Thursday 28 March 2024

Working With Invisafil

It's been a couple of weeks again since I posted last. We have been incredibly busy with our upcoming kitchen renovation. All of a sudden it was all go, go go...we have been running around literally the whole week looking at appliances, getting things organised and life in general.

My wholecloth quilt is coming along however came to a standstill last week. I finished all the feathering, framing and grid and was about to start backfilling, however I did not like my thread choice. I am quilting the main elements of the wholecloth with a 50/2 Aurifil cotton thread. This is the thread I use most of the time and up to now I have also used this for backfilling. However, ever since I have done Bethanne Nemesh' online classes I have developed a taste for 100wt Invisafil thread from Wonderfil Speciality Threads. As I did not have a matching colour I had to order another spool in which came last weekend. I started to backfill a little bit last weekend and yes, this was the right choice for filling in the background against the 50/2 thread. Looks absolutely fabulous...I bought a spool of Soft Gold Invisafil which is almost identical to the light gold Aurifil colour that I have used to stitch the main parts. This way, the background stitching is not overpowering the main elements but gently stays in the background.
Here I am filling in the space behind the first lot of feathers with tiny, tiny echoes. Looks very nice but is quite labour intensive. Unfortunately I have left some space in the outer border where the Amish feathers run along. Still a bit undecided on how I will fill this. Definitely will echo around twice but not sure whether I will carry that echo filling into the outer border. Had a look around on the net and was reminded that Diane Gaudinsky uses the echo filling quite extensively around her feather work. It does look good when finished but is very time consuming. We'll see what I feel like when I get to that point.

This is all I have done quilting wise this week and I am almost getting a bit stressed as there are other projects that want to be done.

In case people are wondering how I am stitching this on the Bernina Q20.
I am using the open toe foot with an 80/12 Jeans needle. This foot can be a bit tricky...I have had the foot catching on previous stitch lines in the past, however was relieved that it has not happened on this project. Behaving itself absolutely fine and visibility is great. I have been stitching in Manual mode most of the time except for the times when I have used the ruler foot #96 with a straight/circle ruler to do the framing and the circles. Find the manual mode a bit easier for detailed work as it gives me that rhythmic humming of the motor which almost puts you into some sort of Zen mode in terms of precision stitching. Regulated mode is somewhat faster and is harder to control when stitching tinier elements.

Well, so far so good...will be interesting to see how this progresses amongst the chaos of the household. Also want to put together a new pattern and have two more charity quilts to complete. The days are just not long enough...


Wednesday 13 March 2024

5 Essential Tips When Wholecloth Quilting

I previously wrote a series of posts about wholecloth quilting starting HERE.

This post is an extension to that. Not having done a wholecloth in some time, I took some photos as I went along and also started to think about all the things that can go wrong when attempting a wholecloth. What follows are 5 critical points where things can get a bit haywire and will affect the outcome of your project.

1. Mark the crosshairs!
This is a really important step as your entire wholecloth is based on those few lines. To do this press your fabric really well and then fold it in half. Press the center line...don't worry about whether this is ever going to come out. It will! Then fold your fabric on the vertical and repeat. Now take these lines and very carefully mark the center lines on your fabric with a fabric marker of your choice.

Take your time with this task. I also then mark in the 45 degree lines using a ruler.
Don't worry if your 45 degree lines do not exactly end up in the corners of your fabric. Unless you have been extremely precise in your cutting the lines are likely to be slightly off in the corner but correct in relation to the vertical and horizontal crosshair lines and that is what's important.

2. Marking
Test your chosen marker before you start. If you followed my blog you would be aware that I had a bit of a mishap at this stage. I made some mistakes in tracing my design and rinsed it off. To my horror, some of my lines turned brownish and did not come out. I believe that this had to do with my lightbox emitting heat at the edges which set the blue water erasable marker. I ended up buying another piece of fabric and starting again, this time tracing the design without a light box just to be sure.

