The Making of Surplus Strips Part 2 – The Quilt Top and Basting

As I prepare for International Quilt Market, which is an industry trade show held this spring in Portland, Oregon (May 18-20), I’m sewing like a madwoman, finishing up samples to promote my new quilt patterns and Fandangle fabric line. I’m currently working on two versions of my Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern – in warm and cool colors. Click here to read my previous post about making the blocks.

Color Arrangement

Surplus Strips Blocks in Cool Fandangle

Arranging tiny blocks was much faster than using my design wall!

Although I designed both colorways in EQ8, I didn’t finalize the exact color placement for each block. Instead, I did something very low tech. I printed out a version of the quilt with the same number of blocks that I made and then cut out all of the tiny paper blocks to arrange on my work table. It actually went a lot faster than putting up the blocks on my design wall and arranging them there.

Surplus Strips Paper Blocks - Warm Fandangle

I like being able to rearrange the blocks until I’m happy with their color placement.
These paper blocks are only about 1″ wide!

Once I was happy with the color arrangement, I printed out the final layout in color, and organized the blocks on my work table by color. In other words, the printed out layout served as a “virtual” design wall that takes up a lot less space!

Surplus Strips Blocks Fandangle Warm Colorway

I printed out the layout in EQ8 which serves as my “virtual” design wall.

It was super fast to sew the blocks into rows using my printed out layout as a guideline. This quilt goes together in vertical columns, rather than horizontal rows, so I just had to make sure I kept everything in the correct orientation as I sewed.

Surplus Strips blocks Fandangle Fabric warm colorway

I sewed the blocks and sashing in order according to my printed out layout.

Pressing Seams Open

I used this process for both the warm and cool colorway, and it went super fast! Pressing all of my seams open really helped the quilt top lie flat when I gave it a final press. It also made it soooo much easier to line up the seams accurately! Because there’s no nesting, it’s important to pin generously while joining the blocks and rows. But I actually get better results and perfect seam joins when I press seams open & use pins, so it’s worth it to take the extra time.

Seams Pressed Open - Cool Colorway, Fandangle Fabric, Surplus Strips Quilt

Seams pressed open ensures a nice flat top, with no lumps and bumps!

When pressing seams open, be sure to use a shorter stitch length (like 2 instead of 2.5) to secure the seams. A shorter stitch also makes it less likely that you’ll see thread poking through the seams, too!

Bonus Measuring Tip

Measuring long borders

Use a ruler to extend the cutting length on your mat for long borders: place the folded end on the ruler, and cut on the mat. If I needed more length, I’d rotate the ruler longways.

Here’s a bonus tip when working with borders that are longer than your mat. When cutting, I fold the border fabric in half and use an “extend a ruler” – my phrase for extending the cutting length by using a ruler, lined up at the edge of the mat. I’ll use as many extra inches as needed to get a nice precise measurement when cutting. Just divide the needed length in half and count over that many inches on the extension ruler and mat.

More Pressing

Press the quilt on both sides

Speaking of pressing, once the quilt top is finished, I give it a final press on the front, too. It seems to make the quilt nice, flat and crisp, so it’s ready to baste! Whenever I press anything on my quilt, I always use a dry iron. I don’t like steam because it can burn your fingers and distort the fabric. Also, if the iron leaks or spits, you can get a nasty mess! If I need a bit of water for an unruly seam, I’ll just use a spray bottle filled with water instead.

Virtual Home and Studio Tour

Surplus Strips Quilt Tops Warm and Cool

Look closely and you can see 2 quilt tops waiting underneath the warm colorway. Plus there’s some yardage of Fandangle peeking out underneath the cool colorway.

When my quilt top(s) are finished and pressed, I hang them over the stair railing on the upper floor of my home so they don’t get wrinkled. Upstairs is my husband’s office, my daughter’s room, our bedroom and my sewing loft. Downstairs is my son’s room, work area for The Precut Store, living room, dining area, and kitchen. It’s a comfy home and we use every square foot!!

Here’s an image of my studio space, across from the stair railing where I hang my quilts in progress. This picture was taken back in 2014 for a magazine profile. It’s pretty much still the same!

Christa's Sewing Room

Image of my sewing studio 2014 – with 3 quilt tops that are still unfinished LOL!!

Our backyard is just off the kitchen downstairs, and is where I keep a plastic table set up on the patio for spray basting. I don’t spend nearly enough time in my yard as I do my sewing room, so it needs a little work, LOL!!

Spray Basting

Basting Outside

Click here for my spray basting tutorial using a design wall.
Click here for my spray basting tutorial using a table.

Once the backing and top are sprayed outside, I then bring them inside and assemble them on my design wall indoors.

Surplus Strips Batting

Take a picture of the batting with the quilt, and take note of what you like/don’t like.
I’m using Hobbs cotton batting for the cool colorway.

To keep track of which batting I use, I take a picture of the batting with the quilt top so I can remember. For these quilts, I used Hobbs cotton for the cool colorway and Hobbs silk for the warm. I used those particular battings because they are what I had on hand and didn’t have time to order anything else, LOL!!

But I love using natural fiber battings like cotton, wool, or silk because they cling to the quilt, provide good stitch definition, and allow the quilt to breathe and hang well.

Surplus Strips Warm Colorway backing

I’m using Hobbs Silk batting for the warm colorway.

