Thursday, November 27, 2008


Okay, I promised I'd answer some quilting questions you had, so here it is, and then I'll tell you a little bit about what I've been up to today.

As some of you know, I have a Juki sewing machine I use for quilting. I also have a Bernina I use for piecing. A few years ago, the Bernina's tension on free motion quilting got kind of squirrely and I took it into the shop for repair. They were able to fix the tension problems to some extent, but it still wasn't quilting the way it should, so I decided I'd either need to buy a new Bernina or find another machine for the quilting part of quilt making.

Well, I'm sure you know what a new Bernina would have cost, so I ended up getting the Juki, and I bought it on eBay. I was a bit apprehensive about making such a big purchase on eBay, but it turned out well, and I got the machine for a really good price.

The Juki has a larger throat space than most domestic machines, so I can quilt a king size quilt. It's mechanical rather than computerized, so if I should ever need to take it in for repairs (hasn't happened yet and I've had it for three or four years), the repairs should be less expensive and I'd be able to take it to any number of different repair shops--not just the authorized dealers for the computerized machines. And if I ever decide I want a frame system, the Juki is one of the machines that's often recommended, although truthfully I doubt that will happen because I just don't have much room, and it does a fine job "as is." The drawback to the Juki is that I don't like to do any piecing on it; it doesn't feel smooth and precise like the Bernina does. Of course, that means that when I switch from quilting to piecing, I have to change out machines, but I've gotten used to it over the last few years.

As far as the quilting itself goes, the first few times I tried free motion quilting, I was petrified. All I can say to those of you in the same position is just try it. Practice. You can take out quilting if you're unhappy just as easily as you can take out regular stitches when you're piecing.

For my first several quilts, I did most of the quilting using a walking foot and only minimal free motion quilting. As I got used to the feel of free motion quilting, I did more and more. The meandering pattern was my favorite, because it's a pretty forgiving pattern. In my mind, I would just visualize jigsaw puzzle pieces--you know all the ins and outs of the pieces?--and try to reproduce something similar in the quilting.

As I got braver, I bought a bunch of quilting templates, and I marked my quilts and followed the lines. I even made a few templates of my own when I had a space to fill and nothing that fit just right.

Before too long, though, I got really tired of doing all that marking. To some extent, I reverted to filling areas with meandering quilting. Then I heard about McTavishing--a type or method of quilting pioneered by Karen McTavish--and I ordered this book:

The swirls I used in the tree quilt are a little bit similar to what she shows here--sorry the photo is dark, but hopefully you can see enough to know what I'm talking about.

To quilt the swirls, I just start quilting a spiral from the outside to the center, making the space between the lines fairly wide. When I get to the center, I loop around and quilt back out, between the lines I first laid down. Then I move on to the next swirl. The circular swirls are not all the same size or even the same shape, so I don't need to worry about being very precise in the quilting--it's just kind of free form. If I end up with a little extra space between swirls, I just go back and fill in.

Someone asked whether this was continuous. Yes, it pretty much is, but every now and then I get to a place where I'm stuck or where I'd need to backtrack too far over quilted lines, so I'll stop and restart. Usually, though, I can fill in a fairly good sized area before I have to restart.

My quilting is far from perfect, and I wouldn't win any awards, but it's just fine for the quilts I make for myself and my family and friends.

Seriously, if you have the least interest in quilting your own quilts but are apprehensive about doing it, I'd recommend you give it a try. Pick something you can practice on that isn't quite as special to you. Use thread in a color that will match the background--you'd be surprised at how little those wobbles and bobbles show up when the thread blends in! Start with small areas and see how it goes. And if you don't prewash your fabric, even better! Once you quilt and wash, and the quilt shrinks up a little, your quilting lines won't really show much except to give the quilt texture.

If you've been quilting for awhile, haven't tried the McTavish style of quilting, and are interested, I'd recommend you get the book or look at some of the examples that are out there on line. If you click HERE, you can visit her website and see some photos of the style. I think more than anything, looking at the McTavish style of quilting expands a quilter's own creativity.

Were there any questions I didn't answer? Let me know if I've overlooked something.

I've spent the day taking down and packing away Autumn. Christmas is poking its nose in the door but hasn't made too much of an appearance yet. Hubby, though, decided I should move the living room furniture around, so we have a slightly new look emerging there. Tomorrow--Thanksgiving--while all of you are enjoying your friends, family, and food, I'll be looking at the mess surrounding me and swearing that there will be NO CHRISTMAS next year--LOL!

Tonight I told Hubby he was on his own as far as dinner was concerned, and I dashed out the door to make a quick trip to Safeway for a couple necessities and Long's Drugs. I always try to stock up on a few extra strings of lights, because I know from past experience that several of the strings that were working just fine when we packed them away last year won't be working this year when we unpack them. While I was at Long's, I found these really cute red and white bell ornaments--sooooo cute, I had to take their photo!

When I got back home, I fixed my own dinner and decided I was much too worn out to keep on decorating, so I retreated to the Sweat Shop and pulled out the recently-neglected Christmas List quilt. If Christmas is determined to march in my direction, I figure I'd better get this one finished up and hung.

I used my very-favoritist-in-all-the-world Thimbleberries fabric for the border. I've been gathering up bits and pieces when I could find it and hording it for the "perfect" quilt. I'm sure YOU don't engage in this kind of abnormal hording behavior, do you?! No, the sane ones among us buy fabric they love and actually USE it, right? Anyway, I think the Christmas List is finally the "perfect" quilt for my long-horded fabric. I still need to add two gingerbread men in each of the four corners, but it's pretty close to being ready to pin and quilt and I'm excited about that!

