Gearing up for Quilting with Machines

September 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm 3 comments

Turning the calendar page for September always seems to sneak up on me.  I’ve been out of school for over a decade now, but the end of summer still carries with it a sigh and a plodding return to a less-fun routine.  However, this year it also brings excitement:  September is the month I go to Quilting with Machines!

Detail, QwM teacher quilt exhibit

Detail, QwM 2009 teacher quilt exhibit

Diane and I are returning attendees this year, having had an overwhelmingly good time at last year’s event.  At first, I was disappointed to learn that the organizers were changing the time and the location for 2010, moving it further west and from October to September, but that was before I knew I’d be in my third trimester of pregnancy in fall 2010.  Attending a machine quilting conference six-and-a-half hours away from home is much more doable at 32 weeks than at 36, when I’m no longer supposed to be more than an hour’s drive from the hospital.  (I’ve been fortunate to have a very healthy and active pregnancy to this point, so I have no reason to expect drastic change in the next two to three weeks, but obviously I will be sensible and cautious.)

Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect.  QwM started as a retreat for an Ohio longarm quilting guild and has grown over the years into a learning event for all forms of machine quilting.  However, as a domestic machine quilter, I was concerned.  Despite what the mission statement said on the website, what if the classes were far too longarm-specific?  What if the teachers looked down on domestic machine quilters?  What if I was wasting my time and money?  Of course, all I wasted was a lot of worry.  Although the teachers were all well-known longarm quilters, the designs, techniques, and thought processes they taught were applicable to any type of machine quilting.

I came back from the conference with my mind just buzzing with new techniques to try.  As Sue Patten said in her Freemotion Freehand Possibilities lecture, “If you don’t go home and practice what you’ve learned, next year just mail me a check and stay home.”  With that in mind, I’m trying to do as much machine quilting as possible leading up to this year’s event so that I am in the best possible mindset to absorb the information.  I’ll be recently familiar with my biggest strengths and weaknesses in machine quilting, and thus be primed to learn, and ask when necessary, how best to overcome them.

To that purpose, I’ve been quilting as many tops as possible from my stash that were ready to quilt.  This Noah’s Ark panel was a cheapie from JoAnn’s that I specifically bought because I didn’t care about it:  I used it to test my idea for the addition of lattice strips for Window on Whimsey last summer, thinking that if it turned out decently, I’d quilt and donate it.  Now that we’re having a baby, I’ll use it as a “tummy time” playmat for him.

Noah's Ark

In the Quilt Guilt corner, I’ve been holding on to my mom’s Halloween Attic Windows wallhanging forever. We took an Attic Windows class together at Smile Spinners probably 6-7 years ago (I know it was before I bought my Janome, and that was July 2004.)  She made this absolutely charming wallhanging, using fabric that reminded us both of the Edward Gorey animation from the opening credits of Mystery! on PBS:

When I came across it in her sewing room a couple of years ago, still an unfinished top, I asked if I could quilt it for her.  She agreed, saying, “no hurry.”  This is not a good phrase to use on a quilting procrastinator like me.  I’ve taken it to at least three guild retreats with the good intention of quilting it, to no avail.  At least I made the positive step back in February to order a spool of Superior Threads NiteLite Extra Glow glow-in-the-dark thread to use on it, but it’s only since last weekend that I’ve actually made progress.

Mom's Halloween Attic Windows

Mom's Halloween Attic Windows

Once I’ve got the bindings on, and the label and sleeve on my mom’s quilt, I’ll post some detail pictures of the quilting.  I did some playful experimenting on both, and am very happy with the results.

The third project is, of course, Matt and Alyssa’s wedding quilt.  I’ve started quilting it and I like the virtually no-mark design I’ve chosen, but I’m having weird thread problems and becoming very frustrated.  I’m using Superior Threads Bottom Line in a pale blue in both the top and bobbin, and while it is usually one of my favorites, I’ve been getting unexpected skipped stitches and having the thread “catch” on the needle.  (To be fair, since I’ve used this particular cone of thread before without incident, this is more likely a machine problem manifesting due to the fineness of this thread, than an actual thread problem.)  Following the advice on Superior’s excellent troubleshooting pages, I’ve mitigated these symptoms by adjusting my bobbin tension (eek!) and going up to a #90 titanium topstitch needle (their thread guide suggests a #70 or #80), as well as running the machine much more slowly than I’m used to, which is playing havoc with my stitch length consistency.  It’s improving, but problems like this can drain away one’s motivation, and of course with all the ripping and adjusting, it’s taking forever.  I’ll post a picture when it’s finished.

All this quilting, with its attendant ups and downs, will hopefully not only prepare me for Quilting with Machines, but also for quilting Ruby Wedding.  I haven’t basted it yet (it’s 90″ square, thus presenting some logistical challenges) but I’ve pieced the back and made the binding, so I’m getting there.  I think I’ve even made most of the design decisions for it.  At this point, it’s really just a question of confidence:  I’m so happy with how the top turned out that I want to make sure my quilting enhances, rather than detracts from, the beauty of the top.  Hopefully all this intensive quilting will help build that confidence, because there’s nothing to it but to do it.


Entry filed under: Quilt Shows, Travel, UFOs, WIPs. Tags: , , , , .

Psst! Lady, Wanna Buy a Sewing Machine? So Quilty I Haven’t Quilted

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diane  |  September 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Love the bats in the border! Can’t wait to see it quilted.

  • 2. Sharon  |  October 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    The QwM 2009 teachers quilt is beautiful! Do you know what quilt block and embroidery design they used? Would LOVE to make one! Thank you!

  • 3. Triumph Over Tension Headaches! « Sarah Loves Fabric  |  October 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

    […] I’ve posted repeatedly here, I’ve been having a great deal of difficulty over the last year and a half […]


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