Monday, September 3, 2012

Blog Hop Party 2012 Pindows Tutorial Part 4 - Quilting

If you're playing along with the tutorial in real time then you should have a finished top, ready for quilting.  Which is kinda madness unless you've just forsaken your family, dining, sleep, or other regularly scheduled responsibilities for the last week or so.
Anyhow, if you've never made a quilt before, this may be the most onerous part of the whole process.  Your sewing machine probably came with a bag of bits something like these:
Which is funny, because if your sewing machine drawer looks anything like mine, it only has room for a couple of feet and some bobbins (and band-aids, oh, yes)

And unless you bought a machine advertising itself as a 'quilter's dream' or some other such name with 'quilt' in it, none of them will actually help with the 'quilting' part of quiltmaking.  So you will need to go out and buy additional accessories, on top of the few hundred bucks you have already spent on a machine, fabric, thread, quilt-related snacks, tea, etc.
 For free-motion quilting, you'll need a stippling foot.  Depending on your part of the country and the primary market served by your local sewing machine retailer, it may also be called an embroidery or darning foot, and should look something like this (less the stout pin on the left holding it up):
free-motion quilting foot
 The wire jutting out from the top rests above the screw/pin that holds your sewing machine needle in place.  Every time the needle comes up it pulls the foot up so that the foot glides over the top of your quilt as you move on to the next stitch.  This foot is used without the feed dogs and you are responsible for all aspects of the stitching - regulating both the stitch-length and the fabric feed.

Your next option, invaluable for straight-line and cross-hatch quilting, is the walking foot.  As with the free-motion foot, there is an arm that hooks over the screw/pin that holds your needle in place.  In the case of the walking foot, this angles the foot up when the needle raises, but does not completely lift the foot off the quilt in the same way as the embroidery foot.  This foot is used with the feed dogs engaged and you are responsible for shifting the heft of the quilt so that the stitching stays in a straight-ish line, but the stitch length is set on your machine.
walking foot

 The type of foot you need is determined by what kind of quilting you need to accomplish, a decision that is informed by several other factors including:
- pattern of the top
- what will be the quilt's ultimate use
- what type of batting you have chosen

As to the pattern of the top, you can get away with stippling or cross-hatching most patterns, but some just sing when they have a particular style of quilting.  The Irish chain, for example maintains an old-fashined charm when it has straight-line quilting on the diagonals; and Hawaiian quilts just wouldn't be the same without hand-stitched echo quilting.

The ultimate use and batting selection go hand-in-hand in helping determine how to quilt your piece.  The heavier the quilting the less warm a quilt will be, since there will be fewer 'pillows' between stitches to gather body heat and insulate the user.  If your quilt is going to be a summer quilt then you can use a flannel lining instead of batting and little or no quilting.  If the quilt is to be a decorative bed runner or throw on the sofa and not a primary covering for winter nights then heavier quilting won't lead to any discomfort.  If it is to be a primary source of warmth, then you'll want to leave lots of space between stitches. 

Having determined your ultimate use, you can then read batting labels to find out which batting will be best for your purpose - some batting can be quilted as much as 10" apart without bunching or bearding, other batting needs to be quilted no more than 3.5" apart, otherwise you'll have a very lumpy quilt after ten or twelve washings.

A final consideration is the thickness of your batting in relation to the size of your quilt and the size of your machine.  Quilting without a frame requires you roll up your quilt to be able to stitch down the middle . . . . you don't want to be using extra-loft batting for a twin-size quilt if your machine has a 4.5" throat . . . .

A few practical words about quilting: take your time, start from the middle and take a break when you become frustrated.  Always start with a fresh sharp needle, a full bobbin, and check your needle position is correct for the foot you are using.  Make sure the feed dogs are in the appropriate position.

If you are free-motion quilting, check your tension from the bottom stitches after your first foot or so of stitching.  Remeber that free-motion stitching is a little counter-intuitive, since the speed you manually move the fabric is not directly related to the speed at which the needle is moving up and down.  It takes practice, but generally you'll find that having the foot control between half and two-thirds depressed will move the needle fast enough for the speed at which you will move the fabric.  If you move the needle too slowly you are more likely to break the needle, since you'll be creating extra tension on the horizontal axis. 

With the walking foot you'll be using the feed dogs and the automatic stitch length, but you will need to keep an eye on the weight of the top.  Keep the top moving freely, so that it doesn't drag or pull on one side. 

And my last little tip of the day, keep a pair of tweezers in your sewing apron, drawer or tool caddy on the machine.  Pulling weeds is never enjoyable, but a good pair of tweezers will make it easier!
pulling weeds
After quilting, you'll need to trim and bind your quilt. Since I've already published a post on back-to-front binding, I'm going to ask you to look here, rather than reinventing the spinning wheel.

I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I used both straight-line and free-motion quilting for my finished sample. Using the walking foot, I quilted on either side of the sashing, starting with the main 2.5" strips, then the 1.5" strips. Then I changed the foot for the stippling foot and stippled only in the white patches of the pinwheel blocks. If you want to be high-falutin' you can explain this to your non-quilty friends as a using texture to create an alternative expression of negative space, since negative space is usually a solid or blank, and in this case the negative space of the texture is actually the printed patches. It also makes the prints pop!
There's a few short hours left of 3d September, if you have not yet entered to win a quilt kit to make your own pindows quilt, do so on this page.
Finished Pindows Quilt

For additional parts of the tutorial, visit these pages:
For additional tips, visit these pages:

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