The Free Motion Quilting Project: Question Thursday #14

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Question Thursday #14

It's time for another Question Thursday post and we're going to get started with a question from me:

Do you like working on a set, organized project like our Heart and Feather Wholecloth, or would you rather learn ideas, designs, and techniques that can be applied to any project?

I'm intrigued to hear your opinions on this.  Did you enjoy working on a new project together, or was it overwhelming to add yet another new project to all your other quilts?

We're getting into beautiful weather and gardening season, so also remember if you spend most of the month of April and May in the garden, that will be less time for sewing and quilting.  I'm perfectly fine returning to simple practice quilts, but this might feel a bit boring after all our work on a set project together.

Whatever happens, this Quilt Along will continue bigger and better than ever!  We're soon going to learn many awesome designs that work similarly to Stippling. but look and feel totally different on our quilts.

So with my question out of the way, let's get started on all your questions about finishing up our wholecloth project.  We received many questions about blocking and binding, so let's cover each one in turn.  The first question is from Jackie Korzeniowski in the comments of yesterday's post:

Is it easier to stitch on a line if the quilt is turned often?
Full question:....but if I was doing a larger project than this hearts and motion quilt would I want to turn it frequently or would I want to keep it in the one direction and move it around my machine?
Yes, it will be easier to stitch on a line if you can see where you're going.  This might mean repositioning the quilt so you're stitching down, or up, or to the left or right.  This is really different for everyone, so you just have to play with it to see what direction and angle feels right for you.

It's hard to say how things will feel and go when you get a big, giant wholecloth on your machine.  You just have to try it and make up the rules as you go.

Don't fret about this type of thing too much. It can seem very intimidating in the abstract, but when you actually start quilting, it's really no big deal to shift and reposition a quilt, even a large one, when you're working consistently from the center to the outside edges.

Next, Donna asked a great question about binding:

Would it matter if you round the corners or scallop the edges?

Rounded or scalloped edges on a wholecloth just looks gorgeous, but yes, this would significantly change the way you bind the quilt.

First off, you'd have to use bias binding, which will bend and twist evenly with the rounded edges without forming pleats.  You'll also have to carefully attach the binding so each point within the scallop is tucked properly.

While I certainly could do a tutorial on this, the absolute best tutorial is Sharon Schamber's Curved Binding tutorials.  Here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 on YouTube.  Sharon also has a DVD of this tutorial right here.

Whenever I do curved binding, I'll always go back to Sharon's tutorials to review how to do it.  Follow each step.  Don't get obstinate and stubborn and ignore a single step, as she is a very methodical teacher and each step of her process is required for the binding to finish perfectly.

The only part I don't follow with this tutorial is stitching the folded edge of the binding down by machine.  I just can't achieve a perfect finish on the front and back, so I prefer to secure that edge by hand.

Now for the next question from Jackie:

How you are able to get an accurate 1/4" seam allowance with the Janome Horizon?

For the Janome Horizon, I'm using the Open Toe Even Feed Foot, and I line up the edge of the quilt with this edge on the foot:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This might not be 100% perfect 1/4", but so long as you maintain the same seam allowance throughout, you'll be on the right track.  I do not move the needle when attaching binding.

Now for a large number of questions about soaking and blocking quilts.  The first is from Danielle Hudson at Fresh Off the Spool:

If you forget to measure before soaking the quilt, is all lost?

Full question: If you forget to measure before soaking the quilt, is all lost. I couldn't seem to get past that, because if I measured from the outer feathers to cut, I wouldn't get a perfect square. If I measured from the center out, to get a square, the distance between the feathers and outer edge was not equal. I opted for the perfect square, since the distance was not to much off.

More than likely you forgot to measure your quilt because I forgot to measure mine!  Those directions weren't in perfect order so I apologize for the confusion.

For a quilt as small as the Heart and Feather wholecloth, no, it really won't matter if you've forgotten to measure it.  Just block it flat, and lay a ruler to check that the distance between motifs is consistent.

Now you mentioned the quilt being square by the motifs.  You might have noticed that one side of the quilt stretched or shrunk slightly so it's not a perfect square.

This is pretty normal and one of those things that blocking can help work out.  A quilt judge doing a good job will measure your quilt and take a hard look at it.  If it's obviously meant to be square, but not finishing that way, she may give you points off.