Although the quilt pattern calls for all of one fabric for the backing, I had fun and made some bonus blocks with some of the leftover strips. Because I only have a limited amount of Fandangle yardage right now, I got creative with my piecing and used three different warm prints instead.

Surplus Strips Warm basting

Click here for a tutorial on how I made my design wall – back in 2013.

I like to make sure I have several inches of extra batting and backing beyond the quilt top. That way I don’t have to line things up perfectly, and the extra will get cut off when it’s time to bind.

Once it’s basted, I’ll trim down the backing and batting so that there’s only 1-2 inches sticking out. This prevents them from flipping backwards under the quilt, causing you to accidentally stitch through them while quilting. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done that!!

Pressing the Quilt After Basting

Notice how closely I trimmed the layers, with only about an inch or two of batting/backing sticking out beyond the quilt top. This prevents quilting the quilt to itself!

The final step is to press the quilt – yet again!! After it’s basted, I’ll press the quilt, first on the back, and then again on the front. This helps set the glue so the layers don’t shift. But more importantly, it allows me to work out any creases or bubbles on either side of the quilt. One the quilt is nice and flat, it’s sooo much easier to machine quilt!

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa WatsonClick here to preorder the Surplus Strips quilt pattern – print version.
Click here to preorder Fandangle fabric bundles + background.

I hope you are enjoying seeing my progress as I make these quilts. Once they’re finished and photographed, I’ll release the patterns in both PDF and print. For now, you can pre-order the print version over at Shop.ChristaQuilts.com along with fabric to make them. (FYI the Fandangle 1/2 yard bundle + 5 yards of gray will be enough to make either quilt top.)

Now it’s time to quilt them – so stay tuned for part 3!!

Quilt Las Vegas 2018 and Lots of Gorgeous Modern Quilts

My local quilt guild, Desert Quilters of Nevada. recently held their 28th annual show of Quilt Las Vegas. I’ve been entering off and on over the years since the early 2000’s and it’s still exciting to participate after all these years.

DQN Quilted banner by Karen Garth

Desert Quilters of Nevada quilted banner made by past president Karen Garth

The competition is always fierce, and the judging is always performed by a certified judge. Even after all these years of entering this show, it’s still thrilling whenever one of my quilts wins a ribbon and I love the feedback provided by the judge.

Below are my entries from the show along with the judge’s comments, plus several more that caught my eye. I’m so happy to see that more and more members are making modern quilts, and especially that more are being accepted into non-modern categories. Enjoy the virtual show!

Diamond in the Rough by Christa Watson

Diamond in the Rough, made in 2016. 2nd place, Modern category.
Originally patterned in QuiltCon magazine 2017, it hung in QuiltCon last year and also received an honorable mention in the modern category at UQSM quilt show in 2017.

Judge’s comments for Diamond in the Rough

  • Repetition of shape unifies design while variations provide interest.
  • Very graphic presentation.
  • Very good piecing.
  • Quilting designs are well-chosen for their areas.
  • Good machine quilting technique.
  • Slight imbalance in tension noted with red thread. Continue to strive for accurate retracing.
  • Bit of red in binding was a good choice.
  • Binding is good.

Positive Direction Quilt by Christa Watson

Positive Direction, made in 2016. 2nd place, Holiday category.
Originally patterned in one size in Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine.
Updated pattern now includes 4 sizes, available as print pattern or PDF download.

Judge’s comments for Positive Direction

  • Good interplay between quilt top design and quilting design.
  • Very good accuracy in piecing.
  • Good machine quilting technique.
  • Strive for more accuracy in retracing bubbles.
  • Binding is well done.

Scrap Happy by Christa Watson

Scrap Happy, made in 2017. 2nd place, Pieced – One Person category
Cover quilt + patterned in American Patchwork and Quilting magazine, October 2017.
I recently gifted this quilt to my son to take with him to college.

Scrap Happy Machine Quilting Detail

Machine Quilting Detail on Scrap Happy

Judge’s comments for Scrap Happy

  • Good definition between figure and ground.
  • Good machine piecing.
  • Colors are well balanced across quilt top.
  • Quilting designs further enhance definition between figure and ground.
  • Continue to strive for consistent stitch length in machine quilting.
  • Pieced binding enhances scrappy feel. Corners should be square.

I always mention to my students when teaching machine quilting not to stress too much about consistent stitch length when making their quilts. Yes, judges notice my “imperfections” in my quilts, but they still like them enough to award them ribbons, and I love making them without stressing about creating perfect stitches!

Other Gorgeous Quilts

Autumn Path quilt by Vicki Ruebel

Autumn Leaf by Vicki Ruebel of Orchid Owl Quilts
1st Place Pieced – One Person category and best machine quilting.

Vicki is a great friend and amazing quilter. We encourage each to other enter lots of quilt shows and I don’t even mind that she usually beats me every time, LOL!!

I love our friendly competition because it always pushes me to be a better quilter. Incidentally, her quilt was also patterned in the same issue of American Patchwork and quilting that has Scrap Happy on the cover. There’s even a bonus article on how she quilted it!

The Big Pickle by Vicki Ruebel

The Big Pickle, also by Vicki Ruebel. 1st Place, Modern

Yep, this one beat mine in the modern category, but isn’t it fabulous? This quilt nabs an award at each show it is entered, and deservedly so!

