quilting tips Archives - Handi Quilter

Creating Texture

Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)

Seeing texture

Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.

Mandala tote by Mary Beth Krapil

This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.

Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!

Back of Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasizing texture

What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:

Pick the right place

Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]

And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.

back of Mandala bag by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasize the contrast

Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.

Mary Beth Krapil

The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.

We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.

Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.

Choose the right batting

When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward.  Avoid very flat batts.

100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.

When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.

But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!

creating texture

Faux leather bag
by Mary Beth Krapil

Choose the right thread

Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.

micro-fill sampler
by Mary Beth Krapil

A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.

Mary Beth Krapil

There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!

Grid Sampler
Mary Beth Krapil

You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”?  Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.

What do you think?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

 

National Quilting Month

March is National Quilting Month. It’s our favorite month of the year here at Handi Quilter.

national quilting month handi quilter

What are you going to do to celebrate? Here are TEN great ideas to help get you started.

Finish a UFO

If you have been a quilter for a while (a year? a month? a day!) you probably have a project (or 3) that isn’t quite finished and got put aside when you started something new. Maybe you ran into a problem that you couldn’t figure out how to solve. Or maybe you just lost interest. Perhaps you tried to finish before the new class you signed up for started, but you had to set it aside to concentrate on class. Whatever the reason, National Quilting Month can be your incentive to pull it out and get ‘er done.

Here are some of mine. Some. There isn’t enough room to show you all of them!

Plan a reward for finishing. Maybe a trip to the quilt shop, once the binding and label are on?

Start a new quilt

Nothing revs the quilting juices more than starting a new project. Pull out that pattern you bought and get busy picking fabrics for it.  Buy that fat quarter stack of luscious new fabrics and decide which quilt pattern will show them off the best.

Grab your sketch book to draw out the quilting design you’ve had in the back of your brain. Take the time to do what you love.

Organize your quilting space

American Patchwork and Quilting is hosting a fun 31 days to an organized sewing space challenge.

They give one task per day for each day in the month of March. This one-task-at-a-time approach seems very achievable. The challenge for me, when straightening up my studio, is resisting the urge to play with just about every item I touch.

I’m going to give this a try. Then I’ll let you know how it went. It’s not too late for you to try too! Just double up the tasks for a few days. Just think how great it will feel to play in a clean and organized studio. Wonder how long it will last? 🙂

 

Visit a Quilt Museum

You will be in awe, inspired and delighted by what you see at any and all of these places:

National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY

International Quilt Study Center and Museum, Lincoln, NE

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, CO

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, Cedarburg, WI

Texas Quilt Museum, La Grange, TX

This is by no measure a complete list. You may find one in your neck of the woods! Check out your local history museum. My little town has a wonderful history museum that has a few quilts on display.

Take a class

Handi Quilter in-store events are starting to happen again, all over the country! We have worked with healthcare experts and our retailers to devise a way to hold in-person longarm quilting classes in a safe manner. Some are hands-on classes!

 

We are also offering virtual classes. These are such a great opportunity to take a class from an expert Handi Quilter National educator from the comfort of your own home. Check out what is available here.

Share your skills

Offer to teach a friend a new quilting skill that you know, but she hasn’t tried yet.

Or spend a day teaching a child a simple sewing/quilting project.

This little girl is hooked for life!

Join a guild

It multiplies the fun of quilting when you can meet with like-minded people who share your love of fabric and thread and color and pattern. Although we can’t really meet in person for a little while longer, many guilds are meeting virtually these days. Sharing knowledge and quilts and tips and tricks only adds to the joy of quilting. Find a guild near you. You can ask at your local quilt shop for recommendations. If that doesn’t get you results, try this website. Your new quilting friends are waiting for you.

Make a community quilt

Many organizations offer opportunities for making quilts for those who need the comfort only a quilt can provide. Knowing you’re helping others multiplies the fun of making quilts. An example of one of those organizations is Quilts for Kids. Quilts for Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming fabrics into patchwork quilts to comfort children facing serious illness, trauma, abuse, and natural disasters.

There are many more. Once again a good place to inquire is your local quilt shop or guild.

