Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Q1 FAL Fallout

So I posted the finish I did get done for the first quarter here so now it's time to turn to what I didn't get done and why (and a  chance to do a little process blogging).

My first quarter list had four projects, three "official" projects and a bonus project that I hoped could squeeze in if I made good progress.  Item #3 and the bonus were two mystery quilts from Planet Patchwork that I wanted to complete.  One was from this January's New Years mystery. 

It still needs some border work and then quilting. 

The other is the Thanksgiving mystery from 2007 and only needs to be quilted.

My plan is to try some "Modern Quilting" (ala Angela Walters) on both of these so I want to work on them together.  Didn't happen in the first quarter and since I've already kind of scheduled out what I want to get done this year, I am not sure now when, if or how I will squeeze these back in later.

At the top of my list for Q1 was my Brrr! Park quilt.  It was a quilt designed by Minik & Simpson that I purchased as a kit from Keepsake Quilting back in 2008 and finished the top, layered and pin basted in late 2009.  But it was not until this year, after finishing the #2 item on my list, I started on the quilting of this late in March and really thought I'd push it through right up to the end.  But I had chosen some rayon thread to quilt it with and that was ultimately my undoing.  Surprisingly right up to the Friday before the end of the month, I had this much done:

The quilting plan was to first quilt stabilizing outline stitching around the blocks and borders with a cotton thread in cream.  This quilt has a flannel back and had been lying round pin basted since 2009 and admittedly the back seemed a bit "puffy".  I thought the stabilizing stitching would smooth that all out but I was definitely wrong on that one!  I wound up ripping out all the three days (!) of stitching I had done, completely re-basting the quilt and then re-sewing all the stabilizing stitching (although this time I got it done in one day)!! Lesson: baste only when you are ready to sit down and quilt.  Next step was to quilt tree trunks with bare branches over the tree blocks. 

I was using a light aqua blue rayon thread in the top I had picked up at some point during the years while waiting to work on this.  Continuing with that thread (and with the cream cotton still in the bobbin), I had different "Winter Words"phrases planned for the setting triangles around the edges of the top's center.

Finishing up with the blue thread, I decided on doing continuous curve stitching through the HSTs in the first border and then would do the cream halves when I changed over to cream thread in the top for the remainder of the quilting.

The first stitching with the cream thread was to quilt snowflakes randomly through the center of the top and fill around it with free motion swirls (note: this is three of the four flakes I had finished and was supposed to finish the other four and the fill on the last Saturday in March).

The final stitching was to be some straight-line stitching in the second border and then more of the swirl fill in the final outer border.  I admit I was a bit nervous about doing all of it.  When I finally sat down to do the initial stitching on the trees, the bobbin thread (the cream) would pull to the top when I tried to stitch backwards (away from me).  Doing some testing on the sides I realized that the "auto" tension setting on my machine wouldn't work.  I tried taking it down and found that the "1" setting was the lowest I could go and not experience the pull and still have good balance on the back. 

That done, I started back on the stitching and found that the thread kept shredding and breaking.  Now what?  Well the solution to that was to slow down my stitching.  There are two schools of thought about FMQ -- some people run the machine really fast while stitching and some run it slow to get good control of the length of their stitches.  I find I get better control running the machine fast.  But when I slowed it down, the thread breakage problems stopped.  So I moved ahead, albeit waaayyyy slower than I normally do.  It was agonizing to work that slowly but I got it done over another three days. 

On the last day, I also moved on to the "Winter Words".  I was expecting it to be a bit of a challenge too.  In the end, I decided to mark them to give me a guideline to work within for both the letter size and to keep it even.  This actually went easier than expected and when done they looked so beautiful!  I was so encouraged that I immediately started in on the continuous curve stitching that I had planned to do on the blue half of the HSTs in the first border .  This would be the last of the stitching with the blue thread (thank god!) and I could re-load the cream on top and (I thought) zoom through the rest of what I had to do at my normal full speed.

Next in the plan was snowflakes in the center and swirl fill around them.  The snowflakes were tricky:  do I mark them out completely or do them freehand?  I decided to do a combo of both.  I marked a circle of ray lines that represent the rays of the flake and a center circle for those designs where the rays terminated around a center circle.  Using this guide, I free-handed the designs, simplifying the elements of different snowflake pictures I had collected down to what I was doable for me.  The first day I managed to get four done.  They were not perfect but they looked good enough to my eye and if it put me closer to finishing, it was all good!  When I left off Friday evening, I was confident I could finish the remaining four and do the swirl fill the next day (even with shopping and errands that needed to be done) and then plan to do the continuous curve for the first border, the straight stitching for the second and the rest of the swirl and fill for the final border.  Then I could bind it up to just eke out the Q1 finish.  But Saturday morning I got a shock when I took the opportunity before we left for errands to get a good look at my work in the Saturday morning light:
Acck!  There is a mess of thread mess on the backs of the snowflakes!  I forget to put the thread tension back up for the cream stitching!!  And to a lesser extent, I had the same problem with the continuous curve and the "Words" stitching despite not having that problem with the trees.  Are there different loft issues when I go out towards the borders versus the center of the quilt?

Needless to say this took a lot of the wind out of my sails.  With time at a premium, I knew I could not rip everything and still get all I had to get done by deadline.  So sadly, I have to put this one aside for awhile.  In the end, I've decided to leave the blue thread stitching but will have to rip the snowflakes and re-do them. 

With the start of April, I had plans to take my machine in for servicing and move on to other things (with new deadlines) using my old machine.  So I will have to try to come back this when I've distanced myself from it a little and can approach it a little more objectively (a.k.a. with less lingering disappointment).  Time to re-group!!

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