05 May


I sat down to quilt this morning and realized that in the last few weeks I have used all three main methods of quilting.


Hand Quilt

Currently, my evening knitting has been supplanted by hand quilting on a scrappy, somewhat traditional quilt in the works. I’m using a heavy-ish thread and big stitches for a rustic look. I’m even using my big PVC quilting frame! It all feels so old school, but appropriate for this particular piece.



Longarm Quilt

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also been renting time at a sort of local long arm quilting machine shop. I warmed up on some scrappy quilts, but my main purpose is to test out options for a custom quilt idea I have. I’ve decided that what I like best about the long arm machines are the “channel lock” option and the digitally guided designs — these are both things that I just can’t do on my domestic machine and they give a completely different look than what I can do at home.



Machine Quilt 2

And then there’s the quilting I can do at home on my domestic machine. Sometimes it’s frustrating to cram a big quilt into the machine, but it’s always there, ready when I am, and at no cost other than my original purchase of the machine. I can do free motion, I can choose straight(ish) lines. I can quilt quilts, or I can stitch up Kitchen Superheroes. I can use a wide variety of threads.

There is a time and a place for all types of quilting. In the last month I’ve worked on all the projects shown here, varied as they are. I am glad that I have taken the time over the years to become at least a little proficient at all these approaches, as it allows me to choose the appropriate one for whatever my project is.


19 Nov

Quilting Follow-Up

I’ve been too busy quilting to sit down and blog. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t wasted a bunch of time checking Facebook and Instagram on my phone, but we’ll just gloss over that, ‘K? Anyway, I finished the quilting on my second practice quilt today. I say practice because it’s been a while since I’ve done a bunch of machine quilting and I wanted to get back in the groove before delving on a large art quilt that I’d really like to do a great job on. My practice quilts were a lap quilt made from two Jelly Rolls I had originally intended for a 1700 quilt but lost interest on and recently made into a plus pattern, and a quilt made with scrappy bricks that’s one of four stash busting projects.

Plus Quilt

Plus Quilt

I finished the Plus Quilt. I did the best I could, The front looks just fine, and I will ignore all the problems on the back (of which there are many). Washing the quilt and throwing it in the dryer did wonders — the old timey wrinkliness hides a lot of the puckers. I was already familiar with the tips suggested about taking out stitches and easing the fabric before stitching again, and I had been gently pulling/easing to keep things pucker free. However, there’s only so much of that to be done. Long time readers may remember the Amish Drag Racing in the Southwest diagonal quilting debacle here.

Amish Drag Racing in the Southwest quilt

I fixed that quilt by adding a big black border and squaring that up, but I really wanted to not distort my next quilt rather than fix it post-distort. I’ve also run into distortion problems with circles.

Charming Puddles quilt

If I were to do circles again, I’d definitely spray baste in addition to the pins. My next quilt will have lots of straight lines though, so I might just go with more pins. Some suggested thread basting, which would probably be good for quilting when using a walking foot, but I know from experience that I don’t like free-motion quilting with thread basting. Even when I’m paying attention I catch too many of those big stitches on my presser foot and am forced to stop and often unstitch.

scrap bricks

Speaking of free motion, the brick quilt called for a little bit of straight lines and a whole bunch of free motion. Quilting went much better on this one. I noticed on the Plus Quilt that I had more pucker problems in the areas where the backing fabric was a thinner eighties calico. I also remember reading in one of Ruth McDowell’s books that she uses upholstery weight fabric for her wall quilts. So, Sue’s comment to starch the backing fabric made sense. I had already done the straight line stitching on the quilt, but I unpinned the rest, starched the backing, ironed it, and re-basted the quilt with more pins. No Puckers! I don’t know if it’s because of the starched back, or the free-motion quilting, but it’s so much better than the Plus Quilt. I will definitely continue to starch the back of quilts that can be washed, especially if those backs are pieced with an assortment of fabric qualities.


On the other hand, I did have issues with skipped stitches. I’ve had skipped stitches before with an unruly fabric. I was using the BSR stitch regulator on my machine (which I have had issues with before). Because I was stitching on crazy scrap blocks, I was thinking that the skipped stitches were the problem of some thick seams and bad fabrics (especially since I was consistently having problems on specific fabrics with tight weaves or painted surfaces). I still think that this is part of the problem, but not all of it. Although I kept cleaning out my bobbin area, and I changed needles three times I got to the point where I was having waaaaaay too many skipped stitches to want to keep stopping, removing the stitches, and re-stitching. On a last ditch effort, I took off the stitch regulator, since I was done with the weighty center section anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, things went a lot better. Next time I take my machine in for service I’ll have them check this out, Maybe my machinee is old enough that I can get a replacement part without breaking the bank.

The next quilt will have a heavy or starched back, possible spray baste, lots of pins, slow speed, new needle(s), lots of support, grippy gloves, and potentially no stitch regulator. So there it is, two weeks, two quilts quilted. Lots of problem solving, and lots of muscle memory stored. Good thing I do push ups regularly too — my shoulders aren’t sore at all.

