In October I started this quilt using the Canning Day fabric line from Connecting Threads. I call it my Thanksgiving quilt because it was my project to stitch over the long weekend at my sister's for the holiday.
What started out to be 'just' a keep busy project has turned into not only a great quilt but an excellent learning tool for 2 things: a pieced back and pantograph quilting. Ever since I took the FREE Creative Quilt Backs Craftsy class I wanted to try Elizabeth Hartman's technique for adding a pieced back to a quilt. I also wanted to try pantograph quilting using my quilt frame on a real quilt. Done...and done!
To make the quilt back for this quilt I simply used the same blocks as the front of the quilt and added a strip of them on the back between 2 pieces of my white backing fabric. I did sketch out my placement of the strip on graph paper in addition to doing the math in order to cut my base fabric correctly. I knew I wanted the strip of blocks to be the same measurement as the front blocks and also I wanted them to be off-centre. I'm really happy with the way it turned out and feel it adds just a bit of interest to the back of the quilt.
Since I have only done cheater quilt panels on my frame I also wanted to try quilting my first 'real' quilt. I learned a lot with this process, including how it feels to quilt over seams! It is quite different than the smooth whole-cloths and I totally knew when I hit a seam - the needle encountered resistance and my grip had to be tighter to control the movement of the handles.
I also had to pay attention to the loading and winding of the 3 layers of the quilt on the frame in order to keep the backing lined up properly. In the past, having only a large piece of patterned fabric, I never really had to worry whether the backing was lined up in any way - the only thing that really mattered was that it was large enough to cover the quilt top. I really wanted the strip of blocks on the back of the quilt to be in alignment with the blocks on the front so I had to make sure that was going to happen once I had it pinned to my leaders.
Not only was this the first quilt I quilted on my frame, it was also the first on which I used an overall pantograph design. I was so nervous to do this on a real project but I knew I had to dive in and just do it! Immediately I had challenges with the edges of the quilt top as I found it difficult to baste the edges and stay off the actual border. I knew some of it would be trimmed off and/or hidden by the binding but I realized right away that I was straying into visible quilting territory!
I started getting big puckers along the edges of the quilt, to my dismay, and I pretty much thought I'd ruined the quilt - there was no way I could hide those big pleats. I did have great success rolling the quilt to the next row and achieved excellent 'nesting' of the pattern with each subsequent row. That part was a challenge to figure out but once I did, I was thrilled with the results!
Because this is not a very large quilt it took no time at all the follow the panto and then have to roll the quilt again. This got a bit tedious and I had to just quilt a couple rows at a time and then take a break. While I am using a simple pantograph design it does take quite a great deal of concentration to follow the line with the laser!
One other issue I encountered was when I got to the last third of the quilt I started running out of quilting area in order to complete my design. As the quilt gets rolled up on the take-up bar there is less and less room to move the machine in order to quilt the design. All of a sudden I started hitting the take-up bar with the back of the machine as I tried to dip down to quilt the lower curve of the 'paisley' design. This resulted in a straight line of stitches rather than the nice curved one. What I did to correct this was 'fake it'...when I got to that curved point in the next part of the pattern I just made the approximate shape by myself, slightly higher than it was supposed to be (and therefore, smaller). It's hard to explain but even though I was no longer following the design with my laser I was at least making a less obvious mistake/alteration than a flat line where a curved one should be. I wasn't sure how obvious this was going to be once I was done but I kept doing it for the last 5 or 6 rows of quilting. I was really surprised I had this happen because my panto is only 6" wide and I didn't think this was a very big quilt. Unless I'm doing something wrong when I start the quilting I guess I'll have to look for even smaller panto designs.
In the end, I trimmed most of the puckers off the quilt and added my binding all by machine. Once I washed the quilt it was nearly impossible to see either mistake - the puckering in the border or the mess-up with the curves of the design. The overall texture is wonderful - not too dense, not too open and the repeating pantograph pattern looks amazing - especially on the back where you can really see the quilting.
This may just be one of my favourite quilts now!