Thanks for stopping in. If you're living here in the US, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And if you're not--well, have a wonderful day too!


Sandy said...

Kim, you saved your fabric for the right quilt! It looks gorgeous and oh so festive. Thanks for sharing the McTavish method of quilting. Have fun decorating today and be sure to take some "me" time to rest - you have earned it.

PunkiePie said...

Phew! That was a long post to read! Especially with a 3 year old hanging on and waiting her turn to "play" on the computer. Thank you for the all tips/info on quilting. I guess I do have to keep practicing my freemotion skills!

Happy Turkey Day!
Jen :)

Louise SS said...

Happy Thanksgiving! My hubby is American so we always celebrate this day except that this year we did last Thursday.... our US friend whose turn it was to cook this year got her Thursdays mixed up! But that was ok, we had a wonderful meal with friends and family...Living in Sweden Thanksgiving is just a regular day so it feels special with a big celebration. And it is important for us to give our children this tradition (next year we will do it on the right day since I keep track of the right day!!!!) Hope I don't mess it up!
Anyway, I love your Tree quilt and your Christmas List is so cute! I always seem to save fabric to use for something special....but somehow it never gets used. Instead I go and buy new smart is that!

Yvette said...

Thank you for all the tips. All this time I thought you had a longarm machine. You do beautiful work!

debijeanm said...

Kim, you are one of the "things" I have to be thankful for this year. You never fail to cheer me up and inspire me to quilt (although, I confess, I rarely get to put my hands to fabric with everything else going on around here right now.) Hope you have (had?) a lovely day.

SuBee said...

Wait - you say SANE people purchase fabric then actually use it? Oh dear --
That really is the perfect fabric for that border, great quilt! Your quilting is terrific, and you let us look close. You have nothing to worry about. That McTavishing book helped me let loose too -- it's not as hard as we try to make it!

MichelleB said...

Love the post! It explains a lot. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I have a Juki, too, and it quilts like a dream. But my quilting is not nearly as nice as yours. Perhaps you can give me a lesson?

Have a wonderful day,

Kathy B

Judy said...

Oh I agree...that border fabric is fabulous! And no! of course we don't hoard fabric in this house! Look away from the 9...yes 9yards...of border fabric for my NJ Triangles quilt. Just kept buying to make sure I had enough for the sashing and borders. The quilt turned out fabulous and you have spurred Carol and I to get ours done this year so it's ready for next Christmas!

Now, I LOVE the swirl quilting and will have to try that soon on just the right project. I used to be more adventurous than I am now actually. Did you use a red, green, white variegated thread for that? Looks like it. It works perfectly.

I'm glad to see someone else having tension issues on the Bernina after years of use, they fix mine and it's still not quite right for free-motion. What model Juki did you buy? I'd get one but I'm hoping to get a mid-arm next year so I won't need both, but I'll keep your model in mind!
Have fun decorating! Love the bells!

Linda said...

Hi Kim, had to enlarge the picture to really look at that border fabric--absolutely love it and glad you waited for the perfect quilt! You're a brave woman to use a Juki--I had one and it drove me nuts! The tension just wasn't good. However, now I drive a Babylock and just love it! Do you use a frame? I'm going to try one but so far I just manipulate without one!
Lurking Linda

Gran said...

Love the border fabric - you have such good instincts!

Thank you for the update on your machine quilting. I just completed my first machine quilted quilt. What a mess in my view, hubby and daughter-in-law think it looks great.... Took a class and with your info I will keep on. I am used to hand quilting everything and life is just to short now (being a two time cancer survivor :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Lorraine said...

Ha Ha....fabric hoarding...!! I think I invented it....LOL....I buy fabric that I don't want to use for "just anything"....and then buy some more in case I do use it!!..and with the amount of new fabric lines coming out that is just ridiculous because there is always something new that I just LOVE...and what about all the FQ packs, Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes and all the other yummy new things that are there to tempt least they are calorie free! No Thanksgiving holiday here so I created my own and took the day off....! Great tut on the quilting..I have been playing around with free motion and you are right you can upick quilting just as well as regular sewing!! and washing does make all the difference....hides many "sins"......a glass of champagne before commencing also helps!! LOL

MARCIE said...

That is the perfect fabric for the border! I remember that fabric from about 15 years ago! Your quilt is wonderful. I enjoyed all your tips so much that I may just start quilting. LOL! Hope your day is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my quilting questions. I'm going to try your ideas soon. I don't know any "sane" quilters. We are all just like you. Love your Blog!

Julia from Jo's Little Women said...

Not only do I save/hoard my most special fabric, but I save the inside of a pieced quilt knowing that someday the fabric will show up. I have a peiced Alex Anderson pattern star quilt that I have waited for YEARS for the perfect border fabric. This last October the fabric just showed up. I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the perfect border.

Carol said...

What great machine quilting info...I'm really going to work at that this year. LOVE,LOVE,LOVE your Christmas list...and who hoards fabric????????LOL!

Marylin's Quilt Basket said...

I read about your quilt and I ran to Amazon and bought the book. I can't wait to give it a try. I have the Bernina BSR foot and I hope the book will be better than taking a class. We'll see. Thanks so much for your help. Marylin

DPUTiger said...

Ooh, that's too bad that you don't like piecing with your Juki. I have a Brother 1500 and I love it to the point where my poor Bernina only comes out of its case when I need a zig-zag stitch. Very similar machine to your Juki and I just love it to pieces.

I've been seriously slammed and spent a football-watching evening catching up on about 6 weeks (and 45 posts!) worth of your blog. I'm glad to be back up to speed on your world! :)