Treadle On 1999 Summer Mystery Quilt
Basically, we have this quilt finished, as far as any regular mystery quilt instructions would be concerned. However, since I did say that this would be a project for real beginners, I am going to do a page on the quilting, and one on the edging. I want to emphasize very, very strongly that what I describe and picture is not necessarily a "right" way. There are several different ways to do everything in quilting. What I describe is simply the way I do it. It isn't necessarily the best way, it's just what has worked for me.
I also need to caution you that do to the length of time this project hung up on me, it got in the way of several other projects. When I hit the quilting phase, I got really sloppy and in the mode of "let's get this over with and move on". You're going to notice some pretty sloppy work, but it is the technique I am trying to show, not my own excellence or lack thereof.
The first phase of quilting is to lay out the layers... back, bat and top. They have to all lie together smoothly, and then be basted. You have to decide on how you are going to edge your quilt before you begin the layering process. If you are going to use the "inside out" method, the order in which you stack the pieces is different than if you are going to use either the "front to back" or "back to front" methods, or add a separate binding. I like to use the front to back method and this is what I will describe. Consult any good quilt book for information on the other systems. I especially recommend the Eleanor Burns "Quilt in a Day" books for her description of the inside out method.
You will need a back, larger than the top. For larger quilts, this will require joining two or even three pieces of fabric. I used muslin, and since my piece was small, I did not have to create a seam in the middle.
For the front to back edging method, in which part of the border you sewed to the top will be folded around to the back, you begin the layering process by laying out the back. The key to a good flat quilt, with minimal puckering and foldovers, is to have everything in the "wafer" (all three layers) smooth. I tape the freshly ironed back down to a table or the floor. Do not stretch it... smooth is out till it is really flat by starting in the center and smoothing outwards with your hands. When you are satisfied, lightly tape the corners and sides. Again, don't stretch it too much, just tack it down so it doesn't lift up.
The muslin back, smoothed and taped down
Next, lay a piece of bat on top of the back. I used an all cotton bat. I usually use polyester bats, but I had this on hand and have been trying to get more experience with the cotton. I trimmed it so it was a bit smaller than the back. Both pieces are still notably larger than the top. Again, smooth it out, running your hands from the middle outwards. When you are satisfied that both it and the bat are really flat, tape it down.
This picture is fuzzy, but you can see the bat laid on top of the back and taped
Next, lay the freshly ironed top on the bat. Smooth again and tape the top down.
Top laid onto bat, completing the wafer
At this point, the wafer must be joined so that you can handle it, and so that the layers don't separate or "walk" as you sew. You can baste them with thread, pin, or use the new basting guns. (Note: Since writing this piece, I have started using yet another new technique, fusible batting. You layer things just as shown, but then you iron them and the fusuible glue melts and adheres them. Some folks don't like it, I do. I have used it for up to a king size quilt, but it is espeically handy on small projects.) There are advantages to all of the methods. On this project, I pinned, which is the most common method, and really good to have experience with. The key to good pinning is lots... and lots. On a big quilt I will use 300 to 500 safety pins. I use the English brass safety pins. I find that the steel pins commonly sold in stores are never sharp, and I really hate that. I also replace my pins about every 2 years. They get dull. Dull pins make holes in fabric that don't close up as neatly as sharp pin holes.
Begin your pinning in the center of the quilt and work in lines out to the edge. Try to put the pins in with minimal disturbance of the wafer. I generally put a row in vertically, then a row in horizontally, then corner to corner, then fill in the hollow spots. Pins should be about 4 to 5 inches apart.
Picture of pinned quilt.... note that borders are also pinned.
One other thing I do while pinning is to designate the top and right side of the quilt. I put one or two extra pins in the top edge and on the right edge. This way, I can always know which direction I am stitching in. This quilt has a distinctive pattern with a dark block in the upper left corner, so it isn't as critical. However, most quilts can look the same from either end, and the pins are helpful in insuring that all my vertical seams go only in one direction (top to bottom) and horizontal seams in one directions (right side to left side). Sewing one seam in one direction and the next in the other can result in a very odd looking quilt if the fabric "walks" first one way, then the other.
