Last Sunday, I actually had a couple of special deliveries, and one was to pick up a baby quilt that our guild made for the President, Mary, who is expecting. It was a super-secret project, and I couldn’t even blog about it or post on Facebook so as not to ruin the surprise (yup, it’s the same Mary #16!) But now? Let’s take a look!
First, a little bit of a warning: I was very sloppy about taking pictures, so I’ll try to explain the in-between parts.
My friend Beth organized the super-secret project, and we decided to do a quilt based on liberated quilting (a la Gwen Marston). The instructions were to make a block that was 12″ in one dimension by whatever other length you wanted to make it. Just to prove that I am also someone who doesn’t follow instructions all the time, I made a block that was only 8″ x 10″, requiring the group to do some extra piecing to bring my block up to size. Where have I heard that before? 🙂
The pieces of paper pinned to the quilt are the names of the quilter who made the block. This figures into the quilting, as you will see in a second.
Now, for this quilt, I actually had a consultation with my friend Wendy and her daughter who I’ll call Tracy (because I like disguising the names of my friend’s minor children) who came to my house for a visit. Yes, my secret is out: I will very often turn to my friends to advise me on thread colors and quilting designs! It helps to bounce ideas off of other people or get their thoughts on something. In the end, I do make the final choice, but I do not mind getting help. In this case, I had decided to use two different thread colors on the quilt, and I wanted to choose the perfect shade of orange and the perfect shade of purple for the quilting. The issue arises when you have 5 oranges and 3 or 4 purples to choose from! What I did know is that there was no time to order thread, so I would have to make do with what I had.
We ended up choosing Superior So Fine # 533 Real Orange and #441 Purple Iris. Lovely, lovely threads! I wound 2 bobbins of orange and one bobbin of purple, which in a moment, you’ll be scratching your heads at exactly how I came to wind the exact opposite of what was needed. I told you I was bad at estimating!
With that chore over, the ladies also helped me pick the right shape for what I had planned for the quilting. I settled on doing a freehand Sunburst (my term) based on a design I used in my Oh Cherry Oh ruler sampler. It did require my circle ruler set, but not for what you might think:
In this case, I used the different circles to outline spaces in each of the blocks. I also wrote the name of the quilter inside the circle so I could remove the paper & pins (Mr. Darcy does not find paper & pins very tasty at all.) This is my block which was resized:
Sometimes, when you’re working on a quilt, you just will not be able to avoid the necessity of marking it. I have heard so many horror stories about marking quilts (disappearing inks reappearing later; washout inks not washing out all the way, etc.) that I rarely, rarely use anything but chalk to mark quilts, and I try to mark them as little as possible, and only use white chalk for good measure. You need not be as fearful as I am, but since chalk has worked for me 95% of the time, I’m sticking with it.
For this quilt, the circles only indicate loose boundaries, so I don’t really care whether I can see the circle all the way around. I’m not quilting on the line, I’m quilting TO the line.
Next up was to load the quilt:
You’ll notice that I am floating the quilt top completely. Well, only a couple of days ago I was telling you about floating quilt tops that were not completely square, but that’s not the only reason to float a quilt top. In this case, I floated it because I needed to be able to advance the quilt in some areas, and then reverse the quilt in other areas to get to all the sections. Remember I’m stitching in two colors and the circles are staggered, so for efficiency, I stitched all of the orange first, then I changed colors and quilted the purple. This worked out really well!
So just to be a little bit more clear… the backing is attached to two rails at the top and bottom, like a scroll. The batting itself always “floats”, and the top is usually attached at the bottom to a third rail. That’s the rail you see sitting on top of the quilt sandwich. Well, right now the quilt is in 3 separate pieces, so with the quilt top free, I can roll & unroll the quilt and it can be treated like a scroll even when it is quilted. However, if I attach the quilt top to the top rail, once I start stitching, the quilt is no longer in 3 pieces, it’s one piece, so I can only advance the quilt in one direction; I can’t unroll it past the point that’s been quilted. Clear as mud? 🙂
Anyway, that was just me stalling, because I actually failed to take any photos of just the orange getting quilted! How unbelievable is that? Well, here’s what happened:
Then, I lengthened the stitch, spiraled around it, and did these loose sun rays around the spiral. I needed the small stitches for the names because a smaller stitch means I can have a smaller area of quilting but still get smooth curves. It’s very common for micro-stippling. I did all the sunbursts in orange first.
Once I got done, it was time to add the purple! Now, the tough thing about the purple was twofold: for one, the quilt top was so busy that the orange stitches nearly disappeared into the quilt, so I actually could not see the sunbursts. if you can’t see them, you can’t quilt around them, and that’s a problem.
Second, there were four blocks on the back made by other quilters, and it didn’t seem fair for the quilters on the front to get recognized but not the ones on the back. So their names needed to be in there too. Writing words backward on paper is hard – to do it in cursive, while quilting, is a feat that I’m not really skilled for. So the solution had to be to flip the quilt!
In my case, I use zippers on my leaders, so it’s easy enough to take the quilt off to flip it, but the problem with that is the zippers are now facing the wrong way. You don’t want to remove the zippers because then the quilt gets a different tension and things will get out of sorts. So I solved the problem by taking a couple of extra zippers that I had and making a flip set. Basically, you need 4 zipper halves, and you’re essentially stitching together the matching zipper of the ones on the quilt backing to the matching zipper that’s on the leader. Clear as mud? Good, because there’s not a picture of that either! Suffice to say that I was successful in flipping the quilt. This was also less complicated because even though the thread colors are different, the weight is the same, so I can expect the tension to be nearly spot-on from what was on the quilt before, and no one would be able to tell that I flipped the quilt over.
Here’s the beginning – I like it already, and I think this is going to be one of my signature free motion designs.
So now you can see why it was a mistake to wind two orange bobbins and only one purple. I had way too much orange (didn’t even make a dent in the first bobbin) and not enough of the purple (which meant I had to stop… cut the top thread, go wind a bobbin, and rethread the entire machine!)
But it looks super-cool in my opinion. The batting I used is Legacy 50/50 Bamboo/Cotton blend. I chose it because I know bamboo is super soft & cuddly for a baby, but I didn’t have a big enough piece left of 100% bamboo (and the replacement order was not going to arrive in time to use it.) Incidentally, you have to be really careful that you’re really buying bamboo that’s been made in an environmentally-sustainable way, without harsh processing, chemicals, or air pollution. Legacy batting meets those requirements, for which I am very glad, as does the 100% bamboo that I get from another source.
Now, the quilt was sent off to be bound by someone else (my friend Sarah) and she also washed it too. The quilt was so beautiful and cuddly when we gave it to Mary, but I didn’t actually get a photo of it! So if anyone reading this has one, please be sure to pass it along…