Sunday, November 20, 2016

A bit of a problem

I have often posted pictures here of the longarm quilting that I do for customers and myself.  I usually take the pictures when all the work is done and a wonderful design has been stitched to complement the blocks and design of the quilt top.

What doesn't often get shared is the stumbling blocks along the way to that great outcome.  Today I am going to share 2 examples of problems that can be encountered.  Believe me, there are many more than these 2!  This happens to be a quilt of my own, and if it had been a customer's quilt I probably would have done things differently.  Anyway, here goes!

First, the problem of skipped stitches as shown in the picture below.  The cause of those skipped stitches can be several things.  In this case, I think it was because I had stretched the quilt too tightly on the frame.  There always has to be some slack.  If the quilt is too tight, it effects the stitch formation when the needle drops down to the bobbin.  I was using a pantograph for this design, and unfortunately, that means that a problem like this is often not noticed until I have quilted far beyond.  Sometimes I don't even notice it until I have reached the bottom of the quilt and I look back over everything.  Some skips are minor, maybe a stitch or 2, but this one was major.

To fix something like this, I have to rip out some stitches.  The stitches have to be removed aways preceding and following the problem spot and the thread tails have to be kept intact, unlike ripping out a seam and just clipping all the threads.  After removing a few inches of stitching, I have to re-quilt the same stitching from each one end to the other.  The distance to be ripped out and re-quilted varies depending on the design.  The stitching has to be very very accurate at the beginning and end spots to meet up with what was originally sewn.  

Then I locate the thread tails at each end of the re-quilted section.  I pull the bobbin threads to the top, and I need about 2" (or more) of thread tails to make it possible to tie off a square knot of all 4 thread ends.

Here I have tied the know that connects the old stitching with the new.

 Next, I thread those 4 tails on a needle.  I insert the point of the needle into a hole occupied by one of the joining stitches right where the tails appear.

The point of the needle is manipulated so it goes into the batting but not out the back, and then pops out of the top again about an inch or so away.  

When you pull those threads through the batting and out to the quilt top, you can usually feel a little "pop" as the knot gets pulled through and buried into the batting.  Trim off the tails snug to the surface of the quilt.  (Without snipping the quilt, because then you have another problem on your hands!)
And voila!  The fix is nearly invisible!  If you're lucky!
These are the needles that I use for this kind of work because they thread through the side of the eye and I don't have to work to get all 4 thread tails into the eye of a regular needle.  And it lets me work with a much shorter thread tail if need be.  Look for them at

Now on to the next problem!
When I started quilting this quilt, I didn't have a good plan of what I wanted to do.  I had an idea to do sort of a squared off spiral into each of the rectangles.  In theory, that worked.  In actuality, it didn't.  At least it didn't look attractive to me!  At that point, I took the quilt off the frame because I needed to get something else done and take some time to reconsider what to do.
I would have liked to pursue that idea but alter it some way so I would like it.  But that was going to take me a lot more time to plan and execute than what I wanted to invest into this particular quilt.  So I decided to keep it simple, and use a basic pantogram instead.  
I had done the stylized spiral quilting in the first row of blocks before changing plans.  So I ripped out those stitches and put it back on the frame.  The majority of the fabrics that I used in this quilt are from Art Gallery, and they are wonderful.  They also have a very smooth finish and relatively high thread count.  I use a large needle on my longarm to get good stitch quality, usually an 18 or 20.  For comparison, most of my sewing is done with a size 12 needle.  That larger needle leaves a little trail of holes in this fabric when the stitching is removed.  It's pretty obvious in this picture--

 To get rid of those holes, I have a couple of options.  Sometimes, just rubbing them with a finger or fingernail is enough to smooth the fibers.  Sometimes rubbing an eraser over the holes will help.  In this case, that wasn't working.
The next option that I know of is to dampen the fabric and let the fibers swell just a little and fill in the holes.  That's worked for me many times.  So I did it again, and had mediocre results.  And a new big problem---

The areas circled above show that some of the fabrics bled color onto the white sashing when it was wet.  Not a pretty picture!  And not a happy camper!  After a glass of wine to help me calm down, I used some of this---

It's something I picked once in the laundry aisle at WalMart when I was searching for something else.   Not my favorite place to go, but it can have its positive aspect like finding this!   It's a powder, so I mix a little with some water and dab it with a q-tip onto the stained area.  Then I walk a way so it can dry and I have another glass of wine!  Eventually, I work up enough courage to go back and peek at it.  It did help remove some of the stain, not all.  But it's something I can live with.

So there you go!  You have learned a couple of the little techniques that I use for these problems, and maybe they will help you someday when you are faced with a similar dilemma.  And don't forget the wine!


MissesStitches said...

I'm glad the wine and the detergent helped with the running colors! Does your store carry those needles? Or do I need to get them online? I just tried another type of side-threading needle, but this one looks a little different and I think I'd like to try it.

Pam said...

We have them at BP, but I found mine at the State Fair! It's a set of 12 needles of 4 sizes and retails for $7.50. I can send you some for Christmas!