Improv Squares Finish with Machine Quilting Details

Now that I’ve been blogging again on a regular basis, I’ve realized I haven’t shared about some quilts I made from Modern Marks. And since I’ll soon be starting on quilts from my next line of fabric, I want to make sure I’ve documented my recent finishes!

Improv Squares by Christa Watson, made from Modern Marks

I recently shared a spray basting tutorial for Improv Squares, but here are some beauty shots of the finished quilt, taken in the desert behind our home in Las Vegas.

The inspiration for Improv Squares was a broken wooden fence that I drove by several years ago. I snapped a picture of the fence and kept it in my phone for a long time, until I was ready to do something with it.

Improv Squares Inspiration

The holes in the fence made an interesting pattern that I though would be fun to do something with. I also wanted to further explore the concept of “Structured Improv” – a technique I’ve been playing around with for several years now.

Improv Squares by Christa Watson

The improv part is that you sew a bunch of fabric together randomly. The structured part is that all of the block units are a similar shape  – rectangles. All of the blocks finish the same size so they can be placed randomly in the design, yet no two are the same.

Machine Quilting Tips

Aurifil Vareigated thread

When I’m working with busy prints and I want the fabric to be the star of the show, I’ll try to choose a thread that blends in. Because Modern Marks is so colorful and I wanted to use all of the prints in this quilt, I chose a variegated thread that would add fun layer of texture to the busy prints

My favorite variegated thread is 50 weight Aurifil #3817 Marrakech. It’s fun to see the color changes while I’m quilting, and I love quirkiness that it gives the quilt! It also seems to match any rainbow-colored quilt I make!

Machine Quilting Jagged Stipple

Because I was in a hurry to get this quilt finished, I quilted an allover/edge to edge design on a rather large scale. The quilting is still very dense, but by quilting larger shapes, I was able to cover more area very quickly.

I used one of my favorite designs – a  geometric, jagged stipple rather than a smooth curvy stipple. I was able to complete the quilting on this throw size quilt in an afternoon, rather than several days whenever I do more intricate custom quilting.

Jagged stipple quilting

I love this texture so much, it inspired one of the fabric prints in my second fabric line!
More about that later…….stay tuned!!

Incidentally, whenever I teach machine quilting, I always have the students practice quilting both angular shapes, and curved designs. Some people find it easier to quilt one vesus another, so it’s a good exercise to try and see which type of design you prefer!

As you can see in the detail picture below, the jagged motif gives some interesting texture to the quilt, without overpowering the overall design.

Allover jagged stipple

Improv squares is now available as a pattern, either as a printed version, or a PDF download.
If you make one, I’d love to see it! After all, the fun of designing quilts for others to make is seeing the variety!

Improv Squares quilt

Share your progress wtih me on social media with the hashtage #improvsquaresquilt. You can also share images of any projects you make from my books, patterns or fabric in my ChristaQuilts Facebook group.

Click here to get the Imrpov Squares Quilt Pattern – printed version shipped to you.

Click here to get  the Improv Squares Quilt Pattern – instant PDF download.

Improv Squares Quilt Pattern using Modern Marks Fabric

Improv Squares STATS:

  • Finished Size: 66″ x 80″
  • Fabric: Modern Marks by Christa Watson for Benartex
  • Batting: Hobbs 100% Cotton
  • Thread: Aurifil 50 weight cotton #3817 Marrakech
  • Machine Quilting Design: Jagged Stipple
  • Completed: October, 2017

Improv Squares quilt

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!!

Vote for your Favorite “Final Four” and Stock up on Free Quilt Patterns from Benartex

Ok so I’m not much of a sports fan, but I am just a tiny bit competitive, LOL!! Benartex has been hosting a fun March Madness matchup to determine this year’s favorite free pattern. They started with 50, then voting narrowed it down to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight and now the Final Four. I’m pleased that my pattern, Rainbow Taffy has made it all the way so far and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with your help, it will be voted #1 fan favorite!!

Rainbow Taffy by Christa Watson made from Modern Marks

Today is the semi final match and voting runs through 11:59 AM EDT tomorrow. Then voting for then final matchup starts at noon Eastern time on Friday. So if you want to join in the fun with me, here’s what you can do:

Click here to vote for Rainbow Taffy by leaving a comment on the Benartex Blog.
Click here to join the Benartex group on Facebook and vote again in their group poll.

There are some free fabric prizes to be won, and of course everyone who participates is a winner with access to dozens and dozens of fabulous free patterns!

