Tips from The Batty Quilter

Tips from "The Batty Quilter" is a column that I write for the Maine Pine Tree Guild newsletter "The Patchwork Press." These tips are designed to make quilting easier for you, or for your longarm quilter. Perhaps it is something that you already knew, or something that you never thought of before. As I continue to longarm quilt it seems that I am always in the learning process, no matter how long I have been at it. So this is my way to help you perfect your skills or learn something new along with me. As I started this business I was suprised to find not only new customers, but new friends of the heart. So stay tuned for more tips from this Batty Quilter.

long arm quilting batty quilter lily sweeney

August 2011

“Maine Quilts 2011, what a great time! I truely love to go and see all the beautiful quilts. My hope as a long-arm quilter is that you learned a lot while viewing all the finished quilts on display. What did you like when it came to the quilting on some of your favorites? Was it the choice of thread colors that you never would have thought of, or how the quilting complimented the style of the quilt? the choices are certainly endless. Still not sure what would look the best on your quilt?

Quilts that have few color choices and pattern changes would benefit from a more complex design. An example of this would be whole cloth quilts. The single color background, usually white, is than made more elaborate by all the different patterns placed upon it. Quilts that have multiple patterns, colors, and "activity", benefit from a simpler pattern. Simple patterns give the eye a rest, and allow the complexity of pattern to shine through.

Quilting can be a best friend or an enemy when it comes to hiding errors in quilting. Choosing a cross hatch pattern when your rows aren't straight will only exaggerate the problem, while a pattern that winds and curves will detract from those rows that don't make the grade. Clam Shell and Baptist Fan patterns that are continued repeats of shapes do well on quilts gone a little "wild" like a scrappy patchwork. So use your quilting pattern to your advantage and let it harmonize your quilt top.

June 2011

“Are you dense, or are you loose? Yes, this is still the Patchwork Press, and not an E Harmony questionnaire! The question of course, refers to how you like your quilt top quilted. There are pro's and con's to both styles, and it is a matter of personal taste.

Quilts that are densely quilted stay flatter with continued use and washing. Dense quilting designs have a tendency to slightly "shrink" fabric around the design due to the amount of quilting per square inch. Some people don't like the density, and feel that it makes the quilt feel too stiff. Usually all quilts loosen up with wahing and become the soft and cozy blankets we all love. Dense quilting could be just what you are lookin for when it comes to wall hangings or quilts that are for show.

Quilts that are loosely quilted tend to have some puffiness and may look loose with repeated washings. Loose quilting doesn't "shrink" fabric as much since there is less quilting per square inch so there is less fabric "pull" around designs. Quilts that have a combination of dense and loose quilting can cause puffs in the fabric and not lay as flat due to the changing density of the two styles.

So when going to your long-arm quilter make sure that they know your style. Let them also help guide you with quilt design selections. Some patterns are just going to be denser, or looser, no matter what, but some can be adjusted to accommodate you. Your long-arm quilter can help you make the selection, and pattern that fits your quilt vision, and your quilting style.

April 2011

“April showers bring May flowers.” REALLY! As I write this column I still have two feet of snow surrounding my house, that has been there for QUITE a long time. That being said, its nice to think that spring is around the corner and the beauty of nature will surround us soon.

We give so much thought and time to choosing fabrics for our quilts, but do we spend as much time thinking about thread color when it comes to quilting? Use of nature, and the color wheel will help make your decisions easier. Do you want your thread to stand out or blend? Using complementary colors, which are across from each other on the color wheel, will make the quilting stand out (example orange thread on a blue quilt.) Using analogous colors, those next to each other on the color wheel will blend and harmonize, (such as green thread on a blue quilt.) If your quilt needs a snap of color or you have a simple pattern that needs to be livened up, complementary is the way to go. If you quilt is already alive with color, and a complex pattern, an analogous color might be just the way to tie it all together in a more soothing palette. Still unsure of your color choice? Look to nature, bright orange marigolds against green grass, the fall colors of changing leaves, blue water next to gray rocks. With a world of color why choose only white or beige? When in doubt take a tip from Mother Nature she always gets her colors right!

January 2011
Hope everyone has enjoyed the “End of Year” and “White” sales in January. When it comes to quilting, keep the new linens on the beds, and not on the back of your quilts. Bed sheets are not suitable for backing quilts. Bed sheet thread counts are denser and woven more tightly than quilt cotton fabric. This density can cause long arm quilt machines to skip stitches and needles to break. You might ask yourself “What's the big deal? Sometimes my sewing machine skips stitches, and needles do occasionally break.” Long arm quilt machines run at a much higher rate than your regular sewing machine, therefore a broken needle, even if caught quickly, will abuse the fabric it is going through and can cause holes in the quilt top. Skipped stitches in an intricate pattern that needs to be fixed can cause your quilter a lot of time to remove the thread error, or make it more thread dense if the pattern has to be repeated a couple of times to make the stitches stay. Quilts with bed sheet backing that I have done--some have sailed through fine, others have been quite the problem.

Quilt stores now sell backing fabric that is wider than average quilt fabric for just such occasions. If you are thrifty and creative, make a pieced backing from your stash. You will then have two quilts for the price of one. Quilts are an investment of time, money, and a bit of your heart. Your masterpiece deserves the best.

December 2010
December. WHAT A BUSY MONTH: finishing quilted gifts, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, chariy work, and enjoying the holidays. When the last dish is in the dishwasher, take time to plan quilt projects for the New Year. A few basic New Year's Resolutions will make quilting easier for you and your long arm quilter.

*Clip all loose threads. Loose threads that are a darker color than the fabric will show through and mar the quilt appearance.

*Backstitch all outer seams to ensure that the stitching does not come loose with handling and tension put on your quilt while quilting it.

* Press seams well, and be sure the top lies flat.

*Make sure all seams have enough seam allowance, otherwise with machine loading and stretching they may open up.

Let 2011 be the year you make the quilt you have been putting off. Remember the simple basics and it will have a professional look, and be sturdy enough to last the test of time.

October 2010
For those of us who quilt, the holidays are already here! Holiday themed quilt projects are some of the best to experiment with different colored or darker threads for quilting. Oranges, and yellows for Halloween and Thanksgiving projects. Reds, greens, and gold are for those special Christmas gifts.

When picking out thread colors for your quilting be aware that darker thread colors will show through from the front to the back and vise versa. If you are looking for a design to show through on the back of your quilt this is a plus. If you don’t want the thread to stand out but rather blend, pick a medium tone print that matches the darker thread for the backing. Whether you are doing your own quilting, or having a long arm quilter finish your project be sure to leave plenty of time to get it done. Make sure that your long arm quilter has time for you in their busy season, don’t wait until the last minute to find out. Check to see if you can reserve a space on their schedule and what their cut off dates are for accepting work. Your reward will be the smile on that special someone’s face when they receive a gift from the heart.

August 2010
The 33rd annual Maine Quilts 2010 is over, and who didn’t leave the quilt show with more fabric than they planned on buying? And even more ideas for new projects and techniques! Let your imagination take over and enjoy the process.

When it comes time to quilt your “art” make sure that the borders on your quilt top are squared and are the correct length. Borders that are too long, will not shorten with quilting. Measure your quilt from top to bottom of the midpoint of the vertical and horizontal axis.

Using these measurements will ensure borders that don’t ripple and wave. This will ensure that your long arm quilter, or you, will be able to quilt your piece without it becoming misshaped or distorted when finished.

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