Join a social media group

Handi Quilter oversees 3 Facebook groups. The Handi Quilter group is for all machine owners and folks who are interested in Handi Quilter or longarm quilting. At almost 11,000 members there is plenty of friendly help for all your longarm questions. It’s also a great place to share what you are working on.

If you’re interested in attending Academy, (the premier annual education event held by Handi Quilter), you might want to join the HQ Academy group. Alumni and future attendees share experiences and fun in this group. The excitement grows as the date for Academy draws near!

Are you a Pro-Stitcher Designer user? There’s a group for that! Help in learning the design and digitizing program is right at your fingertips. Share your achievements and projects, ask questions, this group is just getting started so all questions are welcome.

Watch a quilting video

Handi Quilter offers a bunch of options for this! We have a YouTube channel dedicated to helping you learn to use your Handi Quilter machine. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to be notified when a new video is available.

You can also catch a video once a month on the 2nd Thursday called HQ Live. We present on a variety of quilting related topics. You want to mark your calendar for HQ Live. 2nd Thursday, 11am Mountain time.

 

Or get a quick dose of quilty fun every Tuesday on our Facebook page with HQ Watch and Learn. The studio educators share tips, tricks and how-to’s. It’s quick and fun and you’re sure to learn something each week. Tuesday at high Noon Mountain time.

Don’t forget to do something extra-quilty on National Quilting Day! March 20, 2021.

by Mary Beth Krapil

Power Protection

Are you taking care of power protection for your beloved longarm machine? Do you even know what that means? We all want to take the best care of our machines so that we can have fun finishing quilts for years to come.

Power protection

puts a layer of protection between your treasured electronics and the outside world. We use surge suppressors (or protectors) and uninterruptible power systems to do it.

Handi Quilter strongly advises the use of surge suppressors. However, we do not endorse specific manufacturers or models of surge suppressors.

Power strips and surge suppressors are different.

Power strips are inexpensive and function to expand the number of outlets. Some claim to offer protection via a circuit breaker. But they don’t offer any real protection from electrical issues. You want a surge protector or surge suppressor to give you some level of protection. They are not all created equal.

It’s about the joules

Surge suppressors offer protection in amounts called Joules. Most manufacturers rate their products by the number of Joules it can absorb. This is not the best measure of the ability of a suppressor to truly protect your machine. Instead, look for the let-through voltage of the suppressor you are considering purchasing. This should preferably be at least 330 volts (V) but less than 500 volts. A product marked “UL1449 compliant” will have a 400V or less let-through voltage. Not all manufacturers put this rating in their specifications.

They don’t last forever

Absorbing damaging surges takes a toll on components inside the protector so another purchasing consideration is what happens when the protection circuit no longer functions. Ideally, the suppressor would no longer allow power to pass to your machine; otherwise you wouldn’t know that your machine is no longer protected. Some suppressors have an LED indicator that shows if the product has been damaged, which is the minimal indication you need.

If power surges are common and your suppressor does not have such warning features, it is wise to replace the suppressor every two to three years. Remember that surges don’t just come from the outside world. They can also come from within your home to your power outlet from a refrigerator or other large motor operating in your home.

Warranty

Some products offer a replacement warranty (up to a certain amount) on the equipment attached to it. This may offer an additional layer of confidence. Just be sure to read the fine print.

What about Pro-Stitcher?

If you use a Pro-Stitcher system and have occasional power outages, you may wish to consider an uninterruptible power system (UPS) product. A UPS provides both surge suppression and back-up energy that gives you time to power off your machine during a power outage. This can prevent damage to your quilt and make re-starting later easier.

A power rating of 1000 VA or better should be sufficient to give you time to perform a graceful shut-down of the quilting that is in progress. Again, look for the let-through voltage protection rating mentioned above.

Unplug

The Handi Quilter warranty states that machines must be unplugged from the wall outlet (not merely turned off) when not in use. This is still the best protective measure you can employ.

Let’s keep our babies safe and use power protection.

power protection - dream big

Re: the photos in this post. This is such a serious matter, and surge suppressors are not particularly pretty, so I added some pictures of nice quilting to lighten the mood. 🙂

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Doodling tips

We have been following Diane’s adventures in learning to quilt and a few weeks back I gave some doodling tips to help her (and you). You can read that post here.