Corn Flowers by Cory Allender

Corn Flowers by Cory Allender and her Instagram quilting bee.
2nd place, collaboration/group quilt.
Design source: Blossom Heart Quilts Beehive

I love the quilting on this quilt. Cory is an amazing award winning longarm quilter and she’s nailed both the modern and traditional aesthetic.

Diamond Rings by Karen Garth

Diamond Rings by Karen Garth, Honorable Mention Modern Category
Original design and made by Karen

Karen, the past president who made the DQN banner at the top of this post always creates such stunning, dynamic work. I have a thing for black and white and this design really makes my heart sing!

Float by Melissa Bonilla

Float by Melissa Bonilla – Modern Category
inspired by Floating Embers

Every time I attend quilt shows, I wish I could bring my own ribbons! If so, I would have put one on Melissa’s quilt above. I may actually have to do that at a show someday. Hmmm, maybe I can create my own “Christa’s Choice” ribbon!!!

Modern Logs Quilt

Super Star Bingo by Lynda Blair – quilted by Cory Allender – Modern

I walked by this quilt and was stunned by the gorgeous colors and fabric placement. I was thinking “why do I love this quilt?” and on closer inspection realized the maker had used my Modern Logs quilt pattern to make it, LOL!! She even gave me credit in her artist’s statement as the design source.

Super Star Bingo Text

I’m totally happy when people make quilts from my patterns and enter them into shows, and I especially love it when they give credit to the designer. 🙂

Quilt Show Quilts

Bertha (left) by Melissa Curley – Third Place Modern
Theresa’s Crayon Box (right) by Theresa C – Third place, small pieced

I took this picture from the show which illustrates what I love about quilting and the quilting community. From minimalist modern designs to blinged and bedazzled art pieces – there’s truly something for everyone when it comes to quilting!

Ben Modern Quilt by Melissa Curley

Ben by Melissa Curley –  Judge’s Choice – Show Theme Category

Here’s another fabulous piece by Melissa Curley. I’m a fan of everything she makes and her sense of design and color are spot on! I think it’s kinda cool that she gives all of her quilts first names. Read her artist statement below, explaining the fun pop culture reference.

Artists Statement at Quilt Show

I hope you’ve enjoyed the virtual show and remember – entering quilts into shows isn’t really about the competition. It’s about sharing your work with a larger audience and inspiring others to make quilts they’d only dream about!!

Introducing my second fabric line – Fandangle – from Benartex/Contempo

I just got a delivery of fabric samples from my next fabric line which will be shipping to stores this summer! I call it Fandangle which a fun, silly name that means “excess ornamentation or embellishment.”

Fandangle Fabric by Christa Watson Cool Colorway

Click here to pre-order a bundle of Fandangle in the Cool Colorway.

I named this collection Fandangle as sort of an inside joke to myself. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact that I don’t actually embellish or be-dazzle my quilts with any type of bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, but it’s just not my style.

Fandangle Fabric by Christa Watson in the Warm Colorway

Click here to pre-order a bundle of Fandangle in the Warm Colorway.

Fandangle Fabric Designs

The names are super fun and playful, too! Here’s a little bit more about each design:

“Baubles and Bits” is a medium to large scale print with fun flourishes. If you look closely, you can see a nod to my previous collection with the inclusion of some subtle boxes – one of the prints from Modern Marks. To give the print more depth, I also added some scattered triangles, and just the tiniest hint of beads, which show up more prominently in its own print.

Fandangle Fabric, Baubles and Bits print

Baubles and Bits comes in two colors: teal and red.

“Sparkling Squares” features retro star bursts and fun flourishes This is a companion print to Baubles and Bits but on a much smaller scale. I love being able to take a design element and try it out in different configurations – just like creating a quilt layout, right??

Fandangle fabric - Sparkling Squares

Sparkling Squares comes in two colors: teal/multi and orange/multi.

“Triangle Trinkets” is based on one of my modern machine quilting designs. But I didn’t want this print to read as a simple line drawing (I saved that idea for Paper Cuts, below.) This would make a fabulous backing print: you could quilt your quilt from upside down, following the outline of each triangle to add depth and dimension to your quilt!

Fandangle fabric -Triangle Trinkets

Triangle Trinkets comes in three colors: peach, lime and teal.

“Beaded Curtain” was inspired by another one of my machine quilting designs, “string of pearls.” But if you look closely, you’ll see all sorts of fun shapes – ovals, rectangles, squares, and there’s even some quirky triangles in there (another shape from Modern Marks).

Fandangle fabric - Beaded Curtain

Beaded Curtain comes in four colors: red, pink, lime and turquoise.

“Paper Cuts” looks most like one of my free-motion line drawings. I based it off of my “jagged stipple” motif, which many of my students tell me what their regular stipple looks like anyway. So they can rest assured that it’s a bona-fide modern design, NOT just a “creative” mistake, LOL!! I thought Paper Cuts was a more descriptive name that fits in with the artsy theme.

Fandangle Fabric Paper Cuts

Paper Cuts comes in four colors: yellow, orange, green and turquoise.

“Confetti Crosshatch” is the most versatile of the group. This is a remix of “Crosshatch” from Modern Marks, but on a smaller scale. It’s a prefect blender print and works fabulous as a background or binding. I was thrilled to include two shades of gray!

Fandangle fabric - Confetti Crosshatch

Now that my samples have arrived, I’ll be sewing like a mad woman in time to complete several quilts for quilt market. I’ll be sharing my process so be sure to follow my blog.

