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Thread: Am I on the right track with my quilt?

  1. #1
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    Am I on the right track with my quilt?

    I'm making my first ever quilt. The quilt top was very enjoyable in selecting fabrics, cutting and piecing and sewing. but I have struggled with making the quilt sandwich and quilting. Choosing how to quilt - I chose stitch in the ditch - was daunting. I didn't know about any of these things like stippling, etc. I had some problems with my backing fabric bunching and have a few folds. It's not perfectly smooth. Also there were different opinions on thread color - I chose a light color and my backing shows every imperfect stitch as a result. My quilt top looks beautiful though! I have been frustrated how hard quilting was - especially manouvering the big quilt through my machine's throat. So after making my first quilt, I love making the quilt top and disliked quilting it together. Is my experience typical and is quilting usually this hard? I already have a second quilt in the works and completed the quilt top. Now I have to make the sandwich and quilt a second time - ugh!!

  2. #2
    Super Member SusieQOH's Avatar
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    Hi Paula, welcome to the board!
    I can only tell you my experience. I started quilting when everyone was hand quilting- that was many years ago. So machine quilting is still rather new for me. I started with small projects, and also made sample quilt sandwiches about 15 or so inches square to get the hang of machine quilting. There is definitely a learning curve.
    When you quilt a large quilt it's a good idea to have a machine with a large enough throat area in which to work. I rely on Youtube videos to get a lot of good tips and great tutorials for learning many aspects of quilting.
    It can seem daunting but hopefully you will keep plugging away at it. You'll be surprised at how quickly you will advance your skills.
    It all takes practice. Best of luck to you!
    This board is a treasure trove of information so ask away

    One more thing- you may find that you enjoy the planning and piecing of a quilt and not the quilting of it. There are many people who send quilts out to be quilted. Bottom line- there is no right way to do anything but whatever works for you and makes you happy.

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    Thanks SusieQ for your encouraging words. I'll keep at it and see if Inlearn to enjoy the quilt sandwich onward part more as I gain more skill in this area. I learned how to do it all using videos on You Tube. I didn't know about a walking foot and purchased one from Amazon. I was also learning to sew and how to use a new sewing machine all at the same time! A lot of newness. If only I had a quilting mentor! I'm so glad to find this board.

  4. #4
    Super Member SusieQOH's Avatar
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    Paula, I'm really impressed that you have achieved so much just by watching videos! That's fantastic!!!!!
    I took a beginner class and then found some people to form a quilt group. I no longer have that contact but get so much help right here. I started before the internet and things have changed drastically since then. So glad for the internet! Some people join guilds. There is a huge one where I live but frankly, it's too big for me!
    Just tossing out ideas for you I'm still evolving in quilting and having a lot of fun doing so.

  5. #5
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    Paula, there are several good threads here about putting the quilt sandwich together that I've found very helpful. I use 505 spray and it seems to hold things in place really well. As far as the actual quilting goes, my suggestion is to make a small (18 x 24) quilt sandwich and practice your stitches. It's much easier to become good at quilting with a small piece that is easy to maneuver. I usually FMQ all my quilts and do a small practice piece before I work on my big quilt.
    Last edited by cashs_mom; 06-22-2018 at 06:57 PM.
    Patrice S

    Bernina Artista 180, Singer 301a, Featherweight Centennial, Rocketeer, Juki 2200 QVP Mini, White 1964 Featherweight

  6. #6
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    I've been FMQ for 14 years and can do a fairly decent meander but that's about it, it takes lots and lots of practice, you will get better but it does Help if you have a machine with a larger harp space than most the modern machines. You can also check into quilt as you go, and there are various ways to "make it easier", one of which is dividing the batting into thirds, quilting the center, then add one of the thirds, then quilt that section, etc.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 06-23-2018 at 03:06 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps

  7. #7
    Super Member Krisb's Avatar
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    Smaller quilts will help. You may want to make donation baby quilts for local hospitals, or toddler quilts for charity. Or alternate those with the big quilts you must make for family members. Also, look for tutorials on:
    How to baste a big quilt without a huge table
    Basting spray to baste your quilt
    Using washable glue to baste your quilt
    How to do quilt as you go to keep the size of your quilting area down
    How to split your big quilt into manageable size pieces (great tutorial by Ann Peterson on Craftsy).

