Monday, June 15, 2020

Crosshatch Longarming a Wholecloth Quilt

Crosshatching Demystified

Laugh yourself silly, but I often find myself daydreaming about random things to do with quilting. Or in the wee hours of the evening, drifting to sleep, it hits me. Oh, where did that thought come from? But thinking things is a different animal than doing things, and often those worlds don't connect. Imagine when they do. 

Crosshatching has become a necessary technique to add to my wheelhouse. Clients love it because it's a classic motif, completes a border, stabilizes well, and allows a design to show through. In this quilt, it adds a modern element, texture, color with a mildly variegated thread, and follows the design angle initiated by the piecing.

My repertoire had included blocks, borders, and working around applique and embroidery, but never a wholecloth quilt. Why was a wholecloth such a big deal? Space. My longarm has about an 18" vertical working throat space by about 110". If I want to crosshatch a block corner to corner, it needs to fit within that space. A 45" quilt was a no-go. You have to figure out how to get the straight line completed without starting and stopping to roll. Creating this on-point strategy was necessary, and I'd thought it out many times.

The quilt was beautifully pieced by G.Hammond, and we had agreed on crosshatching early on. The backing needed to be large enough to float the quilt top on it on point. But wires crossed as they do sometimes, and the pieced backing was undersized. It was large enough for the standard loading procedure meaning it was 10" wider and longer than the top.

Now I know I've seen pictures of a rogue longarmer loading a quilt on point, but it struck fear into me. I couldn't imagine dealing with the stretch of working on bias. I had worked out how it could be stabilized with creating a square within a square idea, and run it past other longarmers. So it was good in theory, but I hadn't seen it done, and no one knew anyone who had done it to ask. I was gung ho for adventure!

First, I squared the original backing. It was pieced, and the squaring put the seam off to about 1/4 of the whole. I measured the side of the trimmed backing. Taking that measurement, I physically measured my wide fabric at a 45 degree angle. Think of the long side (or hypotenuse) of giant HSTs. I would need 2 enormous squares to create these HST keeping the bias inside, and stabilizing the backing. Using 90/10 poly/cotton wide backing made it very firm with little stretch. I sewed the HSTs to each side creating a square-in-a-square.

*You don't need to be too exact about getting the HSTs exact when first cutting then out and sewing them on. You can then square the backing when you've finished. Think of it more in terms of roughing it.

It loaded nicely. I breathed with relief.

Working on a large table top, I took the quilt top, and placed it on top of the batting remnant. I trimmed the batting to fit within the actual backing size. I didn't need wide areas for an E2E so kept the margin on the border fairly small. I smoothed with my hands and a long cutting ruler to get all the wrinkles out, and create some friction between the fabric and batting. You want them to stick together somewhat. Then I laid it in the space.

I pinned and basted the edges as I rolled, and the weight of the top bar helped to hold the top and batting in place. Yes, bar magnets could also have been used to anchor it to the belly bar, but they weren't needed.

Finding reference points to keep the quilt lined up was not as easy as a standard layout, and the stars were positioned irregularly. I created horizontal lines based on piecing, took them out to the sides, and measured the gaps between them. There were only 4 rolls per direction to this quilt, but each roll took a lot of tweaking, and stuffing the bar to make the quilt straight. There's nothing like being off 1/16" or the tiniest tilt of an angle to pull your eye straight to it. Exact quilting can be tedious, and this project took 2 days to work through.

The maker chose a Fantastico variegated thread by Superior Threads for this quilt. I might add that as a 40 wt. thread it is fairly easy to pick out if necessary. I have tested this many times.

The first direction was done, the quilt was flipped 45 degrees, and on with the intersecting lines. Now you are both lining the stitching up to a right angle with the previous stitching, and also trying to keep things square on the top itself. It sounds like those should be the same thing, but often are not. Fabric is fluid, piecing can be slightly off, you lean on the bar...

I've checked the box on crosshatching, and can put that mystery to bed. Now if I could only go to sleep myself. The world is in an uproar, and I'm finding it very hard to shut it off long enough to recharge. 

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


  1. That is a cool way to do it!! Hope you can shut down and recharge for just a little - it is necessary for you creative mind! Hugs!!

  2. Wow, I learned a lot from this post! Thank you for going into detail--it was very helpful. As for me, I'm on my third day of avoiding the news, television, and non-quilting social media because I just can't take it anymore. There are people who thrive on conflict, but I do not. I must consciously choose happiness--moment to moment sometimes, and remember to breathe. And sew. Lots of sewing!

  3. Julie - I don't know if your machine has these abilities, but watch this video which explains a way to deal with shrinkage on the quilt and how to adjust for crosshatching. It's exceptional! Maye you can find something similar with your programming.

  4. I do enjoy a good cross hatch. Glad you were able to figure out a way to make it work.


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