Feel free to pin and share any of these images to spread a little Fandangle fun with your friends. Then ask your favorite quilt shop to order Fandangle next time they meet with their Benartex/Contempo sales rep.

Fandangle Fabric Line by Christa Watson

Fandangle fabric by Christa Watson for Benartex will be available in stores Summer 2018!

Click here to pre-order Fandangle bundles by colorway.
Click here to pre-order quilt patterns featuring Fandangle.

My Newest Craftsy Class – Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

It’s here – it’s here! The launch of my third Craftsy class – whoo whoo! Just after I made the sneak peak announcement earlier this week, the class went live! So today I’d like to introduce you to Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt.

craftsy Class Starry Path Quilt

Click here to preview my class Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

In this nearly 3 hour long class, I teach how to make this stunning quilt I designed featuring two different types of star blocks and three different types of triangles.

It was created as a followup class to my comprehensive start-to-finish class, Startup Library: Quilting. But of course, anyone can enroll and make this stunning quilt:

Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get the Starry Path Quilt Kit, while supplies last

The class comes with the complete pattern to make the Starry Path Quilt above, and there’s even an optional kit. I chose to make it from basic blenders in a cool color scheme of lime, green aqua, blue and turquoise. I paired it up with a solid gray background for maximum impact. I’m really pleased with how well the design turned out and I loved taking my time to be as accurate as possible.

And, because you all know I loooove machine quilting, I threw in a bonus lesson on how to quilt elongated swirls. Isn’t it just fully of yummy texture??

Swirls quilting on Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

The class materials include step-by-step drawing lessons showing how to form the basic swirl design, plus a page for you to print off and practice drawing your own quilting plan. (It’s a nod to the technique I first introduced in my machine quilting class, The Quilter’s Path.)

The exclusive Starry Path pattern is easy to follow along as you watch the class, and I’ve sprinkled in as many helpful hints as I can to ensure your success with this quilt!

Starry Path Quilt with Christa Watson on Craftsy

I can’t help fondling my quilts, LOL!!

In Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt, I share my best tips and tricks for accurate cutting and piecing so that you can get stunning results, every time. My top tips for piecing any quilt?? Slow down when you are sewing, maintain an accurate 1/4″ seam and use lots of pins to get those intersections to line up precisely.

Starry Path Quilt in Progress

The best thing about my Craftsy classes is that unlike my live classes, you actually get to watch me sew and quilt. That way you can and see where I place my hands, and how I manipulate the fabric. With the magic of filming to speed things up, it’s actually fun to watch!

Starry Path Class Overview

Here’s a breakdown of what’s covered in each section and length of each lesson. The total class runs for just under 3 hours, and if you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I can cover a lot of info in a short amount of time. So you really get more “bang” for your buck with my classes!!

Boundless Fabric from Craftsy
1. Getting Started (32 min)
Meet Christa and go over everything you’ll need for your project, the Starry Path quilt. Then she shares tips for cutting both yardage and fat quarters. Plus, see how to check and correct your seam allowance early on. This way, your blocks will be the correct size.
Sawtooth Star Block Piecing
2. Sawtooth Star Block (39 min)
Piece the classic flying geese unit four at a time! Christa shows you how to mark, sew, press and cut, and add simple squares to create the Sawtooth Star block. She helps you chain piece a few blocks at a time to speed up your stitching, and shows you how to use webbing to keep your blocks together as you go.

Christa Starry Path Quilt

3. Garden Path Block (30 min)
Learn how to cut and sew with the popular Tri-Recs specialty ruler that you can use in many other quilts. Find out how to properly cut and line up the pieces, add simple four-patches and solid units for a beautiful block, and save time by chain-piecing it.
Garden Path Block
4. Pieced Border (30 Min)
Follow along as Christa guides you to create the colorful pieced border that surrounds the Starry Path Quilt. See how to pair half-square triangles to form this hourglass unit, also known as the quarter-square triangle. Then batch-assemble the border strips.

Christa Sewing

5. Quilt Top Assembly (23 Min)
Now you’re ready to put your quilt blocks together! Here, discover a technique called webbing that will keep your blocks in order as you assemble the inner quilt top into rows. From there, sew the rows together, then add the solid and pieced borders.
Machine Quilting Swirls with Christa Watson
6. Machine Quilting Swirls (20 Min)
Wrap up class by finishing your basted Starry Path quilt with an all-over free-motion design. Christa discusses thread choices, then shares the benefits of making small samples to practice your designs. Afterwards, get her tips on maneuvering this quilt on your home machine as you add the final touches.

Starry Path Quilt by Christa Watson

I had so much fun making this quilt and I’m sure you will too! The best part about enrolling in my class is that you have my help and support 24/7. Got a question about the class or want to share your progress? Use the interactive class platform to share with me and fellow students. It’s like a virtual classroom with me at your side!!

Click here to enroll in Startup Project: Starry Path Quilt

Click here to get the Starry Path Quilt Kit

Elongated Swirls quilting by Christa Watson

I can’t wait to “see” you in class!

Spray Basting Tutorial – Using a Table

Recently I shared a tutorial on spray basting using a design wall. Today’s tutorial shows how to modify the spray basting process using a table instead. Note that my pictures are all taken outside but once the quilt layers have been sprayed outdoors,  you can assemble the quilt inside using any size table.

Improv Squares Quilt Using Modern Marks

The quilt shown in this tutorial is Improv Squares, made from Modern Marks fabric.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – printed version shipped to you.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – instant PDF download.