3. Equipment
When designing your wholecloth think about the tools that you are going to use. I obviously forgot about this point for my recent wholecloth having designed center motif circles for which I actually did not have the right ruler. I could have solved this by stitching the circles freehand which I have done in the past however this is extremely challenging as it is super hard to keep it a 100% round and on a wholecloth this is going to be extremely visible. I ended up buying the Echo clips for my Bernina Q20. They just clip on and can be used to extend the size of your ruler. Similarly, I had not thought about my beautiful Amish feathers. To stitch out the spine in that nice rounded way, I also had to use a ruler, but this time use it in a somewhat sliding motion to make the curves as consistent as possible. Definitely had not thought about this before and it took me ages to do that. So planning how you going to tackle stitching out your wholecloth is a definite must. In addition, do a test run of your stitching to get more familiar with your design. Unfortunately with a wholecloth you usually start with the center motif which is also the main thing that your eye focusses on when first looking at it so you want to get that down as clean as possible.
3. Basting
Do not skip on this stage. A wholecloth project has to be basted fairly heavily, I would say every 3-4in in a grid as you are shifting fabric around as you stitch the various sections. You start by stitching out the general frame, starting in the center and moving outwards usually so you going going to have a lot of unquilted loft around which in my case puffed out enormously as I am using a wool batting. The basted grid contains the loft in its own little square and prevents it from shifting over to the next section.

4. Expect the Unexpected
In my experience there is always something that goes wrong and usually several unexpected issues pop up. I am used to that by now and do not get overly excited by it anymore. In my current wholecloth I had an interesting issue, almost hilarious after my mishap with the marking. For the first time ever my blue marks were fading. This has never happened before. This is what was left of my grid by the end of one week. Not sure why this happened and whether it has to do with the current heat wave we are in. It is often quite sticky inside the house as we are running an evaporative air conditioner for most of the time. Probably not ideal for a water erasable marker.
So this was not the idea but it meant that I had to stitch out my frame plus the feathers literally in that one week and in between reinforce my blue lines (where I needed them most) so that I would not loose them altogether. It was hard core but I managed to get it done. So much for that lovely idea to stitch this out in a relaxed and well thought out way! I was literally stitching every day for several hours.
5. Skill level
Consider your skill level and the purpose of the quilt. Are you just doing this for your own enjoyment or are you planning a show quilt. I am a relatively sloppy marker which is somewhat surprising as I am also a perfectionist, however as I know my weaknesses I do know that I have to pay attention to this as I stitch. I will usually correct my design as I stitch along. I stitch feather plumes usually very slowly looking ahead and around me to make sure they are angled in a way that makes sense.
I don't necessarily follow my lines at all times and have in this picture rounded some of the angles on the inside of the feather plumes a bit more. I was not too concerned about having to do this on most of the curves as I by now have a particular angle and size I stitch my feather plumes with so I was fairly confident to be able to do this in a consistent manner.
Another issue which I think people underestimate is the amount of starts and stops and the time it takes to stitch out an intricate design like this. With this Amish feather every curvature is stitched in sections. You could backtrack and absolutely do it all in one hit, but again, that would be very visible and if you are doing a show quilt and probably not recommended. This sort of stitching can become incredibly tedious and frustrating, so something to think about before you start. On top of that I do still bury my threads, so it was after each section, stop...bury the beginning and end, then start again, making sure every stop and start looked good on the front as well as the back. I do remember that people found this extremely annoying when I was teaching my Mini Wholecloth class and most people just backtracked to get things done. That is absolutely fine, however it will show on your project, so you will need to decide beforehand how you want your wholecloth to look and for how much intensity you are prepared.

I did manage to start my grid quilting so I can follow my lines with a ruler, but for now I am having a bit of a break.

For the To Do Tuesday list from last week...well, did not do anything else but stitch this wholecloth.

For the remainder of the week I am planning 
- to have a break
- wash some fabric for the Fox quilt, and 
- maybe do a Fox block, but that's a few other things on this week!

Linking up to To Do Tuesday #65 over at Quilt Schmilt.


