The Free Motion Quilting Project: Videocast #3 - Don't Fear the Ripper

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Videocast #3 - Don't Fear the Ripper

Today is What's Leah Working On Wednesday so let's check out what's going on in the studio right now:

I really thought I'd learned my lesson about thread by now, but apparently I haven't. The thread color you use over the surface of a quilt is pretty important, and if you quilt as densely as I do, your thread color can show up as much, if not more than the fabric colors.

I knew this, but I got in a hurry working on the background landscape of Hot Cast and decided to just go with the green thread I had in my stash.

The transition from light to medium shades was just about perfect, but suddenly things got too dark, too quickly.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI thought about leaving it, but all I had left for green thread was dark, darker, and darkest and they wouldn't have contrasted from one another at all. Essentially the bottom half of the landscape would have ended up looking like one big green hill, and I wasn't having it.

So here comes the ripper!

I ripped out green thread for about 8 hours to remove those offending hills. As I said in the video, free motion quilting stitches are generally smaller than regular stitches and can be a real pain to rip out.

These hills were a lot easier to rip out because they were just curvy lines. Had this been filled with Microstippling or Paisley, I'd definitely still be ripping them out today.

I was using Alex Anderson's 4-in-1 tool, which has a super tiny, super sharp seam ripper on one end and was perfect for removing the stitches quickly.

So last night I finished up ripping and here's what those hills look like now:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, there are definite signs that it's been stitched and ripped, but this should be fixed when I stitch over it again, this time with the correct color thread.

I'm also going to try to ease some of the bagginess showing up in this area more evenly so I don't end up with lumpy pleats towards the bottom. Quilting densely does this sometimes, so you just have to figure out a way to deal with it.

I'm hoping to finish up this landscape section today and possibly get up to the sky area, or move into the columns. Stitching this much Landscape Stitch over this section has gotten really boring and I'm ready for something new!

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Gaaah! Quilting is hard.

    Hopefully as I integrate everything I'm learning, I'll emerge with a way to work spontaneously, in which my "mistakes" become assets (as they often do in my drawing and animating). I'm not there yet with quilting, so still suffering from perfectionism and dissatisfaction. But someday, maybe, I'll let my hands and eyes and brain do what they will, and get out of their way, and just let them be.

    Until then, I'll be ripping a lot of seams. ;-)

  2. Wow - This is going to be so stunning!!

  3. With the amount of ripping that looks like, are you sure the green would have been too dark? It looks great in the first shade. You are right, it's just a ton of stitch picking. It's going to be gorgeous.

  4. Bless your heart in ripping out all those stitches. But you are right, we must be willing to do the work involved in fixing our mistakes (even if they are not evident mistakes to anyone but ourselves).

  5. I know exactly what you mean Leah. Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do! I'm the same way. Someone else may think that the darker green thread would have been fine when you were finished, but if you'd left it, every time you looked at your quilt, that would have been the first thing you to catch your eye. You wouldn't have been happy with the finished product in the end. Good for you!

  6. Leah
    I agree that ripping out is part of the zen of quilting! If we never made mistakes, we would never learn!

    I found that if I am using commercial prints, sometimes the safest way not to accidentally rip a thread of the top is to break the thread from the back of the quilt and pull it out from the front. I posted on my blog not long ago that I was ripping out black thread from a black cotton and what made it doubly hard was that the stitches sat low into the fibers so that it was too easy to grab a thread of the fabric, not the stitching thread.

    Of course, part of the issue was the quality of the cotton fabric. No wonder it was on sale!

    Thank you for all your teaching! I follow you regularly.


  7. I am so happy to learn that sometimes you find machine quilting boring when you are repeating the same thing in one area. It is one of my biggest problems and I have finally learned to walk away for a while rather than get sloppy and/or start working bigger.
    Enjoy your stuff.

  8. THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!! I read this post last week and had no idea how handy it would be. I'm not a quilter but I design and sew for a pattern company and today while working on a purse I had to do some heavy duty ripping and I remembered your post. I tried your technique and it worked like a charm!!! Those stitches came out at least 2 times faster!!! So thank you!! Some day I plan to add free motion to my art quilts and your project will be so useful!!
    Dian Stanley


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