Sunday, January 5, 2020

Domestic & Long Arm Collaborative Quilting Process

Inspirational Embroidery

A very good friend of mine showed me this project in its earliest stages. She'd found this center block, a beautiful piece of vintage embroidery, from over the pond. She was working on a way to incorporate it into a quilt using some Blocks of the Month, and her batik stash. 

This medallion style quilt really appeals to me, and especially the challenge of mixing so many elements. She asked if I would be willing to do collaborative quilting with her. She would quilt part on her domestic machine then bring it to me to do the next parts. I would return it to her, and she would finish. She is an excellent machine quilter, and I knew we could work together. 

Time passed, and she kept me updated. The anticipation grew as she said the quilt kept growing. It arrived one day in November in the 80+" range with backing and batting attached, ditch stitched, and some minor quilting started. As agreed, there was plenty of backing on all sides for me to then attach the quilt to my long arm--but I was still nervous if it would work! This was a first for me.

This quilty friend had definite ideas about the designs she wanted; Feathers in the star points. A single HST design would have been out of scale visually, and also, it's difficult to enlarge vector designs without having them become edgey looking. So, I chose a feathered square along with a HST design duplicated, and fit them together. I liked it. She liked it. I loved being able to design digitally, and share this with her.

A rough mock up of the the other design options helped me see if they worked together visually. Some of these wound up working well on the quilt, but a few needed to be tweaked or changed. Can you see how those star and on point block points protrude through the border? That was a quilting issue I had the information to do, but never had. Yes, I was nervous.

Nota Bene: Cover the Embroidery

My quick-thinking friend arrived with a cover and pins for the embroidery to protect it during the quilting process. She's brilliant, and I learned how important it was to avoid abrasion. You will also see her hand-basting threads throughout the pictures. I left all those in throughout, and quilting over top of them.

I started from the middle of the quilt even though it was thoroughly stabilized. The inner border around the embroidery was first. Using a ball point needle for the all batik quilt was helpful, and So Fine thread kept the thread show very minimal. As I was using a scroll design with a distinct corner, I quilted one side, flipped the whole quilt and did those horizontal borders, then flipped for the last one. 

Until the very end I had not realized these border widths were slightly different. Oh, Geometry! Why hadn't I been a better student! There was simply no amount of computer manipulation to get the ends to meet just perfectly so out came my ruler base and ruler! Ta-dah! It may be computer guided, but sometimes you need to know the manual version as well.

Feathers Next 

It's easier to roll the quilt than change the thread. All 3 designs fit into my throat space, but if you had a smaller throat you could also manage these large points in this manner by using separate designs. Do the first 2 that sit side by side, roll, and finish the last. I know I could have used this idea in my Moda Modern on a smaller machine many years ago with its massive blocks.

I was ready to do anything not to deal with another integrated corner design, and this narrow border was perfect to repeat a lazy feather inside.

Those corners may not connect, but look just as beautiful!

Third thread change, and I stitched all the blocks on point with a new design.  

Now for those dreaded borders with points in them, and a 4th thread change. The first corner went well, and actually all of them worked. Why? The border widths that met in the corner were even widths.

I wish I had a photo of the border around the points to show you, but 7 of 8 worked without a hiccup. Creating the area with a point to point click and a laser creates a very accurate stitching area, but there is always a smidgen of room for error. Or maybe I leaned against the bar while it was quilting?? I'll never know. This little over-stitching can be picked out easily, and the threads buried. Nothing will show.  

Don't sweat the small stuff, I say. She was happy to fix it herself, and have the quilt back to get the rest of the quilting done. That was my last one for 2019. Hurrah! So...

I learned a few things in this project for a friend. One positive: It's great to quilt for friends who are creative, and open to taking design risks. You both grow! One very slight negative: It was harder to pick up after she had started quilting. If I was to work collaboratively again, I would opt to start the quilting. It would be less stressful to load, flip, etc. I wonder how she will view the process as she picks back up on her end. I'll let you know.

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


Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

Great quilting!

KaHolly said...

Oh, my goodness, Julie! What a fantastic project! The quilt top itself is beautiful, but that amazing quilting really put it over the top. You are always up for a challenge, and you never disappoint!

Barb N said...

Fun to read about the steps to make the computerized quilting work for this project. It would be interesting to let readers know just how long that process took! What a lovely quilt this turned out to be :)

Julie said...

To answer Barb N in the comment above: As this was a quilt for a dear friend, I didn't keep track of my time. Chunking it down, though, a long arm quilter needs to consider the total time spent on the quilt, and not just the hours spent stitching. I say this in spite of presently charging by the sq inch, but seeing some quilters moving toward an hourly rate. If there is a detailed meeting about design, thread, etc., that should be considered. Loading a quilt, especially a very large quilt can be time consuming. Often the whoppers will have a pieced back making it even more of a challenge to line it all up straight and smart. Some quilters have begun to add loading charges. And I could go on and on about watching and adjusting things as one works, but I would hope people would know that. I've never put a quilt on the frame, and had everything go exactly as planned. Fabric/fiber by its nature is fluid. Think that times 3 layers! I love to say, Every Quilt Is Custom Quilted, whether the customer believes it or not. So no complaining from me as I love what I do, but when you figure your time and machine hours it isn't as lucrative as people believe.

The short version of this. It took 3-4 hours each day over about 3-4 days. Lining up the design in a custom quilt can be the most time consuming part, but custom quilting is the most fascinating and rewarding of all!

Kate said...

The quilting looks great! What a fun way to try something new.