Free Pattern Rainbow Taffy

Click here to get the free Rainbow Taffy Quilt Pattern + a Bonus Modern Marks Pattern
Click here to access the entire free pattern library from Benartex

On Fabric Design and Rejects – Those That Didn’t Make the Cut for Modern Marks

I’ve been getting a lot of positive support for the idea of sharing more of my behind-the-scenes work, so thank you for the enthusiasm!

Today I thought it would be fun to share something I don’t think many designers do – my fabric rejects, or those that didn’t make the cut when I designed my first fabric line, Modern Marks with Benartex/Contempo. I’m sure the reason designers don’t do this is because they know people would be clamoring for it, and be sad that they can’t buy the rejects LOL!!

Modern Marks Bundle

Modern Marks Swatches – It was hard to narrow it down to these final designs!
Contempo is Benartex’ modern/contemporary division.

Now before I get into it sharing some rejects, I’ll explain how I work with my fabric company since I’m sure many of you are curious about it. First – I create a mood board, with colors, ideas and styles I’m trying to achieve. I also draw out most of my designs by hand and select the colors I want to use.

Because I’m not computer savvy when it comes to creating repeats (the amount of distance between design elements so that a design can print continuously), I work with a fabric stylist and graphic designer at Benartex who help me with the technical work. Just as I utilize the services of a book publisher and graphic designer to make my books and patterns the best they can be, it’s been wonderful to collaborate with a fantastic company who has the same vision for fabric as I do.

Modern Marks Pinwheel from Benartex

I wanted Modern Marks precuts to be exciting and dynamic – and I love the results!

Since everything is finalized in the computer, it’s very easy to produce a LOT of different variations of the design in nearly unlimited colorways and print them out in color on paper before they go to the fabric mill for printing. However, because a fabric company is producing dozens of different lines each season, any particular designer is limited in the number of final designs that can actually be printed.

Hence the problem of narrowing things down. My rejects vastly outnumber those that I chose. Not only did several designs not make the cut, but I also had to narrow down which prints would be offered in what colorways. Those were some tough decisions to make, but I was pleased with the final result.

Fabric Design in Progress

Modern Marks fabric design in process – this group included too many lights, not enough mediums and several prints and colorways that I ultimately had to reject. You may see some of these ideas revisited in future fabric lines in a different way… so stay tuned!

You’ll notice many designs in the photo above that didn’t make the cut – including those super light boxes prints and the tossed triangles on the right. Although I loved the boxes, these versions were too light for the rest of the group. I ended up adding color to the backgrounds to make them read as a light-medium so that they could mix better with the other prints when using them all in the same quilt. But not to worry, I’ll be re-visiting the idea of adding more background prints in future fabric  lines.

Although the triangles above were very close to my original vision for them, once I saw them in repeat, the style didn’t fit with the rest of the group. They were a bit too whimsical and not quite the retro-modern look I was going for. Fortunately, since then I’ve been able to tweak the triangles into something I like better, and they’ll be appearing in a totally different way in my next fabric line coming out later this summer. So it just goes to show an idea is never wasted!!

Modern Marks

Finalizing the Modern Marks print selections on my design wall and grouping them by colorway. I numbered them and made a bunch of notes for the fabric company so we’d both be on the same page when it came time to print them. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the end result.

So now that you’ve had a bit of a sneak peek into my process, here are a few more examples of certain prints that I loved and why I ultimately rejected them. I’ve grouped the images below into the “reject” and the final versions and explained why I made each decision.

Modern Marks Design in Progress

Heartbeat vs. Herringbone

I really, really liked both of these – Heartbeat and Herringbone. They both started from the same original concept – a zig-zag line on a saturated background. However, I felt that the image on the right was more versatile and dynamic.

I design fabric in much the same way that I design quilt patterns – I start with one basic idea (zig zags, triangles, lines, etc.) and then brainstorm all the different ways that I can explore that concept. It’s a fun way to work and it ensures I’ll never run out of ideas!!

Modern Marks Design in Process

Plus vs. X

The two designs above were the hardest to finalize. If I’d had room in the collection I would have included them both. While I actually like the Plus design more than the X design, I ultimately decided to go with the simpler and more versatile X design, which I named “Crossmarks.” By this point, I already have enough directional prints and needed something that could act as more of a blender print. So Crossmarks it is!