More Doodling Tips

I have a few more tips that will shorten your learning curve. Things you can do to make your doodling help develop the skills you use when actually quilting.

Define a space

Diane talks about this in her blog post. She found it very helpful to define a space to practice a design in. While quilting you are likely to be quilting within blocks or other defined spaces on the quilt, so practicing within a space helps you to know what works and what doesn’t. And to know how to navigate the space.

Doodling over a wide open space can be helpful in learning to draw a motif and that’s important.

When you doodle inside a defined space, not only do you learn how to draw the motif, you learn how it behaves when you approach an edge. You experience how it can be adjusted. You figure out how to change directions.

You also learn how to avoid getting stuck in a dead end. And how to travel to get yourself back on track to filling the space, without cutting your thread.

Doodle real size

Diane took a photo of her block and then printed it out for some practice doodling.

A happy accident occurred, the print-out was almost the actual size of the block itself.

Diane Harris Doodle tips

She stumbled upon another trick we use and that is doodling in real size. But printing a photo of a block will not always result in an image that is real size. Diane just got lucky with that block!

There are a couple of ways we can create a template of our blocks or areas on the quilt that will allow us to doodle for practice. Or for R & D (research and development), discovering a new design that works to enhance the block. It will allow us to audition designs as well.

Quilter’s Preview Paper

preview paper

Simply lay the clear film over the quilt and use a marker to trace your block or area to be quilted. Use a permanent Sharpie marker for the outline of your block. Then you can doodle in the space with a dry erase marker. Use a scrap of batting to wipe away the dry erase marks and the Sharpie outline will remain so you can try again. (Sharpie marks are easily removed with alcohol and a scrap of batting when you’re ready to move on.)

The other tool you can use is

Golden Threads Quilting Paper

While Quilter’s Preview Paper is a clear plastic film, Golden Threads Quilting Paper is actually paper. It is a high quality tracing paper that is easy to see thru to trace your shapes.

For this you’ll want to use a pencil to trace your block.

One advantage to Golden Threads paper is that if you come up with a fabulous design, you can make a stencil from the paper to mark your quilt for easy, follow-the-line, free-motion quilting. I’ll write about how to do that next week.

Density

Another advantage to doodling real size is it helps to see the density of the quilting. Remember, the denser the quilting the stiffer the quilt will be. For a soft and cuddly quilt you’ll want to keep the quilting designs larger.

It also changes the look of the quilting. Look at these two 4″ squares with swirls in them.

density

Same design but quite a difference in appearance, just by changing up the density of the design.

You can learn so much, just by doodling. Then you’ll come up with your own doodling tips! Please share them in the comments.

Happy doodling!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

 

Quilting Sideways?

For those who quilt on a frame system with a moveable machine, sometimes it just makes more sense to do the quilting sideways. Normally we load a quilt onto our frame with the top edge at the top and the bottom edge at the bottom. But there are times it can be advantageous to load the quilt sideways. Let me give you some examples.

The seam in the backing runs vertically

If the seam in the quilt back runs vertically, when we roll the backing around the pole, those extra layers of fabric from the seam allowances can cause the backing to get floppy or sloppy. To get wrinkles and puckers or even pleats. There is nothing worse than finishing a quilt only to remove it from the frame and discover you’ve stitched a pleat into the backing fabric. That usually means major un-sewing hours in your future. (Or you can get very creative in the placement of the label, but that’s a topic for another post.)

You can avoid all this by being extra careful while loading the back, smoothing and compressing the seam allowance as you go. Or, you can load the back sideways, so that the seam goes parallel to the pole. The extra layers of fabric run the whole length of the pole and don’t cause any problems at all. You only have to remember to load the quilt top sideways too!

quilting sideways

Be sure when you choose this method that the design you want to quilt is not directional.

Your design will look best quilting sideways

Maybe you want the design to go a certain direction that can only be achieved if you quilt sideways. On the Christmas quilt above, the holly looked better if it was quilted sideways.