    Quilt with your walking foot, not free motion. Simple straight lines are very modern and easy to do with your walking foot. So are gentler curves. This is also the best foot to use to sew on your binding.

    Some people on this board use QAYG (quilt as you go) exclusively. Some use only free motion; some both; some quilt by check. Some quilt by hand with beautiful little stitches. Some quilt by hand with big stitch quilting. Some people tie their wuilts. It is all OK. But machine quilting is a learned skill and takes practice. If you are like me, sewing a straight seam took a while to learn.

    It is simply not true that machine quilting is easier than hand quilting. Faster, yes; easier, no. First you need to determine if you like the machine quilting process at all. If you find that you enjoy machine quilting, look at the bigger throat straight stitch machines. Take a class at your local quilt shop. Go to the Minnesota Quilt Show next June in Rochester and try out some of the machines. Try them out at the shop if they have them available. Or a sit down midarm. Or quilt by check. You did complete one guilt beginning to end, so you proved you could do it. Now you need to decide if you want to do it. Life is too short to do things you don’t enjoy because the quilt police told you “It is not a real quilt unless you (fill in the blank)”. Do it your way and enjoy it.
    Last edited by Krisb; 06-22-2018 at 07:09 PM.
    I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it difficult to plan the day.

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  8. #8
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    I have the impression that the (vast?) majority of quilters prefer piecing to quilting, hence the number of longarmers who quilt for others. I've never heard of anyone offering piecing services, LOL.
    Lisa

  9. #9
    Senior Member Faintly Artistic's Avatar
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    Look up Sharon Schamber's board basting method on YouTube. It is so much more doable for me. I dislike machine quilting and can't afford to pay someone, so I taught myself to big stitch hand quilt. Love it! Find what works for you.

  10. #10
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    I have quilted a long time and basting my quilt sandwich is my least favourite part. I like Hobbs fusible 80/20 batt and iron the sandwich flat out on my old carpet in the basement. I also like basting with 505 soray but that I have to do outside because of the smell. There are some longarm machine quilters that will baste your quilt at a charge or you can have your quilt quilted by them. This is called quilting by check.
    I usually pick a patterned backing as this hides most quilting errors. I quilt from the center outward to the quilt edges so any excess backing fabric gets moved to the edge. As others have said, do some smaller practice pieces and you will get better.

  11. #11
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Here are my tips for learning to enjoy the quilting process as well as the piecing.

    1. Heavily starch your backing fabric before creating your quilt sandwich. I like to use a 1:1 solution of Sta-Flo liquid laundry starch and water. I use my kitchen island and "paint" the starch on using a large wall painting brush to saturate the fabric. Then I toss it in the dryer, and later iron with steam. This stabilizes the backing fabric so it is much less likely to pucker or fold on you while quilting.

    I also give the top several layers of spray starch. Spray starch is not as heavy, but still helps a lot to stabilize the fabric. If you don't want to go the heavy starch route with the backing fabric, at least give it a few layers of spray starch.

    Spray starch helps even with an already-basted quilt if you start having problems with puckers and tucks. Just lay out the sandwich on a large flat sheet, spray starch from the edges towards the center, let dry, then spray again. A fan speeds up the drying process between layers. Then turn the sandwich over and do the same on the other side.

    2. I like using 505 to spray baste the quilt sandwich. An advantage of spray basting is that it "glues" the 3 layers together continuously (unlike pins, or widely spaced basting threads). Elmer's washable white school glue also works in this way. Before using either of these methods, use the "search" function on the board to look for tutorials. There are tips in the tutorials that save one from some common mistakes.

