Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Quilt Batting, Handquilting, and One More Sneak Peak

Not all quilt battings are created the same. One type is best for machine quilting and another batting is best for hand quilting. I'm a hand quilter and when I furiously dug through quilt battings in November, I finally found one that was twin size and was marked for being appropriate for hand quilting. I had so many things going on at that time rushing through my head, that it didn't register with me that I should look more carefully at the fiber content: cotton. Uh oh. (Insert rumble of thunder while at the quilt store.)

Three months later when I finally prepared my son's quilt to lay on the batting sandwich, I took a good look at the package of batting I had bought. As I opened the package I noticed directions, which I read, but they were confusing.

Well, whatever the directions meant, I decided to at least make the quilt sandwich, because that did seem to be step 1. The key was to note the glue layer of the batting and have that side lay on top of the wrong side of the back of the quilt as I made the quilt sandwich.

Glue? My heart sank. I do not like to add chemicals to my quilting, and I had already made a concession with Mary Ellen's Best Press. Well I had already paid for the batting months ago. It was hard to find that size at the time. I might as well use it and make the best of it.

So I prepared my quilt sandwich properly and traditionally. I put in pins to secure the edges to the floor and make the fabric taut, in preparation for basting.  This part is extremely important to quilting,  so that  there are no puckers or wrinkles. The goal is a flat quilt of 3 layers (top, batting, bottom) and this is the way to do it.

I had been recovering from a long bout with bronchitis and I still had an extremely sore side from all the coughing I did in December and January, so this process completely wore me out. Yet I felt a happy feeling of accomplishment to see the quilt sandwiched and taut, ready for basting.

Throughout this process, I finally determined the pattern I wanted to create with the quilting, and I decided to do that with hand quilting. There was no way I'd endure hefting this to the sewing machine. Besides, I prefer the old-fashioned look of hand stitches more than sewing machine stitches. I knew my son would too. Also with it being winter with many snow storms on the horizon, I knew I'd be far more comfortable sitting on the couch hand quilting this while enjoying movies and television shows in front of the fireplace than in the other colder room struggling with my sewing  machine.


Once all three layers were laid out and pinned, I reread the directions to figure out the best method of basting. On closer examination, the confusing directions seemed definitely incomplete and unproofread.The directions basically said:

Step 1: Make the quilt sandwich (lay the bottom layer right side to the floor, lay down the batting, then lay the top layer right side facing up).

Step 2: Then we were to flip the quilt upside down to iron the bottom of the quilt to the glue side of the batting.

What???? By the time I flip it, I would undo all the work I had done to lay everything out and smoothing out all those winkles, pulling it taut and pinning it to the floor. Now they want  me to do what????? Unpin all that to flip it? Why didn't they just say to do the quilt sandwich in reverse (top side facing the floor, then lay down the batting glue side up, then lay the bottom face up), because that is exactly what I would have to do for step 2.  Even though I already said I don't like glue and fusibles with quilts, if I'm going to do all that, why bother with step 1? Why not make step 2, step 1. There was no logic here.
Step 3: Now the directions said it was time to quilt.

How???? The top  of the quilt is still loose according to these directions. How am I supposed to secure the top? Surely it's done in a special way if the back was ironed on to the batting.

I went to the website.  I could not find clear directions there. I went to the blog and read through every post. I didn't find a single post addressing the basting of the top of the quilt. I went to their facebook page, but there were no details there either. I left a question that evening. While waiting for an answer, I googled to see if anyone had details on the use of this product but I didn't find anything helpful beyond a 5" quilt block that had straight pins in the top corners to secure the top after the back was fused. Um...a 5" quilt block is not the same as quilting an extra-long twin quilt. Help! The  next morning at the facebook page someone responded that yes, I would need to baste the top, but not much basting would be needed because the bottom is nicely secure. And the beauty, they reminded me, was that this batting was soft, unlike other fusible battings, because only the bottom side of the batting is ironed on to the back of the quilt. 

But, but, but...the top still isn't secure. If I use my regular sewing machine, I have to roll up my properly pin basted quilt so that the quilt would fit through the arm. For hand quilting I must have the top properly thread basted so that it will not slip and slide and wrinkle and pucker during the quilting process.

I asked how much/how little basting I would need to do for an extra-long quilt but I never heard back. That was nearly a month ago.

I did read on-line from one user that it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r (as in hours) to iron the bottom to the back of the batting. Ugh. Nothing that I read motivated me to give the dream fusion batting a try. I had already wasted 24 hours trying to figure out dream fusion batting. I should have skipped the directions and moved right on to the thread basting.

After I thread basted the traditional quilt sandwich, I settled down on the couch to hand quilt this fun red, white and blue quilt. It was a nightmare! That cotton is much too dense for hand quilting. I had severe carpal tunnel syndrome with my first few stitches. My shoulder was also in great pain.

I conquered though! Instead of using a traditional quilting needle I used a larger needle. Also I quit trying to load stitches. Instead, I merely took one stitch at a time. I reconciled myself to having larger stitches, as opposed to smaller stitches. The key to hand quilting is to have consistently sized stitches. Smaller is the goal, but larger is acceptable if they are consistent. Larger was the only way with this batting.  Additionally, I put aside the quilt hoop. That is correct! I did not use the quilt hoop at all. As long as this is properly basted, I'm good to go!

And the result...I conquered! I stitched my last stitch ten minutes before I left to pick up my son from college for spring break! When he came home, he found his new quilt laying on his bed. Stay tuned for that!

PS-From now on I'm looking for luscious wool batting! =)

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