Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.

Machine quilting

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Until recently, I had made one quilt and it’s a full-size bed quilt in red and brown prints.  The pattern is called curvy rail fence or something like that, and the backing is a brown Japanese sort of print that’s very soft.  It is quilted in (more or less) a grid and while it’s stood up to eight or so years of use, every so often the machinist points out a spot where he’s found some missing or busted stitches. I blame the Singer I sewed it on — in addition to my inexperience.  By the time I finished the quilt, I said it was the first and probably last quilt that I’d make – though I learned a lot in the process.

Front & back

These fabrics are wedding napkins, scraps from my stash, and some newly bought fabric from the bargain attic in one of my favorite fabric stores.

I learned that one of the most fun parts of making a quilt is selecting the fabrics.  Looking at the quilt today, there are definitely some prints that I wouldn’t choose today (red bell pepper rings on a black background, eh) and some that I am so glad that I did choose — fried eggs on a red background, yes, please!

I learned that it’s hard to accurately sew curvy pieces together.  Doing that over and over again is probably what caused the long pause in the middle of making the quilt. At the time I was looking for a design that had elements of a traditional quilt but was still modern.

I learned that I wasn’t using the best sewing machine. I learned what was meant by “Walking foot” which was recommended by the pattern I’d selected, and though I didn’t have one for my hand-me-down machine, I didn’t let that stop me.  My grid would have been much more even and uniform if I had bought a walking foot then.

Quilting on my "honeymoon" sewing machine (a Singer 201-2)

Quilting on my “honeymoon” sewing machine (a Singer 201-2)

And I really wasn’t interested in making another quilt until the past year or so. I was planning my wedding and somewhere got the idea that we should (and by “we,” I mean my sewist mom) make cloth napkins for the wedding instead of renting them, and then turn them into a fabric souvenir.  So in the spring, I picked out several $2/yard cotton fabrics from the bargain attic in our favorite local fabric store and Mom made about 200 hemmed napkins.  After the wedding, I scoured some online sources for quilt blocks and tried out a few.  I practiced my hand-quilting on a block called Carolyn’s Star which was a birthday present for my dad. Somewhere under the bed in the guest room (aka my shop) is a stack of double friendship star quilt blocks waiting for me to have the time, patience and interest to make a queen size quilt top.

In the mean time, I have three baby quilts to be gifted to babies expected in 4 or 5 weeks.  I thought about hand quilting them.  I still don’t have a walking foot, which is strongly recommended by nearly every quilt sewing blog I have read.  I don’t have a sewing machine with a particularly large bed.  I spent weeks wondering if I could quilt a baby/crib sized quilt on any of my sewing machines and have better results than that one I made on the Singer with plastic parts inside.  So hand quilting seemed like a feasible option.

Binding one of the baby quilts

Binding one of the baby quilts

Except I hate thimbles. I have big fingers and maybe haven’t found one that fits properly.  I also have an abnormally short thumb on my right hand (I’m a rightie) which could make it ergonomically difficult to get a good rocking rhythm and make nice stitches.  Or maybe I just haven’t practiced enough.  I appreciate that it’s relaxing and meditative for some folks to sit and quilt — if that’s what I want, I usually pick up some needles and yarn and knit a pair of socks.  If I want to sew together layers of fabric with batting in between, I want to get that quilt MADE.

So I set to it last Monday.  I chose a simple design of parallel lines and drew them onto the quilt with my chalk pen. And I sewed.  And it was fun.  I used my SInger 201-2, which has a nice large table and good strong motor.  And when that was done this weekend, I put the binding on it and then finished quilting another one. I washed and dried it today and am so pleased with it — there is one last one ready to get quilted before we leave for a Thanksgiving trip coupled with baby visits.

Hand basting

Hand basting

I learned a lot this time around, too.  One of the most important things I learned was that I can get a lot more out of putting some fabric under my presser foot than I can from reading 18 blogs.  I probably won’t try any super-complex quilting patterns with my 1947 straight stitch sewing machine, but it did a pretty darn good job with what I put in front of it.  Without using spray adhesive for basting (or special curved safety pins, either) and without a special foot or sewing machine, I completed two quilts that I’m excited to give to some new parents.  And I am glad to have realized that I have the skills to solve most of the sewing-related problems that I’ll face and the confidence  to know that if the first thing I try doesn’t really work, I can figure out another solution.


Author: Accacia

I'm a librarian at a college in Lexington, Virginia. I sew, I knit, and I cook.

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