Blocking can stretch the shorter sides longer, and hopefully even out that discrepancy.  You can also "hide" the mistake by trimming the edges a bit longer.  If you were able to leave 1.5 inches between the edges of the motifs and the edge of the quilt, chances are you wouldn't notice that the motifs were closer to the edges on two sides.

If you forget to measure a larger wholecloth - let's say anything over 45 inches - you're going to be in trouble when it comes time to block.  You really need to know what the dry measurement was so you can get the quilt back into shape.

My experience with The Duchess was unbelievable.  That quilt marked out to 80 inches, and shrank to 65 inches after quilting.  Had I not measured it before soaking, I would have assumed the quilt was still 80 inches wide!

Instead, it shrank another 5 inches after soaking, but I was able to pull it back into shape with tons of pins and a determined will, and the finished quilt measured 65 x 64.  I really should have forced it square to 65 x 65, but that final inch was impossible to achieve. 

Now for a few more questions about soaking and blocking from Karin at the Quilt Yarn and Malini at Malini's Quilts:

Do you always do the blocking before the binding?

Is there any other reason why we need to soak our quilt if its going to be a wall-hanging?

No, I don't block every single quilt.  Bed quilts, throws - pretty much any quilt that's going to be used and washed often doesn't really need to be blocked.

These quilts aren't quilted densely and can be easily squared and bound without soaking and blocking.  Just make sure to throw them in the wash to remove starch and markings before throwing them on a bed!

The reason we learned blocking for our Heart and Feather Wholecloth is because it IS a wall hanging.  To hang on a wall and look great, a quilt needs to hang straight and flat.  Wavy edges are very noticeable and can mar the appearance of the quilt.

By soaking the quilt, you are removing chemicals, but you're also releasing all the fibers to get comfortable with one another.  If you've quilted very densely, this stitching will pull together a bit tighter, creating even more noticeable difference between these areas and the puff areas.

By blocking, you're pulling that quilt back into square, forcing it into a finished shape, then holding it flat until dry, which ensures all the fibers understand that THAT is the way they're supposed to go.

Yes, a wall hanging can be bound without blocking, but personally I just don't think it will finish as nicely as it could if soaked and blocked.  This is yet another area of personal opinion, so if you hated that process, go with your best judgement!

Karin also asked:

My binding went wavy...what could have gone wrong?

This ties in with Jeanne's question:

When the quilt is washed again, does it need to be blocked again?

Yes, I've promised that blocking will reduce waviness and ripples with your quilts, but you have to keep in mind that you're working with FIBER - an organic, moving, shifting material.

The only reason I've ever struggled with waves in binding is if I was tugging and pulling on either the quilt or the binding while stitching it on.  It's easy to get into a hurry with this process and start pulling the binding into place.

If the binding is too tight, it will pull the edges of the quilt to create ripples.  If the edges of the quilt have been pulled, the same thing will happen.  The bad thing about this sort of pulling is you might not even notice you're doing it! 

But one great benefit of learning soaking and blocking is this is easy to fix.  Soak the quilt again, and block again, but this time use double the number of elastic straps or pins to secure the quilt totally 100% flat.  That should knock most of those waves out and force the fibers to gel together in a flat, straight, even way.

So yes, every time you wash your quilt, it's a good idea to block it again to ensure the edges stay flat and straight.

Look at your quilt like a piece of paper - when dry it's flat and straight.  If you get paper wet, however, you need to be really careful with it so it doesn't tear or get wrinkled into a messy ball.

Be mindful when you're working with an unbound quilt.  Be exceedingly gentle.  Lay the binding over the edge, and use your fingers to HOLD it in place.  Don't pull on the binding to keep it flat - press with your fingers, letting the quilt and the binding slide evenly together.

This might sound a bit funny, but the more you work with quilts, the more sensitive you'll get to just how delicate they are.

Pat from Color Me Quilty also had a question right along these lines:

Why did my quilt front scorch so easily?
Full Question: Does it have anything to do with the poly batting? It is my own hand-dyed fabric made from RK Kona Cotton PFD using procion dyes. I've never had it scorch before.
I doubt the poly batting or the dye had anything to do with you scorch marks, Pat.  Remember I've scorched a quilt before too, and I believe this has more to do with the nature of a wholecloth than anything else.

