There has been SO much inspiring chat in our sewing chat group in the last few weeks. I admit, I’m now spending far too much time checking out all of the projects and even less time sewing! But one ‘thread’ in particular got me to thinking.
One of our members, posted a link to an article about a poor lady who sent off her quilt top to a ‘professional’ long-arm quilter and got back an utter disaster! It was horrible and the poor lady was going to have to unpick the whole lot to try to get it redone again.
The article on a quilting blog warned those sewing quilt tops to be very wary about sending their precious tops out to long arm quilters they didn’t know – warning that sometimes just because a person owns a long-arm quilting machine, it doesn’t make them an expert in using it. Always go with someone you know, or by a trusted personal recommendation.
The article and the examples shown in the photos of the terrible workmanship were interesting in itself, but what was even more interesting to me as a complete novice in quilting, were the comments on the article. There were several comments from long-arm quilters lamenting that sometimes a badly finished project is down to the bad quilt top they had been sent to work with.
Complaints about bad quilt tops referred mostly to mis-shaped tops, uneven seams, lumps at intersections, bad pressing, uneven blocks, and mostly about creases and pleats in the top of the quilt that caught in the needle during the quilting process.
That got me to thinking. What sort of a quilt top would be really challenging to quilt and what sort of a job could my friend Lucy (at Granny Sassy Designs) make if I sent her something challenging to work with? Ha ha, sometimes my husband says I have an evil mind – but I like a challenge and wondered if she would too!
So I got to working on something I thought would be as challenging as possible. A completely gathered quilt top, absolutely covered in creases, pleats, bumps and uneven fabric – how would she cope with that? And would we still be friends when she saw what I sent her ?
Here’s how I made my ‘evil’ quilt top.
Making a gathered quilt top from fat quarters
Gather together your supplies:
- 10 coordinating fat quarters of fabric
- I used the Lark fabrics from Amy Butler (buy 10 piece FQ bundle here), but substituted a couple of fabrics as I had already used them on another project.
- A jelly roll for your sashing or 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric
- Dental floss – yes we are going to really need this.
- A long-arm quilter that you want to challenge!
Sew 5 of your fat quarters together along the 18 inch wide side to form a long piece. Mine are shown here folded up afterwards, because it makes a very long piece.
Cut down the length of your long piece to get three 6 inch wide strips. Repeat for your other 5 fat quarters and you’ll end up with 6 long strips of joined fabrics.
Now we need to gather them, and with such a lot of gathering to do and such long lengths, using the dental floss method to gather this up is pretty essential I think. No broken threads, quick and easy slippery gathering and easy to remove the gathering afterwards. Check out here for full details on the dental floss gathering miracle!
Work on a few pieces at a time, and zig-zag the dental floss down the entire length of the piece on both long sides, on the wrong side.
Keep your gathering pretty close to the edge – about a 1/4 inch. Pull up only one side at a time to work on though, it’s easier that way.
Cut your sashing into 2.5 inch strips or use a jelly roll. You will need lengths 57 inches long so join your strips as needed.
Mark an inch in from each end of your sashing piece and then mark every 11 inches along the length. Get a cat to help if you can – they are very good with a tape. Use an erasable fabric marker such as these frixion pens. The marks disappear when you iron it later.
Start gathering your fat quarter strip at the center and match the seams in the strip to the 11 inch marks along the sashing. So each 22 inch length of the FQ strip is being gathered up to fit between the 11 inch marks. Start at the center, pin that one in place first, then work outwards.
Adjust all of your gathers evenly between the marks and use plenty of pins to keep the whole length in place.
Sew one gathered edge to the sashing with a 0.5 inch seam allowance. Take care not to sew through your dental floss, and keep your zigzag gathering stitches within your seam allowance. Then simply pull out the length of dental floss to use on the next strip.
Continue on this way, gathering up the sides and sewing them onto the sashing strips in a way that looks good to you. Alternate the strips or turn them upside down so the colors go the other way – your design choice.
Finish off with two long sashing strips down the outside and phew, all the gathering is now done.
Time to give it a press, as best you can. You’ll actually be pressing creases into the fabric. Press your seams as flat as you can.
Now make sure everything is squared up, trim off the 1 inch ends of those sashing strips and add a final piece along each of the top and bottom ends to finish off.
If you like, add a further border around the outside. Or not. Entirely up to you. If you can find one, get a cat to lie all over your quilt as you try to take photos of it.
Final step – package up your entirely creased, bumpy and folded quilt top and send off to your favorite long arm quilter with your love! Mine is already on its way across the seas to my friend Lucy – let’s see what she makes of this one! It will be a real challenge for her I’m sure, but if anyone can do it, Lucy can. Let’s see what a good long-arm quilter can make from a ‘bad’ quilt top!
He he, evil laugh….
One final word of warning – watch out for Karma. While trimming off threads at the end, make sure this doesn’t happen. Or you might have to cover that darned hole you just cut in it with a patch.
I’m sure I’m going to get some comments and discussion on this – I hope so! What do you think? Have you any experiences, good or bad in sending out a quilt top for professional long-arm quilting? Am I being to hard on Lucy and she’ll open this up and never speak to me again ? Are you a long-arm quilter – what are your thoughts – any tips for how you would like the ideal quilt to arrive with you, and what you dread to see?
Pin this on your quilting board and let’s have some fun with it!