I have been quilting a quilt for my daughter. I warm up on the large practice quilt before I switch over to hers. I have also been digging through Diane Gaudynski’s blog posts. She is another quilter (besides Leah Day and Ann Fahl) I admire and who quilts beautifully on a domestic machine. She doesn’t write many posts, but there’s a lot of good info to glean from them.
She and others have extolled the virtues of wool batting, especially if you want certain sections of your pattern to pop without needing trapunto. So I made two identical 10 inch square sandwiches, one filled with the cotton batting I usually use and the other with wool. I practiced various ways to quilt feathers and then filled between them. Yes, indeed there’s a huge difference. Wool is expensive, but if it’s an art quilt or a very special quilt, I think it is worth it. If you watch sales and collect coupons, it’s actually not too hard to get it at a more affordable price.
|Cotton batting on the left and wool on the right.|
|Close up of the swatch using wool batting.|
Another thing I have been grappling with is stitch length. If hand stitching, smaller is better, like 20 stitches per inch. So you would think that would also be a guideline for machine quilting. Leah thinks it doesn’t matter, so long as it is even. One source says 10 to 12 stitches per inch, and Diane uses as many as 15 to 20 stitches per inch. She recommended taking a swatch of fabric and sewing lines at different lengths, so you could see what it would look like.
|Sample of stitch lengths - stitches per inch are in ()|
Obviously, if you are doing really fine, tight patterns, a smaller stitch is needed, but what about bigger quilts with more open, larger patterns? After looking at some of mine, I found that I tend to hit about 8 to10 stitches per inch. However, some of my swirls weren’t as sharp or smooth as they should be. Some sections had much longer stitches than that. I know I probably need to aim for more like 12 to 15 stitches per inch. That means slowing down my hands and maybe speeding the machine up a bit. What I have noticed is that I accelerate my hands in the curves (like I do when I am skiing or driving) which makes those stitches very much longer. So I need to maintain a consistent and slower, more relaxed speed in my hands. I also noticed that I get ahead of the machine and then my needle tings. I probably am bending it a little, which is released when the needle leaves the fabric, thus the ting.
Today I worked on those things today: slightly shorter stitches and more consistent speed to get even stitches. It felt better and the results showed it was. I had almost no tinging. Progress!