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Thread: help with preventing gathering on back of quilt when hand quilting

  1. #1
    Member MaryR's Avatar
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    Question help with preventing gathering on back of quilt when hand quilting

    This weekend we have a 'Calling All Quilts' exhibition in Hamilton. I entered the Monochramatic catory. My quilt was done all in blues from dark to light. I entered it so I would work outside my comfort zone, not to win anything. It was the first time I had got a set of blocks, 24 to be exact and put them together to make a pattern. I started in January thinking I had enough time to finish it. I work in the mornings and my husband and I have our daughter with her two children living with us, aged 6 and 5. On top of that my husband turned 60 so in January I was organizing a 60th in our home as well as organizing a surprise holiday for him. I still had the quilting to do four weeks before hand in time. There were two major difficulties I came across. Three quarters of the way through the quilt I learnt how to get my pieced squares to measure exactly 12 1/2" square. Before then I had been cutting them to size which caused a problem in that I had to fudge to get the points to meet.( I learnt the best way to sew half square triangles together) Consequently my borders did not lie flat. I hand quilted large circles due to restricted time. Even though I had pulled the backing tight and held it down with masking tape while I pinned the three layers I still got gathering on the back. I did not use a frame to hand quilt. A friend of mine did not use a frame when she hand quilted and she did beautiful work. I also bought a book on how to hand quilt without a frame. I have used a frame in the past and I still got the puckering and gathering. Any wonderful suggestions would be very welcome.

  2. #2
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    I've always used a frame or hoop to hand quilt with so I can't offer any advice. I know some people on QB quilt without a hoop so maybe they will have some pointers.

  3. #3
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    One possibility is that you stretched the backing fabric too tight when you held it down with masking tape. It should simply be smoothed flat -- not stretched tight. When it is stretched too much, once you let go of the masking tape the fabric springs back to its original size, and this can cause wrinkling -- especially since lengthwise and crosswise grains of fabric have different stretching characteristics.

    You did not mention how you basted the quilt. For hand quilting, it is usually best to thread baste.

    Personally, I would also experiment with spray basting. Many hand quilters spray baste their quilts, and spray basting has the advantage of keeping all the layers continuously flat against one another (whereas with pin basting only the pinned places are perfectly flat against each other, and with thread basting there is an opportunity for layers to shift). Some hand quilters find that spray basting adds drag to the quilting needle, but others have no problem with it.

    When you hand quilted with a frame before, do you mean you used a full-sized quilting frame (the kind that does not require basting)? Or do you mean a hoop (floor hoop, lap hoop, or hand held hoop)? Hoops require basting, plus you need to take the hoop off and re-position the quilt periodically. Full-sized quilting frames simply have you roll the quilt as you complete an area.

    If it was a hoop, again, stretching the backing fabric while basting can cause problems with the backing. Also, if the basting is not close enough together, the layers can shift as you loosen and re-position the hoop. If it was a hoop, did you keep the quilt very loose within the hoop? (That is actually correct; a common beginner mistake is to hoop a quilt drum-tight.)

    Edit: I would add that I tried hand quilting without a hoop or frame. My stitching was not nearly as nice as when I used a hoop.

  4. #4
    Member MaryR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    One possibility is that you stretched the backing fabric too tight when you held it down with masking tape. It should simply be smoothed flat -- not stretched tight. When it is stretched too much, once you let go of the masking tape the fabric springs back to its original size, and this can cause wrinkling -- especially since lengthwise and crosswise grains of fabric have different stretching characteristics.

    You did not mention how you basted the quilt. For hand quilting, it is usually best to thread baste.

    Personally, I would also experiment with spray basting. Many hand quilters spray baste their quilts, and spray basting has the advantage of keeping all the layers continuously flat against one another (whereas with pin basting only the pinned places are perfectly flat against each other, and with thread basting there is an opportunity for layers to shift). Some hand quilters find that spray basting adds drag to the quilting needle, but others have no problem with it.

    When you hand quilted with a frame before, do you mean you used a full-sized quilting frame (the kind that does not require basting)? Or do you mean a hoop (floor hoop, lap hoop, or hand held hoop)? Hoops require basting, plus you need to take the hoop off and re-position the quilt periodically. Full-sized quilting frames simply have you roll the quilt as you complete an area.

