Category Archives: machine quilting

Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, borders, Christmas, fabric, machine quilting, quilting, scrappy backs, thread

A little learnin’

I finished quilting maple leaves in all 24 rail fence blocks of my wall hanging—yay!

And more good news…after a whole lot of dinking around in Electric Quilt, I finally figured out how to quilt the tree blocks for this project.

Cool, yes? Actually, it’s a huge relief because I didn’t think I would ever finish this little project for lack of a quilting plan and a years’ long mental block in coming up with one. What in the world was so hard about it? I still don’t know.

At one point, I quilted continuous curves in the background triangles and rectangles of four of the blocks, but ended up ripping it all out.

While I was satisfied with the technical quality of the stitches, I just didn’t like the way it looked. Seriously, this quilt was going to have to be re-named from something romantic like Trails Among the Pines to Arrested Development if I couldn’t get it together.

Now, with this major hurdle cleared, crossing the finish line is a reality. Getting there sure wasn’t easy, but I learned some things about editing quilt motifs in EQ, so it was worth it.

I started by importing this stencil design from the block library into the sketchbook for my project.

Once in the sketchbook, you can highlight the stencil design and click on the edit button to put it on the worktable.

Once it’s on the worktable, you can find out to what extent the motif is editable.

Click on the Pick tool and click around inside the design to understand how the motif has been sectioned; some stencils in the library contain one section, limiting your ability to edit them.

The motif I chose had four sections and I eliminated three of them by clicking on each section with the Pick tool to highlight it and then pressing the Delete key.

With one section of the motif left on the worktable, now I could start editing it.

First, I moved the motif to the center of the block.

Then I rotated it 45 degrees to orient it to an upright position.

Electric Quilt also lets you flip vertically and horizontally, but in this instance, neither was necessary.

Once the motif looks the way you want it to, save it to the sketchbook, then you can return to your quilt layout and place the edited motif inside.

One thing that helped, once I caught on, was to reduce the block size for the motif before saving it to the sketchbook so it would be easier to size once inside the layout.

The original block size of the stencil motif was 14 inches—notice how much empty space there is around the one section that was retained and centered.

My blocks are only six inches square, so I reduced the stencil motif block to three inches square. This made it much easier to drag it around within the layout, work around other motifs under consideration and size it within the block.

Now I’d better get back to it. Thanks for stopping by!

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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting

In my infinite brilliance, let the duh fest begin or: how not to make a quilt back

Today, I have a couple tips for piecing a non-scrappy quilt back.  But first, the ditch quilting for Cocheco Memories is coming along, despite chronic fights with a certain spool of red thread.

red

I like machine quilting with Presencia thread, but boy, did I get a lemon of a spool in #284 red. It’s breaking a lot and dragging through the machine so much I thought there was something wrong with my tension discs. It even feels hard. None of the other Presencia spools I’m using are behaving poorly,

CM quilting thread

so I’m chalking it up to a quality control issue with that spool, but hey, Presencia people, you owe me a spool of #284 for all the grief I’ve put up with in the last week!

Quilt backs wider than 40 inches must be pieced. The Cocheco Memories quilt (before I, in my infinite brilliance, changed the border width at the last minute) needed a back that measured 67″ x 67″. I would need two lengths of 1⅞ yards each. I rounded up and purchased a total of 4, thinking that would be more than enough.

When I decided, in my infinite brilliance, to widen the border, I completely ignored the impact of a size increase on the back. So when I got ready to piece the back and realized I only had 4 yards—uh oh….

Duh.

backing5

I now needed a 71″ x 71″ back and had enough yardage for two 72″ lengths—ugh! As you can see in the photos below, close doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Bottom.

Bottom.

Top.

Top.

Here’s how I put together the backing:

Position the two panels right sides up next to each other to make sure the print is oriented in the same direction on both. This was really important for my backing since the fabric I chose was directional.

Tear off the selvages along the inside edge of each panel where they will be sewn together. To do this, make a 1″ snip about ½” to 1″ from the edge of the selvage and tear. Tearing will give you an on-grain edge which means it will be straight and yield a nice, un-puckered seam line.

backing1

Press the torn edge on both panels.

backing2

Align the torn edges and pin.

backing3

Using a presser foot with a wide footprint, sew the two panels together using a ½” seam allowance and a slightly elongated stitch length. (I enhanced the visibility of the ½” marking on my throat plate with a piece of blue painter’s tape.)

backing4

Press the seam allowance open.

As you would expect, layering this quilt took extra time because of my teeny-tiny back. I ended up basting around the perimeter to hold things in place and make sure there would be three layers to trim when it’s time for binding.

basting

Hopefully, my infinite brilliance won’t surface again for good long while.

