Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Magic of Heirloom Machine Quilting

Before quilting:

After quilting:

After washing:

There's not as much difference between the last two pictures as I had hoped, but if you look at the larger versions, you may see more puckering in final version. That is the magic of heirloom machine quilting. The combination of invisible thread on the top and the cotton batting shrinkage after washing leaves the quilt looking more like an antique, the quilting lines showing up not as hard lines of color but as shadows and depressions, much like hand quilting would leave. The shrinkage and puckering also help to mask a multitude of sins.

Once again, I misjudged how long it would take to work through a step on this quilt. The binding that I thought might take two days to complete went on without a hitch in one. Have I really lost my knack for estimating this sort of thing or am I just remember other projects that were actually larger and more complicated than this one, thus taking longer on all counts? In this picture you can see why I didn't bother with the bias binding. The stripe hardly reads as a stripe at all. The binding is completely sewn by machine. I cut my binding a scant 1/8" wider than normal so that when I turn it to the back, there's plenty extending over the seam line. I pin and stitch in the ditch from the front, again using invisible thread.

Remember my intent for the year, taking care of unfinished business? Well this is a huge bit of unfinished business wrapped up. My design wall is now blank and ready for the next bit of unfinished business to work on. About 8-9 yds of fabric are now used up from my rather large stash of reproduction fabrics. I finally have a quilt to curl up under when I'm reading on the office couch. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

The finished size of this quilt is about 75" x 64" - a nice lap size quilt and about 4 inches smaller all around than the top was before quilting. That's about 5% shrinkage rate. This is something I don't think is talked about enough, although if you look at most batting packages, they state a percentage of shrinkage to expect. Of course, if you don't use cotton, but a polyester batting, you may think you have avoided the shrinkage issue. But just quilting a top will cause it to shrink, the amount dependent on how dense the quilting is. In this case, I lost 2 inches in the quilting and the other 2 inches in the washing and drying. While this shrinkage is fairly unnoticeable on a smaller quilt, it is something to remember if you are making a quilt to fit a bed.

And now for a small rant. The pattern used for the crow's feet blocks came from the book Memory Quilts in the Making, compiled and edited by Rhonda Richards (Oxmoor House). My guild members who made the starter blocks for this quilt immediately let me know there was a major error in the cutting instructions. Using the dimensions provided resulted in the skewed block shown above where half of the points don't extend to the edge of the block. We worked out what the correct dimensions should be but not before several members got frustrated and gave up on making a block at all. This particularly angered me since I'd already made a quilt from a different pattern in this book, and it too had a major error in cutting instructions. As an accomplished quilter, I struggled to figure out what I was doing wrong before realizing it wasn't my mistake but the pattern's mistake. If an experience quilter like me was confused, no wonder so many novice quilters give up on quilting all together, thinking it must be them. This book in particular is geared toward the type of quilts that would typically be made by less experienced quilters, so to me it is a crime that more time was not spent proofing the patterns. Once I can almost forgive, twice is now getting on my nerves. If I use any other patterns out of this book, it will be with suspicion for sure.


Sandra Wyman said...

A useful reminder to make up one block before cutting out an entire quilt!

Beautiful quilt and I'm really impressed with the speed!

Chris said...

It's nice to see your quilt finished, thanks for sharing. That is pretty outrageous about the flawed patterns. I think that would send me over the edge. Has anyone written to the publisher?

The Idaho Beauty said...

Sandra, thanks. Yes, I too am impressed with the speed, or rather still in disbelief!

Chris, back when I found that first error, I DID mean to write the publisher, but never did. It seemed like a futile gesture with this type of book compiled by a publishing company. Nowadays, I am finding more and more often that publishers of all kinds think adding an errors page to a website is sufficient. But I would never think to check for mistakes on line before starting to work with a pattern.

The WestCountryBuddha said...

This has turned out beautifully. You old speed quilter you! I was interested in the shrinkage too; quite a lot I thought. I think a mistake like you found in a book which is supposed to be for others to use is unforgivable. As publishers, they should ensure the patterns are correct or give you your money back. (sorry, feeling cross this morning - trousers too tight)

Nola G said...

I agree with your comments about invisible thread looking more like hand quilting. I have taken that a step further and when quilting lines etc with the foot on I set the machine for what I call a Wobbly Straight Stitch. That is a slight zig-zag - width about 1 - 1.5, length about 3. This gives an even softer, hand quilted look to the quilting line.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Nola, now there's a tip I've not run across before. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks!