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1st quilting problem

1st quilting problem

Old 12-30-2017, 11:23 AM
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I'm quilting my first quilt on my domestic sewing machine with a walking foot today. It's an I Spy quilt that is about 60" X 60" I've watched videos, asked questions and followed some advice carefully. I used warm and natural batting, spray basted the fabric and not the batting, starched the backing and the top and used blue tape to mark my lines. I sewed around the edge first, then started diagonal lines.

I volunteered to help school children make wheel chair quilts in the fall, so it's not the absolute first encounter with machine quilting. We used JoAnn's brand of natural batting that was a little softer (and maybe thinner). Those were smaller quilts, but they weren't all that stiff. They were not starched, but they were spray basted.

This one is almost like wrestling a piece of cardboard through the harp of the machine. (I'm quilting on a vintage sewing machine, so the harp space is adequate.) It's so stiff that it hangs up everywhere. I taught the kids to "stuff and fluff", but this quilt won't "fluff".

What can I do next time to make this easier and more pleasant to do? Does the heavy starch make it that much more less likely to end up with puckers? Is it the combination of everything I did that messed it up? Did I just go too far?

I should finish quilting this today and I have two more in the queue that I hoped to start on this weekend. I'd prefer to work on a softer product, but I don't want a lot of puckers, either.

Advice on finding the happy medium would be appreciated.

bkay
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Old 12-30-2017, 11:53 AM
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Some lines of fabric are just a lot stiffer than others. Stiff fabric, starch and less than drapey batting combined, and you have a problem!
I use warm and natural, and don't usually have an issue with stiffness, but my quilts get hung up on the front edge of the Sew Steady quilting table topper I have. One way I have found to remedy that is to put a satiny pillow in my lap. It helps the quilt glide around and not get hung up. (Actually, I don't have a satiny pillow: I put a regular pillow inside my nylon windbreaker and zip it all up.)
I think many people would advise against sewing all around the edges first. I have had pretty good luck in starting at one edge, about middle way, and working towards one side, all the way to the side, then work on the other side. It seems to me that if you sew around the borders first, you have sort of fenced yourself in. If there are any puckers, there is no way for them to be worked to the side and out. Puckers can be created where there was none before if the walking foot tension is a little strong, or if one of the fabrics is a little stretchier than the other, as in working with a flannel backing.
Probably someone else will be able to give you ideas of other types of batting to use. I live in a fabric desert here now that Hancock's closed up, so my choices are limited. Warm and natural is available at Hobby Lobby, so that's what I use.
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Old 12-30-2017, 03:08 PM
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i use a walking foot a lot but with a bit longer stitch to help prevent puckers. not 2.2 but 2.4 or 2.6 maybe. you might try that. and start near the center and work to the side under the throat of the machine. that makes it a bit easier.
also hold onto the quilt, press or gather in hands and hold on either side of the foot while quilting. making the quilt area as flat as possible. it's not too hard so don't over think things. I spray baste often and it does make it a bit stiffer but not bad. washes out soft again. I like spraying since it helps the quilt lay flat. good luck.
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Old 12-30-2017, 05:16 PM
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I mainly do FMQ, use large safety pins to sandwich and use polyester batting. I don't use spray basting. I always wash and dry quilts as soon as they are finished. I don't use sizing or starch. This all works for me.
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Old 12-30-2017, 09:54 PM
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Since you are quilting lines on the diagonal, I would say that the starching is a necessity because you are basically quilting on the bias of many fabrics. Heavy starching is especially beneficial for the backing fabric because all of your lines will be sewn on the bias of the backing. So, for this kind of quilting, I would not eliminate the starch. Heavy starching is also highly advisable if you are cross-hatching or in some other way crossing quilting lines. Without starch, you have a good chance of quilting puckers into many of the lines you cross. Next time, if you are quilting on the straight-of-grain, you could opt to simply spray starch the backing instead of using heavy starch. Spray starching is probably enough to prevent most problems if you are not quilting on the diagonal or cross-hatching. If you have a very good machine that feeds the layers evenly, you may not even need starch at all. Starch is like an insurance policy; you might do fine without it.

