Easy Grid Quilting

I did a small bit of machine quilting today, and I thought I’d share some quick tips to make machine guided grid quilting easier. I’m making a small background quilt to display Inchies, so all I needed was some straight line quilting to hold the layers together and create some visual interest.

Clover Hera MarkerOn a small quilt sandwich with unpieced bali fabrics on both sides and Hobbs 80/20 Black batting in the middle, I used a ruler and a hera marker to mark the straight quilting lines on the sandwich. A hera marker is simply a piece of plastic with a nicely tapered, curved edge which, when pressed on the fabric, compresses the fibers and leaves a mark that is fairly easy to see. Note that this particular model by Clover is the one I’ve had the best luck with; the others that I’ve tried have been made of softer plastic and didn’t make as nice a mark.

I marked the lines on the quilt sandwich in one direction only, meaning all the lines that are parallel to each other in an up and down direction. If you mark all the grid lines in both directions before you start quilting, you may find that when you mark the second set of lines across the first, the first set of lines will have little waves or points where the second set crosses them, and it will be difficult to quilt straight lines later.

When I’m quilting a grid, whether it’s big or small, I always start with a line of quilting close to the center of the quilt or space, and then work outward to the right and left. I always begin quilting at the top of the piece or area, and quilt toward the bottom, which means rolling up the bulk of the quilt to fit under the machine head when working on the left side. Even with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed, the layers of a quilt sandwich will shift; it’s just a fact of life.

Starting each line of quilting at the top will prevent diagonal wrinkles from forming on the quilt top or back from stitching lines in both directions. Remember this “top-to-bottom” stitching technique the next time you’re putting down stitch in the ditch between rows and blocks on a large quilt, too, as the same idea applies and the same diagonal wrinkles can happen, just on a larger scale.

Once the first set of gridlines was quilted, I marked the second set perpendicular to the first. The second set of quilting lines needs a bit more attention to detail than the first. When you start adding quilting lines that cross other lines, you can run into trouble when the fabric starts shifting. As you come up to a previous line of quilting, you may find that the top fabric of the quilt sandwich starts to form a little hill, which will become a pleat if you keep sewing.

Fabric pleating at quilting line

The solution is to slow down and pay special attention in this area. You can use your fingers on the top of the quilt to gently nudge the top fabric toward the presser foot, essentially forcing the top fabric to feed more quickly into the machine to reverse the negative pushing effect that the presser foot is having on the quilt sandwich. Not just for grids, this little nudging technique is infinitely useful whenever I do any kind of machine guided quilting with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed.

Nudging the top fabric

A few simple techniques made quick work of this little display quilt, so stay tuned for pics!

Pressing Style

When Paula talked about her homemade Big Board topper, I told ITMan that he might have to help me make one. BUT, I did have some reservations about the whole thing, since my old German wooden board is kind of tiny and I was worried that the whole thing would be unstable, not to mention that I could probably wait for a really long time before ITMan would get to it in the first place.

Anyway, I scrapped the idea when we moved. The owner left her board here for us to use if we wanted it, and it was a really wonderful specimen from Leifheit that had an attached iron rest and even a power socket on the board itself. I went on the hunt for an even bigger, better model, and found the perfect thing. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and far and away the most stylish ironing board I’ve ever owned: the Leifheit Dressfix Plus.

Here she is in all her plaid-covered glory, next to the old board:

The new Leifheit board

Notice that instead of a standard shape, it tapers asymmetrically so that there is a longer straight edge, perfect for pressing yardage or quilt tops. There’s also a movable iron rest with an attached power socket and cord minder. The iron plugs into the rest, and the rest plugs into the wall, which leaves more cord length available to travel with ease over the wide open spaces of the board.

Movable iron rest

To add to the list of lovely features, this baby is a mile high. I’m tall, and I was always bending over the other board to get up close and personal with intricate pressing tasks. The new board saves my back because it’s about eight inches taller than the old one! At the highest setting it’s right at low waist level for me, which is perfect.

