Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There's Been a Tremor in the Force!

Ingrid walked into the shop on Friday to find this mess! If you look closely you can see her brand new printer under the debris, along with lots of boxes of fat quarters and books. If you look in the background you can see the shelving has toppled over onto more shelving and this means hundreds of bolts of fabric are precariously pitched!
There was no apparent earth quake according to CNN, and there was no internal cyclone in the building, but that is what it looked like. Thanks to some great friends and hard work, the place was back together by midnight, and this time those shelves are staying put!
Fortunately no one was in the building at the time of the great collapse, and there were no injuries!
As I looked at the chaos which took over this normally neat and well organized space, it reminded me of how easy it is for things to happen, how one little goof is all it takes for the "domino" effect to take place.
It happens at work, it happens in life, and it happens in quilting.
So our challenge to you for this week is to let us know what you do to prevent the domino effect in your quilting process. What tips do you have for others so that their quilts come out as close to perfect as they can? Do you have little tricks that keep you on the straight and narrow during the quilting process? It does not matter where you use this tip...it can be in the fabric shop, on line, at your cutting table, in your mind, or at the sewing machine.
We are going to review all the tips by our followers and award a fat quarter bundle worth $25 or more to the best tip. We'll be checking in to see all the tips and will be announcing the winner on the blog and on the web site in one week. Please join us, and feel free to post more than once.
As always, happy stitching, and love to you all!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A frequently asked question is "How do I baste my quilt to prepare it for machine quilting?" I use a spray basting technique, which I have used for years, whenever I am hand quilting or machine quilting at home (as opposed to using a professional long arm machine). Here's how I do it:

For this basting technique, we recommend cotton batting. I usually use Quilter's Dream Cotton (Request weight), but I have also used Warm and Natural and Tuscany Bleached Cotton. I would *not* recommend using polyester batting or high loft batting using this method, because it has too much stretch. Once you have selected your batting, prepare your backing. Your backing and batting should extend 3" beyond the edge of your finished quilt top on all four sides. (So if your quilt is 40" x 50", your backing should measure 46" x 56").
If your quilt is large enough that you need to piece your backing using 2 or more pieces, press the seams open, and preferably use spray starch (I recommend Mary Ellen's Best Press) during the pressing process, which will help to stabilize the bias grain in the backing.

Next press your quilt top, pressing seams flat and be sure to snip off any loose threads. Press your quilt top both on the wrong and right sides, as this will help to assure a nice flat quilt top with no bumps or ridges. I also use Mary Ellen's Best Press on my quilt top. I find it helps to the precision of my piecing, and it helps my seams lie flat.

Gather enough large binder clips (which can be purchased at an office supply store) to clamp around the edges of your table every 12-18", 505 spray adhesive, a scissor, and clips or safety pins (size 0 or size 1) for pinning the edges of the quilt after the sandwiching process is complete.

My dining room table with leaves in it is a great basting table. Many craft cutting tables with extensions can also be used for this purpose, as well as banquet tables. If you don't have a table in your home, you can often use tables at a recreation center, school, library, church, or any community center that uses standard banquet tables. Two tables side by side make a great surface for basting.
Whatever size table you have, make sure it is clean and the area around it is clean, as your quilt will likely fall to the floor at some point during this process.

Place the center of the quilt backing on the center of the table and smooth it out, WRONG SIDE UP. On my table, which is 42" wide, the seams in my backing run right down the edge of the table, which is very helpful in keeping it straight.
Once the backing is positioned, clamp it to the table, smoothing it as you clamp and keeping it relatively taught between clips. You can see this on the above photo.

Once your backing is clamped on one side of the table, repeat the process on the other side of the table. Gently smooth out the backing and clamp it, smoothing any excess fabric toward the edges of the table. You can also clamp the backing down on the ends of the table also, if you wish. The most important thing is that you should not be able to pinch the backing up off the table when it is clamped. You are not stretching the backing, you are just smoothing it taught.

Unfold your batting, and place it centered on your clamped backing. Usually the batting is folded lengthwise down the middle, and that fold should run lengthwise right down the center of your table and backing. Smooth out any lumps, bumps or wrinkles. Once that is done, carefully fold back one half of the batting as shown in the photo (the white side on the left is my folded batting and the darker side on the right is the wrong side of the backing facing up).

