Today I’m going to critique some machine quilting and a pieced back. I’m going to be pretty hard on the quiltmaker but that’s okay because it’s me. I did some things wrong and I should have known better. Now they are going to be a part this pretty little quilt forever. It’s definitely one of those slap-my-forehead-and-shake-my-head-in-disgust times.
Here’s the quilt top.
First, let me tell you a little of this quilt’s story. We cleaned lots of spaces at the office this past year. Excess items, including several unfinished quilt tops, were put on a table to give away. This was one of those unfinished tops. I loved the block and the way the different colors in adjoining blocks create a secondary pattern. The piecing is beautifully done. The red, green and brown are not colors I typically use but I just couldn’t resist. Thank you to whoever made the quilt top.
My husband and I are in the process of buying a new home and the living room has two cocoa brown walls. I’ve been telling everyone that I don’t have any quilts the right color to use in that room. (That might not actually be true, but it gives me an excuse to make another quilt or two.) This wonderful little quilt top fits exactly into the color scheme I have in mind.
So it came out of the PIGS (Projects in Grocery Sacks). I wanted the back to go together in a hurry so I selected two large-sized pieces of green fabric, two medium-sized pieces of red and one medium-sized piece of green. I sewed them together, cut them in strips, sewed them together again and the result was just plain ho-hum. I got one more small piece of red fabric and put the narrow strips of that red in the dark green strips. I added a one more medium-size piece of green to make the strips all the same length and sewed them together again. It was so much better. At this point, I was thinking I had the start of a great reversible wall hanging.
This is where I started to go wrong. I spray basted the three layers together. The unfinished top is 35” square so in a perfect world, I should have been able to get by with spray basting. But given the straight lines on the pieced back, I should have taken a lot more care with putting the layers together. So here is hint #1. If you have a pieced back with obvious straight lines, you should pin baste carefully making sure you maintain those straight lines in relationship to the quilt top.
The Upper Left Quarter
I started quilting the straight lines in the center, quilting in the ditch around the four-pointed star. Then I moved my needle position to the left and with the edge of the presser foot right next to the previous row of stitching, I quilted all those rows of echo stitching. That’s hint #2. An easy way to echo quilt is to change needle position and use the edge of the presser foot as a guide. But following right on the heels of that, I have to tell you hint #3. Do mark occasionally when you are making many rows. I didn’t check until row 15 and the angles weren’t quite right anymore. If you are looking closely at the quilt, you can see the uneven spacing where I made the corrections.
Closeup of Quilting
I quilted the straight lines in one continuous line until I got to the light green border. Then I finished quilting one quarter at a time. I’m not sure, but that may have been a mistake or it may have just added to the mistake of the poor basting job. Anyway, you can see on the back of the quilt that the straight seam lines are not straight. Notice on the left side that the distortion is very noticeable. There are a few tiny tucks right along the edge of the quilting. If I were to do this again, I’d keep quilting one line in each quarter of the quilt at a time, in an effort to keep things square.
I love the modern look of the pieced back.
The next mistake is the one that makes me the craziest. I usually do my quilting with a minimum of stops and starts. I do that on purpose so I don’t have many knots to bury. But on this quilt with this quilting design, I didn’t see a way to do that. So once I got to the light green border, I had to start and stop each row of stitching at the border. That means two knots for each row. The rows are about ¼” apart. I’m estimating about 400 knots. The only hand sewing needles in my sewing room had very small eyes. I was impatient. It was late enough that the sewing stores would no longer be open. I cut off the threads. And of course, now I’m mad at myself for doing that. Those 400 or so knots are now noticeable bumps on my quilt. Hint #4. Buy yourself a self-threading needle, sit down in front of the TV and go to the effort of burying the knots. You’ll be so glad you did.
Just look at all the knots.
I quilted in the ditch on both sides of the light green border and then added another row of quilting down the center. It looks fine on the front of the quilt but on the back it just draws my eye to the crookedness of the seam lines. Susan, QN’s art director, suggested removing those straight lines and quilting the outside two borders with something with curving lines instead. Hint #5. When there is something less than perfect on your quilt, you can do something wonderful nearby to draw the viewer’s eye away from the part that is not as wonderful. I’ll be unsewing tonight so I can take Susan’s advice. I’ll be sure to show you the finished project so you can see the difference. I can hardly wait for the end of the day so I can “work” on it again.
The vertical quilting lines are noticeably not straight with the seam lines.
On another subject, I wanted to tell you about an upcoming web seminar. We frequently get questions about how to do the binding on quilts. On Tuesday, February 17th, Jenny Kae is going to be presenting a seminar on binding quilts by machine. She’ll take you through the whole process, from squaring up your quilt to cutting, piecing and pressing your binding strips and on to attaching the binding and hiding the ends. She’ll even talk about making perfect corners. Just one beautifully bound quilt will be worth the $19.99 price and you’ll forever be able to bind your quilts in a way that will make you proud. Check it out at QuiltandSewShop.com.
And remember to visit Quilters Newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and our website for the latest news, quilting fun and ideas. Be sure to check out more Web Seminars on QuiltAndSewShop.com, and classes, courses and workshops on Craft Daily.com and CraftOnlineUniversity.com.
Until next time, happy quilting!