Monday, February 27, 2012

Baby quilt of my firsts FINISHED!

Last weekend was kind of a laid-back having the whole apartment for myself kind of weekend. Fiance had to work both days so I thought I could get some serious sewing done. And I did! Friday night I pin basted my already spray basted quilt (somehow I just can't trust the spray basting by itself) and Saturday morning I dove in. I made a small quilt sandwich to adjust thread tension on my machine. I was trying out a new thread that I've never used before. It was the Sulky 40 wt. variegated thread in pink (of course). After playing with the  machine for a little bit I decided to just get started and let's see how it goes. The top's background is pieced from large squares so I started to quilt from the middle and go square by square and worry about the borders later. I knew I wanted something different for the borders, not the all over large scale stippling I did on the quilt. The first 3 squares went great! I was gliding along and thought to myself it's not bad at all! I took someone's advice (can't remember who it was) and had a half a bottle of Mojito before I started and maybe that was what I needed. (I'm not a drinker so a full bottle would've been too much) Then the problems started to rise :) When I was doing the applique I did the flowers with chenille edging. As I was moving the quilt along some stitches got caught on the chenille strip and just took the darning foot as a hostage. I took a picture of it to demonstrate.

I picked the stitches out and moved on. I was almost finished, maybe 2 squares left when the thread started to break. I noticed that I went through some seams and I knew from previous quilt practicing that my machine does not like to go over seams, it wears the top thread out and eventually breaks it. I checked the bobbin and saw I was low on bobbin thread so I thought that  might be the problem. I remembered it was very hard to start winding the metal bobbin with this very slippery thread. I changed the bobbin and it got a lot better with the new one. It never clicked until later that I pieced the backing and at that part I kept going back and forth over a seam on the backing (which I obviously did not see). Anyway, I finished the top, then quilted the borders with a wide almost figure eight type of quilting. I have to say I'm proud how the whole piece came out. Of course my stitches are not even in places and you can kind of point out my stops and starts, but hey! It was my first free motion quilting and it came out a lot better than I expected it. Obviously I need a lot more practicing before I could say I'm satisfied with the quality of my stitching, but for now it will do. 
This quilt was many of firsts for me:
  • First time I used the fusible applique technique
  • First time I was trying out to make chenille
  • First time free motion quilting a REAL quilt
  • First time to make the binding by machine
About the binding.... I've watched Pat Sloan's machine binding video last week and decided to try it. Click here if you'd like to give it a try:

I promise it works with  other threads too :) (She's promoting Aurifil in the video)
All right, so first mistake I made was to start to sew the binding on the front, not the back. No big deal, I ripped out the stitches. After sewing the binding on the back side of the quilt I started to fold it over to the front noticing that it BARELY covers my stitching line, maybe a 1/16 of an inch. I was using some plastic covered paper clips for the task and they always work perfectly for me. Because of the plastic coating they have a very good grip. I used a 2.5 inch double fold binding, but I think next time I'll use a scant quarter inch when sewing it on. 
I started to audition some decorative stitches on my machine. I folded a piece of scrap fabric, put a 1/4 batting strip in between and tried out some stitches, trying to adjust the tension on the way. I was playing with stitch lengths and widths to try to find the perfect type for the 1/4 inch binding. I was keeping in mind that it will have to cover the edge all the way for the stitches underneath not to show. After playing for a while I decided that I'll use the same wavy stitch Pat was using in the demonstration. I started the stitching and after about 6 inches decided to abandon the type since it did not cover the edge where it bends away from it. At that point I decided to use the Greek key stitch which secured the edge pretty good, BUT... made the binding extremely stiff. After stitching for a few minutes I started to doubt that it will work. The quilt was kind of soft and did not want the binding to be so stiff that it's on the hard side to fold the quilt. I already stitched along the longer side and started to get to the corners. I decided to switch over to a blanket stitch instead and that was my final decision.

Here's the finished product before washing:

Close-up of the 2 borders and the binding:

I quilted this tear drop shape in the 4 corners:

Close-up of the large flower:

Close-up of one of the small flowers:

These came out pretty good:

This quilt was inspired by Sandi Colwell's Leahbelle's Garden quilt from McCall's Quick Quilts June/July 2011 issue. It's on page 40.

What I've learned from this project:

  1. Seam ripping skill levels improve drastically. 
  2. When free motion stitching around chenille strips make sure to move the strips out of the way, otherwise you'll stitch the strips down and the stitches are very difficult to remove
  3. When you do machine binding you have to start sewing the binding from the back and have to go slower than usual (at least with the blanket stitch, in my experience)
  4. When you're auditioning decorative stitches keep in mind that the more the stitching the stiffer the binding will be
  5. While you're binding and you come to a corner (I mitered the corners) walk the machine by hand into the turn, then pivot and start walking it out also by hand. The first corner I was sewing the needle came out of track and I almost broke it.
  6. When you're using Sulky sticky paper for quilting you'll need to draw the pattern on the blank side of the paper, not the side with the grid mark, otherwise you'll need to reverse (ask me how I know)
  7. The same sulky sticky paper will need to be outlined with dark sharpies if you  intend to use it on a white background, otherwise you won't see the white paper to stitch around
  8. Make sure you use a full bobbin for binding when you're using decorative stitches because they take up a lot more thread than regular stitches

Hope these tips help you to avoid the mistakes I made. Now I just have to wash it and brush it really good to have the nice chenille effect. Will post pictures later.


  1. I LOVE all of your detailed blogging :) You are going to be so glad you did that! I just started fmq too. It saves a TON of $$ and you did a FANTASTIC job!! I just picked up my daughters HUGE quilt from the quilter and it was $130... and that is a GREAT price. Your quilting is AWESOME!!! helps that I am a pink-a-holic!

  2. Thank you so much, you're truly amazing! I'm going to have to FMQ a queen size log cabin quilt (you can see it under WIP)and I was very nervous about it. Now that I finished this one I have some confidence :) Not that I don't need improvement :))


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