Friday, 29 July 2011

Brave? or stupid?

I laughed when I read Sue's comment on last week's post about my new quilt pattern on the quilting frame: "You are so brave to do a baptist fan. That has got to be one of the hardest patterns to do freehand like you are doing. Every little waver shows."

Well, yes it does Sue, and I have lots of wobbles and deformed blades to prove it.  Brave?  or just stupid?  I have been see-sawing all week on this question.  On the one hand it's been great practice and I've learned a lot, plus the quilt is now done (yippee!) and no longer just a useless top hanging on the back of a door.  It is now useable and off my guilt list.  On the other hand, I have committed the sacrilege of machine quilting a vintage top made from genuine feedsacks, with the double sacrilege of not doing a perfect job, so maybe I should just be holding out my wrists for the Quilt Police handcuffs right now.

But then I took it off the frame, and saw how great it looks.  Yes, if you look closely there are lots of dubious blades, some alignment problems, some wobbles, even some accidental overlaps.  But then the quilt top itself is not that well made, it is hand pieced out of relatively coarse vintage feedsacks, with bulky seams, and had never been loved enough to be actually finished until I bought it and added borders to it.  Somehow, even with all the wonkiness, the curves of the baptist fans really set off the quilt design.

So what did I learn?
  • I found it easier to make smooth curves going faster, not slower.
  • Rather than staring at the line I am on, I found also looking at the previous line and imagining that I was steering parallel to it helped to drive a smooth line.
  • Drawing the pattern on paper really helped to develop muscle memory.
  • The key to this pattern seemed to be to get the final, longest curve as smooth as possible.  As long as that line was pretty smooth, wobbles on shorter, earlier curves of the fan didn't seem as obvious.
  • Keeping track of how many passes I get per bobbin sounds like a great idea, except that my machine does not seem to consistently wind the same amount onto each bobbin.  Still, it broadly helped.
  • Tweezers help to bring the short bobbin thread to the surface of the quilt if I used the thread cutter on the machine and had to restart in the middle of a pass.
  • A quilt with very bulky seam allowances in the middle (the centres of the spiderweb blocks) and relatively smooth seam allowances in the border, is not going to wind onto the rollers smoothly and the edges will tend to become slacker than the middle.  Therefore it is prudent to check the alignment of the panto in two or three places along the quilt after a roll-on, prior to stitching.
  • No matter how good I am getting at steering, bulky seam allowances will grab the hopping foot and inexorably yank it off track to go in completely the wrong direction.  This will also happen if the power cord gets wrapped around the corner of the carriage, if DS bumps into the edge of the quilt frame on his way past, if a loose thread from the edge of the quilt snags the hopping foot, or if one of the 70-year-old seam allowances suddenly gives up the ghost and a yawning chasm opens up just in front of the presser foot.
  • If the pantograph was aligned to the quilt top at the beginning, and mysteriously begins to be not aligned partway through the quilting, it may not be the rolling on at all.  It may be that the #!x(+! cursed masking tape holding the panto to the table has in fact given up any idea of being sticky and the panto has actually slid forward an inch at one end.
I used Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 wadding so I am going to wash it gently and let it shrink up a bit, which should do something to disguise the less than perfect stitching.  I am going to do the baptist fan again on a big Civil War log cabin kit that I made from a kit, and hopefully do a better job as it is pressed quite flat so the seam allowances shouldn't get in the way as much.  I'm also going to use a lot more masking tape!

Quilting is pretty much all I've done this week, as I had a deadline to get the quilt off the frame so that we could empty the living room as  we are getting our carpet cleaned tomorrow.  So my frame is now out in the garden (too long to go anywhere else) and the sofa and everything else has been crammed and stacked in the conservatory.  I took the poles and the machine off the frame obviously, but I didn't want to have to unscrew the table.

Otherwise, commuter knitting has been the same as last week, and TV knitting has been the same also.  The only other new development is that I started machine knitting a toy doll, a little girl in a dress, using a pattern that I bought for .25p at the machine knitting show.  It's fun to just knit something low key, and use up some of my acrylic 4-ply.  I was feeling quite pleased with the completed body until I realised one leg was mysteriously several rows longer than the other.  So I will have to reknit that leg but it won't take long.

I've been wearing my Clapotis shawl a lot during this miserable summer, for an extra layer of warmth.  I made it last year from Paton's Linen Touch, which I think is now discontinued, which is a blend of linen and cotton.  The Clapotis is so nice to wear, a really nice texture and cool to the touch even though it adds a little warmth on cool days.  It's also worn really well, with no pilling and only a little fuzzing.  I suddenly realised that I should grab more of this yarn before it disappears, so I found some cherry and navy balls online at a good price and snagged them for my stash.  I wouldn't mind having another Clapotis in the navy, except that it was so incredibly tedious to knit that I don't think I could face doing another one.

Good news on the Sock Club front, I've found someone who loves the first two yarns and is willing to swap me some great sock yarns from her stash, so everybody's a winner.  I'm still looking forward to the months to come, it's fun getting surprise packages of yarn in the post.


Andrea said...

The quilt looks fantastic - really lovely. My machine quilting ( just on an ordinary sewing machine ) is far from perfect - I do a great stipple and that's about it - lol ! A great finish so well done xx

Daisy said...

Looking forward to the swop!

Sue said...

Oh, my! It came out sooo nice. Not a wobble to be seen anywhere that I can tell. And I be after you wash it, any remaining will be totally unnoticeable. I loved the lesson about the tape! I can't imagine how you move that frame!

Teresa said...

Thanks for the lessons learned list - I don't have a long arm and frame, but some of the lessons I can apply to my machine quilting. I think your baptist fan looks great.

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