Starting to machine quilt

Last weekend I put together the quilt sandwich for the machine-stitched pink quilt, for my aunt. I’ve had more fun! First, on Friday night, I cleaned the machine (which I’ve never done before) and fitted the quilting / walking / easy feed foot. Mercifully, that went fine and I see now what a big difference having the foot makes. The clunking sound as it goes along is quite noticeable, and for some reason the stitching seems to be going faster, it sometimes takes me by surprise (like my attempts to drive). I tested various tensions on the sample mini quilt, and thought I’d got the right one (minus 2).

Saturday brought putting it all together. I used low-adhesive masking tape to tape the back to the floor and spent ages, with my husband’s help, marking the diagonal lines for quilting, using quilter’s tape. I’ve never used it before, but in my one previous attempt at diagonal lines I used yellow chalk and unfortunately didn’t realise you couldn’t sew over the top of it without getting permanent yellow lines across the quilt. Plus, the bits I didn’t sew over rubbed off, and I found I couldn’t see pencil lines, and am scared to use the wipe-off pen in case it doesn’t wipe off. I know you’re supposed to test it first, but given how many different fabrics I use it would get silly,  and I still wouldn’t feel safe. I did realise I’d have to cut gaps in the masking tape where the lines crossed, but still thought it the best option. I didn’t realise the roll of quilter’s tape wouldn’t go that far, so just had to trust that the low-adhesive masking tape my husband uses for his crafting wouldn’t mark the fabric.

Quilt sandwich (before pinning) with lines marked out

Then I pinned it in place, or tried to. Not so easy when it’s taped to the floor!

I sewed quilting lines corner to corner, and the line either side of the central one, managing just two lines on Saturday and four on Sunday. Husband had to help me, because I couldn’t get quilt to move forward under my own steam, the weight of it meant the needle sometimes went up and down on the spot, so he sat opposite me and lifted it. I got some rucks underneath – maybe bad pinning? – and unpicked on line for a bit to get to the ruck, tied the threads together and hid the knot inside the quilting, then picked it up on the machine and redid it, but I am not keen to do that again, it was difficult and not neat.

The other, main, big problem came on Sunday, after I’d refilled the bobbin on Saturday night. Only after I’d done a whole line did I realise something was wrong, because it had started off fine. When I looked, some of the stitches were tiny and pulled hard. Starting the next line, husband noticed that underneath when it came his way the threads had formed little loops. Fortunately because I’d only done a bit I could pull that out, but we then spent ages testing different tensions, reading the instruction book, etc., trying to work out what was wrong. Then I thought it was no coincidence it happened after I’d changed the bobbin, so I tried refitting it. To be honest, I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong / differently, but it still helped. I also moved the pressure regulator wheel (sorry, don’t think that’s what it’s called, but it’s at the front and has 3 settings) so it was on 3 instead of 2, which helped even more, and after that it was okay. I had my shoulders up round my ears, though, and I don’t think the chair I work on is a good height, so had both a headache and a crick in my neck to start Monday morning! There was also the part where I lifted the needle to get a bit of errant masking tape out of the way and didn’t realise I hadn’t put it back on exactly the spot, so that looks bad, and also happens to be on one of the squares with a pinwheel, so the diagonal quilting line runs parallel to, but about half a cm away from, the central diagonal of the pinwheel. All in all, bit of a nightmare! I had wanted to finish the rest of the quilting, but not the binding, before we go away for a week’s break, which gives me only the next two weekends and I’m really not sure if it’s viable. The lines will get shorter, of course, and hopefully I’ve got the tension problems sorted out, so maybe…

But on the whole, not very satisfactory and I don’t know that I’ll do my autumn quilt with the machine. But I would like to make a cushion cover and would use it for that because it’s smaller, and because I’ll do all the patchwork by hand the corners of the blocks should meet so I can just ‘stitch the ditch’, which I couldn’t do on the pink quilt because the seams where the blocks were joined are wonky and I thought stitching a straight line over the top would make that more noticeable. Though in the end, I don’t know whether it would be better or worse than what I’m doing. Anyway, I’ll use the machine for cushion covers but don’t know that I could face it again for something big.



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