Friday, February 27, 2015

Basted Badly, and Basted Again. On To the Quilting!

Basted... And Basted Again
Several hundred safety pins later, my thumbs are sore, but my quilt is FINALLY basted and ready for quilting!

The internet is rife with tutorials instructing quilters to crawl around a hardwood floor on their hands and knees to accomplish the basting procedure, but I don't do hands and knees.  I prefer to baste my quilts on a standing height worktable, without inflicting any agony on my hands and knees, and I've done this successfully in the past -- but not on tables that were pushed up against the wall like this one is.  I opted to move the worktable back up against the wall when I remodeled my studio in order to economize space.  Since my worktable base consists of kitchen cabinetry and wooden cubby units and my butcher block work surface weighs over 700 pounds, it's not like I could just scoot the whole thing out a few feet from the wall temporarily, either.  I thought I remembered that I had somehow managed to baste a similarly sized kiddo quilt with Minky backing on this new worktable two years ago, but I could not for the life of me remember how I managed to do that. 

So I decided to wing it.  I spray basted with 505 and then I pinned like a madwoman.  And then I flipped the quilt over after a couple of hours of pinning and discovered THIS:

Backing Side Up, The Wrinkle Of Doom
Ugh, right?!  I had worked with the top 2/3 of the quilt that fit on the table first, then spun it around to do the other side, but that slippery Minky formed a crease all the way across the quilt where it had been hanging over the side of the table.  If I left it that way I would have horrible pleats and puckers all over the back every time my line of quilting stitches crossed over the Minky Mountain Range on the back of my quilt.  So today I had to take all of the pins out of the bottom third of the quilt, pull that Minky taut, and repin.  I think it's good now, but note to self here -- next time I baste a quilt, I need to have Bernie get the folding utility table out of storage.  We can set it up in  the middle of my studio temporarily and raise the legs to a comfortable height with pieces of PVC pipe.  That way I can tape or clamp the backing in place to the table edges on all sides, do my pinning from the center out, and when I'm working on the outside edges the weight of the pinned areas of the quilt will help to keep the backing taut and wrinkle free.  Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm pretty sure that's how I basted the last quilt I completed, the raffle quilt for the kids' school.  It's probably how I did the Dresden plate Minky quilt, too, and I'll bet I'm hallucinating this whole idea that I managed to do it on the new work table.

(In case you're interested in the CORRECT way to baste your quilt on a table surface rather than the floor, there are excellent instructions in the book Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes). 

Essential Basting Supplies: Curved Safety Pins, Kwik Klip Pin Closer, and Pinot Grigio

Meanwhile, I'm just excited that the basting is behind me and I get to start quilting tomorrow!  I am not 100% sure how I'm going to quilt this one, but I do know that I'm going to start by stitching in the ditch along all of the non-black patches and along the borders.  I haven't decided whether I'm going to do that with black thread or with monofilament nylon "invisible" thread.  My new Westalee ruler foot and quilting rulers finally showed up a few days ago, so I'll probably want to test out some ruler work on this quilt.  Stay posted!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dilemma du Jour: In Which Rebecca Gives Up Brain Cells -- and Spelling -- for Lent

Embroidery Finished, but Needs Fixing!
So after seventeen long days of procrastination, I finally touched the Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt again yesterday.  I finished adding the borders on January 31st, and then I digitized (for machine embroidery) a Dr. Seuss quote that is special to the baby's parents and agonized over where I should embroider it on the quilt that would be visible, but not look like "what is that doing there?"  I also digitized the quilt label information to embroider on the front of the quilt, because I don't like to add a separate label on the back of a Minky-backed quilt.  I really dislike doing machine embroidery, hence the delay in actually stitching all of this out, but last night I decided to JUST DO IT and get it over with so I could get to the fun quilting part!

