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.
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.
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.
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.
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.