Tuesday 5 March 2024

To Do Tuesday #64

My list from last week was smallish
- pinning, basting and making a start on the wholecloth; backing fabric is ready to go, just needs to be cut and then I will need to make a decision on thread.✅
- wash the background fabric for the Fox quilt❌
- maybe make a Fox block to get started on that project which will be ongoing until I have enough blocks for a quilt.

So I made a start (finally) on the wholecloth. I was thinking to do a post in the next few weeks on the trials and tribulations of wholecloth quilting...things never go as expected!

I started off by testing my new Echo feet attachments for the Bernina Q20. Ended up finally getting those as my wholecloth design incorporates circles for which I do not have the right size rulers (funny that with a draw full of rulers!).
Was a bit worried about these as I had read that they are fiddly to put on and also prone to breakage. Gave them a whirl though and was pleasantly surprised. They do clip on very easily and are also very easy to remove. Had no issues with them at all. Tried them out on a practice piece to get a feel for my design. This is what that looked like.
My practice piece turned out nice and I was ready to go
Pinned and then basted my wholecloth and as you can see I baste my piece very heavily, approximately every 3 - 4in, always in a grid as it distributes the puff evenly.
My batting is wool and it is much more puffy than I expected. In the past I have used two lots of batting, wool and cotton, but did not want to go there this time as this is quite a sizable project and quilting with two battings does make the quilt very hard and heavy.

I did have some issues with putting my frames in as the puffiness distorted my lines and I am a tad out of practice. Took me a moment to get a grip on that but eventually got there. After having done the square frames with a ruler I then looked at my feather sprays. Inititally I was going to stitch the spine out on the inner feathers but not the Amish feathers...for those I was going to stitch the spine as I go along. Too easy I thought!

Well, when I stitched out my first feather spine I could feel how the puffiness was working against me and I had a little bit of an issue keeping my lines straight. Then looking at my Amish feathers I thought that there is no way I am going to keep that nice and round just going along backtracking to create the spine. Additionally I did consider that Amish feathers depend on their nice roundness to look good and by then my perfectionism had truly started taking over.

The Amish feathers in this design are based on a 4in circle, however to fit them into the border the circle had to reach out to touch the next circle, so it was not just a matter of stitching a circle with a ruler. I had to stitch against my ruler moving it along ever so slightly to stay on track. Needless to say, this took ages to do. I used Amanda Murphy's 4in circle ruler for this which has a bit of a maybe not non-slip, but harder to slip backing which makes it easier to handle the ruler. I did not put on a more rough Handiquilter grip strip because I needed the ruler to be able to be gently moved as I went along. 
Also, as the feathers go in opposing directions I had to do each circle element individually, so start and stop, tie off and start again. I have by now finished this and for the most part slowly stitching against the circle ruler worked really well and I am happy with my spines, but promptly encountered a new issue, i.e. my blue markings are fading which is almost funny given that I had a problem with the marker leaving brown marks in the first lot of fabric. So I am forever reinforcing some of my lines, but have also been stitching every day to get the framing done. After that is done it does not matter so much whether the markings are in there or not. I have drawn the feathers so much that I will be able to follow my own stitch path without an issue, just have to make sure that I reinforce where my feathers end in relation to the border and frame. I think it is our weather over here. It has been hot and sticky and the air conditioner is running most of the time. Couple that with sweaty hands which is probably enough to make some of those marks fade.

Anyway, finished the frame and the spines by now and am onto the feathers. I am stitching this with a light yellow Aurifil 50/2 thread which just blends into the fabric. Now wish that I had chosen something a bit darker as it blends a bit too well and is at times a bit hard to see. But so be it, looks great on the patterned backing.

So for next week I am planning to 
- continue on the wholecloth by stitching out the feathers (and then probably have a bit of a break from it)
wash the background fabric for the Fox quilt
- maybe make a Fox block to get started on that project which will be ongoing until I have enough blocks for a quilt
- write some instructions for my Mini Wholecloth in order to put that in my Etsy shop.

Bit ambitious, but we'll see...

Linking up to To Do Tuesday #64 over at Quilt Schmilt.


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