Remember, a wholecloth is composed of only thread and fabric.  We didn't piece multiple pieces together to create this quilt, and the design is only comprised of flat areas of dense microstippling and puffy areas of motifs.  So to look at the quilt from the side, here's what you'll find:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Those puffy areas haven't been trapuntoed (they don't have an extra layer of batting within) but even still, they're much higher up on the quilt than the flatter, microstippled areas.

This means when you use an iron over a wholecloth quilt, the puffy areas are going to make more contact with your iron.  If you press down, you will contact the microstippled areas, but you'll also compress the puffy areas further, pressing them far harder against your iron that you might think.

So it will be far easier to scorch the puffy areas of a wholecloth, even with normal pressing at the normal temperature you usually use.

This gets back to the inherent delicacy and sensitivity of wholecloth quilts.  These quilts are fundamentally different from other quilts and will require slightly different handling.

I sincerely apologize for not including enough warnings about this in earlier Quilt Along posts.  Having personally ruined a wholecloth myself, I know first hand how delicate they can be, but I forgot to emphasize this nature in the videos.  Another lesson learned on all sides!

Now let's answer a few quick final questions about finishing up this project and the review from this week.  MC from Slair's Lair asked:

What is the best way to make a small quilt into a wall hanging?

Personally, I would attach a standard hanging sleeve (4 inches with give) to the back so the quilt can be hung from any curtain rod or quilt hanger.  This will also meet the standards of most quilt shows.

But Danielle Hudson is far ahead of me and posted pics of including hanging triangles in two corners of the quilt.

With this setup, you can use a strip of wood or dowel inserted in the corners to hang the quilt from a single nail.

It's really entirely up to you as to a hanging sleeve.  I promise this will be a future tutorials sometime this summer or fall!

 A1angiem asked in the comments of the review:

When you fill in an appliqued shape such as this...doesn't it look weird on the BACK of the quilt??? 

Here's a shot of the front of the sunflowers quilted yesterday:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
And here's a shot of the back:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Now for a big of back story on this quilt: I created and quilted this quilt more than 5 years ago.  I was apparently using a dull needle or bad thread combination as the back of the quilt bearded badly.  At the time I blamed it on a super cheap Walmart poly batting, but now I think it was the thread and needle that caused this issue.

I never stitched in the ditch around the sunflowers, so this area looks terrible on the back.  Going back in this week and filling the center with stippling actually made the back look better, and if the entire flower was quilted and filled, it would look even better on both sides.

So I know where A1angiem is coming from with this opinion.  I can't count the number of times I've agonized about a particular quilt design for fear of "what will it look like on the back!?"

But here's a simple fact that took me 3 years to realize: the back of your quilt will always be facing a WALL.  It really doesn't matter what it looks like back there.

Seriously, don't obsess about it unless you want to drive yourself crazy.

I've made between 5-10 quilts that are intentionally double-sided, meaning they can be hung from either the front or the back.  Yes, they look amazing, but you can only view one side at a time!

In quilt shows, this double sided nature never gets seen.  If it's acknowledged at all, it's when the quilt show hostess holds the back up for a short time, but even then you can't full appreciate how it looks.

If you really want to worry about it with every quilt, here's some general advice: use a dark backing so the thread shows up really well, choose dense fillers so the back is filled with lots of texture, edge stitch or stitch in the ditch around EVERYTHING, then fill each space completely.

If at any time you break thread or hear a bird's nest form, stop and pick it out.  I don't care if it happens every 5 minutes - you have to stop and pick every single one out so they don't show on the back of the quilt.

And if you manage to maintain this level of quilting for 3 years on every quilt you make without being driven insane, you deserve a medal.

Now one more question from Malini:

With all the stippling tutorials, will you be writing a book on Stippling FMQ? I'm just curious :-).

I have been looking at the level of content created with these Quilt Along posts, which combined with Question Thursday posts certainly would make an excellent book.  The videos would also be really nice combined into one massive, multi-disc DVD.

Let's just say I'm certainly thinking about it, and might pursue that option when James starts real school next fall.  Until then, let's quilt along, have fun, and learn loads together!

Now I think that just about covers everything.  I really have enjoyed working on this wholecloth project together and would love to know your opinion about potentially making a twin or king sized quilt together.