    3. Ditch stitch-in-the-ditch!!! I started out with SITD but soon realized that it is nerve-wracking for me and quite unsatisfying because I hate the inevitable little deviations from the ditch. It took a lot of practice before I became reasonably good at free-motion quilting, but FMQ on a domestic machine (unlike FMQ on a frame) still always seems like "work" to me. Quilting should be fun! For me, on a domestic machine, this means using a walking foot and sewing organic, curving lines. Here are a few examples of what this kind of quilting looks like:
    https://quiltingdigest.com/quilt-gen...-walking-foot/
    http://www.sewmamasew.com/2014/04/qu...foot-quilting/
    This is *way* more fun than SITD!!! Plus it goes much faster.

    4. To make quilting create subtle texture rather than standing out as a design element, I like to use Superior's Bottom Line thread (a relatively fine, 60wt polyester thread), and I choose a color that will blend in with the backing fabric. My favorite color for this is #623, silver. It seems to blend with everything from white to black. Glide is a heavier polyester thread (40wt) that is great when you want the quilting to stand out a little more, and adds a little shine. I no longer use cotton threads for machine quilting as they create more lint, break more easily, and when used for dense quilting stiffen the drape of the quilt. Polyester thread, in contrast, can be used for dense quilting without stiffening the quilt.

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by Prism99; 06-22-2018 at 10:01 PM.

  12. #12
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    "quilting by check" means paying someone else to do the quilting part of the process.

    this includes sending it to someone that does hand quilting and/or sending it to someone that quilts on a big apparatus called a "long arm" The people that operate them are called "long-armers."
    Last edited by bearisgray; 06-22-2018 at 10:09 PM.

  13. #13
    Super Member coopah's Avatar
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    Welcome and congratulations on experiencing all the joys (and some of the disappointments) of quilting. You've been given good advice so far. I quilt small items myself, but anything larger than a baby quilt goes to a long-armer, so therefore, I do the "quilt by check." The cost of that limits how many large quilts I make, but it is worth it to me, because I don't enjoy neck/shoulder/back pains that come with hefing a large quilt through my domestic machine.
    So you may decide to do that, too, or after watching You Tube videos, you may figure out a way to make the sandwiching and quilting more pleasurable for you.
    "A woman is like a tea bag-you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt

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    If you have an embroidery machine, there are many designs you can purchase that will work beautifully. Some people don't like the hooping, but I don't mind as long as the results are beautiful. Others here have given you good advice. I just want to add that it is important to find a way that works for you--whatever it is-- and continue your journey into quilting.
    "The great doing of little things makes the great life." Eugena Price

  15. #15
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    Welcome to the board and quilting. I'm glad you got a walking
    foot. It will help feed your fabrics through easier. As others said it takes practice but you will get it. I also prefer the piecing process over the quilting. That is why I have so many UFOs. But I am working on completing some of those. Using a long armed is an option but can get costly so I hold that option for special tops

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    welcome to the group! everyone makes quilts in their own way, I love to do my own thing from fabric shopping to stitching the binding on, but I will admit that the pinning and sandwiching are my least favorite part. I highly recommend a walking foot, it will help feed things more evenly. One thing I had to learn when I started sewing was to let the machine feed things thru, I had a habit of pushing my fabric thru which messed up my tension and caused tucks and wrinkles. I do FMQ but my favorite is walking foot quilting, there are entire Craftsy classes on walking foot quilting. Start simple and don't be tempted to get a whole bunch of expensive fancy stuff for a new hobby just yet, a few things can make it a tad easier (like a walking foot, rotary cutter) but spending tons of money doesn't buy skills, time and practice do. Don't forget to buy fabric that you love and have fun!

