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