Friday, October 11, 2013

A Fun Way to Practice

Rachel at Stitched in Color has a great post about practicing quilting skills, particularly FMQ'ing.  Many of the techniques in quilting require some practice to perfect and the question she raises is whether to practice on practice sandwiches OR jump right in and learn while you do on the real thing. There are many different learning styles out there but for me, I am a learn-as-you go person.   To wit, I have two finishes that epitomize that approach.

 Let's discuss the new things I tried on these quilts.
1.  Prewashing Fabrics
When I began my quilting adventure last year, I did some research on the need to prewash.  I concluded that so many of my most admired quilters were creating magnificent quilts without the extra step of prewashing. Being a good follower, I have not pre-washed any fabric up to now.  In view of the saturated colors, the abundance of red, using fleece and, frankly, this was not the most expensive quilting cotton I have ever purchased, I decided to pre-wash all the fabric.  All the character prints, all the sashing cotton, the backing and the bindings.

Conclusion:  I will pre-wash in the future only under extreme situations.  Not only does pre-washing delay the process (particularly when one makes a calculation error and has to cut more red sashing and wait to wash, dry and iron it!) but different water conditions can effect the result.  Note the two different shades of white that resulted from washing Kona white at different times ( bad).

 Having said all that, I feel very good about the lack of shrinking and color running risk for these quilts.

2.  Working with Fleece
This is inexpensive character fleece that I purchased at Joann Fabric (mother of three boys...what can I say, it was calling out for me!) and not the minky fabric I see on so many lovely quilts.  As forewarned, this stuff is stretchy and a bit difficult to work with.  For Spidey's quilt I used my usual method of taping the backing to the dining room floor and tons of pins for basting.  For Star Wars, I used spray basting (thank you Deb for that suggestion).

Conclusion:  The spray basting method was MUCH easier to smooth out and control the movement of the fleece while quilting.  Surprisingly, sewing the fleece was easy both for the domestic machine and the quilting machine.  I will try this again!  I used a layer of cotton batting (my usual Warm and Natural) and with the fleece, these are SOFT and fluffy quilts!

3.  No-Binding Envelope
Given the bulk of the fleece, I thought I would try the envelope method instead of a binding for the Spiderman quilt.
Conclusion:  The biggest issue was the slippery fleece (see above about pin basting) when turning the quilt right side out for quilting.  I think this method of finishing a quilt would work well with a quilt that had little quilting.

4.  Sewn on Binding 
After the experience above with Spiderman, I decided to try yet another binding method and that is a sewn-on binding.  There are many tutorials out there, but I thought this tutorial from Amanda Jean of crazy mom quilts was the most relevant to my project.  As you can see, the machine stitching is visible on the backside in places, particularly where I slipped.

Conclusion:  Love it!  This is something I am definitely going to work on improving.  As much as I enjoy the coziness of hand sewing down the binding, this was FAST!  Yeah!

5.  Stitch in the Ditch with FMQ
I decided to keep the quilting light on both quilts.  For Star Wars I decided just to stitch in the ditch (with a few FMQ stars here and there).  Typically I use my walking foot on my sewing machine to stitch in the ditch. Oh heck, why not try it out on the quilting machine?
Conclusion:   Getting those lines in the ditch (even using a ruler) is going to take more practice!  But I think I will continue to work on this, for no other reason than it is a lot easier to work with a large quilt on the quilting machine than on the domestic sewing machine.

6.  FMQ Spider Webs
My Sweet 16 and I are getting to know each other more and more.

Conclusion:  Not perfect but so much fun!

I selected patterns that would showcase the character prints:
Spiderman is based on Picnic in the Park by Cathy Slattery (found in the summer edition of Modern Quilts)
Star Wars is adapted from Going Bananas by Sandi Irish (found in the June/July 2013 McCall's Quick Quilts).

In summary, these are quilts that are going to two little buddies of mine who I am sure will appreciate soft, snuggly quilts and will not really care about my quilting imperfections!  And look at all I learned!  A win-win!!

Linking up with the one and the same Amanda Jean's finish it up Friday!

UPDATE:  I am also linking this post to a  linky party at Pretty Bobbins that focuses on the quilting process.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,


  1. YEAH! Now that was a SUPER great post! I love how you laid out all you learned in numbered form. I am very impressed with both of those quilts and every new experience they provided for you.... But especially the machine finished binding. It's funny that you mentioned how you are now beginning to pre-wash. I have always been a pre-washer and have just started choosing projects that I am not pre-washing for! What a Wonder Woman you are, Kathy!

  2. Well are a great teacher! This was such an informative post. I am learning and trying new things all of the time. If you don't for sure won't learn. Thank you so much for sharing your new found wisdom!!

  3. Very nice! I agree, the best way for me to learn is to apply. I've always struggled with making sandwiches for practice. I guess, for me, every quilt is a learning experience. I like that you added your conclusions, they are very helpful. I might need to try the spray adhesive on my next fleece-back quilt. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Fun post! I have used fleece for the backs of several baby/throw quilts, but without any batting. I love it, and haven't had much trouble with it...but I think there may be a whole new world out there for me with spray adhesives....

  5. Great post! Very informative for me as a new machine quilter! You should consider linking with Gemma at Pretty Bobbins,
    I Quilt Linky Party | Pretty Bobbins
    She is hosting a link up that this post would fit right in with!

  6. Hi Kathy. I've been learning some of these things myself, about quilting my quilts. FMQ, ruler work, SID, sandwiching, and such. It's great that you've posted your experiences. These two quilts for your sons are perfect for practicing. I'm a practice-as-you-go girl, too!

  7. What a useful post! We should all put this much thought into our finish posts.

  8. Great post Kathy! I'm glad the spray basting worked for you... I love fleece as backing. I do my machine binding on all of my kid's quilts that way and just love it.

  9. Wow, it looks like you've been learning heaps! I love your spiderweb quilting on the spider quilt. I have two boys and I would have been forced to buy here prints too lol. As for prewashing, I used to, I don't anymore, I've had runs but now I just use a bazillion colour catchers :) I haven't been brave enough to try quilting with fleece yet though... Thanks for linking up!


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