    If it was a hoop, again, stretching the backing fabric while basting can cause problems with the backing. Also, if the basting is not close enough together, the layers can shift as you loosen and re-position the hoop. If it was a hoop, did you keep the quilt very loose within the hoop? (That is actually correct; a common beginner mistake is to hoop a quilt drum-tight.)

    Edit: I would add that I tried hand quilting without a hoop or frame. My stitching was not nearly as nice as when I used a hoop.
    I basted with safety pins as I had basted with cotton thread last time and was not happy with the result.
    When I have hand quilted it was in a hoop and I remember keeping the material quite tight.

  5. #5
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    Safety pins are not as good as thread basting for hand quilting. When thread basting, it is a good idea not to do a simple straight stitch, but rather do more of a herringbone stitch or tailor's stitch. This stitch is better at keeping the layers from shifting. Sharon Schamber has some good videos on Youtube about how to use this type of stitch to baste a quilt, even if you do not use other elements of her basting method. Here are links to her videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhwNylePFAA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_EjBGz5vGQ
    I think it is in that second video where she shows the stitch.

    When quilting with a hoop, it is a common beginner's mistake to make the quilt drum-tight. It should actually be quite loose. You should be able to move the quilt about 4 to 6 inches away from the hoop in either direction. When I took a class in hand quilting, the instructor recommended using your fist to measure this looseness. You want about a fist's distance in both directions at the center. This looseness allows you to manipulate the quilt onto the needle almost as if you were quilting without a hoop at all.

    When using a hoop, you do want to be careful when re-hooping not to distort the layers of the basted quilt. The easiest way to do this is to thread baste with a Sharon Schamber type stitch. Once you have an area hooped, you can snip basting threads in the area you are quilting. Meanwhile, though, the stitches in the other areas are of a type that ensures against the layers shifting on you.

  6. #6
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    I hand quilt mostly with a hoop but sometimes without. Also, I mostly pin baste but will sometimes thread baste. Depends on the size of the quilt and how much weight I want to deal with. When I am sandwiching my quilts I use my cutting table to layer everything. I use big binder clips on the edges of the table. Put down the backing, smoothing and clamping to the table. Put down batting, smooth, clamp. Same with the top. I start in the middle of the quilt. Baste using pins or thread but in either case about a hand-width apart in all directions. Once that is complete I shift the whole sandwich working from the center out to the edges. I make sure that I have a basted section at one edge of the table, clamp it and continue the process. Sometimes can be a bit tedious if it's a large quilt but it works and I'm not crawling around on the floor or doing too much bending.

    When I start quilting I begin in the center of the quilt and work out. If using a hoop the quilt is relatively loose in the hoop. Before starting to stitch I make sure the front and back are smooth. If there are puckers/ripples I pull that piece only (either the top or the bottom) a little tighter in the hoop. When finished with that section, follow the same process. I will certainly get the occassional pucker on the back but not too often. If I'm not using a hoop I simply follow the same process for smoothing. I find that having the basting, either pins or thread, about a hand-width apart (generally about 3-5 inches apart) the layers do not shift at all.

    Hope this helps.

  7. #7
    Super Member ckcowl's Avatar
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    thread basting and smooth-not tight really are the keys to successful hand quilting- even when hooped-the fabric is not held (tight) only smooth- generally you need some give in the hoop to successfully hand quilt- if you have been unhappy with thread basting and pin basting perhaps you could try the 'spray basting' method- still do not stretch your fabric- simply smooth it - no wrinkles- when spray basting some people still either pin or thread baste around the edges to keep everything from shifting. there are some great tutorials on hand quilting- starting with preparations- check out a few of those to find a technique that suits you.
    hiding away in my stash where i'm warm, safe and happy

  8. #8
    Super Member 117becca's Avatar
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    Once I started basting the Susan Schamber way, I've never had a problem. When you put your closed fist down in the middle of the quilt, it should always be touching some basting thread. I also start from the middle and work my way out.
    my name is becca and i'm a quilt-a-holic :-)

  9. #9
    Senior Member AnitaSt's Avatar
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    Hand quilting and basting

    You guys always anticipate my questions! I'm just starting to hand quilt and had the same questions and issues that all of you point out...thanks especially to Prism....this thread is a great tutorial for us beginners.

    Anita

  10. #10
    Senior Member stefanib123's Avatar
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    How do you guys suggest thread basting? The only time I tried it, I had the quilt in the floor and it killed my back!

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