It’s not perfect…

In April I wrote about a quilt I was making to send to Japan as part of our guild’s effort to help victims of the tsunami. At the time I was cursing my sewing machine, needles, thread, and everything else within sight (except myself, of course) because the needle broke twice while I was free-motion quilting some of the last blocks. How lucky I would have been if that had been the only problem with this quilt.

The next time I sat down at the machine breaking needles and snapping threads were the norm. Although I tried to solve the problem by playing with the tension and changing the top and bobbin threads to different weights, I couldn’t win. So I put up the feed dogs and straight-line quilted the remaining 5 blocks. Then I straight-line quilted the borders. Or should I say I rendered an artistic interpretation of straight lines? There’s virtually nothing straight about these lines. All this made it a very easy decision to wash the quilt before giving it away. Hopefully the shrinking of the fabric will hide some of the flaws in workmanship. 

Okay. Binding time. I was determined to completely machine stitch the binding. Some quilters machine stitch the binding to the front, pin it to the back, and stitch in the ditch on the front side catching the binding’s folded edge on the back. When I’ve tried this in the past I ended up with a dog’s breakfast on the back, with the binding edge seeming to weave in and out of the stitching.

Other quilters recommend sewing the binding to the back and sewing it to the front with a blanket stitch. I tried this and found the blanket stitch was far messier than just straight stitching, so I went with straight stitching. Now it isn’t perfect, but in my opinion having the a single row of stitching occasionally show on the back is somewhat tidier than the gaps and flaps I got when I sewed the binding to the front first. (In the end, there are only about 12 inches of noticeable stitching on the quilt back that ought to have been hidden in the binding.)

The upper image shows the front of the quilt sample, with blanket stitching on the left and straight stitching on the right. The bottom image is the back of the same piece. Here the straight stitching is on the left and the blanket stitching is on the right.

So I’m binding the quilt. It’s stitched to the back and I’ve sewn about one half of it to the front when I realise the binding is pure white and the quilt is off white! How the heck did that happen!? I wasn’t aware that I even owned any not-quite-white fabric, and there sure wasn’t any in my stash when I pulled the Kona bleached white from the shelf. I’d post a picture, but the subtle differences in colour aren’t visible in a photo.

After listening to me beat myself up over this, DH asked if I could cover the old binding with new. Smart guy, because I really could cover the binding with something that would make me happy, I just don’t know if I will. I’m sort of ready to say good-bye to this one, even though it does look pretty good now that it’s done and washed. I think I’m going to call it Hope and Flowers.

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Knowing when to take a break

Our guild is collecting quilts for Japan at its May 3 meeting and I decided to quilt a top I made last year for no intended purpose or recipient. It’s Elizabeth Green-Hartman’s original Mixtape pattern that I bought from her Oh, Fransson! blog in March 2010. You can read all about the newest version of the pattern here

The quilt is about 63 x 53 inches, which is a good foot wider than the baby quilts I usually make. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet taken a picture of the completed top, but here is a shot of the top’s underside where you can see the many fringes of thread I had to trim before I sandwiched it for the second time. Yes, second. Last weekend I spray basted the quilt and discovered the top was off-centre, so back to the dining room table it was.

The underside of my Mixtape quilt top

Now I don’t know about you, but for me to quilt, trim, and bind a quilt this size, I need solid chunks of time, and May 3 is awfully close given that I’ll be spending Easter weekend away from the sewing machine. On the plus side. I know I won’t have time to hand stitch the binding to the back, so I’m going to be forced to machine stitch the binding; something I haven’t yet perfected.

In addition to practicing my binding technique, this quilt pattern seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice my machine quilting. (It’s not perfect either.) The added bonus is that after May 3 I’ll never see it again and any glaring errors won’t be around to taunt me.

I had hoped to make this a machine quilting sampler and gave up when I realised that much of what I wanted to do was fairly dense quilting, hence the quilt became stiff. Of course that’s fine for a wall hanging, but not great for a quilt that you hope will provide comfort.

These two blocks show the nested teardrop (left) and pebbles patterns. The nested teardrop runs vertically along the left side and is mostly visible in the orange section (you may have to click on the image to enlarge it and see the quilting more easily), while the pebbles run horizonatally for more than half the top section of block number two. Once I realised each block was becoming too stiff, I completed it with wavy lines. The other blocks in the quilt are, for the most part, quilted with meandering-type designs. Sadly, I didn’t get to finish the quilting today because my top thread broke twice on two of three blocks and my needle snapped in two shortly after the last thread breakage.

I’m taking these as signs from the quilting gods that I’m not supposed to be at my machine any more. At least for today.

Quilt Along updates

I’m excited to be taking part in the Curlicue Quilt Along that Lesly is running over at Pickle Dish. It starts at the end of the week and there’s a giveaway, besides, so get on over if you haven’t already. And I still have to finish my Layer Cake Quilt Along. So I don’t think my machine will have very long to cool off before I’m at it again. And blogging again.