Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Lamb Quilt - Freehand stippling practice

While I was wrapping up the Arboretum quilt, I was considering the idea of doing some of the quilting of it using free-motion. After all the work that went into the quilt however, I didn't want to ruin it and decided to make another quilt specifically to practice free-motion quilting. It was just as well I did, as my first experiment was a nightmare.

I decided to do a simple block pattern using a fat quarter bundle from the Woodland Tails Fabric Bundle (by Sheri McCulley Studios for Riley Blake). The piecing went well, although I did have some alignment issues, and if I had more material I would have lined up all the stripe shapes more consistently.

Overall though, the front of the quilt was quite pleasant to create. Then I started the stippling. It was painful from the get-go. I went through three broken needles, a range of different threads (even Aurifil and Bottom Line) and still I was having nothing but problems. I tried changing and experimenting with the tension, trying different needle sizes, but still the thread was constantly snapping, or worse yet; melting. I was in tears. I thought it must be me, that my technique was all wrong, despite doing exactly what I had seen in videos online. By the time I had completed the quilt, I had sworn off free-motion, and decided to do the Arboretum quilt by hand.

I gave the quilt to my daughter as a crib blanket, and proceeded to finish up the Arboretum quilt. Once that was done though, I decided my next project was going to be another art quilt, and this one would need quite a bit of quilting to make it work. I had to give free-motion another go. I went to my local quilting shop, and asked about the problems I was having, and they simply said "what machine are you using". Yeah, that very simple reason hadn't even occurred to me. I was using a $200 Singer machine, and it just wasn't up to the task. I sat down and tried out some of the machines in the shop, and first try I put out the most amazing, even-stitched and easy to do stippling. Just like I had seen in the videos. I upgraded my machine to a second hand Bernina Aurora 450, and set out on my next project. I haven't looked back since.

Meanwhile, my misbegotten Lamb quilt has proved quite the sturdy blanket for a toddler. With its mish-mash of threads and broken stitches, it has held up surprisingly well, and is still much loved by my daughter. It was great practice, but if someone asked me to do the experience again, I imagine my reply would contain a rather loud amount of expletive expressions :)

P.S. I also made the whale pillow in the above picture. I just couldn't find any pillows that had the right size and loft for a tummy-sleeping toddler. She's now in a big bed, and uses a proper size pillow, but that pillow was great for the transition phase!


  1. Good for you! Now that you have a machine that is up to the task you will be amazed at how much fun Free Motion quilting can be.

  2. A good machine does make a difference, but so does the thread. I learned that older thread dries out and breaks because of that, but you can "soak" the thread in water, then let it dry out and and it will be almost like new. I like your Lamb quilt.

    1. Thank you! I tried so many different types of thread on this quilt, and the top line ones I went out and brought specifically to use as the others were breaking. I didn't know the water trick though, that's good to know. Thanks!