Mr. E’s Quilt – Machine Quilting

on Jun 12, 2006 in Quilting | 14 comments


A feeling of empowerment washed over me as I finished up the quilting of Mr. E’s quilt yesterday afternoon. It’s hard to describe in words but I’ll try. What I enjoy most about quilt making is the process. I think that’s why I don’t mind sending a completed quilt out the door to its new home. Adding the quilting phase into my process was a true step of liberation. I now own the creation from start to finish. I can decide how I want to quilt each section of the top as I go. If I’m undecided, I can sleep on it. I can hang it on the wall and stare at it. I can look around me for inspiration. I can sample threads and patterns on a test piece. I’m free from deciding all at once what the quilting needs to be. I get to tug and hug and push on it as I shape its final form.

Of course, it’s easy to be wistful about the process once it’s done! The technical aspects of machine quilting on an ordinary sewing machine takes practice. I was told this when I first learned. I didn’t really understand why. Why can’t I just take a class and be good at it? What secrets are being kept from me? I’m not sure there are any secrets but there is something to the whole practice thing.

My second full size project was MUCH easier than my first. It was way faster and my stitches look much better. I was more relaxed. I took more risks with my quilting patterns. I can now recognize the sound my machine makes when it is humming along at the right speed. I figured out my safety pin issue. I can adjust the tension on my machine to get just the right stitch. I’m convinced my way of taping the back to my hardwood floors is what eliminates pucker problems. I like the darning foot better than the free motion quilting foot made for my machine. I think using machine needles specially designed for quilting make the quilt glide easier. I like using different color threads on the top and the bottom. I made a list of machine setup steps for next time so that I remember to drop my feed dogs earlier than half way through the quilting process! Here’s some pictures of what I did:

I mentioned this method of taping the quilt to my floor to my hand piecing instructor last week. She said she does the same thing and is also convinced it’s the reason she’s never had a pucker problem. I start by taping in the middle on either side and making sure the fabric is taut. Next I tape the middle on both ends. I continue taping in this manner (moving out from the center along each side in tandem) until the whole thing is taped and nicely taut.

I purchased a box of curved safety pins from JoAnns some time ago. They worked great on the doll quilts and practice pieces I did when I first learned to machine quilt. They sat in their box for several months before I started work on the baby quilt. As I inserted the pin I observed some type of discoloration on my beautiful white quilt top. The pins weren’t rusted but they developed some type of goop on them. I then purchased brass safety pins. What a disappointment. They created huge holes in my fabric and were hard to insert. I went on a blog search for the perfect safety pin solution and found it in this post by Lisa Call. I ordered this box from the dry cleaning supply place and couldn’t be happier. I also use that funky little wood handled awl looking thing to fasten and unfasten the pins.

My original intention was to not do any quilting on the portraits. Once I completed the heavy quilting around them they were super puffy (picture above). I panicked a bit (a blatant understatement) trying to figure out a solution. I didn’t want to ruin the detail of the picture and decided to try a single outline. I’m very happy with the outcome:

A view of the back (I used a variegated purple thread in my bobbin):