Saturday, 15 September 2012

Basic and Very Quick Machine Quilting by an amateur

I am not an artistic machine quilting expert but I am feeling more confident than when I started machine quilting "way back in the olden days". There have been many lessons learned along the way, many stitches ripped, many wrinkles sewn down and even more "nests" and "eyebrows" on the back side of my quilts.

I thought that I could share a bit of this experience with some quilters who are just starting out and wanting to try a bit of machine quilting on their own. I am going to show the process that I used to machine quilt the "Berries and Cherries" quilt in June. 

After the quilt top and back is neatly sandwiched and basted.....

Firstly, and most importantly, start with a fresh, sharp needle; preferably a "quilting" needle sized 12 or 14. The groove along the needle eye is specially designed to handle thread through multiple layers.

Secondly, I used a walking foot on my machine. It is well worth the investment because it helps to regulate even stitching, it feeds the layers evenly and helps keep a balanced tension as the fabric sandwich moves across the needle plate.

Thirdly, I used "The Bottom Line" bobbin thread, it is much lighter in weight (60-wt) than the machine quilting thread so it is less likely to peek through the top and leave dots. It works so smoothly when matched with a machine quilting thread of 30wt. It is nice if you can match the colour of the bobbin thread to the top thread or the quilt top in case there are any little "peak a boos".

I always do a test drive of the set up, using a scrap quilt sandwich - to check my stitch length and tension. Do I need to say that the machine will have been freshly cleaned and oiled before each project? I am quite obsessed with removing lint, stray threads and oiling my machine regularly (follow the instructions in your manual since most machines are different).  I stop and clean the machine again at the first odd unbalanced sound.

A great tool is a locking tweezers (bought from a surplus store for $2) and a small swatch of cotton quilt batting. I swipe this everywhere inside the machine and it picks up an amazing amount of lint, thread bits, dust. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there can be so much lint!!!!
 
Good music and a glass of wine helps to keep a good rhythm going for the machine quilting. A good rhythm helps to avoid the "eyelashes" from turning faster the quilt than the machine is stitching it.
 
Pulling up on the bobbin thread to bring it through to the top before you start sewing should prevent the birds nests on the back. I always start with a very short (just past 0) stitch length for the first 5 or 6 stitches, then increase it to a comfortable length for the quilting (6-8 stitches per inch); then I lock the stitches as the end by reducing the stitch lenght to nearly 0 again.  

This is the quilt top before it was quilted.


I am using a ruler with a line marked on painter's masking tape as a Poka-Yoke
First I did the stitch "alongside the ditch" on all the inner squares and along the borders of the red pieces.  Next, I created a Poka-Yoke (or template) to follow. For my straight lines within the borders and sashing I simply marked a piece of tape on a ruler.

I held the ruler with one hand and followed the line with stitching. It was much easier than it appears and the line was quite straight.


In the centres of the squares I traced a line (still following my Poka-Yoke).

The triangles were sewn using a paper template so that they would all be the same size.
I think they look fine!


The corners need to be trimmed to square, I use my largest square ruler for this.
It looks so neat and pretty when it is trimmed.

I used the straight ruler to trim the sections between the corners.
What a neat edge.

Some times it can be a good idea to attach the label before quilting, and then quilt right through it.

See how pretty this is, all quilted and bound.

It is easy to see an overall quilting pattern . I simply followed the lines of the blocks.



Here is a closer view of the quilting pattern from the back.


The very first baby quilt that I made was machine quilted. It had wrinkles, polyester batting, and was made from a fabric panel (in 1980). I have come a long way.  This method would not be suitable for an heirloom quilt or something that was being prepared for artistic value but, as I say often, "Done is perfect".

This technique suits baby quilts, cuddle quilts or any quilt that is made to be used, loved and washed.