  17. #17
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    Don't feel bad if you don't the sandwiching and quilting part. I took classes with a gal who was fantastic at making kaleidoscope quilts; she was awesome at it but hated the quilting part; she had stacks of them. I don't know why she never sent them out to be quilted but that is an option for you. Don't stop the creative process if you never come to like finishing them; there are plenty of people out there who do like to do that.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mhollifiel's Avatar
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    After you finish your quilt, wash it immediately! It hides a multitude of sins and it looks so much better. If you don't prewash your fabric (and I don't) it might be wise to throw a color catcher into the wash along with the quilt just in case some of the colors run. Mostly they won't but an ounce of prevention is wise.

    Quilts don't have to have battings! These make great summer quilts. I once took a sheet and just stitched and flipped odd scraps all over it and machine stitched them down building out from the center. No plan, just random. It is still one of my favorite quilts because it's light and therefore easy to pack, use, and cleans like a dream. That quilt has been everywhere and is still ready for many for more uses.

    FYI, there are many quilts in my family and my home that have the "beginner's tucks" in their backs. They are still quilts, still useful and still loved 40 years later - the ones that haven't been loved to death. I still find the actual quilting part my least favorite process so I support longarmers. I also quilt green a lot like our grandmothers and great grandmothers did. Used all cotton clothing is in a lot of my quilts. They look like the real deal and feel wonderful. This recycling frees up funds to support my favorite quilting friends; yep, my longarmers!

    BTW, any quilt you give away that is "loved to death" is the biggest compliment ever. Kind makes the tiny tucks you made quilting not matter so much, don't you think?

  19. #19
    Super Member osewme's Avatar
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    Welcome to the boards! My machine has a 6 1/2" (approx) throat & is hard to quilt large quilts. It's doable but take a lot of manipulating of the quilt. I now generally only make baby & lap size quilts mainly for that reason. I can't afford to send my quilts out for quilting so I do them at home on my domestic sewing machine. I am in the process of piecing blocks for a large, king size quilt for myself and am planning on using the Quilt As You Go method for that when I am finished with the blocks. That is the method where you piece a block & then make the sandwich with the batting & backing & then quilt that one block. When you have all your blocks made, you are done with the front, batting, backing & quilting. All you have to do to finish it is put on a border (if you want one) and bind it.

    I don't like making the sandwich as I have to crawl on the floor to do it & that is not fun at my age. I do use a spray adhesive sometimes to help keep everything together before I pin baste it. I also stretch the backing & tape it to the floor before I put the batting on top of it. That seems to help keep it from getting puckers & bunching up in areas. I have gone to our local senior center & used some of their big fold up tables to sandwich my quilt so I don't have to crawl on the floor. They let me use the tables for free. Your church or library, etc. my let you use their tables also. You will find that after the quilt is washed you won't see as many mistakes. I've also learned to try to match my thread to the back instead of the top as the back shows more of your quilting.

    Between this board, you tube videos & friends you will be just fine in your quilting adventure. We love pictures here & would really like to see that first quilt you made if you have the capability of taking & posting a picture.

  20. #20
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    Your thoughts are my thoughts. I love choosing the fabrics, piecing and binding. Unless the item is very small, runners etc, I leave the actual quilting to the the longarmers.

  21. #21
    Senior Member janjanq's Avatar
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    You are not alone in loving the piecing but disliking the quilting. Many quilters have UFO's for just that reason! Just do a little at a time!