So, this quilt had 2 reasons to do the quilting sideways! A vertical seam in the back and a design that looked better sideways. Win-win!

You want to quilt lots of vertical straight lines

Using channel locks lets us quilt perfect straight lines. Our options are physical channel locks,

channel locks

Electromagnetic Channel Locks,

electromagnetic channel locks

or the channel locks built in to Pro-Stitcher.

All three options will allow you to stitch perfect horizontal or vertical straight lines. If your quilt calls for long vertical lines (longer than your throat space), consider mounting the quilt sideways and stitch horizontal lines instead. No thread breaks, no tie offs, perfect continuous lines!

Fewer advances needed when quilting sideways

If you like to get quilts done as fast as possible, quilting sideways usually means fewer advances to complete the quilt. Most quilts are longer than they are wide. Advancing the quilt takes a little time but when you multiply that by the times you need to advance to make it to the bottom of the quilt, it adds up! Load sideways and you will need fewer advances. It will shave a few minutes off your quilting time. Done in time to spend a little quality time with your sewing machine!

I hope you’ll think about quilting sideways and see if it works for your quilts. What tricks do you have up your sleeves that help you quilt better or faster or easier?  Please share!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

My friend, HQ Stitch Ambassador, Diane Harris is quilting her scrappy Gypsy Wife on her HQ Capri stationary longarm machine. She’s fairly new to machine quilting. And she is chronicling her adventures with her new machine over on the HQ Stitch blog. This week she asks the question, “when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist?”. Diane says. “I know that ripping out machine quilting doesn’t make you a better machine quilter. It’s practice that makes you better! Nevertheless, I want my quilts to be reasonably well made and that includes the quilting.”

How do you find the balance? Let’s talk.

Definition

Frog: [frawg] verb – to remove stitches, usually with the help of a sharp implement, such as a seam ripper and the occasional un-lady-like word or phrase. Origin: from the sound emitted by the amphibian known as a frog, i.e. rip-it, rip-it.  Synonyms: rip, unstitch, unpick, unsew.

The Quilt

The Gypsy Wife is a sampler design by Jen Kingwell with many blocks in many sizes and lots of long, skinny strips. Don’t you love Diane’s amazing, riotous use of color?

Imperfections?

Diane thought the busy fabrics might hide her wobbles and bobbles that are a normal part of the quilting learning curve. And she was right! Busy fabrics on the quilt top and the backing will certainly hide many imperfections. The trick is to use a thread that will blend with all the colors in the quilt. With all those colors, Diane had a really difficult task!

Diane’s first example is this block:

She was happy with the quilting in the center square except for the long curve at the bottom. I think what made her unhappy is that the long curve is way more visible than the rest of the quilting. The medium colored thread she chose, (a good choice in my opinion), stands out much more on the black fabric where that curve is stitched. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Ask an honest friend

Before you pull out the seam ripper, ask a friend, preferably a quilter friend, for an honest assessment. You both need to trust each other completely for this to work. Your friend needs to know that if she tells you to rip, that you won’t be offended. And you need to truly value her opinion when it comes to quilting and quality. Finding two people who can manage this type of interaction is hard and probably close to impossible. Quilters tend to be really nice people who would rather eat live bugs than hurt a friend’s feelings.

Ease up

The problem with making the assessment yourself is that you are too close. You spent hours piecing the top and so you want the quilting to be spectacular, to make the quilt look its very best. Looking at each and every stitch and expecting that the hours of practice you put in should be paying off by now, clouds your judgement. Take a few steps back. Wait a few days, then look at the overall quilt. Can you still see what you thought might be a mistake? Chances are, you won’t even be able to find it.

Some designs require more accuracy

Here’s my OCD showing!  Diane thought this block was one of the most problematic.

I agree with her. Straight lines need to be straight. Using a quilting ruler can help a bunch to improve the look.

This block is quilted with straight line designs and looks great. I’m pretty sure Diane used a ruler for what she quilted in the green and gray pointy parts. In her blog she says, “This sharply-pointed star isn’t perfect but it’s good enough. Consider it finished.”  I think she’s right!