Step 1 – Spray the back side of the backing and quilt top

Be sure to spray the layers outside, or in a well ventilated area. If you have sensitivity to chemicals, I recommend wearing a dust mask. I use 505 basting spray and a large sheet to protect the surface I’m spraying on.

I’m using a lightweight folding plastic table, so it’s easy to move. I just store it out of the way in the garage when I’m not using it.

Spray Basting

The table you are using doesn’t have to be bigger than the quilt. When I’m spraying, I cover the center section of the quilt first, and then the sides. For this step, you don’t even need a table; you can lay out a sheet or dropcloth on the ground or wherever you have room.

I used a small park near my home so that I’d have plenty of room, and also nice scenery for photography!

Hold the can an arm’s length away and spray evenly and generously. Make sure to get good coverage on the quilt. To ensure the can is spraying consistently and doesn’t get clogged, spray a few squirts on your dropcloth before applying it to the quilt.

Spray Baste

Although I pressed the top and backing separately before I began, you can see some fold lines on both layers. But not to worry – this gets pressed out at the end. If you spray the top and backing separately, it uses less spray than spraying the batting, and it’s easier to manage.

Once both layers have been sprayed, you can fold them up and bring them inside to finish the assembly process (or stay outside and set the layers aside like I’m showing here.) The layers will be sticky, but not stuck, and you don’t have to assemble them right away – the adhesive doesn’t dry out.

Remove the drop cloth or sheet from the table and then lay out the backing wrong side up.

Spray Baste

Step 2 – Add the batting

I like to fold the batting in half long ways so that I can put the fold line roughly in the center of the backing. You can see in the picture below that it’s not exactly even and that’s ok. As long as the batting and backing are bigger than the quilt top, you’ll have some wiggle room so that you don’t have to line things up perfectly.

In fact, my batting is actually a little longer than the backing so it’s easy enough to trim away the excess. Working on a table is great because it won’t hurt your back like the floor can.

Spray Baste

Open up the batting so you have coverage on all sides. Even if the sides hang down to the ground – that’s okay. The excess will get trimmed away.

Spend time smoothing out the backing. You can lift and reposition it if needed. Work out any wrinkles or bubbles, using your hands and a long acrylic ruler.

I’m using Hobbs cotton batting for this quilt. I like natural fiber battings because they cling to the fabric and they aren’t slippery. (Polyester has a tendency to slip while you are shoving the quilt through the machine which can cause puckers.)

Spray Baste

Once you smooth out the center section, adjust the layers so that you can smooth out the sides, too. Take your time here to really get it nice and flat. Smoothing out the layers also smashes them together so that they stick together better and don’t shift.

You can also iron your batting before you baste to get it nice and flat. I use a spray bottle and a dry iron. With cotton batting, you can put the iron directly on the batting. With more delicate battings like wool, you can cover the area you press with a piece of fabric. Be sure to use a dry iron so that it doesn’t shrink up the batting.

Spray Baste

Step 3 – Add the Quilt Top

Add the top in the same way that you added the batting – get it roughly in the center and make sure there’s coverage all the way around the edges. You can see it’s still a bit wrinkly from handling and moving it around. That’s okay – you’ll iron it again at the end.

Spray Baste

Trim away the excess batting and backing so you’ll have less bulk to deal with. If you have a super large quilt that touches the ground, you can always place two tables side by side to give you more room to work.

I use specialty batting scissors – they cut through the layers like butter, and trimming goes super fast! I only leave about an inch or two on all sides when I trim. That way it’s less likely that I’ll flip the quilt under itself and accidentally quilt through the extra layers!!

Spray Baste

Step 4 – Smooth Out the Layers

Smoothing out each layer as you add it is such a critical step. When your quilt sandwich is flat and smooth, it makes the machine quilting process so much easier! The reason I love using basting spray is that every inch of the quilt is stuck to every other inch. This prevents shifting of the quilt and greatly reduces the chances that you’ll get a tuck or pucker while quilting.

Spray Baste

Use the long ruler again to smooth out the center of the quilt. You can also use it to help line up the pieced seams and nudge things back into place if needed. It’s almost like pre-blocking the quilt before you quilt it.

Spray Baste

Once you’ve smoothed out the center, you can work on the edges. Roll up the excess so that it doesn’t drag on the ground as you shift the quilt around.

It usually takes me a good 20 minutes to smooth out each layer of the quilt, but it’s time well spent!

Spray Baste

Step 5 – Press the Basted Quilt on Both Sides

The secret to good spray basting is to press the quilt once it’s layered. The heat of the iron sets the glue and it smooshes the quilt together so it’s nice and flat. I press the back side first, working out any excess bubbles or wrinkles. Then I flip it over and press the front.

I use a big board which fits on top of my ironing board, giving me more room to work.

Spray Baste

I’ve developed this basting method over the last few years and I can honestly say it makes a huge difference in how my quilts turn out. Just remember, you are putting a lot of wear and tear on the quilt when you scrunch and smoosh it through the opening of your machine. But with this method, nothing shifts and it’s easy to just focus on one area of the quilt at a time.

Feel free to pin and share this tutorial with your friends. My goal is to get more people quilting their own quilts while enjoying the process from start to finish!

Your Chance to win a Rainbow Taffy Quilt Kit + Machine Quilting Tips

April Update!! My Quilt Won the Championship!!
Thanks for all your Votes!!

