In last week's episode, the name of a health insurance company got stuck in my head, so I was compelled to make a quilt out of it. The name, of course, is "Blue Cross, Blue Shield." The tutorial
shows how I pieced the blocks and attached the pockets.
When you last saw it, it wasn't quilted. But now it is:
I like the way the white thread comes into and out of view, depending on the shade of denim. Blue and white is so soothing.
This was a historic quilt for me, because it's the first largish quilt (37" x 57") that I've done on my new baby, ie, my Babylock Tiara III (which, incidentally, is the same as the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen). When
my DH bought it a couple of months ago for my birthday, and the nice people from Kingdom Sewing
set it up, it looked like this:
While quilting the Blue Cross quilt, it looked like this:
You may be asking: What the (bleep) are those purple poles? Aha! I deduce that you don't show dogs or cats! Neither do I! But those, I learned, are pet grooming arms. I bought them because - one never knows - one might someday adopt a pair of fluffy pets which - one never knows - one might wish to blow-dry while freemotion quilting!
Just kidding! I added the grooming arms because Katie of Katie's Quilting Corner wrote a persuasive blog post
stating that they could be used to reduce the weight of the quilt while freemotion quilting! [2021 update: Katie's post has vanished. On her recommendation, I purchased two Master Equipment Dog Grooming arms very much like the ones sold here
. To place on the ends of the cord, I purchased heavy duty muslin clamps - you only need two, but I had to buy extra, here
; and two aluminum caribiner clip hooks to attach the clamps to the cord, here.
My total cost was just under $100.)
In fact, overhead suspenders of some kind are all the rage in the quilt world, I learned from my new Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen Yahoo discussion group
I'm pretty sure that quilting legend Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry is responsible for this trend - she has a fascinating DIY system hanging from her ceiling - her instructions (in PDF form) are here
. More suspension ideas include:
- The Jennoop system. (2021 update: I can't find this product for sale anywhere, and the website seems to be down - let me know if you find it!)
- A repurposed garment hanging rack, here.
- Leah Day's permanent ceiling system, which costs less than one grooming arm: See it here.
- If you or a family members is good with PVC piping, you can figure something out, cheap.
- 2021 UPDATE: A new product is the DIME Weightless Quilter Frame, which sits on the ground but extends above the table Sold various places including here, but I haven't tried it.)
We are not very hardware-handy in our home, so I sprung for the grooming arms (about $36 each). Although I was a skeptical, they worked beautifully. Clipping and unclipping the quilt for major position changes turns out to be MUCH easier than shlepping around the dead weight of a quilt on a table. Suspension also eliminated the need for me to surround my sewing table with vast mesas of similar-height tables.
If you don't have a mid arm like my new baby, you can still benefit from suspension. The systems work equally well with regular (aka 'domestic') sewing machines. If you have a different approach to suspension, I'd love to hear about it. And most importantly, if you use the same brand of dog arms that I did (from Master Aluminum, no financial affiliation), you can choose hot pink instead of purple. Hey, I didn't think of it til just now - I could have bought one in each color!
Back to the quilting details: I cut the vines out of folded kraft paper, then adjusted them to fit the available spaces....
Once pinned in place, just because I'm lazy, I tried freemotion quilting around one - but, of course, the brown paper lifted up when the foot hit it. So I traced around the vine onto three more sheets of freezer paper - then cut out the shape, ironed those into position, and stitched around.
I would have much preferred to mark the quilt, but I have yet to find a marking pencils that shows up on denim. The blue washout pens are virtually invisible on denim, and my half-dozen motley crew of white marking pencils don't make a strong enough line. (Suggestions welcomed!)
For the back, I used a cotton sarong purchased in Thailand in the 1980s. .
I hated to trim off its lovely selvege, but it was too big for the back. So I appliquéd a piece with identifying information to a lower corner. Thai is such a beautiful language! (Does anyone know if Emchit is the name of the company?)
Disregard the sausagey binding. Argh! Doubled denim, I learned, is heavy, thick, and hard like concrete, 2 1/2" was not wide enough, and the handstiching was a lack of fun. I used strong buttonhole thread, but it may well break over time, given how ferociously it's straining towards freedom. In hindsight I should have bound the quilt with a regular quilters' cotton, or maybe just one layer of denim.
Although I love to kvetch, by the time I finished my quilt, I was counting my blessings. First, that I now have a mid arm - a luxury item for sure. Second, that I found lots of information about suspension systems. I think the suspension made as much or even more of a difference in ease of quilting than the new machine (at a tiny fraction of the cost of a mid arm.) And finally, gratitude to whoever invented pet grooming arms. Now all I need a pair of smallish fluffy pets who don't mind being groomed practically on top of a sewing machine.
The piecing and appliqué tutorial for this quilt, in Part I, is here
UPDATE: My quilting friend Roz in Montreal just told me about a friend who quilts next to a set of bunk beds. When quilting a heavy quilt, she suspends bungee cords from the top bed's coils to hold up the quilt! Gotta love it!