Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, July 23, 2010

I have Issues!

A whole month has passed without a post. I have been busy working on that dratted quilt but I've had some issues. I decided to do quite a lot of thread painting around the sun appliqué.
Thread painting is a technique, typically applied to a quilt top (or other work) before batting and backing are added. Basically one uses different colors and shades of thread to create a design or image on the piece. Some can be quite detailed, and to achieve these effects, most crafters will want to use free motion quilting. However, I just wanted to create some additional rays of sun that were more subtle than the ones rendered in fabric. As a result, I used my trusty 1950's straight stitch Singer set on the longest stitch and about a dozen different colors of Gutermann thread. Gutermann is expensive by comparison to something like Coats & Clark, but for a project like this, it's well worth it to me. I find it is much less likely to break and split. I also chose all cotton thread because all of the other components of the quilt are cotton. Did you know that polyester thread can saw away at the cotton fibers in a quilt causing them to break down and tear? That's why even quilter's polyester threads are usually cotton wrapped poly.  Anyway I'm honestly quite happy with the result so far.
My next decision was to stipple virtually everything else on the quilt. What was I thinking? Stippling is a technique of free motion quilting that is generally used for background areas. Because the stitching is very dense and close together, it tends to make those sections lie flat and recede, while other areas are more puffed up and noticeable. However, I decided that along with this quilt being a blend of many different small blocks of fabric from different shades of the same color families, I would continue this impressionistic approach and use different shades of threads to blend one area into another.
I might have underestimated just a tad on the amount of labor I was letting myself in for. I've quilted on this project for many hours over the past two weeks and I still have about a third of the quilt to go. Not only that, I ran into a real snag with my stippling technique.
Basically stippling is like meander except that the lines are never supposed to cross and the stitching lines are much closer together - typically 1/4 inch or less. Well I went great guns for several hours a day for several days and all of a sudden the machine started skipping stitches.
What was wrong with my machine? Believe me I was deep into the inner workings of my machine - completely dismantled the tension assembly and put it back together - before I decided that the problem was me. Just like with knitting and crochet, the tension of the quilter will have an effect on the quilt. Nothing had changed with the machine - same tension, settings, bobbin and top thread, etc. But from one day to the next, I was more tense. As a result my motions moving the quilt under the free motion darning foot were faster and more jerky. What you want is slow, and smooth with nice little tight loops. Once I figured that out, I decided to set the project aside for a few days and work on something else. Next up I'll post about the project I used to relax and put me back in the mood to quilt. And hopefully by then I'll be closer to a finished quilt too.