabulous tip to share, let’s hear about that too!

I’m going to send a copy of the Machine Quilting—Master the Basics Workshop on CD to one lucky reader. To enter the drawing leave a comment on this post and share some of your machine quilting wisdom and great tips, or if you need help with machine quilting, leave a question that you’d like me to discuss in a future post. A winner will be chosen by random drawing this Saturday. Luck to all!

WFMW–Basting quilts with a tagging gun

For many years I’ve used plastic tags and a tagging gun to baste quilts together for quilting. In fact, this is the only method I’ve ever used, since I purchased the tagging gun when i was making crafts to sell (BQ) and needed to tag them with prices and info. When I started quilting, I heard about the tagging guns and tags that had just become popular with quilters, so rather than going out and purchasing hundreds of safety pins to baste my quilt, I dug out the tagging gun and tags I already had.

Tag on quiltThere was only one small problem: the tags I had were 3/4″ and had a fat end and a skinny end, instead of 1/4″ with two skinny ends like what was sold for quilts. If I’d used them the way other quilters were using them, straight through the quilt from top to bottom, my quilts would have been quite unstable, with too much potential for movement between the layers. I decided to try putting the tags in like you would use a safety pin or a straight pin, into all the layers and back out again, so that both ends of the tag are on the top of the quilt.

It worked great, with the added bonus that I didn’t need to buy one of those funny grid things that lifts the quilt up slightly off the table or floor that you need if you use the shorter tags, since you have to put them straight through the quilt. I could always tell if the needle (and thence the tag) went all the way through the quilt because I could feel when the needle hit the floor or table under the quilt.

The quilt is secure and the layers don’t shift any more than they would with safety pins. Both ends of the tag are on the top of the quilt so they are easy to see and quilt around and the tags are easy to remove without digging around under the quilt for the other end after you cut it apart. Cutting the tags out of the quilt is safer too, since they’re longer and you can keep the scissors farther away from the quilt surface.

One thing I must point out: You may find that the needle on the tagging gun makes a bigger hole than a safety pin might, or causes a snaggy looking bit on the fabrics. I’ve been told this repeatedly over the years by quilters who tried the gun and don’t like it. Yes, sometimes it can do that, but I think the trick is to be very careful with your needle, and replace it at the first hint of a burr or bent tip. Treat the needle very carefully, just like you treat the needles on your machine; maybe even more carefully, since they cost much more per needle to replace. Continue reading WFMW–Basting quilts with a tagging gun