It's Thursday once again and time to answer your questions about quilting! Let's get started with several questions from Karin at The Quilt Yarn:
How far do you quilt to the edge of the quilt?
This is a great question because it can honestly make or break the last few days of working on a quilt. Put it this way: would you like to spend the last few days on a project ready to chuck it out the window, tear your hair out, and scream in frustration?
Yes, all three of these things will happen if you try to quilt right smack to the very edge of your quilt top. It's so intensely frustrating because right at the edge, the three layers of your quilt are very unstable. It's easy to quilt over the edge and get your foot caught in the batting or the edge of the quilt top, or simply lose control over your stitching as you try to fill this area consistently.
The best advice is to simply NOT quilt to the edge! I try to plan my quilts ahead and design an extra 1 inch border around the entire edge. Before quilting, I mark a line 1 inch from the edge on all sides, then quilt to this line, and occasionally over it.
Of course, this kind of thing requires a bit of advance planning, and yes, even I sometimes forget to add that extra inch to my quilt. In those situations, I've found the best method is to work from left to right with the quilt parallel with your body. Press (don't stretch) the quilt edge down and keep your hands closer together as you move over this edge.
Does anybody have any tips on how to remove blue chalk marks (the variety that is used for dressmaking? The packet says to use a damp cloth which I tried and it does not just dissolve, so I am wondering if it is going to come out at all.
Ah! The joys of marking! Sorry to rub it in, but this is a terrific example of why you should ALWAYS TEST your marking device before using it on a real quilt.
Yes, I know it seems boring and ridiculous. We buy pens and pencils and the packages say wonderful things and we're kind of programed to believe these companies and corporations know what they're doing and we can trust them.
Guess what?! You can't! Don't trust any pencil or chalk or marker brand until you've actually applied it to your fabric, followed the directions for removing the marks, and seen them disappear permanently.
Look at it this way: it might take 1 hour of your life to test a marking pencil before using it, or it might take the REST of your life to try to remove marks from your finished gorgeous quilt. Which do you have time for?
As for getting the marks out - if the directions say a damp cloth, step it up a notch to a bowl of water and a very soft new toothbrush. Pretend like you're brushing your teeth as you brush water over the surface of your quilt very gently.
If that doesn't work, you'll need to contact the manufacturer for more instructions. That's the best shot for getting the best advice for removing the marks and not potentially setting them further into the fabric.
One last question from Karin:
I have a Pfaff machine and have a drop-in bobbin case - would you use the Magic Bobbin washers with that?
This is a pretty debatable topic. Many quilters feel that a plastic, drop in style bobbin doesn't need a little genie magic bobbin washer. I've spoken to the manufacturer, Pat LaPierre, about this and she says the bobbin washers are helpful in all machines.
So what's the best thing to do? Try the washers and see what happens!
If you notice improved stitch quality and fewer thread breaks, then obviously the washers are working great for your machine.
If you don't really notice a difference, then the washers might not be as essential for that machine.
In truth, I didn't see as huge an improvement when using the washers in my Janome Horizon as I did in previous machines. The machine stitched beautifully with or without them.
Then I switched to metallic thread for a quilt and checked the stitches with a washer in and a washer out. Hands down the machine stitched far better with a washer in while using metallic thread. I think this is because metallic is finicky and the washer helped the bobbin to glide and feed more evenly.
Personally I keep a washer in all my machines, all the time. I never take them out, even when piecing or applique. They simply help to make the bobbin glide and feed more smoothly and evenly within its case, and this improvement will make a difference no matter what you're stitching.
If you're curious to try Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers, you can find them right here in the Day Style Designs Quilt Shop.
Next let's answer a question from Mary at Can't Stop Stitchin'
Is the type of fabric behind this issue?
Full Question: my background fabric, is a blend of poly and cotton, and my batting is cotton in this quilt, the other fabrics are cotton. When FMQ, when I got to the darkest fabric, the one that was a poly/cotton blend, all too often my needle pulled bits of cotton to the surface of the quilt; on the other fabrics this hardly happened at all. Do you know if there was a reaction with the poly in the fabric to the cotton batt that caused this to happen?
Chances are if you're only seeing this issue over those polyester blended areas, then yes, the culprit is the type of fabric.
What you're describing - batting being pulled to the surface or back of the quilt - is called bearding. This can be caused by many things, most usually the type of batting. Basically what's happening is your needle is going down into the quilt and grabbing a bit of batting and pulling it up to the surface when the needle lifts.
