Roses on Blue

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Irish Chain

Happy Tuesday and Happy December!  Hard to believe, isn't it, that Thanksgiving is now officially behind us and Christmas is fast approaching?  My goal was to have all my Christmas decorations up by December 1st this year, which meant starting the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I never seem to be ready for the holidays, November always comes up on me so rapidly and I am usually overwhelmed with all the decorating preparations and other day to day things I need to do. 
Generally this is also when I do that dreaded floor to ceiling deep cleaning throughout the house.  I don't know why I put myself through all of the work and stress, I can't say that I really enjoy it while I am doing it.  And the older I get, the more I seem to resent the amount of time that it requires when I would much rather be sewing.  But it has become an annual ritual and a sort of cleansing process and I do take pride in it after the fact when it is all said and done (although I am still the only one that notices!).  But this last week I've been coping with layers of pet fur hiding in places you wouldn't think pet fur would find in the first place!  It never ceases to amaze me that it tends to lay on every horizontal (and vertical!) surface in the house no matter how low or how high!
So while I am still in cleaning mode (and probably will be for the rest of December!), I thought I would share a Christmas quilt that I pulled out the other day.  I made this one a few years ago.  I have several quilts I pull out for the holidays and this one is probably one of my favorites, "Christmas Cheer," an Irish Chain inspired by vintage colors.
I quilt all of my quilts myself on my home sewing machine, a Bernina 440E.  I still have not made the leap over to a longarm machine yet, although it is definitely getting more and more tempting!  But for now, I continue to quilt my own quilts and the majority of my quilting is done with a walking foot.  I have done some free-motion feathers and the like on several quilts but I generally do the bulk of my quilting designs in some form of straight or gently curving lines.  To me it is a classic design element and I tend to like clean, classic design.  If you study antique quilts, and Amish quilts especially, so much of their quilting designs are very clean, lots of straight parallel lines, crosshatching, diagonal lines, channel quilting, cables, and of course beautiful feathers.   The other reason I love straight lines is it compliments scrap quilts well.  Most of my quilts tend to be very busy and I feel the straight quilting lines are a nice compliment without competing with the scrappiness and to me they are more pleasing to the eye.

However, on this Irish chain quilt, I experimented with one of the built in quilting designs that came with the embroidery program to my Bernina.  You can see the design I chose in the white area of the quilt.  I thought it was a great opportunity to play with my machine and actually use one of the embroidery features for a change, which is one of the reasons I bought it in the first place!
 
On this particular quilt I marked and sewed all of the straight lines first.  Once the straight lines were all sewn and all of the basting pins removed, I was able to hoop the quilt and embroider, or quilt, the design in each white area.  It was a bit tedious hooping and unhooping each area, one at a time, but once I got a system down, it went pretty smoothly.  The hardest part is supporting the bulk of the quilt.  In order to assist in that part, I put my ironing board in front of my sewing machine and lowered it down to the same level as the bed of the sewing machine.  Then I stood in front of the ironing board and machine and held up any excess of the quilt that hung down so the weight didn't pull or drag and hinder the embroidery unit.  I have to say, I was very pleased with the way it turned out.
I quilted the cables with the walking foot as well.  (I always mark all of my lines with a fine blue water soluble pen before I ever baste or layer my quilt together.)  Then I start at one corner and follow each line from top to bottom, one line at a time.  The gentle curve is not an issue if you sew slowly.  I also find that wearing Machingers quilting gloves gives me the traction I need to gently guide the quilt under the needle.
 
My favorite thread for machine quilting for the top side of the quilt is made by Wonderfil, called Invisafil.  It is very, very fine, a 100 weight thread, and 100% polyester, so it is also strong.  It comes in a wide array of colors but I find that the whites and off-whites blend extremely well with many fabrics and virtually disappear even when sewing over other colors.  It is also wonderful for stitching in the ditch and I have had excellent results with it on all of my quilts.  In the bobbin I usually use DMC machine embroidery thread in the 50 weight or Mettler embroidery thread in the 60 weight.  Both are 100% cotton and also come in a wide array of colors.  I always match the bobbin thread to my backing fabric.
 
If you have never tried machine quilting with a walking foot, I suggest you give it a try!  It's relatively easy to do, a lot less stressful than free-motion quilting, great for beginners, and with a little bit of prep work, it's a great way to actually get some of those quilt tops quilted that have been piling up. 
 
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas show and tell!  Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions.  I try to respond to all of the comments.  And now. . .it's back to cleaning!  Ugh. . . .

8 comments:

  1. Good luck with all that cleaning. I still have to put up Christmas, too. Love the colors of your Irish Chain. You have such a knack for taking a traditional design and making it Modern.

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    1. Thanks Nedra! Yeah, I am wishing I had about two dozen elves right about now, although the decorating part is done, the cleaning part is harder to stay focused on!

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  2. I love that quilt! The colors you chose are perfect together! And the embroidery/quilting in the blocks in fantastic! I'm so happy I discovered my walking foot a last week......I'm so anxious to get busy on all those tops that have stacked up! LOL

    Hoping you enjoy your holidays in your spiffy-clean house! :o)

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    1. Thank you Regan! Yes, you definitely need to play with your walking foot, it really is easy to quilt with once you get a system down. I love it and at least I feel like I have control over the quilting on my quilts that way.

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  3. Isn't it amazing what we put ourselves thru to get ready for holidays. Thanks for sharing your process for machine quilting.I envy your ability to use Invisafil, as I haven't had much luck, but I do keep trying.

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    1. Is the Invisafil breaking while you are sewing with it? I use a size 8 needle, sometimes I will go up to a 10 but try to stay with the 8 most of the time. Not sure if that might help you or not. I usually don't have to mess around with my tension as long as I am using a fine thread in my bobbin, like a 60 weight (Mettler) or a 2-ply 50 weight (DMC). I never use the Invisafil in the bobbin, however. And yes, it is crazy what we do to ourselves for the holidays! Not sure why, maybe one of these days I will figure that out!

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    2. I have tried rayon in the bobbin, and a 50 weight, different size needles and fiddling with the tension.Either the Invisafil breaks or it gathers up,making the seams puffy.They tell me to try Invisafil in the bobbin, but I am still to chicken to try that.Might be next.

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    3. Well that is too bad, I'm sorry to hear that. I've only used Invisafil for quilting, I haven't used it for sewing at all, so I wonder if that might be an issue. But if I do hear of something that might help you, I will definitely post it. Thanks for the info.

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