Take your 505 spray can and shake it several times. I usually hold my can about 8-10" from the backing, and start to spray at the edge of the table right in front of me, and then I spray toward the middle of the quilt. I move quickly along the edge of the table and mist the backing with the 505 as I move. When one side of the backing is misted, carefully unfold the batting and cover the sticky half of the backing with batting. Smooth it carefully. You can reposition if necessary, but it should not take much effort to get the batting smooth.

Now you can peel up the other side of the batting and fold it back so you can spray the other half of the backing. Use the same technique. Stand at the edge of your table, spray from the edge toward the middle and move along the table rather quickly to put a fine mist of the 505 over the entire backing. Then unfold your batting and smooth it out.

Fold your quilt top down the center, with right sides together. Take the center of the quilt and place it on the center of the batting, centering the quilt on the table as you go. Spray half of the batting with the spray, again misting from the edge toward the quilt in the center of the table. Once one side of the batting is sprayed, unfold your quilt and smooth half of the top onto the sticky batting. Lift up the other side of the quilt top fold it down the middle and spray the other side of your batting. Once it is fully sprayed, then smooth out the entire quilt top onto the batting.

If you have a small quilt, you may be finished, and you can release the clamps and trim away excess batting and backing, as described in STEP 7. If you have a large quilt, you will need to continue to STEP 5.

In the following images, you'll see I've lifted both the quilt top and the batting that were hanging over the edge of the table, and I have folded them back, which exposed the black binder clips that clamped the backing to the table.

Once I release the clips, you can see I have a good deal of backing fabric hanging toward the floor. Because I now have only the center part of my quilt basted, I need to baste it all the way out to the edges on both sides. So I'm going to slide my quilt totally to the other side of the table until the edge of the left side of my backing comes to the edge of the left side table. My "basted" section of the quilt (where the quilt top is adhered to the batting and backing) is now draped over the other (right) side of the table and onto the floor.

In the photo above you can see that the seam in my backing, which was once at the left edge of the table, is now in the center of my table. The left edge of my backing is now at the left edge of my table and I am clamping it down. You can see I have clamped all the way around on the ends as well for a little extra security. On the other side of the table, the weight of the basted quilt will be enough to keep the backing taught. I cannot pinch the backing off the table. That assures me that I will not have to worry about puckers on my backing when I have the quilt in my machine for quilting.

Once the backing is clamped again, I spray the wrong side of the backing, which you see on my table, with the 505 spray. Then I carefully smooth my batting on top of the sticky backing, smoothing out any lumps or wrinkles. I will then spray the batting, and then smooth the quilt top on the sticky batting. I repeat that entire process on the other side of the table. To do so, I will release these clips on the side that is now all basted, and slide the entire quilt toward me until the edge of the backing on the opposite side comes to the edge of the table. I take my black clips over there, clamp the backing all around, spray it, smooth the batting down on it, and spray the batting. The final step is to smooth the quilt top on the sticky batting and I am done basting my quilt.

If necessary, you can also do this on the top and bottom sides of the quilt. It will all depend upon the size of your quilt and how it relates to the size of your table.

When the entire quilt is basted, you may release all your binder clips and trim away excess batting and backing. I usually leave about an inch all the way around. Then I turn the backing up and over the quilt top and clip it in place with the Martelli clipper. Here's an image of my clipper:

The little metal clips go inside the clear clipper. If you put the end of the clipper on the edges of your quilt with the backing folded up and over the edge, when you slide the little blue button toward your quilt, the clip pops onto the quilt and holds everything in place. I pop these around the perimeter of my quilt and they remain there until the quilting is done and I am ready to apply my binding.

If you don't have a clipper you can use small safety pins (size 0 or size 1) to secure the edges of your quilt until your machine quilting is done. There are also little metal binding clips which can be used for this purpose. They look like barrettes and it is actually less expensive to purchase them in the drug store. I don't recommend using straight pins, as you are apt to stick yourself with them during the quilting process. Safety pins and these small clips work very well.

This is not how I will BIND my quilt, but it is a way to keep the edges of my quilt top protected, and it will keep my backing from ever catching on anything as I slide it into my machine during the quilting process.

On these last 2 photos you can see my clear clipper and some loose clips on the border of my quilt, and then on the bottom photo you can see my clipped quilt as I prepare to take it up to my sewing machine for quilting.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them to the blog and I will be happy to answer you.