Time to shut up and go quilt (or finish taxes...uggh!)



  1. Hi Leah, I absolutely enjoyed making the hearts and feather wholecloth quilt (actually both of them). No matter what the weather is going to be like, I still will quilt. In the summer I just take my machine outside!! A king size quilt may be a little big, but on the other hand, this can be the practise I need (my outline quilting still looks like morse-code).
    Whatever you decide, I will probably take it on, no matter the size, I am looking forward to a new project!! Thanks for all the sharing, it is fun and gives me a lot of inspiration.

  2. In answer to your question about projects verses practice pieces. For me, the project raised the bar. On a practice square, if I get sloppy, it doesn't matter--the square in just going in a box of scraps anyway. But with the whole cloth project I wanted it to turn out, so really worked on travel stitching right on top of a previous line, maintaining the size of my stipling throughout, sinking the thread tails, along with finishing steps like blocking, and binding. So for me, projects are good...even if I fall behind due to gardening, family, etc., its all there on-line when I'm ready. THANKS!!!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the Hearts and Feather whole cloth, seeing everyone else's progress and MINE, so working on an organized project together will be great fun! Maybe you can combine ideas, designs, and techniques one a large project that runs over a few weeks that way we are all engaged, and learning, and working towards an end product?...

  4. I enjoyed working on the Hearts and Feather whole cloth, seeing every one else's progress and MINE. So maybe we can do project together that run over weeks where we could learn different ideas, designs, and techniques that can be applied to a specific project? I would love to learn how to make a large wall hanging with applique, with different filler free motion quilting that compliments the whole design...

  5. First, thank you for answering my question re: the back of the quilt. I shall try to not worry about it! I LOVED following along with you to complete a set project. I have done another class, aimed at 'perfect points' and ended up with a sampler quilt (this is what I'm having trouble quilting) and a BOM quilt-along, with a quilt at the end. So, for me, I enjoy working on something that will BE something at the end...taking it in manageable bites, being guided by you each step of the way. I 100% vote for another 'do it along with Leah' project where each week you give us specific homework and we build on our progress. It's like being led by the hand with the freedom to run and play on the swings along the way! Full school days? You will love having a little bit more time to yourself! :) Thanks again for all you do!

  6. Wow, a twin or king sized bed quilt! This seems like a big undertaking at first, but done in steps like the wholecloth it could be a great way to stay motivated and finish what we start. We would probably need some advance warning in order to have something pieced in time to start quilting.

    As for the projects vs concepts question, I think that so far it's been great to have a mix of both. I am having a lovely time with the QAL.

  7. I wandered into this project midway and hope to go through the entire thing at some point. That said, since I didn't do the project I'm not yet bored with one, so would love to particate in a new one with everyone.

  8. I enjoyed the wholecloth project but I also like doing the little sample sized experiments too.

    My vote would be a combination....a back and forth between projects and no projects.

    And perhaps when we're going to have a project, you let us know the supply list a week or two ahead of time so we can be organized and prepared?

    Another idea.....if we each had a small quilt top prepped and ready, and you did a series of lessons on doodling....we could just keep adding to the quilt in a doodle-like fashion. When we were finished, we'd have a record of all our doodle stitches. (Does that even make sense? I'm doing a sketchbook class and have doodling on my brain! ha!)

    Just my 2 cents worth! I am totally enjoying your lessons and think you are doing a bang up job.

  9. Hi Leah,
    Thank for answering my question in deatil regarding soaking and blocking. Now, I know the importance of it.

    I really enjoyed working on the wholecloth quilt. It was so organized that it was easy to squeeze into my hectic schedule.
    At the same time, I have loads of fabrics which I have already invested on to make quilts. So, it would be nice if we have the freedom to choose our fabrics and sometimes may be the blocks too. Or at least modify the blocks.

    I can't thank you enough for all the Quilt Alongs. Its been a great experience. I started this without knowing anything about FMQ, but now I am confident enough to make the quilts for others too :-). All the credit goes to you.
    Hats off to you :-).