When to Frog Machine Quilting – and When to Resist

The ultimate question

Diane asks, “How do you decide when it’s bad enough to take out and when it can be left in without utterly destroying your credibility?”

In other (less dramatic) words: when to frog machine quilting – and when to resist.

I think that question can best be answered with a few of questions.

Can you live with it?

Will you cringe every time you look at the quilt and that awful quilting will just scream at you? Then start frogging.

But before you do, give it some time. You may just forget and be unable to find the spot again. Then resist.

Do you think you can do better if you try again?

Maybe a different design will work better in the block? Maybe you can practice quilt a bit on a scrap and then give it another go? Start frogging.

If the design adds texture and does not look messy. Resist.

Do you want to spend the time it takes to frog and re-quilt?

What takes 10 minutes to quilt takes 3 hours to pick out. Is the quilt that important that you will invest your time? Yes? Start frogging.

If you’d rather quilt something else and try other designs, or the quilt is for your sister-in-law and you don’t like her much anyway. Resist.

I suppose it all comes down to the expectations you place on your level of expertise. If you know you can do better and you care about the quilt, then parent yourself. Make yourself take it out and try again. Study, if you have to, by practicing.

Here are some of Diane’s blocks that look just fine. Some she agrees with me, and others not.

Print out this sign and hang it on your quilting room door:

and add this sign too:

Rip or resist? How do you decide? Let us know in the comments.

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Building New Habits

My friend and colleague Diane Harris, HQ Stitch Brand Ambassador, shared some new habits she is building in her recent blog post over on the HQ Stitch page. Be sure to check it out; there are some great habits to get more piecing done. A couple of her habits will really help with finishing more quilts.

Prepare the Backing

Diane says:

When I finish piecing a quilt top, I prepare a backing right then and there. I used to fold up the quilt top and stick it in a cupboard where it languished. I might not think about it again for years. I stopped that bad habit, and I love practicing this new habit!

I don’t enjoy getting the backing ready so if I can conquer that task, I’m one huge step closer to finishing the quilt. And prepping the backing causes me to think about the quilting plan, which again moves me closer to a finish.

I love this idea! I like to make the backings but I don’t do it right away, as soon as I finish a quilt top. Maybe it’s because I have so many other projects going. I feel so great finishing something, and want to get to the others and try to get them finished, too. So I fold up the quilt top and put it aside. My problem is that when I do get a chance to quilt it, I don’t know what I did with the backing fabric. Or maybe I thought I would piece the back from the scraps and leftovers from the top. Those fabric have been stashed away and I don’t really want to hunt for them!

Making the backing right away would solve my issues and would make it so much easier to get to the best part: The Quilting. Thanks Diane! I am going to build this new habit into my routine.

After I read Diane’s post I pulled out a finished top, hunted for and found the backing fabric, and sewed the backing to size. I’m ready to quilt when I get some free time. It feels really good!

Hone your skills with practice

Diane says:

And speaking of the quilting plan, I fill my empty moments with doodling these days. Now there are no empty moments! Doodling lets me consider ideas for quilting. Swirls, ribbon candy, loops, hills and more go down on paper even if they’re uneven and ugly. You never get better if you don’t practice, and most people’s motifs start out at least a little bit ugly.

And did you know it’s better to doodle within a shape than on a blank sheet of paper? I will explain why in the next post.

I look forward to hearing Diane’s explanation! And I have have a few tips that will make your doodling time even more productive in honing your quilting skills.

Use a dry erase board and marker. The marker flows easily over the board similar to the feel of moving a frame machine or moving the fabric with a light touch on a stationary machine. They sell them at the dollar store. Keep it somewhere handy so you can grab it quickly for a few moments of doodling throughout your day.

Use a scrap of batting to erase your marks.The batting absorbs the dry erase ink and it won’t get on your clothes or furniture. Paper towel tends to make the ink flake off, and if that gets on fabric, it will be permanent. Ask me how I know.

If you draw a particularly nice design, snap a photo of it with your phone to save it for future reference.