Against my better judgment, which seems to have abandoned me, I did not stitch out a sample of either design.  It was just simple lettering, right?  As long as I stabilized properly it would be fine.  Hah.  Okay, so here's what I did right: Organ embroidery sharp needle in size 75/11, black OESD PolyMesh cutaway stabilizer, and I very carefully measured, marked, and hooped the quilt to ensure that the lines of text would stitch out straight and centered in the 1" wide light green border.  I found the little hoop clips that came with my Mega Hoop and even figured out how to attach them to the hoop:

Mega Hoop Clips Properly Positioned
I made sure the center of the design lined up with my centering marks on the quilt, and I used both auto basting options -- the hoop perimeter and the tight basting right around the design -- to guard against distortion during embroidery:

Auto Basting Completed, Ready to Stitch Design
But once my design started stitching on the quilt top, I saw that the tension was off -- black bobbin thread was showing at the edges of the satin stitched lettering.  I suppose I could have stopped, picked out the stitches, and started over after testing and trouble shooting, but I decided to proceed anyway, lowering the top tension ultimately from the default of 2.0 to 1.25, which was better, but still not perfect.  I wonder whether any of the 7 Series sewing machine updates made changes to the default embroidery tension?  The first time I ever embroidered on my 750 QE I had problems with the top thread looping and I resolved those issues by putting the embroidery thread on a stand behind my machine, putting a thread net on the spool, and passing the thread through a couple of additional thread guides, all of which increases tension on the upper thread.  I'm going to need to experiment now and see if I don't get better embroidery tension with the embroidery thread on the regular spool holder on the machine itself, either the vertical or horizontal spool pin.  But that's an adventure for another day.

Meanwhile, I decided that the bits of black thread don't bother me enough to try to rip the embroidery out and redo it, since it gives kind of a mottled look to the lettering that is similar to the mottled, textured look of the fabrics I used in the quilt.  Those stitches are so tiny and so close together that it would be a miracle if I could remove them without accidentally ripping a hole in the quilt top.  It would almost make more sense to remove and replace the borders (ugh!)  But next time?  Not only should I STITCH A SAMPLE FIRST, DUH -- but why did I even need to use black bobbin thread in the first place?  After all, I have lovely 50/2 Aurifil cotton Mako thread that matches every fabric in this quilt, that I bought for my quilting thread.  There is absolutely no reason why I could not have used the royal blue Aurifil thread in the needle AND bobbin for stitching these designs instead of Isacord polyester embroidery thread in the needle and OESD bobbin thread in the bobbin, and the tension perils of tiny satin stitched letters would have been invisible if I had matching thread in the bobbin. 

Bobbin Thread Showing On Top :-(

So, first design stitched, and aside from the tension I'm pretty pleased -- it's legible, it's centered, it's straight, and it didn't pucker my quilt top one iota:

On to the easy part, the embroidered quilt label info for the bottom right corner of the quilt.  I did not make further adjustments to the tension because I thought it would be better if both lines of embroidered text had black dots instead of one line black and blue and the other line all blue.  My label info design fit nicely into my Large Oval hoop, but other than that I followed the same procedure as before.  I did float an additional layer of the PolyMesh cutaway stabilizer beneath the hoop during embroidery.

The design stitched out great, once again perfectly straight and positioned exactly where I wanted it...  But there was one little problem:

Stitched With Love by a Nincompoop!
Do you see my mistake?  Here I'm so concerned with picking the perfect font and thread color, and where I'm going to position the embroidered text on the quilt, and which stabilizer will support the stitches without making that area of the quilt noticeably stiff, and making sure everything is straight and centered -- and I don't even notice that I only put one T in Charlotte! 

Oh, the Shame!
GROAN!!!  This is pretty bad, folks.  The new momma-to-be is a college professor, and I'm pretty sure she knows how to spell Charlotte.  It can't stay like this.

After sleeping on it, and looking at it again this morning, I think I need to carefully rip out just the "t" in Charlote.  Then I will write two "t"s in its place with a disappearing fabric marker, and use a satin stitch on the sewing machine (with the same width as the embroidered font) to manually stitch over the letters that I have marked.  Wish me luck!  If I botch it up royally, I can always take the borders off.  Actually, it just occurred to me that there's no reason I couldn't have embroidered the borders prior to attaching them to the quilt.  I cut them wide and then trim them to size after attaching them anyway, but if I embroidered the border before stitching it on I could have just hooped the stabilizer, drawn a straight line on it for positioning, and stuck the border in place with some 505 Temporary Spray Adhesive.  It would have made hooping easier.  Maybe next time!

Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone!  The kids are home again today because of ice on the roads in some parts of the county and more cold temps and precipitation expected this afternoon.  I just hope the weather doesn't get bad enough for Ash Wednesday service to be canceled at church tonight -- I like both of the anthems and I want to sing them!
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