  22. #22
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Welcome to the board and the wonderful world of quilting. I, like so many others, really disliked the sandwiching/basting of the sandwich. Actually that is putting it nicely. I really hated it with a white hot passion. My first bed size quilts were hand quilted, which still involved the sandwiching part but I found hand quilting very enjoyable and the results were exactly what I wanted.
    However, hand quilting large quilts takes a long time. On average, because I only quilted in the evenings, it took me well over a year to complete them, more often a couple of years. I turned to smaller projects, like throws, pillows, wall hangings to feed my quilting habit and get some practice at machine quilting. I got pretty good at walking foot straight line quilting but wanted more. Alas, unlike many, I never got any good at FMQ on my domestic. My brain just doesn't work that way.
    Many people compare FMQ to the needle being the pencil and the sandwich being the paper and moving the "paper" under the "pencil" just didn't work for me. I am definitely wired for moving the "pencil". I found myself not enjoying the process at all, even on small items. I was tense when doing it, frustrated with results and really didn't like FMQ because of that. But I loved putting the tops together and my list of patterns I wanted to make grew and grew.
    I discovered longarms on this board (never even knew such a thing existed!). I salivated over the beauties the longarmers posted here. So I started exploring the option of getting a longarm (expensive and they take up an entire room for the rack). I was fortunate that I had the space for one and I saved up and bought one. I also sent out a quilt for a custom longarm job so I could inspect up close what a pro did.
    I got my LA and haven't looked back. Now I love the quilting part even more than the piecing. In fact when I piece my quilts I usually am thinking about how to quilt it and will make modifications to patterns just to have some wide open spaces for longarm quilting or I will think about how I can incorporate quilting motifs and designs that will compliment the piecing. I have also quilted for hire for people like you who really love piecing but aren't so crazy about the sandwiching and quilting.
    You are still very new to quilting so you need to give yourself time to explore all your options and see what works right for you. There is no shame in "quilting by checkbook" and often, many quilters will do that for very big tops or extra special projects. There are award winning "teams" that ribbon regularly at the big shows where one person quilts and the another does the quilting. In the meantime you may find you will get better at domestic machine quilting by working on smaller projects that aren't so cumbersome to maneuver through your smaller throat. These projects will allow you to practice FMQ easier and smaller is also easier to sandwich.

  23. #23
    Super Member givio's Avatar
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    Paula_quilts, Welcome to Quilting Board! It was fun reading the thread you started. :-) You are with a lot of company when you say you like the fabric selection and piecing. I'm not fond of the quilting part, but I'm not fond of the cutting part either. :-) I agree with those who advise to do the part you like. Don't stress over what you don't like. If having unfinished projects bothers you, you will find your own path for getting them done. Sometimes trudging through what you don't like provides a more satisfying reward at the finish.

  24. #24
    Super Member madamekelly's Avatar
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    I could not machine quilt at all so I tied most of them. I then learned to glue baste the layers together. You must use a washable school glue. “Elmer’s School Glue “is the one I use. I buy it by the gallon online. I pour it into a squeezable picnic condiment bottle to use it. Be patient with allowing dry time, and nothing will move as you sew since it now acts like one solid piece. When I apply it, I try to make a grid with no lines further apart than 4” just doing swirls. When your whole quilt is done, run it through a cold water wash and low temp dry, and you have a soft quilt ready for use or gifting. (Also, when I wash the quilt, I can check for problems before it is gifted.)
    If you always do, what you have always done, The results never change. Change is the wings you give yourself.

  25. #25
    Super Member wildyard's Avatar
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    Hi Paula, and welcome. I am another person who loves piecing the tops. Layering and quilting, not so much. I do it anyway, because a top alone isn't much use. LOL
    Since I make comfort quilts, I use fleece for the backing and this allows me to skip the batting. It's much easier to layer and quilt just the two layers in my opinion. I do safety pin basting, and mostly straight line quilting, but never stitch in the ditch. LOL, that's too hard for me to do nicely. I do a lot of 1/4" away from the seams as I can use the seam as a guide for the foot. I also do some crosshatching. With no batting, the quilting can be a lot further apart as it only serves to emphasize the pattern and hold the layers together.
    I do use a domestic machine, and just upsized to one with a larger throat. It really makes a difference, but I did make a LOT of quilts on my old machine and it was just a regular size.
    Linda Wedge White

    I believe UFOs are like scraps, ferns and dust bunnies. Once you get two, they send spores out into the air and more just happen anywhere the spores meet.

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