Muscle memory training

Drawing for practice is all about muscle memory. We tend to draw or write with our hand and forearm down on the paper. To train the muscles you use for quilting lift your elbow up and keep your hand off the paper or board. With your hand and arm down, you are using your finger and wrist muscles to draw.

When you lift your elbow you will use your upper arm and shoulder muscles to create the drawing. These are the muscles we use when quilting, so now you’re training the right muscles and creating muscle memory for quilting.

If you want to get good at something…..you have to practice. Put in your 15 minutes a day. You will improve, I promise!

Thanks, Diane, for the great ideas to build new habits that will help us finish more quilts.

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

 

 

 

 

Deep Clean

I was playing with my new Handi Felting Foot recently and decided I needed to do a deep clean before I go back to regular quilting. Haven’t heard of the Felting Foot? You can see it here.

A deep clean is something you should do every so often. Not like the normal maintenance of clearing out lint from the bobbin area and a drop of oil that you do each time you put in a new bobbin. I’m talking deep clean, like actually move the furniture when you vacuum kind of deep clean. Depending on how much you quilt, you might want to do this about once a month. Or if, like in my case, you were working with particularly linty materials.

Remove the throat plate

Warning: if you have an Infinity you might not want to remove the throat plate. There are some parts attached to the bottom of the Infinity’s throat plate. Consult the manual.

You will need a short, flat-head screw driver to remove the two screws holding the throat plate. You probably have one of these that you use with your domestic machine.

The little pink one is magnetic which is a plus because the screws will stick to it.

I like to start by removing the needle and the foot. You will need your small hex tool that came with your machine to do that. Then I remove the throat plate. Mine has extra holes meant for the Felting foot.

Put those little screws in a safe place!

Use your small brush to clean the exposed area. Also, turn over your throat plate and you’ll likely find some lint stuck to the bottom.

Here’s a tip: Plastic mascara wands work great to get into tight places. You can usually get a whole package of them for $1 at the dollar store.

If you have an Amara or Forte or Infinity or Moxie you may use canned air. Just remember: 1. Do NOT shake the can, 2. keep the can upright, and 3. use short, quick bursts of air.

Once it’s all clean and shiny under there, replace the throat plate, the needle and the foot. Place a drop of oil on the bobbin race and you’ll be ready for the bobbin case. But before you put that back in you’ll want to

clean under the bobbin tension spring

Small goobers of lint can accumulate under the tension spring on your bobbin case and cause all sorts of havoc with your tension if they get into the wrong place.

My favorite tool for this little job is the corner of a business card.  The tension spring is the flat metal piece on the outside of your bobbin case.

Start by putting the corner of the card under the tension spring close to the screw you turn to adjust tension.

Then slide the corner of the card under the spring to the other end. You might get a tiny little lump of lint out. You can do this motion a couple of times.

I don’t like to use a pin for this procedure. You will risk getting a minute scratch under the spring which could over time develop into a burr that will shred your thread.

If there’s lint on the inside of your bobbin case use your brush or canned air to clean it out.

That’s all there is to it! You are now ready to finish that next quilt. A clean machine is a happy machine. And a happy machine makes for a happy quilter.

by Mary Beth Krapil, the happy quilter 🙂

 

 

Thoughts on Batting

The top is finished and the backing has been pulled together. Now we’re ready for the best part, the quilting. But we have to have something in the middle to make it into a quilt. I have some thoughts on batting that I’d like to share. It’s the least appreciated part of the quilt. But it does most of the work of making a quilt either soft and warm and cuddly, or wall hanging worthy. So you have to choose wisely.

What is batting?

Batting is the material used between the top and backing layers of fabric in a quilt. This material provides dimension, texture and loft to your quilt as well as providing an insulting layer of warmth.

Batting can be made from many different fibers. The most popular among quilters are cotton, wool, silk, polyester, bamboo, and various blends.  You can find a nice description of the different fibers at the Connecting Threads website.

There are a lot of choices on the market and it may seem overwhelming, but it really boils down to two things: 1. how the quilt will be used and 2. your personal preferences. I’m going to share my preferences and give my reasons. You should experiment and decide on your own personal preferences with some of what you read here in mind.

How will this quilt be used?