In a well-rounded collection, you need a good ratio of dynamic vs simple designs; directional versus allover/tossed prints, with a nice variety of color and scale. Although each fabric line is limited to about 18-25 prints and has to stand on its own, I’m actually taking the long view and making sure that each fabric line that comes next will still work with the one before.

Modern Marks Half Ovals

Half Ovals – Reject colorways on top, final versions underneath.

The Half Ovals is probably my favorite print of the group. I knew I wanted to include a circle or dot print and so we mocked up this design in All. The. Colors! It was very difficult to narrow them down to the final 4 above.

Although I really really loved the lime green/blue versions on top, this is another case where less is more. Besides, by this point I knew that the one of the colorways of the main print would use similar colors, so I chose the more tone-downed blue on blue half-ovals to round out the collection and add another “blender” print to the mix.

Circles and Triangles in Modern Marks

Donuts vs. Quirky Triangles

When trying to brainstorm the “dot” or “circle” print for the line, I also came up with “donuts” above, left. I may or may not have been hungry when it came time to name this design, LOL!!

But… since I knew that I wanted to include the half-ovals instead, this one had to get the axe. However, I kept the color combo of orange and fuchsia and applied it to one of the Quirky Triangles prints instead.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind the scenes look at how I made some of these decisions to design Modern Marks. With this being my first fabric line, it was a huge learning curve but a fun and educational experience for sure!

Modern Marks by Christa Watson for Benartex

I so enjoyed having my first booth at Quilt Market last fall.

If you can’t find Modern Marks in your local quilt shop, click here for a list of shops that also sell it online. Please leave a comment if you know of any other stores that carry it. My list is very  small so far, but based on the sales data, it’s in many more stores than I know about, so please help me update my list.

I’m excited that Modern Marks has been well received so far, and that I get to design more collections for Benartex. In fact, as soon as I returned from Fall Quilt Market last year, I got right to work on the next fabric line that comes out this summer. My sample yardage should be here soon, and then I’ll get right to work making quilts and finalzing patterns in time for Spring Market. Based on the kind feedback you all have been sending me, I’ll be happy to share more about that too – so stay tuned!

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.

Modern Plus Sign Quilts Book Hop – Transparency Chains in Modern Marks

I’m excited to be a part of my friends Cheryl Brickey & Paige Alexander’s blog hop for their brand new book, Modern Plus Sign Quilts!

Modern Plus Sign Quilts

Modern Plus Sign Quilts is published by Stash books, a division of C&T Publishing.

Not only is it a fabulous book, but it was my turn to help share the love since Cheryl has been an active participant on both of my previous book blog hops. (Check those out here and here.) And maybe the three of us just might have had a conversation at QuiltCon about them doing something fun with my next fabric line…so stay tuned for more awesome Cheryl & Paige inspiration!!

But back to their book…

I chose their pattern, Transparency Chains to work on, because I love a good Irish Chain design!! I chose to go with a modernized Americana color scheme for this quilt, because I’m sorely lacking in red/white and blue quilts for 4th of July!! (Not that I actually need to cuddle up under one in the heat, but I love to add accent colors in my home for the holidays year ’round.)

Transpareny Chains in Modern Marks

My version of Transparency Chains, made with Modern Marks fabric

So far, I’ve only completed the quilt top shown above, but now I’m really excited to quilt it and will share more about the quilting process once I get to it.

Here’s a little bit more about the process of making the quilt top. I couldn’t resist the chance to sew with my own fabric, and after making a ton of rainbow colored quilts lately, it was fun to go with a more limited palette of red, creamy yellow, and shades of blue.

Modern Marks Fabric Red Blue

I chose Modern Marks in blues, with a pop of red contrast and the light yellow boxes print for the background. It was fun to work with a limited palette rather than every color!

The instructions were well written and easy to follow. I love getting everything cut out ahead of time and I love it when a well-written pattern makes that easy to do. I especially liked not having to think about how much to cut, or do any of the math.

Modern Marks Fabric Pieces

I love looking at a stack of yummy fabric strips that are ready to sew!

I’ve realized that I love the process of making a quilt as long as I’m not rushed. So here’s a tip: try not to “binge” sew if you can help it. I spread out the making of the top over several weeks so I never felt rushed.

I washed the fabrics one day, ironed them a different day, cut them later and then took several days to sew the individual units below. I took pics along the way and shared them in real time on instagram so I never felt rushed or bored with the project.

Modern Marks Transparency Chains in Progress

The stacks are starting to turn into something fun!!

Plus blocks with modern Marks

Aren’t these the cutest little plus blocks ever??

