Friday, October 22, 2010


What would we do without the support of our quilting friends? I for one wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn the ABC's of long arm quilting while personally quilting a large authentic vintage batik quilt that I could never have hand needled nor managed to cram through the small opening of my home sewing machine.

Many, many thanks Kate for your generosity, excellent tutoring, patience, and girlfriend time!

I traveled to South Carolina to the home of my pal for a two day marathon quilt lesson. Before we actually tackled my quilt, she wisely had a practice piece in her long arm, marked with diagonal lines to allow me to get acquainted with the machine and the direction that I'd begin my stitching (like about 32 times).

After some practice and a lot of cheer leading by Kate.....we were ready to load the machine with my quilt. First the backing was pinned onto a fabric leader. She has it set up with a zipper which allows her to unzip one in-process project and reload with another without having to pin again. This photo shows my backing attached.

Next the batting is placed on the backing and basted in position.

Now my quilt top was's carefully measured across the entire width of the quilt to be sure the blocks (vertically and horizontally) are straight. I'm a stickler for good is Kate. She explained and demonstrated how carefully each task is completed before moving to the next step which assures the results yield a flat, pucker free, and square finished product.

In keeping with quality work, Kate uses a nifty tool to check the bobbin tension....and we all know how darn important thread tension is! I am....palms sweating as I begin carefully trying to guide the needle of this big machine to quilt in the ditch along each side of the black sashings. The orange ruler is a tool she uses to help keep the head moving smoothly along a line. Of course that means one can control both the ruler and the arm of the machine! Yikes...... I know quilting in the ditch is a very difficult skill to conquer....on any machine.....but seriously I'd score myself a C- or D with my attempts.

I got better with practice and just when I thought I had a good grip on the control disappeared and I'd be bobbing from side to side. This was such a good reminder for me. I encourage my students in my hand quilting classes to practice, practice, practice and not to get I was at the receiving end of that advice.

The diagonal quilting was completed first, then horizontally through the patchwork blocks and finally vertically. My respect for long arm quilters has risen tremendously. This photo shows the very last pass.

We didn't keep track of the time I spent.....but I'd guess it was about 20 hours. Kate was there with me every step of the way, advancing the quilt, constantly checking that it remained square, checking the quality of the stitches....even crawling on the floor beneath the quilt using a flash light to see the backing as I worked!!


I'm now back home and the quilt is resting on my guest room floor. I can't wait to get the binding on and hang the finished quilt on our stairwell wall.......

Most of the fabric was inherited from my dear, dear Mother-in-law's stash, acquired from her many trips to Asia in the 1960's and early 70's. The pieced backing fabrics were gifts from the 'perfect child' who has also traveled to Asia many times. We now have a wonderful family memento.....and I have fond memories of two great days with my friend Kate!

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