Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lessons learned from my first quilt – Part II

Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts about piecing and making decisions about my first quilt. As promised, here’s my two cents worth about finishing it. (My apologies for the length of this post.)

I cut my backing and batting the same size as my top because I couldn’t figure out how to keep things “square”. Most of the tutorials I read said to leave the batting and back bigger so there must be a way to do this precisely. I was afraid I’d end up with the back being crooked. I’d love some insight on this:)

I got some of those nifty curved quilting safety pins and pinned every 4-5 inches or so. These really were easier to work with than the regular ones.


Now, the scary part for me. I had my mind made up to stipple this, so I practiced (a lot!) to get the right thread, needle and tensions, crossed my fingers, said a prayer and did it! (I found some great tutorials and will put them in the sidebar.) Here’s some of my own observations about stippling:

    • I had previously broken thread while practicing, so I tried a cotton machine quilting thread from Coats and had no trouble. 
    • I used a new size 12 Schmetz needle
    • I wound 3 bobbins ahead of time, but needed 6 or 7.
    • I preferred hiding my threads when I changed bobbins rather than backstitching or knotting.
    • I set my machine speed to the fastest speed I was comfortable with. That kept me from accidentally “stepping on it” and speeding out of control.
    • I used quilting gloves and found them to be extremely helpful. I have very dry skin and my hands were constantly sliding but the quilt wasn’t. I found these gloves to be helpful for other sewing projects, too. I don’t mind having warm hands:)
    • When I started the process, I had the quilt all rolled up in clips but quickly abandoned them. clips It made the whole thing too stiff so I ended up folding or letting it puddle. There is not enough room behind my machine and the roll kept hitting the wall. 
    • I discovered that my problem with the quilt not moving smoothly was due to the drag factor from the bulk of it falling below the level of the machine bed. I found a way to prop it up, but I’ll have to make a more permanent fix. There are extensions to buy, so I may go that route.

I used strips from the jelly roll for the binding. It’s just the right width (2 1/2”) so no cutting! I used straight seams and pressed them to one side so I couldn’t see the stitches. I did the math ahead of time so it was fairly precise.

I made a really silly mistake with the binding and will share even though my face is still red. I pieced it and pressed it in half and was feeling pretty good. The part I missed was that I was supposed to sew both thicknesses to the quilt. I sewed it all on, thought it looked pretty wide and could not get the corners to miter. So, I went back to the tutorials and realized that it’s supposed to be doubled.  It wasn’t that hard to fix…just embarrassing for someone who’s supposed to be an experienced sewer!

I used my walking foot to apply the binding.

I will use pinking shears to trim next time to eliminate all those little frayed threads.

The corners are not truly mitered but folded to look acceptable. I couldn’t get the miter to lay smoothly. More practice!

baby quilt corner2  

I’m confident that my stippling will improve as I do more, but I’m pretty happy with the finished product.

Thanks for reading through this. If these random thoughts of mine have helped you, I’m happy:) Your input is welcome if you’d like to leave a comment!


  1. Another great list! I ended up with a crooked backing once too, so I'd love insight on that one. I love those curved pins for basting! I always use Guttermans thread, which never breaks. And I usually use at least 5 bobbins - sometimes I even buy a package of pre-wound bobbins for the convenience. Agree with you that quilting gloves are THE best! I too tried those clips but quickly abandoned them cuz they got in the way. And yes again to the drag factor. I use an extra chair along-side our kitchen table. Great list!

  2. The best tip I've found (and ALWAYS used) to keep the backing straight is this. Place a pin at the midpoint of each side of your backing fabric. Lay it out (or pin it to your basting frame as I do), place your batting on top of it, and then, pin the centerpoint of each side of your quilt top. Line up your pins, and VOILA, you should have a nicely centered quilt ! (On my basting frames, I have stitched, in red thread, a midway point on each board, and I line my backing's pins up with this to start with, then proceed as above.)

    I hope this helps........I just found your blog, through a comment of yours on Fluff and Nonsense's blog.


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