It's hard to say why this is happening only in the areas you have poly fabric. Maybe the poly is separating when the needle goes down, causing a bigger hole, which allows the batting to come up more readily. That's my best guess at least.
One thing that might help is to switch to a smaller needle like a Universal 70/10. Play with this type of needle and see if the problem persists. If it does, try a sharp or topstitch needle. Keep the size of the needle small as this will reduce the size of holes being created and hopeful reduce the amount of batting leaking up to the top.
Finally we have one last question from Pat at Color Me Quilty:
Do I really need to adjust my tension every time I change thread?
Full Question: One of the things that they showed me in the basic training for my new Pfaff, was how to test and adjust the bobbin tension, I've never done that on my Babylock. The setting between cotton thread and polyester (Isacord) thread was quite different. So my question for Leah this week is: Is is normal/typical to set the bobbin tension for each type of thread? Do you piece with cotton and FMQ with Isacord? Would that mean I would have to change the bobbin tension back and forth?
Short answer: Yes.
Different threads have different thicknesses, which means your machine will need to adjust whenever you change threads.
Does this seem ridiculous or excessive? Yes, it probably will feel that way at first, but you can easily make a habit of adjusting the tension whenever you change thread or switch from piecing to quilting.
Or...you can simply buy a second machine.
This might seem even more excessive, but hear me out. Some machines are good at piecing, some machines are good a quilting. As of yet, I've never met a machine that did everything absolutely perfectly.
It is also a matter of convenience. To piece, you need a piecing foot and good lighting, but you don't really have to have the machine sunk down into a table. It's actually easier to piece if the machine is a little higher on a table top so you're eyes are right on a level with the foot.
To quilt, the machine really should be sunk down into a table so the quilt doesn't drag against it. Tools like the Supreme Slider and a darning foot can also be installed and left in place to make it faster and easier to sit down and start quilting quickly.
It's also a practical arrangement. When you have two machines, you can piece for as long as you feel like, then switch to quilting whenever you get bored. You can easily have 2 quilts in production this way - one being pieced or appliqued, one quilted.
Personally this is the way I've organized my sewing room since 2010. One dedicated machine for piecing (Bernina 1230) and one dedicated machine for free motion quilting (Janome Horizon 7700).
No, having two machines isn't possible for everyone. Space and cost are of course the biggest issues. However, with careful planning and budgeting, you can make this happen.
Here's a bit of a story: when Josh and I got married, we lived in the worlds smallest apartment. Literally 550 square feet, and Josh had already claimed about 100 square feet with fish tanks of various sizes and shapes.
The only space available was literally a 3 ft by 6 foot corner next to our bed. I needed to figure out a way to take this tiny space and turn it into a micro sewing space.
So I pulled out a tape measure and figured out exactly what size tables I needed to fit into that itsy bitsy space. I didn't know about IKEA at the time, but I did frequent Big Lots and through lots of internet searches, I managed to find the exact table that would fit exactly into the space. At $20 a pop, that table also fit my college student budget.
Once installed, the tables worked great for sewing, but I still had a lot of sewing stuff that needed organization. Bobbins, scissors, seam rippers, thread, books, and of course, fabric.
All of these items were easily dealt with by moving vertically. Inexpensive shelves and thread racks could easily be installed on the wall, moving all that "stuff" up and out of the way.
In the end, this itsy bitsy space that could have been wasted with a potted plant was instead transformed into a dedicated, high powered sewing space with room for 2 machines and 1 serger. Not only did I quilt in this space, I sewed around 60 garments a week. It was not necessarily design to look good, but to work and be super efficient.
So before you scroll down to the comments to scream at me that you can only quilt on you kitchen table and don't possibly have the room for a dedicated sewing area, let alone two machines - STOP and think for a minute - do you have a closet? Do you have a corner? Do you have any 6 ft space within your house you could claim as your own?
I always find it hilarious when someone emails me complaining about their lack of space. I always email back with the same question - How big is your guest bedroom?
You DO have the space, but you just haven't seen it or claimed it yet. Think about this idea today. LOOK around and see if there is a corner or closet, or even whole room you can claim for your craft.
Now that turned into a bit of a soapbox! Hard to believe I went from bobbin tension to sewing room organization, but that's just how things go sometimes!
Let's go quilt,