Clear to Create? Or Create to Clear?
On those days that I don’t have a specific project in mind, I will head to my studio with every intention of clearing the decks. I would love to be able to have every little thing put back in its place. I don’t have a huge stash. It would be possible for me to achieve order, the kind that Melanie McNeil showed in her Studio and Stash Tour. I have a general plan of where things go, and I grab a pile to fold and put away…
And then I think, “Well, it would only take a little while to sew these scraps together, and then I could use up that sale batting I bought, and then there will be more room in here and it will look great!” And I roll my chair around the small area open in the middle of the room and start combining scraps.
In this case, I wanted to use up a bag of red, white, and blue scraps I’ve had for about 4 years, for a lap quilt for the VA hospital.
The last piece I had been working on was my practice piece with double layers of Hobbs 80/20 batting. I made myself finish quilting all the space on this before I started the new project.
Toward the end there, I felt like I was getting pretty darned good! I was thinking, “You are on your way to becoming a good machine quilter!”
Here’s the whole piece:
With a warm feeling of FMQ confidence, I started putting the red, white, and blue scraps into log cabin squares. About half way through stitching random strips around the sides of 12 blocks , I realized what a terrible pattern that is for quick piecing. I chain-pieced, starting with two little squares in the middle, and adding a strip to one side of all 12 blocks in a row, but I still had to get up and press the chain of blocks after each addition, and then trim them so the next row would go on straight. And I spent a lot of time flipping through all the squares to be sure that I didn’t have the blue flowered fabric or the red striped fabric in the same position in any of them.
A better plan would have been to sew lots of strips together in long rows, and then cut those into rectangles for a rail fence or Roman stripe pattern. A lot less motion and the same amount of design fun. Next time.
As I was piecing, I was watching one of my Craftsy classes, Leah Day’s Free Motion Fillers. After all the close, intricate stitching I had been practicing, I thought I would be able to handle one of her designs for this lap quilt. (Yes! I have actually watched one of my Craftsy classes all the way through!)
I put nine blocks together randomly into a top. I was trying Hobbs Thermore ultra-thin polyester batting, and it had a slightly sticky surface. If I had put the quilt together the normal way, with the batting inside, that would have been great, and I think it would have helped the layers stick together. But I was sewing it pillowcase-style, with the batting on the bottom of the layers, and it was not easy to move it through the machine.
Time to quilt. I picked the design Leah calls “swirling waters”, watched the video segment again to review her tips, put in a new needle, and even warmed up on a practice piece. Everything seemed fine, but when I moved to the lap quilt, it just didn’t go smoothly. The top stitching looked okay, but the bobbin thread just lay on the surface. No matter how I adjusted the tension, I couldn’t get the look I like where the stitches go into the batting evenly. Maybe it was because the Thermore is so thin compared to the doubled batting I had been using before. Maybe it is because I was moving over seams in the blocks, and on the practice piece I was working on big strips of more loosely woven cloth.
The good thing is that the Thermore only has to be quilted 8″ apart, so even if my stitching is less than even, it is not going to shift inside the quilt. And also, when I washed and dried it, the bobbin threads sank into the batting better.
So here it is. Not the masterpiece of free-motion quilting I hoped for, but, one bag of scraps used up, one brand of batting sampled, and one video class completed! A small amount of clearing and creating at the same time.