We make all sorts of quilted items, wall hangings, art quilts, table runners, place mats, baby quilts, kid’s quilts, couch quilts, bed quilts, lap quilts, heirloom quilts, guest bed quilts,  don’t-you-dare-nap-on this-quilt quilts, picnic quilts, car quilts, dog bed quilts. I’m starting to feel like Forrest Gump’s friend, Bubba, listing the uses for shrimp, but I’m sure you’re getting the picture.

I divide up my projects into 2 categories:

1. Flat and stable

Wall Hanging

In this category I include any quilt that needs to remain flat and square, so that it hangs nicely, and will very seldom (if ever) get washed. This type of quilt requires a stable batting that will not sag if hung on the wall, that doesn’t stretch as much as some other batts, and that provides stability. My choices are cotton, or an 80/20 cotton/polyester blend.

There’s only one problem with those choices, they don’t usually have much loft. I’m a quilter and I want my quilting texture to show. For that you need loft.  Loft refers to the thickness or puffiness of batting. So to add that loft with out giving up stability, I add another layer, of wool or polyester, on top of my flat stable layer. It lets my quilting texture sing while the cotton layer against the backing keeps everything flat and square. Win-win!

Table runners and Place Mats

These are things that will get washed. And they need to lay flat so that you can place dishes and glasses and such on them and not have anything tip over. My choice for these is fusible fleece. I position the fusible side to the backing so that I can get a small degree of texture from the quilting on the top. After quilting and binding I give the item a good press (according to fleece package directions) to fuse the fleece to the backing. This batting also helps keep the item looking crisp and flat after washing.

2. Drape-able and cuddly

These quilts are ones that will get used for sleeping, watching TV, napping, building forts, making super hero capes, having picnics, swaddling babies. They get washed. Soft and cuddly is the name of the game.

Bed Quilts

I prefer natural fibers for sleeping. My favorite bed quilts are made with wool batting. They are lightweight, breathable, warm in the winter (especially with a cotton batted quilt on top), and cool in the summer (all by itself). Most all wool batts on the market today are pre-shrunk so they are machine washable on gentle in cool water and dry-able in a low drier. You will get a small amount of shrinkage to give that classic crinkled quilty look. The loft shows my quilting texture (a big plus!).

Kid’s Quilts

If the quilt is for a child, then I might opt for cotton or 80/20. Kid quilts get washed much more often than most grown-up quilts. I prefer a more stable batting to hold up to all the play and trips through the laundry. I want the outer fabrics to wear out before the batting does.

Winter Quilts

Did you notice earlier I said I put a cotton quilt over my wool quilt in the winter? A cotton batting has a heavier weight and although it’s breathable, it’s a little less so than wool. It provides a nice layer of insulation in the winter. Where I live it’s not always super cold all winter long, we have some weeks of milder temps between the freezes. So I keep my cotton batted quilt nearby for the really cold nights.

These have got to be the most boring photos ever. The beauty of batting is the job it does to make your quilts work the way you want them to.

 

Batting Tips

  • Always follow the directions on the package when it comes to care and also the density of quilting. The package will always tell you how close your quilting lines need to be to keep the batting from shifting and bunching in the wash. Follow the rules!
  • I like to buy batting on the bolt or by the yard rather than the packaged batts. It has less wrinkles and fold lines.
  • Speaking of wrinkles and folds, I like to load my quilts on my longarm frame the night before I plan to quilt. Then I can drape the batting over the poles and give it a light spritz with a water bottle. During the night the ironing fairies come and get all the wrinkles out and I’m ready to put the batting in and start quilting.
  • Batting stretches very easily, so treat it gently while you are quilting and be super careful not to stretch it.
  • Handi Quilter machines can easily stitch any commercial battings, so no worries about that. If you’re hand quilting, be sure to choose one that is easy to needle.

These are my thoughts on batting and are in no way comprehensive. The only way to learn your own preferences is to experiment and learn as much as you can by reading and talking with other quilters. Let us know what your favorites are and be sure to tell us why in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

More Adventures in Longarm Quilting

Last week we checked in on Diane Harris to see how she was coming along. Seems she is having more adventures in longarm quilting and learning a lot while having fun. We looked at her recent blog post, Hugs and Kisses: What I Learned. If you didn’t read it, do it now. If you missed the post on the Handi Quilter blog last week, you can read it here, to get caught up. This week we will talk about Diane’s other lessons and I’ll share my thoughts and a tip or two.