I know it’s a little silly to get all excited about a fun promotional contest, but it really means a lot to me that so many of you have picked Rainbow Taffy as your favorite free pattern from Benartex so far. Today is the last round of voting to determine the final fan favorite, and one lucky voter will take home a kit of the winning quilt! Will it be Rainbow Taffy?? See below for details:

Benartex March Madness Voting

Final matchup: Rainbow Taffy from Modern Marks versus Violette from Gloaming

Click here to cast your vote for Rainbow Taffy on Benartex’ blog: Sew In Love with Fabric.
Click here to vote a second time in their Sew Interesting Facebook group.

You can also vote over on their Instagram account @benartex_fabrics.

Well, it all comes down to today and the final matchup between my pattern and my friend Shelley Cavanna’s. I met Shelley last fall when her booth was near mine in the Contempo section of Benartex at Quilt Market. She, too was debuting her first line of fabric and we got to know each other as we chatted on the floor for 3 days. So I will be happy no matter which of us wins!

Shelley Cavanna and Christa Watson at Benartex

Half the fun of attending quilt market is getting to meet new designer friends!!

Rainbow Taffy Quilting Tips

Here’s a tip for choosing thread: if you want your quilting to blend in, choose a thin, 50 weight thread in a color that is slightly lighter than the prints in the quilt. I chose a lime green Aurifil which actually acted as a neutral. It didn’t stand out too much on the white fabric and it added bit of sparkle to this colorful quilt!

Lime Green Aurifil Thread

Here’s another tip: the more quilting you add, the more the quilting design recedes into the background and becomes a textural element, rather than a focal point point motif. And rather than thinking you are quilting your quilt to death, you are really quilting the life into it by adding an extra layer of design!

Boxes quilting Detail

I quilted Rainbow Taffy using one of my favorite modern free motion motifs, “Boxes.”

In fact, I love this design so much, I included it as one of the prints in the line, seen in orange below. I thought it would be so “meta” to quilt boxes on boxes, LOL!!

Boxes print from Modern Marks

Here’s my tip for quilting an allover, or edge-to-edge design: start on one side of the quilt, and meander your way around the quilt, block by block. Allover designs are perfect for quilting a quilt in a hurry, since you don’t really have to worry about quilting different designs in different areas of the quilt.

Scrunch and Smoosh

I work my way from right to left across the quilt, rotating in the middle when it gets bulky.
To deal with the bulk – scrunch and smoosh it out of the way as you go.

Allover designs are also fantastic to hide any less than perfect seams. If they don’t match up perfectly, you can obscure this fact by adding a layer of texture right on top of the quilt.

Also, if there’s any fullness in your quilt, or it doesn’t lay quite flat, dense allover quilting can draw up some of that excess, and you can use your fingers to smooth out and problem areas while you quilt – just be careful that they don’t get in the way of the needle!

Machine Quilting Texture

See how that lime green thread blends in?? I love it!!

If you happen to run out of thread while you are quilting, you can just back up about 1/2 an inch and quilt a little bit on top of your previous quilting. Stitching on top will help secure the threads, and on a buys quilt, it’s hardly noticeable.

Rainbow Taffy by Christa Watson

One other tip – try not to play “bobbin chicken!” If you have a low bobbin indicator on your machine, try to stitch off the end of the quilt and put in a fresh bobbin. If you are quilting with cotton thread, you can always use that bit of leftover thread when piecing your next scrappy quilt!

Vote For Your Chance to Win a Rainbow Taffy Quilt Kit

Rainbow Taffy Quilt by Christa Watson. Made from Modern Marks.

To wrap up March Madness, Benartex is generously offering one lucky voter a chance to win a kit of the winning quilt! Voting closes Monday, April 2 at Noon EDT.

So head over to the Benartex blog now to cast your vote. The winner will be selected at random. You can also submit a bonus vote in their Facebook Group and Instagram @benartex_fabrics.

I sure loved making this quilt and I know you will, too. Click here to get the free pattern.
Good luck and thanks for playing!!

Finished Quilt – Squiggles Made from Modern Marks Fabric

At long last, I’m excited to show you the finished version of Squiggles, made from my first fabric line with Benartex, Modern Marks that released late last year.

Squiggles by Christa Watson

Squiggles version made from Modern Marks with black background

You may remember that the original version, shown below was made from precut squares with a cream background and overlapping wavy line quilting using a walking foot. The step-by-step instructions for both piecing and machine quilting this version are included in my third book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Squiggles Quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Squiggles, original version from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

When I got my fabric samples last year, this was the first (of many) quilts that I wanted to remake using my fabric. It just goes to show how different a quilt can look using the same pattern, but different fabrics.

Squiggles Quilt Top

I love the bold bright colors against the black!

With the updated version I really wanted the modern fabrics to pop, which is why I paired them with the deep black. I think it gives the quilt a more contemporary/modern vibe which I really like.

Aurifil Thread Squiggles

Choosing thread color was the hardest part of this quilt! I knew that any colorful thread would work, but I opted to go with the bolder Turquoise Aurifil to really give it some punch.

Quilting Random Crosshatch

Although I love to piece, machine quilting is still my favorite part of the process. I absolutely loved adding an extra layer of texture to this quilt using random crosshatch quilting, which is really just quilting parallel straight lines in random intervals across the quilt in both directions.

Machine Quilting Squiggles

Here are some pretty “scenic” shots, taken in the desert behind our house. My husband Jason really enjoys doing photography and capturing photos in interesting spots.