  10. Leah, Your answers are so clear, concise and encouraging! I am not sure we all really can grasp how far we have come because of these last weeks! Since "king sized" anything is NOT on my radar(!), something along the lines of lap/twin is very appealing. I know that the warm weather busy-ness is about to overtake us/me BUT I, also, know that if I don't keep up some type of quilting discipline I will lose a lot of what I have gained. I, for one, am "up" for the next challenge/project (whatever direction it may take). And, again (although it sounds so little) Thank you!!!!! Hugs, Doreen

  11. Leah - I have been enjoying the qal very much. The whole cloth project forced me to try something new and I have learned a lot. I am game for anything you want to do. I have been following your site from almost the beginning and will continue to do so. Thanks for all you do for us out there in the quilting world.

  12. I like the mixture of practicing and doing an actual project. Practicing gets us ready, and the project was great! We(the students)really seemed to interact well! I should have asked you a question about the hanging option. I opted for the triangles over the sleeve because I was worried about hand sewing a sleeve to that dense stippling! that is the first time I have used the triangles so I am curious of how it will hang. My question would have been: is it hard to hand sew a sleeve to all of that dense stippling?

  13. Leah ~
    You are a very good teacher! This has been great fun for me, and has challenged me in so many ways, which is good! I made 4 of these little wall quilts, which means 1 for me and the other 3 are Christmas stocking gifts for my adult children :) So already I am ahead of the game. Finishing up the last one this weekend, and then putting my signature emblem, and they are all ready for the Christmas wrapping paper :) You haven't said a whole lot about signing your quilts yet. If you are up to doing another project with us, I would love to participate~ and if I should garden, well, I can't do that once the mosquitos come out, so that leaves me many hours to quilt with :) Godspeed ~ mary

  14. Leah, I would also prefer a twin/lap size quilt first before moving on to a king size.

    I feel king size would be overwhelming for me at this time.


  15. I enjoyed the wholecloth project too and am making mine into a pillow. It came out a lot better than I expected. I am learning so much from you. I would be interested in trying to quilt a twin size quilt. King is too big and I have no use for one. I like the idea of practicing something new on sample squares and then making a real project with what we learned.
    Thanks so much for teaching us. My FMQ is really improving! You are terrific!!!!

  16. I'm with Malini regarding having a complete book on all these tuts. I love your idea of a book plus DVD. I am having trouble keeping up with the FMQ and would love to have it available to use when I can fit it into my schedule and all in one place.

  17. I think there's been a great balance in your quilt along between "technique" stuff that can be applied to any project and the specific project of the hearts and feather quilt. I have been pretty busy lately so haven't been able to join in properly, but am looking forward to sitting down and having a go at the hearts and feather quilt sometime in the future.

  18. I enjoyed working on a distinct project. This was not something I would have tried by myself just for the heck of it. doing it with a group of people was a lot of fun and the learning well worth it. Maybe like somebody suggested above a combination would be good because it gives you time to catch up on other things.

  19. I like the idea of a project from time to time. The Wholecloth quilt was not something I would have attempted on my own. Doing it with other people was a lot of fun and I learned heaps from it. I think a project like this one did assist in pushing people out of their comfort zone.

  20. I love your blog but have too much on the go to do a set project so I would love demos, techniques etc. Take care.

  21. I absolutely loved the heart and feather wholecloth quilt. It really brought my quilting to the next level.

    So my vote is to keep up with the projects (from wall to lap size) incorporating some practice techniques into the project along the way.

    And I loved marking and following an intricate pattern.

  22. The best thing about the whole cloth project was the chance to see "classmates'" projects in progress... and to have them comment on mine. It was just like having another guild of instant friends.

    I would always like the exercises to be presented as a usable gift-project. I think the whole-cloth presentation would have been great as a Christmas stocking or as an apron front, for instance. Puppets, pincushions, tea cozies, even hot pads or a gift bag would work. Keep some of what you do small like that so we aren't overwhelmed with a time commitment into the future.

    Leah, you are just charming. Don't agonize... just quilt... and let us keep watching over your shoulder.


  23. Oh I am so late checking in - sorry! I enjoy both ways. The practice pieces allow me time to improve and the project allows me to showcase that improvement. So I'm up for whatever! Thanks so much for your instruction! ~Jeanne

  24. I'm late to the game- but I have to say I really really enjoy working on a project. I'm a very product oriented quilter (odd, as I'm a very process oriented knitter)- so I like to know I'm making something.


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