08 Jul

Acting Ugly

I’ve had the most confounding experience (stitch-wise) the last few days.

I am planning on teaching a beginning quilting class at my local park again in August. This time, instead of a sampler quilt, we’re going to make three smaller projects. I’m making class samples now.

Ugly + Aqua

While in Spokane, WA for my MIL’s wedding (congratulations lovebirds!), I bought some really ugly fabric that was on sale and screamed for me to take it home and make it sing. Aqua was all it needed. Then I tried grey and white in an uncharacteristic moment of fashionable-ness. I liked both, so I sewed up two table runner tops. No problem.

Ugly + Grey

But when it came time to quilt the first runner, the thread broke. This surprised me because I was using a “golden retriever” thread (a term coined by Superior Thread Bar Tender Cindy for threads that are very easy to use) and quilting in straight lines. I adjusted all my tension options to no avail. Then I changed to a fresher topstitch needle. Nope. I changed spools of thread, and it broke too (so it wasn’t a bad spool). I changed to a smaller, sharper microtex needle. Nope. Then I put in a brand spanking new topstitch (easy on the thread) needle and still the thread broke. I switched to a different type of thread and it broke too. All the while, I was noticing that the needle seemed to be struggling to get through the ugly fabric. I admitted defeat and picked out all my stitching attempts. I figured that the ugly fabric must have been on sale for more than just it’s aesthetic value and re-sandwiched my table runner top with a different backing (since I had so much ugly fabric, and I thought it was so bad it was cool, I used it front and back). I tried stitching the table runner ┬áin cross-wise straight lines, but even with the new backing, the thread broke. Then, I only stitched on the non-ugly fabric parts — and it worked! I got brave and did a little stitching on the borders (ugly fabric) where I could take it out and it would still look OK. It worked and I didn’t have t remove any stitches! One table runner done.

Mod Log Cabin Table Runner

After sleeping on my fabric problem, I had the brilliant idea to put a new back on table runner two and stitch it from the back, hopefully avoiding, in a way, the problematic ugly fabric. I had hoped to stitch in the ditch of my wonky log cabins, extending the lines out into the border, but that wouldn’t work from the back where there’s no lines to follow. Serpentine stitch is quite popular right now, and would look good with the simple piecing, but I really wanted to do something different. Since I was working from the back and couldn’t follow what was going on on the front, I figured I could take that all the way and do something completely in contrast to the piecing. I decided that since the piecing is tweaked traditional, the quilting should be too — simple feathers in a loose arrangement. I had no problems sewing the feathers, but since I’m not a great machine quilter, and my arcs were pretty large, I just wasn’t happy with them. So, I picked them out.

Feather Quilting

Again, I admitted defeat, and opted for the serpentine stitch. I wanted to make sure it was oriented relatively straight on the table runner though. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I could stitch one line from the front and then align the rest off that from the back. Guess what? No problem! So I sewed the next line on the front. No problem. So I completed table runner number two without further incident.

Final Quilting

In the end, I have no idea what was making my thread break. Perhaps it was that two layers of ugly fabric was too much. I considered that it was the batting, but Runner 1 used scraps from a batting I had used successfully on another quilt, and Runner 2 used a completely different batting (which I don’t like, but not for stitchability issues). Perhaps it was some magical combination of the fabric and the angle at which I was stitching it (straight was bad, serpentine or free-motion met the fabric in an acceptable way). Perhaps it was the alignment of the planets and by day two things were back to normal. I don’t know. I do know that I won’t be using the ugly fabric for my other two class samples which are next on my to-do list.

7 thoughts on “Acting Ugly

  1. I just completed 5 terrycloth pool cover-ups, and had a similiar problem. At one time, I could just not go any further. The needle would NOT GO. Changed it all, top thread, bobbin, needle, stitch length & tension. NOPE. Then I got the brush out and cleaned it from top to bottom. I was having to lightly clean after each cover-up because of the terry crumbs, but found a VERY tiny thread between the layers of metal in the bobbin. Once removed, I was good to go!

    I love your “Just Gonna Do It” attitude. I let so much unrelated stuff get in the way of my creating that I have developed quite a handicap.

  2. We just blame everything that goes wrong here on the humidity! These rainy mornings make everything worse-from lights working to my husband’s golf game!

  3. Let me start by saying I cannot sew – but I am pretty sure I would have given up after the 2nd try! Way to persevere!

  4. Interesting! I liked the feather quilting…can’t believe you took that all out!
    Hmmm..lesson…don’t buy fabric unless you love it! I am still learning that one!

  5. I don’t envy you all that unpicking but like your attitude of going to succeed. The finished projects were definitely worth it. I too love the challenge of using ugly fabrics or notions. But maybe the fabric just didn’t like being thought of as ugly!!

  6. that is such funny fabric I can see why you got it. but gack, I have never heard of fabric behaving that way during the quilting. eeek. you didn’t like those feathers???? i thought they were wonderful.

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