Squiggles Quilting Detail

I love how the bright colors contrast with the softer, muted desert background.

Squiggles in the Desert

This is my favorite picture: showing the Las Vegas skyline behind the quilt:

Squiggles by Christa Watson

Squiggles Finished Quilt Stats

Click here for a list of shops that carry Modern Marks fabric.

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 6 – Machine Quilting Tips

This week we get to my favorite part of any quilt – the machine quilting!! For Squiggles, I quilted it with my walking foot. I always recommend starting off with walking foot quilting for beginners because it really is no-fail quilting. In the book, I show you how to quilt organic, squiggly lines with the walking foot, for the original version made from Pat Sloan’s The Sweet Life charm packs:

Machine Quilting Ideas

Squiggles Quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

The original version of Squiggles: pattern & quilting instructions available in my latest book.
Click here to get your signed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.
Click here to purchase The Sweet Life charm packs seen above, while they last.

If you’d like to quilt fun, fast and easy squiggle lines, follow along in the book on page 19 to see the instructions and quilting plan for Squiggles

Another quick and easy way to finish this would be to quilt a wavy grid, following the directions for “Gridwork” on pages 26-27. Check out a closeup of the wavy grid quilting below:

Gridwork quilting with a walking foot

For my Squiggles remake from Modern Marks fabric, I wanted to try out a different design that I mention briefly in the book on page 21 as a “make it your own” idea.  Rather than quilting wavy lines, try quilting irregularly spaced “straight-ish” parallel lines to create a random crosshatch grid.

Random crosshatch quilting

I chose a highly contrasting Aurifil thread in Jade so that it would show up on the busy prints.
The thread is from my Piece and Quilt Collection – Colors.

Random Crosshatch Quilting Tips

Here are a few tips on how I approached quilting the second version of Squiggles:

Machine Quilting Squiggles

I always start quilting on the right hand side of the quilt and “scrunch and smoosh” the bulk of the quilt as I go. First I make one pass across the quilt in both directions to anchor the quilt for more quilting later. This breaks up the quilting, secures it in place, and allows me flexibility on how densely I want to quilt it.

Start and end off the quilt

I try to choose designs that allow me to start and end each line of stitching off of the quilt in the batting. Then I don’t have to tie off all those pesky threads!! For best results when using walking foot/dual feed quilting, try to stitch in one direction rather than stitching the lines up and down or back and forth across the quilt.

It will help prevent puckers or “whiskering” that looks like little creases caused by the shifting of the fabric. I make one pass across the quilt from right to left, quilting “anchor” lines depending on how wide the blocks are. Then I rotate the quilt when I reach the middle, and keep on going to the other side.

Use gloves to move the quilt

I wear Machingers gloves to help grip the quilt and give me a little more power when I push the quilt through the machine. I also use my hands as a hoop and only focus on the area I’m quilting between my hands. It’s not a very larger area, so I re-position my hands and the quilt A LOT while quilting, and that’s ok!

For the random crosshatch, some of the “anchor” lines will be in the ditch, while some of them may be randomly to the side of the ditch. Below are three different ways that I mark or randomly quilt straight lines across the quilt:

Marking With a Washable Pen

Marking Straight Lines

Use an acrylic ruler and washable marking pen to mark guidelines if needed. I used a combination of marking and eyeballing when quilting my straight-ish lines. Mostly I changed it up so I could dry out several different methods. Hey, what I can I say? I’m always experimenting!

Painter’s Tape

Use Painter's Tape as a Guide

Painter’s tape is one of my favorite marking tools! I can place it at random intervals, using my long acrylic ruler to keep the lines straight. The best part about quilting random lines is that I can stitch along both sides of the tape to quilt 2 lines at a time!

Bonus tip: rather than putting the needle next to the tape, put the edge of your quilting foot next to the tape. It will space the lines out a little wider, and you won’t accidentally stitch through the tape!!

Walking Foot Guide Bar

Using a guide bar for quilting

You can also use a guide bar to follow along a seam line, or previously quilted line. Just decide how far apart you want your lines, and adjust the width of the guide bar appropriately.

Notice that I’m using the BERNINA dual feed rather than a walking foot. My machine has a built in mechanism that attaches to the back of a specialty “D” foot, giving me more options of which foot I can use. It acts just like a walking foot and performs the same function. I also like using an open toe so I can see exactly where the needle is stitching.

Machine Quilting Random Crosshatch

Here’s what Squiggles is looking like after a few random passes across the quilt in both directions.

Keep on Quilting!

Walking Foot Quilting

Continue quilting randomly spaced liens both horizontally and vertically across the quilt until you are happy with the spacing. The hardest part is knowing when to stop!!

Machine Quilting Random crosshatch

Click here to purchase a Squiggles Quilt Kit made from Modern Marks fabric.

And just remember, if you aren’t happy with the way it looks, just keep quilting. When I had only quilted a few lines on the quilt, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like the end result, and the thread really stood out like a sore thumb. However, once I added more lines, all of the sudden, I couldn’t see any of the imperfections, and I love the amazing texture that was created!

Remember to share your progress!

Part of the fun of any quilt-along is seeing all of the variety everyone is making. Check out my ChristaQuilts group on Facebook to cheer on your fellow quilt-alongers and post pics of your WIP’s (works in progress). You can also tag me on instagram @christaquilts and #squigglesqal.

