Monday, October 6, 2014

Birds of My Neighborhood

I am 15 months into this adventure called “learning to quilt,” and here’s how things stand right now ...

I love picking out fabric and colors. I love piecing—regular old piecing, applique, foundation piecing, you name it. I love admiring my completed quilt tops, all nice and flat and ready to be joined to the batting and backing. But the quilting itself? I’m starting to think that part of the process is for the birds.


Take my latest quilt. I’m calling it the Birds of My Neighborhood (an appropriate name given my feelings about quilting, n’est-ce pas?). It started as a way to introduce two friends to quilting. As a disappearing nine-patch, its construction was easy, and its versatility meant that the three of us could work in different fabrics and different layouts and come up with something unique to each of us.

I looked to Bonjour Quilts for my inspiration. Kirsty’s take on the disappearing nine-patch trades a predictable block layout for placing chunks of the same fabric next to each other. The result is modern, and paired with her straight-line quilting that follows the grid of the pieced blocks, it’s lovely.


My version was a breeze up until the quilting. I took the standard precautions to get a smooth finish to my quilting: I spray-basted like a pro, ensuring that seams were straight and the quilt top was flat. I started quilting each line in the center of the quilt, meticulously burying the ends (a process—get this, Audrey!—I’m starting to enjoy) and working toward the edges. But soon after starting to quilt, things weren’t looking good.

If I had taken a picture of the quilting—which of course I didn’t because the project was driving me crazy and I hardly wanted photographic evidence of my heartache—you’d see big puckers where the horizontal and vertical quilting lines met. Under it, you’d see a caption that would read, “BAH!”

Instead of pulling the quilt off my machine, setting it aside, and regrouping, I forged ahead. I was 16 or 17 lines into the quilting before I came to my senses. It took many hours to rip out all of that work.


Then I did what everyone does when a quilt project is driving her bonkers, right? I made a bag.

And then I did some reading online. (BTW: there’s a great rundown of straight-line quilting on the Modern Quilt Guild’s website.) I went to a local quilt shop, bought some fabric, and chatted up the owner.

When I got back to my machine, I monkeyed with the presser-foot pressure. (Admittedly, I didn’t know what that knob did before this incident, but in my defense, I wasn’t able to adjust the pressure on my previous machine, which I sewed on for 10-plus years before graduating to my current Janome.) Less pressure seemed to remedy the puckering problem I had experienced. Yay! Too little pressure, however, prevented the walking foot from grabbing the quilt sandwich effectively. I got to a happy medium with the pressure and started quilting all over again. This time, I just went for vertical lines of quilting; I wanted to minimize any chance of having to pick more stitches. I’m pleased with the result.


The moral to this story? If you follow me, you know this is a conclusion I’ve come to before: I need a new machine! I’m with Rachel, of Stitched in Color, on this one: the machine can make all the difference. I really like my Janome, but it’s billed as a home-dec machine. I do my fair share of home-dec projects, but as a quilter, I want more space to the right of my needle. I want to quilt without attaching a walking foot. I want to do the basics of quilting well, and I think my Janome is holding me back.

Thankfully, it didn’t hold me back from achieving my fourth and final third-quarter goal. Birds of My Neighborhood quilt—check!

OK, kids, how did you all do with your Q3 goals? If you have zero idea what I’m talking about, check out the Littlest Thistle because Q4 goals are due this week!

Postscript: Birds of My Neighborhood is the 1998 release from one of my favorite bands, the Innocence Mission. If you like folksy music with chick vocals, give them a listen.: )

Linking up to Sew Cute Tuesday, Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, TGIFF at Quilt Matters, and Finish It Up Friday ...

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20 comments:

  1. Do you have, or can you acquire a walking foot? It's made all the difference in my straight line quilting, and binding attachment, and pants mending, and sometimes even piecing. :D But it turned out super awesome and cheerful. :D

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    1. I do have a walking foot, and like you, I use it for more than just quilting. It's a no-name walking foot for short-shank machines, and although it helps in a lot of situations, it doesn't have the teeth that my regular feed dogs do. I wonder if I had a machine with a built-in walking foot, I'd get better results. Hmm ... perhaps even if I had a Janome walking foot, I'd get better results.

