Thursday, 15 September 2011

Emily's Quilt

Hi, I'm Emily. I'm just about to go off to University on Saturday. I haven’t quilted a quilt in about 6 years – I did a table runner a few months ago, but I hardly think that counts! Even so, I have been practising quilting for a good couple of years – since I started going to shows with my mom. At the shows, you’re demoing all day, three or four days in a row, so by the end you get to be pretty good. I've also been doodling for ages! In the last year, whenever we’ve had a meeting, we’ll always have about 10 minutes where we’re just doodling on the backs of our notes, comparing styles and thinking of different ways to use a design. So although I have never considered myself a quilter, I have done enough practise to make myself good at quilting certain designs.

In April, we had a machine quilter’s retreat, and there’s always a lot of doodling time. I got Trudi Woods to show me how she did a certain design, and when I tried to copy her, I made a mistake, which both of us thought actually looked quite nice, so it became a new quilting doodle! Trudi has gone on to use the design in lots of her quilts, but the fascinating thing is how different her version of the same design is to mine!

So I’ve been practising this design on paper, at shows, everywhere, for months. So it was really about time that I got it down onto a quilt! Mom and I decided to make a quilt as an ‘Emily-Goes-to-Uni’ kind of present, which gave us a deadline (this Saturday!) to work toward.

We decided to sew this extra black strip on one side of the top of the quilt as a place to practice my design and work out my tension before moving on to the quilt top. It was really useful to have the ‘side stage’ strip – so I could get my jerky beginning out of the way. Once I’d started quilting, it flowed very easily. The repetitive motion was, well, repetitive, but it required a certain amount of concentration - look out for that line, which way am I turning next? Right, that’s as far up as I can go, moving on, pause and swing, oh and breathe– if you forget to breathe you get to the end of a row and are gasping for air! Luckily, I remembered to breathe, but I still had to catch myself a couple times and take deeper breaths to relax my shoulders.

I also kept my design maximum one hand’s width tall, because I knew that as I got to the end of the quilt, I would only have about that much space to quilt with, so to keep everything looking even, I took care to watch out for the size of the design. Here I am at the very end. Even with the big roll of fabric under the arm of the machine. I still have plenty of room to execute my design. It helps that the JUKI TL98-P arm is two inches wider and taller than most sewing machines.

I cannot even begin to describe the importance of the ‘rise and fall’ method of quilting! This is quilting in a wavy line, rather than straight across. This is so important because it makes your quilt look like you haven’t quilted it in strips on a frame; it makes everything ‘dovetail’ together really rather seamlessly. To make my design merge properly, I did a lot of scalloping and echoing to fill in the spaces that weren't quite big enough for the whole, um, design. Some of my designs were bigger than others, they went in different directions, some had scalloping, some didn’t, but they all fit together and it looks lovely and complete.

In my breaks yesterday, I would stop once I’d finished two lines of quilting, three if I was on a roll ;) and go and practise the piano. I’m trying to learn a new piece by George Winston, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot of repetition involved in learning the piano too! It was nice actually, to go from one repetitive motion to another, because they were both very different; the quilting is a whole body kind of motion, but my hands are always kept still holding the sewing machine/Nifty Grips, whereas the piano requires me to sit very straight (good for my back!) and to move my fingers very fast, a lot. So it was good to switch between the two.

I had perfect tension all of yesterday, which was awesome. Then today, when I neared the finish line, something happened. I don’t know what, because I didn’t change anything about the sewing machine or the frame, but something changed. Suddenly, my tension underneath was pulling the top thread through and it looked nasty. The stitches weren't looking nice and weren’t held down properly, so they’d have come out if I washed the quilt. We used a mirror to see underneath. All was not well - we needed to do some unpicking!

We adjusted the tension on the sewing machine, so it was tighter on the top, and it helped a bit, but not enough. So we took the sewing machine off the frame, cleaned it out (there was quite a lot of fluff from the fleece in there!), put a new bobbin in, and oiled it. Then did some free-motion quilting on a practice piece off-the-frame to get any surplus oil out of the machine so it didn’t stain the quilt and to check that the problem had been solved. Luckily it had. I really hate quilting this way! It reminds me why we have a frame! Unluckily, I still had all these stiches that looked bad, so I had to sit there and unpick! It probably took three quarters of an hour to unpick a quarter of a line of stitching, which took me maybe 10 minutes to quilt. About halfway through my mom comments: So, whose idea was it to quilt such a complicated pattern? Thanks mom : )

After sorting the unpicking, I put the poles back into the frame, rolled them up, and started as if I’d never stopped. I had 'dancey' tunes playing, and everything was great. Finished in no time – and even signed my name!

Now I’m exhausted, yet ridiculously pleased with myself for actually quilting a quilt!!


jill said...

That's just beautiful!!

Trudi said...

It's beautiful Emily! And I love that you filled in with scollops and echo quilting, makes it so different and so pretty! Good luck at Unit! x

Dale said...

Well done, Emily! I have been staring at your new quilting pattern. Looks to me like you have been doing this for years! Reminds me of vines climbing up an old oak tree! Have a great time at Uni. Dale

Emily Milne said...

Thanks Jill!! :) :)

Trudi - it's so funny to me how our pattern looks so different when we each do it! Thanks for the luck - uni is fun at the moment! Not particularly loving getting lost in London though... :/

Thank you Dale :) I have been doodling this particular pattern for months!