Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Digitally Printed Fabric/Multiple Madness Quilt

A Multiple Madness Block

A group of my quilty friends loves making Multiple Madness Quilts. When a beautiful line of fabric sporting peacocks came along, they were in in love! (Might I say like peahens?) One finished top turned up at my studio for quilting this summer, and I thought you might want to see how I went about it. Also, I had a major snag hold up the project, and would appreciate some advice from you.

69" x 84" After Quilting

I had to use this picture to show the illusion of the floating medallions. What a fabulous use of the background fabric, and the cobalt blue and black frames make this a 3D wonder!

This is highly saturated color already so I used matching thread color to blend, and both rulers and hand-guided quilting throughout.

Black, green and cobalt blue stitching

Almost all the quilting has a rounded element to soften the straight lines.

On the background fabric around the medallions, I used blue thread. On the same background fabric in the border, I chose green.

I wanted to use this stopping point to show two things. One, a longarmer can only quilt the distance between the bars before having to roll the quilt. Also, we always want to avoid the appearance of a stop and start in the quilting. Quilting part way across this seam helps to disguise it, and two, leaving a bit of open area at the inside near the black border will help me blend when I restart. Never stop your quilting at a seam if it can be helped.

Digitally Printed Fabrics: The Flaws?

Now to show you the problem I encountered. I have debated for weeks about whether or not I should talk about this, but have talked to many other professional longarmers and fabric store owners about it. I think this is an important issue with the surge of digitally printed fabrics available now, and alert you to some potential issues.

I am a stickler for good thread tension, and particular about how the stitches look on both the front and the back of a quilt. I often make several adjustments to my tension dial before I'm happy with it, and re-check after each new bobbin. Imagine my shock when I saw the little white nubs in the stitching all over the backing! Was that a tension problem?You can see a few in the photo above as the backing rolls over the bar. 

Yes, I freaked out more than a little bit, and thought, "It has to be a bad needle!" A new needle in, and no change at all. Yet another new needle to replace that one, and in a smaller size. The same thing all over. What was happening, and why? 

No, it wasn't batting 'bearding' through the stitches. It appeared to be entirely the fabric itself as the nubs were hard. Examining the original fabric, and also comparing some other manufacturers lines, too, several store owners and I noticed white nubs on digitally printed fabrics on the bolt. It appeared to be tiny nubs that were in the original solid fabric, and the printing didn't fully cover. When you brushed across the fabric surface, you moved the nub, and could see the white spot.

Additionally, you can see this digitally printed fabric above used in the quilt top leaves some white dots beside the stitching where the needle has pierced the fabric. Not at all happy with the appearance, I stopped my stitching before ripping it out. The tiny run in the fabric was obvious (inside the lower circle). I have experienced this before using cotton sateen, but never quilting cottons. This is where I stopped my quilting altogether until I could talk to the experts.

I talked to everyone who would listen. Only a few people had used a digitally printed backing yet, but in the end, I heard the same thing from everyone. It was the fabric. The white nubs had to be caused by splitting the fibers somehow, and were visible because this was only surface printed. There was quite a bit of eye rolling considering the premium cost of digitally printed fabrics, too. 

Might I venture to say, Quilter Beware? Test your own fabric before adding yards of it to a precious quilt! Maybe your experience is completely different. If you have anything more to add to the conversation, I welcome your advice, comment, experience, and so on. 

The quilt is still very beautiful, the maker happy, and the backing is the only thing really affected, but digitally printed fabric is no longer on my shopping list. Please share your experience using it if you have. Inquiring minds want to know.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
UFO Busting
(Because your UFO's become mine!)


Katy S said...

Thanks for posting this! I have not yet quilted on digitally printed fabric, but I do have a couple panels waiting. Don’t think I’ll be buying any for backing!

Linda Swanekamp said...

Wow, talk about a bombshell. I have only bought a panel of digital fabric so far. Can't believe no one has brought this up. Keep me posted.
I had never seen the pattern of the quilt you showed. I have made a number of one block wonders, but have never seen this. The pattern does not seem to be available anywhere, so I am not sure what it takes to make one. You did a wonderful job quilting it and explaining your thinking.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Thanks for the information and your diligence in finding the source of the nubs.
xx, Carol

ShirleyC said...

It turned out beautiful, but I feel your pain. I bought some fabric that the designer had printed, and I assume it's this method.
It was the hardest fabric I've ever sewn on, and I was making an Easter outfit for my great-granddaughter. It turned out cute, but like you, I changed the needle a few times because it would make a lout popping sound going into the fabric. I know I'll never buy anymore.

Barb Neiwert said...

We quilters are awfully picky, aren't we? With good reason! The digital prints are so pretty, but I hadn't thought about them behaving any differently than regular quilting cottons. But it makes sense. I also love that you posted about this quilt because I have a similar quilt coming to me soon for quilting, and I wasn't sure how to address due to the busy-ness of the prints in it. But I love your quilting here and may borrow some of that for this one. And great tip on ending the quilting before the roll!

Sharon - IN said...

Hmmm. When doing some hand stitching on an older piece of fabric from my stash, I got those nubs. Perplexing. I thought perhaps it was a poor quality fabric I picked up from who-knows-where. I've not used digital printed fabric. But thanks for the post.

audrey said...

This is so interesting. I've had fabric where I pulled little nubs off while hand quilting and was left with a white spot. Didn't realize it was a digitally printed fabric, just thought it was low quality! Hate it so much on a darker fabric, makes me want to kick something.:) lol Glad you got the experts together and figured out what was going on!

KaHolly said...

I love how you share your knowledge and experiences so we can all learn, whether it’s historical, technical, or General need-to-know. Thanks so much for that.

Janice Holton said...

I've only ordered printed fabric one time. It was supposed to be black with white constellations on it. When it arrived, the black was not at all black. More like charcoal. Disappointed.

Kate said...

Those digitally printed fabrics are so pretty, so it's nice to know you may want to use them sparingly and in very specific type of projects. Thanks for sharing your experience with them.

Sandy Panagos said...

That's such a shame. I'n glad your were able to figure it out. I will certainly be alert to that issue if digitally printed fabric comes across my path.

Janine @ Rainbow Hare said...

This is a stunning quilt and it is very interesting to hear about your design process for quilting it. Those nubs are SO annoying. I'm sure no one will ever notice but it is very disappointing to happen with expensive fabric in such a gorgeous quilt.

Anonymous said...

I recently quilted a client quilt and she used the Timeless Treasurers dragon panel in blue. Wow! I had to use micron markers to cover a lot of white showing up and I used a ballpoint needle, size 18. I think the needle actually rolls the weft fiber on entry and that is why there are specks of white. She used the accompanying background fabric in blue, green and black dragon scales and it is ok but I think perhaps that also is digitally printed. These panels make me nervous and I just loaded a top with a trout panel split into windowpane squares separated by narrow sashing and bordered and backed in batik. Kind of a nightmare getting started now…afraid of the having more issues and this is lighter so I can’t resort to markers.