Failing is not fun, but it always comes with lessons for those that persevere. We, as quilters, learn many times from other quilters’ mistakes and experiences, but I think the most valuable lessons are the ones learned the hard way, from our own mistakes.
At the beginning of November I found out that the deadline for submitting quilts for QuiltCon is November 30. I was playing on my computer with new designs and since I enjoy so much cutting with a knife and the reverse applique technique (it is interesting, quick, fun), I thought: why not try to sew a new quilt?
So two weeks before the deadline, I started a new quilt.
First, I had to copy the design to fusible web. Do you know there is fusible web that is 37” wide? How cool is that?? Usually we use the 17” or 18” wide, so I was happy when I found this wide fusible web – Soft Fuse (Vliesofix Bondaweb also comes in 36” width).
I used Soft Fuse for this quilt with 522 applique pieces and I found out it has the best adhesive of all brands I have used until now; it kept the applique pieces fused to the fabric like no other brand! I loved it for this project!
This is the design transferred on the paper side of fusible web. It measures 35”. The drawing took me 5 hours; I love this task, but I did this on the floor – not so much fun if you do it for 5 hours!
Then I fused it to the back of my fabric.
And I started cutting out the design. I really LOVE cutting out with a knife. It is so relaxing!
When cutting out, the size of the pieces does not matter, you can easily cut the tiniest pieces. More important is the space in between the pieces – if it is too small, you will tear the paper and fabric underneath.
But when working on this scale (those lattices measure less than 1/4”), I found out that not all the types of fusible web work the same.
With this fusible web, here is what happens when you cut with a knife – the paper tends to separate from the fabric in the area near the cut. So I found myself keeping the paper in place with my finger in order to be able to make the next cuts. Again, this would not be a problem, if the space in between the pieces you have to cut out are big enough.
With all the struggles, I managed to cut out the first third of the design (the hardest part) in about 5 hours. This measures about 12”.
In the end, I was disappointed, and I had to recognize it is not something for a show! Not even my usual work!
Here is a short video of the cutting process- you can see how small the design is.
And what did I do next? I threw it into the trash and started over again!
This time – with a bigger design (from 35” to 39”) and with Heat N Bond fusible web. It is only 17” wide, so I had to use 3 sheets for my design. This is the reason why they are so well taped to the floor.
At first, I thought it is more work, more trouble, but in the end, it worked absolutely wonderful! I just placed the sheets over the paper design, keeping the edges nicely aligned.
See below the three sheets.
This time I transferred the design in half of the time, because one of my sisters helped me and did half of the job.
The difference between the two fusible web brands? At first, I thought it is the paper but it is actually the glue. I think Heat N Bond (even if I used the LITE type) has more glue and it keeps the paper better attached to fabric.
And so the result was better…
On 13” instead of 12”…
And then I started to cut the second third of the design – my sister Nico did this, actually, and she used the knife for the first time!
And then the third part of the design – my sister Nina did the cut! First experience of this kind for her, too. In case you think this is something you can’t do!!
Great experience this time, for all of us!
I kept all these little pieces (about 2000), thinking it would be fun to play with them! Someone else was faster than me!
Then under the cutout piece I fused this rainbow fabric (Supernova Starburst – Hoffman Fabrics).
And here is how I quilted the center design:
I stitched on the center of each white lattice, starting in the center and going toward the outside, coming back to the center by stitching on the next lattice and so on, in one continuous stitching.
Then I added stitching in between two lattices and so on, until I finished the center design. It is all free motion quilting, but it could be done with the walking foot, as well.
I finished quilting the center design two days before the deadline.
I made a beautiful rainbow binding, bias binding…
and this is how I started to quilt the background.
I don’t have any pictures from this stage – no time for pictures and anyway, I did not think that I will write a post like this! I thought that I will show you just an amazing quilt!
What happens when you quilt concentric circles like these? It matters what you quilt in between the circles. If the quilting outside the design is heavier than the quilting on the center design, that center design will pop out in a very unpleasant way! I knew this but I said myself: if this happens, I will add more quilting on the rainbow design and I will solve the problem.
These kind of problems can be solved when you wash and block the quilt, but for this quilt, washing was not an option.
So here is what I quilted in between the circles: I quilted the background to death!
I finished the quilting at 2 AM on the last day for submission. I was in such a hurry that I did not pay any attention to the overall appearance of the quilt. And when I removed it from the sewing machine, HUGE and HORRIBLE surprise! The center of the quilt looked like a BIG, FAT DONUT! I can’t find a better comparison!
I am proud that I did not cry but I was disappointed! And I was sure that it will end up in the garbage! So I said goodbye to QuiltCon and without any enthusiasm, at 2AM, I added some more quilting on the two outside thirds of the design (the center was already quilted to death) then I made one last thing for it: I pressed it. But I wasn’t expecting a miracle!
But the miracle happened! I pressed it on the back, with a lot of steam and this flattened the surface to a point that made it “acceptable”. Not good enough for a show. Not good enough for me. But too good for the trash!
I kept it laid on the pressing board, on the floor, for a few days. It was looking good laid there, but I knew that if I will hang it on the wall, sooner or later the center will start to pop out and if there is something that I hate about my quilts, it is not laying flat so I knew I have to make something more for this beautiful quilt…
And here is what I did: I stretched it on to a frame! And now it is PERFECT for my engineering mind!
The finished quilt measures 50”.
My hubby made this cheap frame from wood bars and he helped me to stretch the quilt on the frame with staples.
I love the 3D visual effect of the design and I love that I managed to keep it only at the visual level!
No quilt in the show, but a beautiful quilt on my wall and so many lessons learned! Can I ask for more?
A better quilting idea would have been something like the quilting below: that radiates from the outside edge of the design toward the outside of the quilt. I knew this but I just wanted something different!
Some final tips
- I used an adhesive spray for basting the quilt; I used a generous amount for the center design but not too much on the corners. The heavy quilting on the center design might distort the quilt a little, so when you start quilting the background, to avoid puckers, you may need to re-position the fabric at the corners on the batting.
- If you want to practice quilting the triple-paisley motif, it is easier to do it in circles. You learn by repetition and it is easier if you don’t have to change the direction of the quilting.
- On the center design, I had some skipped stitches. Every time it happened, I was wondering: Why? Why? Only when I finished, I noticed I stitched with a topstitch needle. While in many cases it is a great needle for quilting, the Jeans needle is better, it is the best, actually, for quilting fusible web appliques. So mystery solved!
- I used a 50wt Aurifil thread for quilting and I can’t stress enough that the success of a free motion quilting experience is not so much about the skills, but about the proper function of your sewing machine, so use the best needle+thread team for your machine.
- Usually I wash my finished quilts so I use a washable marker if I need to mark something for quilting. Since I could not wash this quilt, I limited my quilting options on the background because I did not have an air or heat erasable marker. I added it on my “to buy” list.
I hope my experience gives you an idea or two on how to avoid such mistakes. And aren’t these words true? Failure is not permanent: just the best way to learn and grow!