The next post will go up in 2 weeks, giving everyone a chance to catch up on their progress!
Click here for the previous Squiggles Quilt Along tutorials.

Meet Me at QuiltCon 2018: My Schedule of Events

I’m super excited for QuiltCon 2018 which takes place next week, February 22-25 in Pasadena California. Although I taught there the last 2 years, this year I’m excited to take it a little bit easier by being a student and attendee, and I can’t wait. However, I’ll still be super busy with a full lineup! If you plan to attend, I’d love to see you at one of my events listed below:

Christa’s QuiltCon Schedule

Christa at QuiltCon with Hobbs

On Thurs. Feb 22, from 12:15-1:15 I’ll be in the Hobbs Batting Booth #122 for a meet ‘n greet. I’ll have some small samples on display and will be happy to answer your questions about batting, machine quilting, and anything else! Rumor has it, there might even be a giveaway!!
Later that day, I’ll be helping out as a general volunteer from 4-6 PM. I’m sure I’ll be wandering the show, pitching in wherever help is needed. Volunteering is truly one of the best ways to get the most out of any show!
Christa at QuiltCon with Hobbs
On Fri. Feb 23, from 12:30-1:30 I’ll be having a book signing with InTown Quilters at booth #624. They’ll have copies of Piece and Quilt with Precuts for sale and some Modern Marks precuts. If you know you’ll be at the show and want to reserve a copy of the book ahead of time, be sure and contact them right away before they sell out.
star Shadow by Christa Watson
Star Shadow, designed and made by Christa Watson, featuring Modern Marks
On Saturday, Feb 24 from 10-11:30 I’ll be hanging out tin the Modern Quilts Unlimited Booth #105. They will have my quilt Star Shadow on display, and you can get the pattern in their latest magazine issue! For those of you enjoying Quiltcon from home, click here to purchase the latest issue #22.
Christa at QuiltCon with BERNINA
Later that day, starting on Saturday at 1:15 PM, I’ll be performing a live machine quilting demo on stage, followed by a Meet ‘n Greet & book signing in the BERNINA booth #502. I’m pretty sure BERNINA will have a machine or two in their booth that you can try out and see why it’s my favorite sewing machine!
The MQG book
Finally, I’ll end my day on Saturday from 5:30-7:30 hanging out at The MQG Book Signing Party, to celebrate the launch of the new book Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century. I was thrilled to have 2 of my quilts featured in the book, which you can read about here.
QuiltCon 2018
I have to say, QuiltCon is my absolute favorite event – it features over 300 modern quilts and tons of great vendors. So far I’ve gone to every single show (since the first one in 2013). QuiltCon changed the course of my quilting career for the better and I’ve been pleased to have at least one of my quilts included in the show each time. For those not able to attend be sure to follow #quiltcon on social media, and check out a fun event that will be happing at the same time: #quiltconfromhome.

check out My Other posts from Prior QuiltCons:

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 2 – Making the Blocks

I sure have enjoyed seeing pictures of the fabrics everyone is using so far to make their Squiggles quilts. (Check out my facebook group and #squigglesqal on Instragram.) One of my favorite parts of any Quilt Along is seeing how different fabric choices affect the look of a quilt made from the same pattern. Even those who purchased Squiggles quilt kits will end up looking different because of the fabric placement.

Squiggles from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

I’m remaking Squiggles from my book using my Modern Marks Fabric.
Click here to purchase a kit with black or white background.

Making the Quilt Blocks

This week it’s time to make the Squiggles blocks! Turn to page 16-17 of Piece and Quilt with Precuts for instructions on making the individual units and sewing them into quilt blocks.

Squiggles Unit – See the book for how many to make and what size squares to  use.

Once the units are complete, randomly sew them together to make pairs of “C” blocks:

Squiggles Block from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

C is for Christa, right?? Just kidding!!

Bonus Piecing Tips

In order to get my quilt top really flat for easier domestic machine quilting, I prefer to press all of my seams open while sewing the blocks. Contrary to popular myth this will not weaken the seams.

Because I’m using bold prints with a black background, I pieced them together using a darker thread – Aurifl 50 weight cotton #4241 Very Dark Gray. This makes it less likely that thread will show through the seams when they are pressed open.

 

 

I’m using very dark gray from my Aurifil Piece and Quilt Collection – Neutrals

I also used a shorter stitch length to help secure the seams. For example, the default stitch length on my BERNINA is set to 2.5. I turn it all the way down to 2.0 while piecing so that the seams ends don’t come apart. Smaller stitches also helps ensure that you don’t see the thread peaking through the seams. If you don’t want to use a shorter stitch length, you can instead back stitch each set of units at the start and end of each unit while chain piecing.

Sharing is Caring

Next week it will be time to sew the blocks into the quilt top! In the meantime be sure and post pictures of your progress in my facebook group, and share them on instagram using the hashtag #squigglesqal. (You can also tag me on instagram @christaquilts). I love it when we all cheer each other on!

In fact, check out this fun mini quilt that Leslie Frost made from the corners that are leftover when you make the blocks. Isn’t it cute??

Squiggles Leftovers

Use up the leftover corners in a mini quilt or throw them in your scrap pile.

For a limited time I have Modern Marks Squiggles Kits available with a black or white background. But once they’re gone – they’re gone!!

Suiggles with Modern Marks

If you are just joining the quilt along, click here for the complete schedule.