The mile-high board

Seemingly well made, it should last quite a while, if not forever. I told ITMan that when he (predictably) asked “And how much was that thing?!?” It’s all in the name of comfort and functionality, my dear. 🙂

Piping Hot Binding tool–I like it!

Piping Hot Binding tool and bookI purchased this Piping Hot Binding tool and book on my last trip to the States (I think), intending to use it to put piping on the edge of The Misery Quilt when the time comes. I finally used it last week on a smaller quilt for a bit of practice before just diving in on a show quilt.

The directions are very thorough and straightforward, though obviously the method adds a bit more time to the binding process since you have to make the piping and then apply it before putting the binding on. I used my Pfaff 2056 to make the piping and bind the quilt since it has the dual feed, and I figured it would be way easier to find a Pfaff foot to use to make the piping because I have a much better selection of Pfaff feet around.

Pfaff appliquĂ© footI used a Pfaff appliquĂ© foot and moved the needle to the right just enough to clear the cording to make the piping. The foot has a channel on the underside so that the piping slides under it nicely and it’s easy to guide it through the machine. The Groovin’ Piping Trimming Tool made it super easy to accurately trim the piping to an even width after sewing. I used a regular 0A foot on the Pfaff to sew the piping to the edge of the quilt; I tried an open toe appliquĂ© foot, but found that the 0A foot held the piping steadier with less shifting around while sewing it down.

I think my only issue with the whole process would be the fact that after you apply the piping, you have to put the binding on “upside down” so to speak. Usually I lay the quilt edge on the machine, and ever so slightly stretch the binding fabric as I sew it on. It makes the bindings firm, and takes care of any slight ruffling at the edges of the quilt by drawing it in a bit so it’s flat. (If I’m working on a show quilt, I do things a bit differently if the edges are ruffly, but on non-show quilts this is my quick and dirty cheater method of choice, and it usually works pretty well.) Continue reading “Piping Hot Binding tool–I like it!”

A bit of this, and some of that

Valentine’s Day came and went rather peacefully here. ITMan and I shopped for a couple of things for the girls between house viewings on Monday, and then when GuitarGirl put her guitar in my trunk on Tuesday evening before her lesson, she said “Way to hide the Valentine’s presents, Mom!” I’d forgotten all about them by the time we got home Monday night, and I never took them out of the car!

At that point, I said to heck with it and left it all there, since nobody else was going to be peeking in the trunk again before Thursday. The girls liked their little “I ♥ you” presents, and ITMan came home from work with a balloon bouquet of flower-shaped balloons for all of us. He’s such a sweetie!

We tried to go out to dinner at our current favorite restaurant, but they were closed for vacation, so we headed for the mall to have pizza and hit MediaMarkt for a few electronic-type purchases. Since we now know we’ll be here in Germany for another 3-5 years, we decided it was safe to buy a new cordless phone, electric toothbrush, toaster oven, and hair trimmer, and then ITMan decided he should have a new iron as well to replace all of the hand-me-downs he has received from other people when they move back to the States. Nothing like a mad dash through the electronics store to get the blood pumping and lighten the wallet! Continue reading “A bit of this, and some of that”

WFMW–Storage for slightly used needles

What do you do with sewing machine needles that have been used, but aren’t ready to be thrown away? If you have to change the needle for one of a different size, where do you put the one you take out of the machine? It’s best not to put it back in the package with the new needles, because then when you need a really “new new” one, you won’t know which ones are new and which ones have been used already.

Here’s the quick, easy and cheap fix:

Tomato pincushion for used needles

Stick your slightly used needles into a tomato pincushion, which can be found almost anywhere for about $1.00, or you can get the extra large model for a bit more. You can make it even easier to re-use these needles at a later date if you mark the pincushion on the top with numbers using a pigma pen, so that you can organize the needles by size. Continue reading “WFMW–Storage for slightly used needles”

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”