Once the quilt is pinned, trim the bat and back away
Trimming the wafer
Trimmed wafer, or layered quilt...
The pinning process serves to lock the wafer together. This is actually also what the quilting process is for. The quilting is simply a much better job that will last longer and look better. In fact, a good quilting pattern can noticeably add to the attractiveness of the finished product.
This quilt is somewhat unusual in that it has a strong diagonal motif with staggered blocks. Most quilts have the blocks joined in nice even lines both vertically and horizontally. Normally, I begin my machine quilting by trying to divide the quilt into smaller units as quickly as possible. The longer the seam, the more "walking" you are likely to get and the more likely you are to have foldovers or tucks. I start by "locking in the blocks"... stitching in the ditch at the block edges. Generally, I start with the middle horizontal seam, stitching from the right side of the quilt to the left. However, again, this quilt is a little different. We have nice neat vertical rows, but because we staggered the blocks in each row, we have no nice neat horizontal seams. We can turn this into an advantage by quilting in a diagonal pattern that emphasizes our layout pattern.
A walking foot or even feed foot attachment is a decided advantage in machine quilting. These are readily available for machines that use low shank, high shank or slant shank attachments. Unfortunately, they are not available for machines that use the top clamp type attachments. This includes most of the older non-Singer treadles... Nationals, Whites, Standards, New Home, etc. For machine quilting with these machines, reduce your foot pressure to a minimum and be prepared to use your hands to help the feed system, while guiding the material. You will find that with practice it works just as well for you as it did for Grandma.
I chose to divide the quilt into fourths by running a diagonal seam from the right side to the left side in the approximate middle, then stitched the middle vertical seam from top to bottom. Then I did two more vertical seams, dividing the two vertical halves, then two more diagonals, etc. My diagonal lines go from corner to corner in the light square sections. There is no actual quilting in the dark sections.
Roll your quilt up so that you can feed it under your machine head. You will have to roll and unroll it numerous times. That's why you want to do a good job of pinning or basting.
Here is a shot of the rolled quilt (quite small in my case) set to begin the completion of the diagonal seams. I have sewn several diagonals at this point, and all of the verticals. Having accomplished that much, to finish the quilt, I rolled it and just began in this corner and unrolled as I went....
and unrolled, and unrolled.
You can see the walking, or even feed, foot on the machine, behind the needle. On most machines, you need to give the walking foot a little help... gently control the fabric, helping the feed a bit as well as guiding. Sometimes the fabric hangs up a bit. Sometimes you can see the top layer bunching ahead of the foot. For hangups, you can help feed. For bunching, you can provide some drag and let the walking foot catch up with the bottom feed dogs. With practice, you can do an amazingly good job of avoiding the dreaded "fold overs". I advise making up some one foot squares of wafer and doing a good bit of practicing before doing your quilt. And don't panic when you make small puckers or even very small fold overs. Remember that you will be washing the finished quilt. This will cause an overall puckering that covers a multitude of sins...
This photo came out pretty good. The dark rectangle at the upper left is the upper left corner. Note that the diagonal stitch line in what would be vertical column 2 starts at what would be the center of a full sized light square. This is because you only have half a square at this point. The next column starts with a whole square, and the pattern repeats. The stitching of the vertical columns is not very visible in this picture.
Here you have a view of the back of the quilt after the quilting is finished. As I mentioned, I really got in a hurry. Also, I used three different machines to do the quilting, as I was testing and playing with them. I've done better work, but this is not bad. There are puckers, which will disappear in the finished quilt after washing, but there are no foldovers or tucks. Note that the choice of diagonal lines for quilting has added some interest to the appearance of the back of the quilt.
Assuming you are ready to do so, you may progress to Part Nine via the link below. Part Nine describes how to layer and pin your quilt.