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Filed under machine quilting, piecing, thread

Quilting motifs for Cocheco Memories

I’m so excited about quilting Cocheco Memories, especially after I found this motif called Curled Plumes in Volume 8 of the Quiltmaker collection of digitized quilting motifs for Electric Quilt.

CM center motif

I was immediately drawn to it because it was classified as a feather, something I’ve wanted to try and thought would be appropriate for this quilt. Also, the design didn’t appear too difficult in terms of the quantity of feathers and the need to re-trace, which was perfect since I’ve never tackled feathers before.

I enlarged the motif to fit it over the log cabin blocks in the center.

EQ center motif

Electric Quilt has some neat tools to help you size and position the motifs. The pair of boxes to the right of the words “Selected Block” in the upper left corner of the layout indicate the motif’s position in the layout, functioning as X and Y coordinates. To the right is a similar set of boxes that indicate the size of the motif. You can type numbers in the boxes to help you move, enlarge or reduce motifs until you are satisfied with their appearance on your layout.

Then I found this corner motif, also in the Curled Plumes family

CM corner motif

and enlarged it to 27″ x 27″ to fit one quarter of the top.

EQ corner motif

I added three more corner motifs to the layout and rotated them accordingly to fit into the remaining corners. Here’s the layout with all the motifs correctly positioned:

CM quilt design

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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting

Which quilt motifs?

I’ve been preparing to quilt my fall design.

fall

The pattern is done and needs a photo of the finished quilt for the cover—my biggest obstacle, as I choose to quilt my own projects. Last week I washed and ironed the backing:

fall backing

I’ve been playing with the Quiltmaker motif library in Electric Quilt and came up with these possibilities:

#1--While the motifs fill the spaces quite nicely, I'm not in love with the heart shape being formed in the star point units. Also, John thought it kind of looked like a mustache.

#1–While the motifs fill the spaces quite nicely, I’m not in love with the heart shape being formed in the star point units. Also, John thought it kind of looked like a mustache.

#2--This one has the same motif in the star's center as #1, but I filled the rest of the block with companion motifs from the same family, this one named Mulberry.

#2–This one has the same motif in the star’s center as #1, but I filled the rest of the block with companion motifs from the same family, this one named Mulberry.

#3--I really liked the motif in the flying geese units, again from the Mulberry family. In positioning them, they overlap to create an alternate design in the center of the star.

#3–I really liked the motif in the flying geese units, again from the Mulberry family. In positioning them, they overlap to create an alternate design in the center of the star.

#4--Here is a different set of motifs from the White Dove family.

#4–Here is a different set of motifs from the White Dove family.

#5--This one displays motifs from the Autumn Breeze family of motifs.

#5–This one displays motifs from the Autumn Breeze family of motifs.

#6--This is a variation of the option directly above. I kept the Autumn Breeze motifs in the corners and star points but substituted leaves from the Ivy League family in the star's center.

#6–This is a variation of the option directly above. I kept the Autumn Breeze motifs in the corners and star points but substituted leaves from the Ivy League family in the star’s center.

#7--Mulberry variation. I'm not convinced there's enough quilting to fill the space.

#7–Mulberry variation. I’m not convinced there’s enough quilting to fill the space.

#8--A better Mulberry variation in terms of enough quilting to fill the space.

#8–A better Mulberry variation in terms of enough quilting to fill the space.

#9--Love this motif, again from the Mulberry family, but it seems to awkwardly fill the space. I think the inner curved line runs too close to the seam lines of the star's center square.

#9–Love this motif, again from the Mulberry family, but it seems to awkwardly fill the space. I think the inner curved line runs too close to the seam lines of the star’s center square.

#10--One last motif from the Mulberry family--great motif, wrong application....

#10–One last motif from the Mulberry family–great motif, wrong application….

I would love some feedback on which one you like and why. Please feel free to leave a comment–thanks!

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Filed under machine quilting

Another gift of nasty weather

It’s been a few days, but I’ve been a busy little quilting bee so there would be something concrete—and pretty—to show you!

xmas quilt progress

On Sunday, I transferred all the quilting motifs for the Christmas table runner to water soluble stabilizer. This consumed most of the day, which consisted of tracing a couple designs followed by finding something, anything to do between tracings to cure the boredom of tracing. Whatever technique you choose to transfer motifs to your top, marking lands in the top five least favorite steps to finishing a quilt.

I returned to the isosceles triangle I drew in Electric Quilt to make the trees:

xmas triangle

I thought it would be cool to draw some scalloped lines to represent garland, but even after positioning the arcs and reshaping them, I was under whelmed.

Blah.

Blah.

So I used the Bezier curve tool in the PatchDraw Motif option from the block drawing menu to create gentle, wavy lines:

xmas tree motifs

I made three, which actually becomes six in my world when you flip them onto a light box and trace the reverse image.

