Monday, February 25, 2008

Pushing Past Some Roadblocks

This past weekend I made two more chenille pillows (containing the crab fabric as the base fabric, so the crabs are visible only if you push the chenille strips out of the way). I'm chenilled out! They're fine, but not wonderful. One problem is that I washed the pillow forms, and they shrank, leaving the covers a bit loose. Also, my pillow-design skills leave something to be desired, but I'm committed to posting not so good, as well as the good.

Next, I made a little curtain out of some of the linen quilt scraps. It needs a final ironing, and I still need a curtain rod. The strips stretched a bit while sewing, so there's some unevenness, but that's okay. This is for the knee hole below the master bathroom vanity, to cover up my Threads magazine collection and other quilt/sewing-related stuff that I'm storing there.

All this sewing left me with lots of time to think, and one of the main topics was my unfinished quilt projects. One quilt top in particular has run into roadblocks that I really want to clear. It's been done for well over a year now:
The thing is huge! Not any room left for borders, and I'm even thinking of taking off a row, but that's a minor distraction from the main problem, which is that most of the fabrics are from shirts made of very tightly woven cotton---especially the background, which is several varieties of very fine white pima. 

Here's a closeup. Sorry about the quality. This picture was taken later, and photography conditions were deteriorating rapidly.

First, I asked myself, can this be hand quilted? In short, no. With cotton batting, it's next to impossible, unless I stab stitch, which is not only slower than the rocking stitch but will inevitably lead to a messy-looking back with large stitches that are vulnerable to breakage, and this is meant to be a working bed quilt. With wool batting, it's a little easier, but wool is yellow, and I don't want the show-through. Adding a layer of thin white fabric will take care of the show-through but just makes the quilting harder. 

Moving along, I asked, what about machine quilting? I don't have a machine-quilting frame, so I need to baste the layers. First major problem: safety pins damage the tightly woven fabrics. (I looked with a magnifying glass, and yes, they literally break the threads.) I'm not willing to do that, and I can't find smaller good quality pins. I sometimes baste with straight pins, but only small projects. The pins tend to work themselves out, and the points are much too wicked! 

There's thread basting. Done on the floor (not something I look forward to, but doable) or on a table (less accurate but easier), it leaves long, loose threads on the top. Past experience shows that these get caught on just about everything. Done on my hand-quilting frame, the long stitches could be on the back, which I'm not sure is better. 

Or, I could get a machine frame. I can't afford a real set-up, and don't have room anyway, but experimenting with the Flynn frame might be interesting. But frames restrict the type of quilting, and mainly to the kinds I don't do well.

Which brings me to my machine-quilting skills, or, more to the point, the lack thereof. My straight lines done with a walking foot are okay, although I don't think this will complement the design well. As for free-motion quilting, yes, I've practiced---on two good-sized quilts and several small projects, using different feet and studying up on techniques and common problems. I'm not getting better. Meandering and small circles/loops are the only patterns that look decent, and I'm terrible at following drawn lines. Forget corners. I've come to believe that I just have to accept this profound lack of talent. 

I could send it to a professional. The $300 or so is beginning to look like a reasonable trade for the time, aggravation, and less than desirable results of doing it myself. 

Does anyone have any suggestions or comments? I'm open to it all! 

The star top was stored underneath partially sewn tumbling blocks, so I took a picture of some of those, too:
These blocks are hand pieced. I enjoy it, and I purposely do blocks that would be harder to piece by machine. They also contain tightly woven shirt fabrics, but fewer, and the eventual size will be a lot smaller than the star top, so I'm seriously considering hand quilting with wool batting and allowing the yellowish show-through. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one done!

I'd better get back to doing some paid work now, and preparing for the next snow storm. Yes, yet another one. 


Quilt Pixie said...

I read your later post re using a smaller basting stitch, and think that's a very workable idea... Another might be to tie the quilt rather then quilt it :-)

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

your quilts are always so lovely and soft. I love the calm colors.

Kristin L said...

If it doesn't break the bank, I'd go ahead and send the quilt out for professional machine quilting. Then you can move on to using and enjoying it! It looks like you've got enough other projects to machine and hand quilt yourself, so it's not like you are avoiding a certain task. Don't be too hard on yourself, or think your have to take on all the responsibility. :-) It will be gorgeous no matter how it gets done -- but it probably should get done.