Tuesday, April 10, 2007

There has been some chat on Stashbuster about mixed quilting techniques, and I thought I would show you my very first proper machine free-motion stitched on a real quilt. I had made countless samples and practise pieces, but this is the first FM quilting that made it onto a quilt and stayed there. The body of the quilt is done by hand, the border by machine.

I made this quilt around 17 years ago, because I saw a picture of a similar one in a British quilting book and immediately saw how I could strip piece it quickly. My kids were 2 and 3 at the time, and I had very little quilting time; quick was good. Because the original quilt was Welsh, I named this Welsh Bricks.

The colour scheme came from a description of a black and white photo of another old English quilt; rectangles of lavender and buff dress fabrics. I loved the sound of that, and made up my mind to use only those colours and variants in this quilt.

The top took less than 2 days to make; the strip piecing worked perfectly. Hand-quilting was a different matter. I began quilting it that week, but it was still not finished a year later, and I rashly promised it to a friend to hang in an exhibition. I still had no time, and I decided to throw tradition to the winds and finish the border with new-fangled machine quilting.

I wish there had been someone around then to
tell me what I should and shouldn't have done. Number one would have been check the thread tension straight away. I knew to do this on my samples, but the stress of quilting a real quilt made it fly out of my head.

The tension on the whole border is simply dreadful, as the close-up shows. Click on the picture to see it in awful detail. But I figured that no-one would be able to see it in the exhibition, and I would pull it out and re-do it later. I also did my first binding completely by machine on this quilt, and I like how it turned out, so I do all my quilts this way now.

Once the quilt came back from the exhibition my DD claimed it for her bed, where it did sterling service for 10 years or so. Somehow I lost the urge to correct the quilting mistakes, and went on to bigger and better things. Oddly enough, there is not a broken stitch anywhere, in all that dreadful quilting.

That became the basis for my philosophy of correcting mistakes. Live with it for a month; if it still bothers you, pull it out. It hasn't fixed itself, you can come back to it any time, if you still care enough. No-one in my family cared about the back of this quilt, just how warm and pretty it was. It still works as a quilt. And I could still fix it if I wanted, but I use it to reassure my students that their work will improve too, and that even their beginning efforts will be useful and appreciated.

I struggled with the thread tension for years, and ended up modifying the foot that goes on my Janome and a lot of other machines. The top thread had insufficient tension, and was being dragged under by the bottom thread. I tied a piece of bias binding around the upright of the foot, beneath the spring, so that there was less downward pressure on the foot. It meant I could move the quilt more smoothly, not dragging it along and reefing the thread through the tension discs. I know I can't prove anything, but I almost feel like the foot was keeping the needle bar slightly elevated, and releasing the tension discs. It was a cheap solution, and I've shown it to my students with the same good results.

Nadine on Quilt Epiphany has done the same thing to her Bernina foot.....

And the last photo today is the beginnings of my quest for herbal self-sufficiency. I have lots of parsley, Curled and Italian, dotted around the garden. I adore parsley, when we go out to dinner I filch everyone's parsley garnish and eat that instead of dessert. It makes my heart glad to see my plants growing so happily; now to see if the grasshoppers leave any for me.

7 comments:

Fiona 12:15 AM  

Thank you so much for sharing this tip - exactly the same thing is happening with my FMQ - no matter what I do the tension won't even out - I'll give the masking tape a go.

Happy Valley Quilter 9:06 AM  

Your quilt is lovely, Keryn. I also live by the philosophy about undoing my work. Quite often when something doesn't work out while I'm piecing then I'll take it out and give it another try. If it doesn't work out the second (or sometimes third) try then I just move on. My family can never pick out what I consider "mistakes".

I,too, love parsley. I think mine would be happy if I would quit picking it and give it a chance to grow. I've alreay used it in several pasta salads.

meggie 4:56 PM  

I love that quilt, & it is obvioulsy loved just the way it is! As we would all want to be.
I laughed at the parsley story- I am exactly the same, & now my friends just immediately give me their parsley!

mereth 7:40 PM  

Thanks for sharing the photo of the back of the quilting. I always felt that you suddenly started doing gorgeous machine quilting but it's nice to see the loopy tension around the curves and the jogs and squiggles like my early work had. It's good to have a reminder of the mistakes and not be too proud to show them- very heartening!

Mary 6:00 PM  

I like your idea of living with a mistake for a month before redoing something. I've found that somethings bother me so I correct those and other things that won't stand out when the quilt is done can just be left alone.

I have a quilt right now waiting for me to rip out a feather wreath that I need to just get done so I can finish it up.

cher 9:03 AM  

love this tip on fm tension solutions...thanks!

BelĂ©m 5:31 PM  

Good tip. Thanks for sharing.

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