Sunday, March 11, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Insights

I've been free motion quilting my animal alphabet first machine quilted quilt!  Previously I've machine quilted wallhangings and a vest.  I'm already noting a lot of insights from quilting this project.

  • On the recommendation of many, many blogs, I bought a sewslip.  Throughout quilting I've been taking it on and off at intervals to see if I can tell a difference.  I definitely!  Without the sew slip, the movement of the quilt after each stitch is choppy/stilted/jerky.  With it things move very smoothly.  HOWEVER, I have been having trouble with the edges of the sewslip catching on my quilt and creating a lot of drag.
  • The quilt does not move nearly as easily or smoothly as my practice swatches and wallhangings have.  There's a lot of resistance and I'm actually working out my arms shoving it around.  I think this might be partly due to the flannel backing, which grips more, and partly due to the increased heft of this project.
  • I can't figure out how to use the BSR 1 function on my machine!  Luckily we will learn this in my Bernina class on Wednesday (more on the class in another has also led to many insights about my machine).  For now I'm just sticking with BSR 2.

So far I've mostly managed to avoid lumping by carefully planning out my stitching direction and periodically smoothing out the quilt on the floor to make sure everything looks flat.  I've had a few small lumpy spots, but not bad!

I originally was just going to outline the animals to minimize the amount of quilting because I want the quilt to stay fluffy.  However, I also wanted a continuous line so I ended up loop-the-looping between animals so I wouldn't have to start and stop.  This looked weird with only a few loop-the-loops, so I went back and now the whole thing is looped.  I just hope it's not too stiff to be comfortable, because using fusible web adds stiffness too.

Along those lines, I'm still trying to figure out how much/little to quilt a quilt that I intend to use.  This one was hard because there's narrow space between the animals, so unless I wanted to stitch over them I needed to do a pretty narrow quilting design.  Maybe for future baby quilts I'll stitch with patchwork so I can do wide/broad quilting to keep them soft.

Also, an insight carried over from hand quilting, is that the animals pop more if you quilt around them with a gap (like an echo) instead of just stitching in the ditch around them.  So of my animals ended up with wider stitching around them than others.

Tension, by the way, has been fine!  I think my tension problems from earlier were related to a number of threading errors (which I learned about in my Bernina class) and the fact that I was using BSR to applique a single layer of fabric, when it's more programmed for a quilt sandwich.

Anyways, the top is looking on track to be finished today!  Luckily the recipient probably won't notice all of the errors I've made, I just hope it's soft and fluffy enough for her to enjoy it.  Nobody likes a stiff quilt!

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