How do I stop the quilt from distorting when quilting densely?
This is a great question because distortion definitely happens when quilting on a small scale. I think I should put that on a t-shirt - distortion happens - because it's just that unavoidable. Even a bed quilt, quilted very openly can potentially distort. Why?
|Notice how the unquilted fabric around the words section is rippling.|
So when you see distortion or skewing when it comes to a quilt, there's a couple different things going on:
1. Basting security - When you baste a quilt, the layers need to be evenly layered and smooth. Ripples in one layer will effect the entire quilt, so basting carefully is very important.
This is a key reason why I don't prefer basting spray. I know many who swear by it, but I have just never found it capable of securing the layers of my quilts securely enough. I use straight pins and Pinmoors these days, but for years I used bent safety pins. The reason I switched is the pinmoors are easier to take out while quilting and softer on my hands.
2. Initial stitching - For quilts like Express Your Love and my other goddess and show quilts, simple basting might not be enough. It really helps to start getting the layers of your quilt even more secure with actual quilting stitches that run along the outlines of each piece.
Now for the wholecloth version I've been working on, I started by stitching along all the marked lines in Silky White Isacord. Lately I've been adding more colors to the quilt and this white color is showing up and looking a bit odd:
Simple - Stitch with a thread that isn't permanent.
Water soluble thread is an awesome tool to have in your corner. I call this a tool and I mean it! It has an amazing ability to hold the layers of your quilt securely together for as long as you like, and then it disappears when you don't want it anymore. What an amazing tool!
So had I planned ahead and known that I was going to play with multiple colors on this quilt, instead of using regular thread, I would have done that initial stitching with water soluble thread instead. It would still look exactly the same right now with white lines peeking out between the different filler designs and colors, but in the end those lines would disappear leaving no trace after the quilt was soaked in water.
We will be working with this technique later this year and many others because water soluble thread is such a useful tool. When it comes to securing your quilt together, there's really no alternative to actual lines of quilting, so the first step should always be to outline just to get everything stable and ready to go.
3. Work evenly, work carefully - As you can see from the picture above, I'm knocking out the center sections of the quilt first and trying to work as evenly as possible through this quilt.
To be perfectly honest, there has been some distortion in my quilt already. Here's a shot of the words section and you can see the fabric rippling along the edges:
|Notice how "bubbly" the quilted sections are. |
The dense quilting will cause the surface to ripple, but blocking can usually smooth this out.
To smooth out this section, I decided to knock out a big section of background before moving on with more word / breath sections. Had I continued to work dense fills across all those flowing sections, I might have created a lot more distortion within the quilt as the fabric was pulled repeatedly in that horizontal direction.
Also consider the direction you're moving in and the pressure and pull you're giving to the quilt. The meaning behind "work carefully" is this - never work too long in one direction. If you stitch through a word section running from left to right (logically this makes sense because it's the way we write words), make sure to work through the sections around it in a different direction, or at least rotate the quilt so it's not continuing to "pull" from that direction.
When you are moving your quilt around and shifting positions, make sure to do a lot more gentle pushing forward and around than pulling towards yourself. The reason is pushing will usually puddle the quilt up into itself. There's usually no resistance and the fiber appreciates that.
When you pull and tug towards yourself, that action is a distortion in itself, and there's always the chance the quilt could get hung up on something and distort further.
I see this happen the most often in the edges of a quilt. As you quilt through the borders, be VERY mindful of how you are moving and treating the quilt, and your attitude about it.
If you are in a hurry or irritated, you are probably pulling the borders totally out of whack and don't even know it. Slow down, calm down, and come back to the project when you are ready to take your time through these areas.
Now if this is totally confusing and has you feeling very intimidated, please don't worry! Picking up on nuances like this come with time and experience.
And yes, I have distorted and skewed my fair share of quilts! Some of them were so badly stretched, they couldn't hang properly on the wall. I had one memorable wall hanging that literally looked like the borders were molded around a corner, I had been in such a hurry to get the quilting done I'd stretched deep waves into the edges.
Don't be afraid of it.
Work with it, learn from it, and allow the experience to teach you something.
Just the experience of stitching small, on a tiny scale will blast your skill level through the roof! It's absolutely worth it to work through this project, even if it ends up with slight imperfections.
And I should also note that most small distortions can be sorted out with blocking. Most of my quilts won't hang on the wall straight, but after a solid soak and overnight pin, they are ready to behave.
Now with distortion covered, it's time to see what you've gotten up to this week with free motion quilting!
Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:
1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!
Let's go quilt,