08 Nov


I feel like I used to be pretty good at machine quilting. Nothing fancy, and my stitches weren’t always even, but at least the fronts looked good and the backs of my quilts were smooth.


Lately, I’ve been getting this and it’s ticking me off. The only real change is that I used to use cotton batting and now I’m trying wool. Cotton is less poofy and it sticks nicely to the fabric, whereas wool and poly are both poofy and non-sticky. I tape my backing to the floor smooth but not taught. I pin baste a hand’s width apart. I use a walking foot for straight lines like these (and I have to say, that I’ve turned down the speed on my machine and that has done wonders for keeping me slow and steady and at least making my stitches much more even). I work from the center out unless I have motifs that need to be dealt with first (like the red cross in the background).

This particular quilt is a small utilitarian bed quilt from a Jelly Roll and destined to be donated, so I’m not stressing too much about the puckers, but I’m using it and another that I do care more about as practice for my next round of art quilts and I want to solve as many issues as possible before tackling something bigger and more important. I want to use wool, so I’m looking for any tips anyone wants to throw at me?!? Probably closer basting, but I’m open to all ideas.

27 Sep


Channel Stitching


I quilted the channels on this scrap quilt using my home machine. It looks just fine, and is more than adequate for a utilitarian quilt, but I can see every wobble and change in stitch length.

Triple Stitching


On this one, I tried three lines close together and then a larger space between to make radiating spokes. I like the look of the spokes, but again, the lines most definitely show the hand of the quilter.

I greatly admire those who can do smooth and accurate quilting on their home machines, and those who can cover an entire quilt with regular, lyrical loops, squiggles, whorls, and flowers. I just can’t seem to do it. Admittedly, I think a lot of the super good home quilting is done on much smaller pieces than I try to wrangle through my machine, but there are some really talented people out there.

I’m also seeing a lot more work done on long arm machines (and even sent Zeitgeist out to a long armer because that’s what the quilt really wanted). Long arm machines can do things not possible on home machines, and now that many are computerized, the accuracy of the patterns is amazing.

While sitting at my machine unsuccessfully trying to make my stitches as even as possible, I got to thinking. Not long ago, free motion quilting on a home machine completely changed the way we thought about how the surface of a quilt should look. Quilting became denser, patterns became more complex, and now accuracy has increased. I kind of feel like there’s no way my work on my home machine will ever compare side by side, so why bother? I had the urge to swing the pendulum back all the way, and return to the comfort of big hand stitches.


Hand Stitching


I wonder if I am alone, or if there will be a new movement of hand quilting to complement, not compete with, amazing machine quilting. I look forward to seeing both extremes.

30 Mar

Another Quilt Along!

First off, thank you all so much for the lovely comments on my book giveaway post! I love reading each and every one. And, there’s still time to comment on that post, if you haven’t done so already, and get a chance to win “my” book and a lovely bundle of Hawaiian fabrics.

On to other fun stuff. I’ve been having my own little quilt along here with the Aloha Pineapple quilt, but I also found another quilt along I couldn’t resist. Cherry House Quilts was making a simple, striking, small, quilt that just plain appealed to me. The small size meant that if I could find appropriate fabrics in my stash, I could join the quilt along without disrupting all my other projects (too much).

Cherry House Quilt Along

All the little squares are from my scrap bins — I just kept grabbing pieces until I had enough, not paying tooooooo much attention which, or how many, colors I had. Only one square from each fabric though, so it’s kinda like a charm quilt. Then I laid all the squares out and rearranged them until I liked the columns. There’s some stuff in there you wouldn’t intentionally put together.

Cherry House Quilt Along

Cherrie’s example had straight line quilting, which looks great, but I knew I could do that. So, I decided i’d try something still geometric, but with a little contrast. I drew the center circles (sort of evenly distributed all over the quilt) with a water soluble marking pen and then carefully followed the line with the walking foot. For each successive circle, I lined up the edge of the foot with the previous line. As the circles got bigger, and the curve less extreme, the quilting went easier. Of course, pulling the quilt, even gently, around those curves resulted in some distortion. I basted with safety pins, so maybe this would be the kind of situation where spray-baste would be more appropriate. I switched thread colors every 3 to 5 rounds. I also worked on all the circles at once, adding rings all over until I liked the sizes and overlaps. I did not plan at the outset how large each one would be. So, there’s some puffs and a few unsightly tucks, but it’s all part of the learning process.

Cherry House Quilt Along

Overall, I like this quilt very much. When I was mostly done with it, Cherrie put out a call to quilters for baby quilts for the Early Head Start program in Boston where one of her daughters is a nurse in training. I was happy to send this perfectly baby-sized quilt in response. I hope that it gets spit-up on a and dragged around and loved and no one will care that the quilting is not perfect because it’s just a nice warm place to be swaddled in. I didn’t put a label or name on it because I just wanted it to go out into the world and be. But here, I think I’ll call it “Charming Puddle.”