Diane says, “The next one is a problem and question that came up but I don’t yet know the answer. I’m counting on Mary Beth Krapil, my machine quilting coach and a Handi Quilter National Educator, to help me.”

4. Should the motifs in different parts of the quilt be related in some way?

Wow, Diane! That’s a huge question.

Here’s what she was thinking:

I had this thought when I started the loops above in the first border, and again when I started the straight lines in the outer border.

I like the loops and the lines a lot because they’re easy and forgiving. But they don’t seem related in any way to the motifs (fingers and leaves) I quilted in the blocks.

The answer to that question is a big matter of opinion.  I like to try to use some principles of design when choosing quilting motifs.

Rhythm and Repetition

Rhythm is created by repetition of line, form, and texture to create a visual link that the eye follows. It invites viewer’s eye to move from one part of the quilt to another.  And what does this mean to a quilter? When you choose a motif, like a leaf, you should repeat that shape in different parts of the quilt and Diane did that expertly by repeating the leaf form in all the dark squares of her X blocks and in each of her X blocks.

Contrast

I like to introduce contrast with the quilting. For lots of straight lines in the piecing, I use curved quilting lines. If there are curved lines in the piecing (or definitely for applique quilts) straight line quilting is the way I lean,  Diane’s “fingers” have a nice element of curve to an essentially straight design that creates that contrast to the straight-line piecing. She also created contrast with the scale of the fingers v.s. the leaf shapes. The fingers are tighter quilting that pushes down the batting in the background of the X and lets the X come forward with the looser leaf motifs. Contrast can also be achieved with thread color. You have to be brave or confident in your quilting abilities, because your quilting will really show with contrasting thread.

Balance

First and foremost the placement and scale of your motifs have to be balanced so that you end up with a nice flat square quilt. Diane used the straight lines in her border. Piano key-like designs are always a good choice for the border. Because of it’s back and forth quilting path, a piano-key design can tame a bit of fullness if needed. And as long as it’s quilted with fairly even spacing it really helps a quilt lie flat.

As to Diane’s concern that the straight lines are not related to the other motifs, it’s my opinion that straight lines always work, no matter what else is happening with the quilting.

Her loops are similar enough to the fingers that I think they work just fine too. She quilted them in the narrow pink stop border. I think a simple design like loops or zigzags or arcs are the perfect motif for narrow borders. Now, if she had chosen to quilt fish….that would be a stretch. Keep the quilting in narrow borders simple and you will always come out ahead.

There are many more principles of design and I would recommend researching and learning as much as you can about them. It will really help you to achieve better quilting.

5. Use a similar color in the bobbin as on the top

Yes, that is an excellent rule! It eliminates tension headaches. Starkly contrasting thread in the top and bobbin will show even the tiniest variations in tension. Diane used hot pink and dark blue threads on top, but didn’t think they would look that great on her light blue backing fabric. It’s always a dilemma when choosing threads, but if you stick with the same thread top and bobbin, it is much more forgiving. If you are a beginner and are afraid that your quilting won’t look nice on the back, choose a busy patterned backing fabric to disguise your quilting till you gain more confidence.

Diane’s next lesson was:

6. Your bobbles won’t show to the average viewer.

Amen. The people who will see your quilt will love it, simply because you made it. They don’t know anything about quilting and they don’t care! You made it, and it is beautiful. Even other quilters who DO know a thing or two about quilting will applaud you. You FINISHED a quilt. That is cause for celebration in and of itself. Not to mention the things you learned along the way.

Diane says, “Have you ever noticed that no matter how ugly a quilt might be during show and tell, people still appreciate the maker’s efforts?

And if it’s an early effort, even more so. We all start somewhere, and later we remember how much we appreciated the encouragement of others who understood.”

Wise words my friend! Quilt on!

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator

 

 

 

 

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