Then I found this motif in Quiltmaker:

xmas swirl

Applying brute force with the cursor, I smashed it horizontally and stretched it vertically to make it fit in the spaces between the tree trunks.

xmas white motifs

I had to print the motif in three sizes and cut them out close to the lines to see which one would best fill the space.

After reviewing and rejecting a bunch of options for the trunk motif, I drew this:

xmas trunk motif

As is becoming my standard operating procedure, I used matching thread to quilt each area:

xmas thread

Yesterday, once again, Mother Nature delivered every quilter’s dream: nasty weather—the perfect excuse to stay in and quilt:

Cranking up fast!

Cranking up fast!

storm2

I chose this for the back:

xmas back

It’s from the Stonehenge collection by Northcott. I bought it last December when I went shop hopping with a couple co-workers. It was available in both gold and silver so I bought some of each—love it!

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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting

Excused absence

Sorry for my absence from this site for most of last week, but there’s a good reason: I’m done quilting my fourth pattern sample, Railroad Ties—yay!

Today I’d like to show you how I lock the beginning and ending stitches of my quilting lines.

Pull the top and bobbin threads to the back.

pull threads

both threads pulled

Tie a knot. Tie another knot.

threads knotted

Thread both tails into the eye of a basting needle.

basting needles

Insert the point of the needle into the batting layer close to the beginning of the stitching line.

insert needle

Guide the needle as far into the quilt as possible, emerging at least two inches from the point of insertion. Check before pulling the needle all the way through to make sure it hasn’t poked through to the top–you want to stay between the layers.

guide needle

Tug on each thread tail to pop the knot inside. Keep a gentle pull on the thread tails and clip. They will release back into the layers.

clip threads

This can be tedious, but I’m a stickler for neat backs, so tying and burying remains my favorite method of anchoring quilting lines.

Up next: binding this puppy!

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Getting off on the right foot

When I first began free motion machine quilting, I went out and dutifully purchased this darning foot:

darning foot

I quilted with this foot a lot, but grew increasingly frustrated that my skill level was not rising in proportion to the amount of time I spent using it. And yes, I’m fully aware that free motion quilting is not synonymous with instant gratification.

After doing a little research, I went back to my sewing machine dealer and purchased this open toe darning foot:

open toe foot

Wow.

Can you say vastly improved visibility?

open toe in machine

I could not believe how having a portion of that circle removed made such a huge difference in my ability to see my work. The open toe also made it much easier to draw the bobbin thread up. Why did I waste so much time with that other foot?

darning foot in machine

Now that I have a better presser foot, it’s up to me to continue practicing and honing my free motion skills. But what a relief to know I wasn’t the free motion dud I thought I was before the open toe foot came into my sewing room.

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ADD or plain ol’ burn out?

This always happens. After a marathon of machine piecing resulting in the completion of a quilt top and/or backing, I must step away from it. I’m never quite sure if it’s my ADD tendencies or if I’m just tired of looking at it—probably a little of both.

This weekend, I ignored the blue/white lawn chair quilt and scooped up another batik quilt for which I have created a pattern—yes, for sale, some day—if I would just finish the sample!

The quilt is 72″ square and assembled with 36″-square quadrants. After ditch quilting along every seam, I free motion quilted this design on the top:

This design comes from Volume VII of Quiltmaker's digitized quilting designs and Electric Quilt.

This design comes from Volume VII of Quiltmaker’s digitized quilting designs and Electric Quilt.

with this yummy 3-ply, 40-weight, all-cotton variegated thread

King Tut thread

The color changes occur about every 1½”, and I’m using it on the top and in the bobbin.

Although the spool label recommends a size 90/14 needle, I’m successfully using an 80/12 with no breaking, shredding or skipped or uneven stitches.

Railroad Ties machine quilting

The quilting motif measures about 17″ square to fit four per quadrant. Here is my next one ready to go:

ready to quilt

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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting, thread

Science alert: matching gene discovered

NOTE: If you’re interested, click on the ABOUT tab to view a couple photos of our boys when they were little.

I’ve mapped out a quilting strategy for the lawn chair quilts: all straight lines done with the walking foot.

lawn chair quilting

After much deliberation, I decided against variegated thread and .004 nylon thread and bought these spools of 50-weight, 100 percent cotton, 3-ply Presencia thread for quilting. I needed a large assortment to match 20 different fabrics. Now that I’m thinking about it, the matching thing is so my mom. It all makes sense now. Clearly, the matching gene is encoded in my DNA, passed along from her.

blue thread

Quilting with this thread is easy. It’s strong, behaves nicely and looks fantastic. After staring at all the spools in this photo, it occurred to me that I just might be on my way to becoming a thread junkie.

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Filed under kids, machine quilting, Mom, thread