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  2. I really love the fabrics and design of this quilt! Isn't 9-patch fun?! I made a tree skirt with that design last Christmas and really loved it.

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  3. I love my Janome walking foot! It probably would help. :) Glad you persevered- it's lovely!

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  4. Congrats on another finish! It looks great, and I know it was challenge to get there! I'm guessing that buying the walking foot specific to your machine would probably help. I have a separate walking foot for my Bernina, and I have no problems with it (other than the fact that it occasionally squeaks!)

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    1. I thought I was the only one with a squeaky Bernina walking foot! Glad to hear I'm not alone. Mine does it mostly when I've been quilting for a bit.

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  5. Straight line quilting is not as 'straight forward' as it looks ;) like what I did there? haha But seriously, there are lots of things that can go awry when doing it. That puckering can happen even if the pressure is just right, I find I also have to have the right 'tension' on the quilt with my hands as it is going through it also tends to pucker. . . I have a Janome, it is the 8900 though and has 11.5 inches of throat space. It is a quilter's dream . . . OK, it has been my dream come true :)

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  6. I like the layout that has matching prints touching. Congrats on your beautiful finish.

    I have also had a problem with puckers on the back if I stretched my batting while basting. My son doesn't care about the puckers, he just likes that mom made it for him.

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  7. I hear you on the quilting issues. I've had the same problems and found that adjusting the tension helps but things get also better the more experienced I become.
    What kind of batting do you use? I sometimes wonder whether I make the wrong choices there which lead to quilting problems.

    You quilt turned out beautiful by the way!

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    1. I have a 40-yard bolt of Warm and White that I'll be using for the next 10 years. : ) I prewash it because I prewash it -- I have no idea whether it helps the process or not. How about you?

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    2. I think I made the mistake of the year by purchasing 10 yards of cheap polyester batting back when I had no idea about this kind of thing.
      I'm on the market for a nice cotton batting and will look into Warm and White and whether it sells in Germany.
      xx

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    3. Warm and White isn't my first choice, but there's a chain of stores in the US (Joann's) that occasionally puts it on sale for 40% off *and* offers free shipping. I couldn't pass up that deal!

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  8. Way to persevere, Michelle! It looks wonderful and I love the colour blocks throughout. I've got a fabulous machine, but I still use a walking foot for straight-line quilting. Both were worth the investment. I also baste closer together, about 3 inches apart, when I know I'm going to straight-line stitch so that it doesn't shift at all. So glad you linked up to TGIFF!

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  9. Love the colors. For some reason I really like orange, blue, and yellow together. All that work was so worth it in the end! Beautiful quilt.

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  10. The actual quilting of a quilt is my least favorite part too... though I am getting better at it. I do agree with you... the right machine can make all the different. I really miss my vintage singers that are in storage until we get settled somewhere.

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  11. I can just about keep momentum til the end of the quilting (provided I don't pause in piecing, that's a bit fatal for projects round here), but binding? Meh.

    Congrats on the finish!

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  12. I have been to Nashua Sew and Vac a few times they are super nice and have been trying out machines, they are just too expensive and I don't want to purchase the wrong one ... you're right a good machine can/will make a big difference. Good luck on your quest for a new one!

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  13. Alls well that ends well?! I think you were a real trooper for figuring it out. And, having seen on three different machines now, I think the machine really can make a huge difference. Not that it can't be done with a lesser or older machine, but it can be so much easier with the right tool. I have a Juki like Rachel and totally love it. It's a FMQ pro! However, it's one difficulty for me has been the straight lining! A bit of advice seeking and that seems to be solved. Best of luck as you continue to learn and grow in quilting skills!

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  14. As I read your post I knew what your problem was before you even said it. The presser foot pressure. My old machine's was way, way too high and I had no way of adjusting it. In sewing a grid I would get an overlap bunching up of almost a 1/4 of an inch when sewing only a few inches. I was not able to straight quilt on my old machine so I had to learn FMQ (which may have been a blessing in disguise because I did learn FMQ).

    I now have my new (about a year and a half old Bernina) and I love straight line quilting now that I get no puckers. In the end, you can make due with the machine you have, but getting a new machine will make life and quilting so much easier for you.

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Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! I almost always respond to comments by email. If my response might interest others, I'll also post it here. If you've commented on my blog and never received a response, you're likely a no-reply blogger.