To soften up the starch in this quilt, you can squish the quilt around in your hands to break up the starch. This makes the fabric more flexible. However, I suspect the stiffness you are encountering is due not so much to the starch or to the spray basting, but rather to the batting you are using.

Warm and Natural is one of the heavier and thicker battings I have used. Because it is needlepunched through scrim, W&N is a very stable batting (probably the most stable batting on the market). However, it is that same needlepunching through scrim that creates a stiff drape in this batting. It softens up over time with use and with turns through the washer and dryer, but it definitely has the stiffest initial drape of any batting I have tried. I think that choosing a different batting next time will make for a much softer quilt going under the arm of your machine. A softer and thinner batting, such as the one the kids used, can make a big difference.

Edit: One other thing that might help you is ironing the quilt sandwich. You can do this with W&N because it is cotton; don't do this with polyester batting or you could melt the batting. Anyway, ironing the quilt sandwich after spray basting doesn't hurt anything (assuming cotton batting) and compresses the batting temporarily, which makes it easier to manage under the arm of the machine. With the first washing, that compression disappears and the batting springs back to its normal loft.

Last edited by Prism99; 12-30-2017 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 12-31-2017, 04:03 AM
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When I first started machine quilting whole quilts, I used a fusible batting which you iron to the back and front. This kept it all together enough for me to feel comfortable with the bulk. You might try a couple of card tables to the side and back of your table to hold it, too. Even an ironing board helps extend the space and hold the bulk. Now I simply run my quilt up against the wall behind my machine. Do whatever works for you!

I have found that using unwashed backing fabric is stiffer and helps me avoid puckers. I also quilt in sections - Marti Michell has a book with that title - sometimes quilting just a third of the quilt at a time and then sewing the sections together. I have done a couple of king- and queen-sized quilts that way.

Keep at it - you will find what works for you.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:24 AM
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Thanks for your input. The quilt has softened up some and I've gotten more used to handling it.

There is just no substitute for experience. It's so much easier today than yesterday. So, I guess that means I'm learning something.

Thanks again.

bkay
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Old 12-31-2017, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by bkay View Post
Thanks for your input. The quilt has softened up some and I've gotten more used to handling it.

There is just no substitute for experience. It's so much easier today than yesterday. So, I guess that means I'm learning something.

Thanks again.

bkay
Old Fashioned Me, but I always begin quilting from the center out. Otherwise you have boxed yourself in.
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Old 12-31-2017, 06:53 PM
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I decided it didn't have enough quilting for an I Spy quilt that will probably be washed often, so I added more stitching between all the existing lines. It worked out really well. The only problem I encountered is that it was square before I sandwiched it, but it was off somewhat, after the quilting. I suppose this is just a learning curve. It's been a weekend of learning new stuff.

I'm going to cut the bias binding for it tomorrow and after that, it should be finished.

It's not perfect. The next one will be better. All and all, I'm pleased.

bkay
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Old 12-31-2017, 07:56 PM
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The lack of squareness after quilting is probably because you did all diagonal lines. Did you alternate the direction in which you sewed the lines? If not, next time alternate direction every time you sew and that should help. It's amazing that, even with spray basting and starching, the sandwich probably stretched along the quilting lines.

Edit: Come to think of it, alternating direction probably wouldn't help. If all the lines were running in the same direction (no matter if you alternated sewing direction or not), my bet is the quilt is longer at the opposite corners of where the diagonal lines started and ended. I'm not sure how to prevent that from happening when sewing on the diagonal -- unless, perhaps, you sew cross-hatching on the diagonal and are careful to sew just one line at a time for each direction. I think that would be the only way you could keep the corners even and the quilt square.

Last edited by Prism99; 12-31-2017 at 07:59 PM.
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