I am happy to report that I have completed the art quilt I started during a class I took starting in January this year at Patricias’ Fabric House. You can read about how it all started by scrolling down towards the bottom of this post. The class taught us how to piece a design using freezer paper. The design used for the class was created by Pat Pauly using a technique developed by Ruth McDowell. I had finished piecing the four 2′ x 2′ blocks of the same leaf design and pieced them into a large 4′ x 4′ quilt top by mid February, but since I hadn’t been quilting for very long I wanted to wait until I had more experience before actually quilting it.
A few weeks ago I finally basted the quilt top. I used 505 spray baste and would highly recommend it. It is nice to be able to quilt without having to stop and remove safety pins every few inches. If you do a careful job of securing the backing to your work surface so it is smoothly stretched out, carefully apply each layer (batting and then quilt top), and smooth each layer out as you go you should have no problem with shifting layers while you quilt.
Since this piece is an art quilt I didn’t want to just do an overall quilting on it. I used four different colors of variegated thread and quilted a different pattern in the different colors. In the red and orange areas I quilted in long skinny rectangles going the length of each section of the leaf part of the design while leaving the “veins” of the leaves unquilted. In the green area I wanted the quilting to represent grass so I quilted that area in long skinny triangles. The blue is done with stipple quilting. Not a very complicated design overall, but since the plan was to hang the finished quilt in our family room the quilting needed to be well done.
A few months ago I ordered some YLI machine quilting thread (40wt.) in the varieties of colors I wanted for this quilt and I planned on using a solid green thread for the back of the quilt since the back is just green with a vine design on it. Before starting I prepared my machine by cleaning it and putting in a fresh needle. I set up my Free Motion Assistant and got started.
This is where the frustration and growling from me began. I didn’t realize that I was growling my frustration until my husband mentioned it after I had completed the quilt (he also asked if this really was a relaxing hobby 😛 ). I could not get the tension set so that you didn’t see the top thread coming through the back and even with the tension set to zero the top thread was still shredding. I did some research online to see if I could find some advice and picked up a few hints to try. A quick trip to Joann’s the next day for some different needles and I was back at it…or so I thought. One of the recommendations was to use “sharp” needles. I remember one quote I read saying something like, “using a universal needle to quilt is like trying to push a baseball bat through the surface of your quilt.” Within a couple of stitches of using both a size 80 and 90 sharp needle I had two broken needles, and more growling from me!
The next thing I tried was a topstitch needle. That work a little bit better, but the thread was still shredding every so often. When I was at Joann’s I also found some small spools of Coats & Clarks variegated thread in colors that were close to the ones I was trying to use. The thread was a smaller weight than the YLI thread and I also decided to use the same thread for the bobbin to simplify the variables a bit. With the tension set to almost zero I was finally able to get the stitches to look the way I wanted them to on the top and the back. Some quilters do not think the Coats & Clark brand of thread is very high quality, but so far it has been my go to thread for free-motion quilting. From there it was smooth sailing! Finally!
The Free Motion Assistant is a pleasure to use once you get the thread tension set up. I was able to finish the quilting in a few short evenings after work. The most difficult part was quilting in the blue area since it is a dark fabric and I was using mostly dark thread I couldn’t always see where I had already quilted. Overall I didn’t quilt over my stitching more than a couple of places in that area and it is very difficult to find on the quilt top so I left them be. I could now tell my husband that quilting was a relaxing hobby when it all goes well 🙂 .
To finish the quilt I decided to use the facing technique that I used on my Wind and Waves quilt because I didn’t want to add even a small border around the edge by adding a binding. I just love the way it makes the quilt look like a painting on canvas when hanging on the wall. After blocking the quilt we put it up in our family room over our new sectional. I am thrilled with the final product and how it looks on display. If I do say so myself, I think it is a stunning piece! I plan on showing it in the August show put on by Patricia’s Fabric House so if you are in the area stop by if you want to see it up close and personal.