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Quilting the Challenge Quilt

The past few days I have been getting the quilt top finished and ready for the quilting stage. It has been a lot of fun seeing how the the three different blocks and the applique pieces for the What’s Good For the Gal Is Good For the Guy quilt have developed and emerged into a whole entity. I love creating the individual parts of a quilt but it’s also satisfying to see it all put together. What is even more satisfying is seeing it quilted and, today, I’ll be getting started on quilting the challenge quilt with the PFAFF Creative 4.5 sewing machine.

There are few things that need to be done first before I can actually sit down and quilt.

The three layers

I already have the top layer finished and ready to go but I still need some batting and a backing for this quilt.

The batting I have and I just need to cut it to the correct size. It’s 100% cotton, which is one of my favorite battings. It’s a low loft batting so will remain quite flat when quilted. If I use a batting with polyester, which has more loft, the quilt would have some puffiness to it.

The backing I will create from a fabulous piece of flannel. Now, when I started the challenge way back when, the idea was to create a pieced back using some of the Eclectic Elements fabric and the backing fabric. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough of those fabrics left to create a backing. But, I do have an idea to create something else with them — shhhhhsh, don’t tell as it’s a surprise.

The backing is a single fabric in lovely blue flannel, which will be warm and cozy.

The 3 layers - quilt top, batting and backing
The 3 layers – quilt top, batting and backing

 

Sandwiching the quilt

I’ve rearranged my studio and put some tables together so I can sandwich the three quilt layers together. Once the layers are all layered smoothly, it’s time to do a whole lot of pinning. I’ve made sure that the backing and batting are 2-inches larger than the quilt top all the way around. It’s always a good plan to have these two layers larger just in case there is any movement of the quilt layers. There’s nothing worse than having a section with no backing or batting.

I prefer pinning to spray basting even though it does take longer. If you pin well, there should be minimal movement of the layers while quilting.

Tip: Place pins about a fist width apart — this will ensure optimal pinning for minimal movement.

Curved safety pins about a fist width apart
Curved safety pins about a fist width apart

 

Binding

I like to make the binding before quilting the quilt to have it all ready to go and I don’t accidentally use the binding fabric for something else. I decided on one of the feature fabrics for the binding — stripes in blue and tan. This fabric is going to look super framing the quilt. Plus, it looks great with the backing fabric that it is lying on.

When I calculate how many strips to make for the binding, I keep it simple. All I do is add the measurements of each side together and add an extra 20-inches to ensure overlap for sewing the ends together. then, I divide by 40. Not exactly an exact science but it works for me and there isn’t all kinds of convoluted measuring or matching involved.

For this quilt that’s 72-inches on each side, I rounded up to 80 (this will include the extra 20″ I normally add), multiplied by four to get 320″ and divided by 40 which equals eight strips of fabric. Easy peasy!

A pile of binding
A pile of binding

 

Picking a thread

I made a little sampler of some of the feature fabrics and the background fabrics to test a couple of threads. I did both straight stitch and free motion samples with each thread. Because all the fabrics are a bit different, it’s hard to get a thread that will blend into all the fabrics. I don’t want the thread to stand out because I feel the design is the focal point of this quilt, not the quilting.

The fabric sampler
The fabric sampler

 

My two choices of thread are a variegated blue or a variegated gray. I’ve decided on the blue for the background and, most likely, the gray for the feature fabrics. But, I may change my mind when I start quilting the feature fabric and go with a variegated brown, since many of the blocks have a brown tinge to them.

Thread choices
Thread choices

 

Quilting the quilt

Here it is all ready to go in the machine. The large throat space of the Creative 4.5 is going to make the quilting so much easier. Another bonus is the great lighting on the machine — four LED lights really light up the work area. This will help me to see the blue thread on the blue background.

Tip: Rolling the quilt makes it easier to maneuver the quilt within the machine. You can even secure the roll with bicycle clips so it won’t unroll — these clips are used to secure your pant leg from getting caught in the chain.

Quilt rolled and in machine
Quilt rolled and in machine

 

I’ve put the open-toed decorative foot on the machine so I can see where I’m going with my stitching. Make sure to also pick a foot that is compatible with the IDT system. The system needs to be engaged while quilting to ensure that the three layers of fabric move smoothly under the foot and over the feed dogs.

Tip: Always start quilting from the center of the quilt working out to the edges. This will ensure any movement of the layers towards the edges of the quilt rather than towards the center where unwanted bulges could remain from the movement of the quilt.

Open-toed foot in place ready to quilt
Open-toed foot in place ready to quilt

 

I’ve decided to do straight quilting on the background fabric. My reason for this is that I think that if I do a free motion design it will take away from the actual design of the quilt and the feature fabrics. Plus, to me, the straight lines are much more masculine than a free motion design and, since it’s for a young man, I’m going with my gut feeling.

I haven’t quite figured out what I’ll do in the feature fabrics yet, but I’m leaning towards some echo quilting of the shape of the feature fabric in the block.

Making the labels

I have to say that I’m not the best one for putting labels on my quilts, but this quilt will have a label because I have an embroidery machine to make a label! The PFAFF Creative 4.5 also has an embroidery component — an awesome one at that.

I need to add a phrase to this pocket. As well as another phrase on the backing and then of course the label with the name of quilt, who made it, and so on.

The pocket
The pocket

 

To make these labels, I can choose from several different alphabets within the software of the machine to embroider phrases. If I wasn’t happy with any of those fonts, I could download one from the computer to the machine to use. Lots of options.

One alphabet option
One alphabet option

 

Embroidery on the PFAFF Creative 4.5

Next month, my week at QUILTsocial will be devoted to exploring the embroidery component on the Creative 4.5, as well as, the stitch and shape creators. The latter allow me to make my own stitches or alter other stitches and sequence several stitches together or create my own unique shapes to embroider. Oh, the possibilities are endless! It’s going to be so much fun to play with the embroidery options.

Embroidery unit attached to the Creative 4.5
Embroidery unit attached to the Creative 4.5

 

For now, I need to get busy quilting the challenge quilt. There will be a big reveal day for the two quilts — mine and Elaine’s. We each created quilts using the same feature fabric for this quilt challenge called What’s Good For the Gal Is Good For the Guy.

Happy Quilting

That's a lot of pins
That’s a lot of pins

 

 

Jennifer runs Quilts by Jen, a fantastic educational resource for quilters with many great free tutorials ranging from how to choose fabrics, understanding the value of fabrics, pressing, building Bargello runs, pinning, binding, sandwiching, couching, quilting, and much more. Check them out!