At first, I was worried that the main Modern Marks print wouldn’t show well enough because the light blue pieces were so small, but I love the effect you get when you chop up an interesting overall print. It’s fun to see lots of pops of color all over the quilt!

Sewing in Progress

I love pressing seams open so that the blocks will lie rally flat.

I printed off a copy of just the Transparency Chains pattern from the book so I could keep it right by my sewing machine as I sewed. I could also make notes on the printout and check off each step as I completed it. I love the feeling of accomplishment each time I sit down to sew!

Pressing the quilt

I have a “big board” that I use for pressing my quilts. Once I press from the back side, I always press again from the front to keep the quilt as flat and crisp as possible.

Here’s a pressing tip: sew several of the rows together into chunks and then press the long seams before you join the two halves together. Then you only have one more seam to press once the quilt top is complete, rather than wrestling with the entire quilt for each long seam.

Modern Marks Transparency Chains

I’m really pleased with this combination of fabrics and love the fun geometric texture that the modern, geometric prints provide.

Transparency Chains alternate version

Alternate colorway, re-colored in EQ8

When I was figuring out which fabrics to choose, I drew up the design in Electric Quilt software and auditioned several variations. The greener version above was a very close second, but ultimately I liked the high contrast of the red chains instead.

Red and Blue Transparency Chains

Modern, geometric prints are definitely my favorite – and it was fun to sew with my own fabric!

Now I have to decide how to quilt it – do I go with a simple allover design, or do I highlight the plus blocks and emphasize the chain structure? Choices, choices!! What would you do?

To see the original version that Cheryl made, plus link to other bloggers who remade this quilt in other colorways, head over to her blog at Meadow Mist Designs and Paige’s blog at Quilted Blooms. While you are there, check out all of the fun giveaways that are happening, and enter for your chance to win.

Click here for the complete list of bloggers and links to their site – plus tons of giveaways.

Click here to get your copy of Modern Plus Sign Quilts.

 

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 7 – Quilt Binding Tutorial

I’ve been thrilled to see all of the fabulous versions of Squiggles that you all are making. Some of you have already finished, others have made more than one version, while others are just beginning. Just remember – I’ll leave the blog posts up indefinitely, so you can make this fun quilt on your own schedule!

Piece and Quilt with Precuts

Step by Step Binding Tutorial

This is the same method I use for all of my quilts.

Step 1: Trim the Quilt

Trim the extra batting and backing flush with the edge of the quilt top.

Binding Square up the Corners

I like to use a large square ruler for the corners, and a long acrylic ruler for the sides.

Binding Trim the Sides

Step 2 – Make the Binding

Lay out two binding strips so that they overlap at a 90 degree angle. Mark a diagonal line on the top strip from corner to corner, where the corners overlap. Pin in place if needed.

To figure out how many binding strips you need to cut, add 10″ to the perimeter of the quilt (length of all 4 sides of the quilt). Then divide that number by 40″ to get the number of strips to cut. For the Squiggles quilt, the number of strips to cut is listed on page 15 of the book.

Tip: most patterns suggest to cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ to 2 1/2″ wide. However, I’ve recently began using 2″ strips and I like it much better. The narrower strips allow me to get a tighter finish, and both sides of the binding end up the same size.

Sewing the Binding

Sew on the drawn line and trim excess to 1/4″. Trim off the “dog ears” – the triangle tips, too. Join all of the strips the same way and press seams open. This will distribute the bulk of the seam when it’s attached to the quilt.

Join Binding Strips

Trim the beginning of the binding strip at a a 45 degree angle and press the entire length of binding in half, wrong sides together. Be sure to trim the starting edge first, before you press it in half.

Finished binding, ready to sew

If desired, fold up the binding, or roll it up until it’s ready to attach to the quilt.

Step 3 – Attach the Binding to the Quilt

Attaching the binding

Start attaching the binding on the side of the quilt, not at the corners. Line up the open edges of the binding to the trimmed edge of the quilt and leave about 8″-10″ of the tail hanging off. This will allow plenty of room for attaching the two ends later.

Place a pin in the binding and quickly “walk” it around the quilt’s perimeter to ensure that none of the pieced seams will land in the corners. Adjust the binding as needed and start sewing at the pin, using 1/4″ seams.

Binding 1/4" mark

When you reach the corner, stop sewing 1/4″ away from the corner. Mark a line if needed to get an exact measurement. Then sew off the side or corner of the quilt.

Folding the binding corner

To get a perfect miter in the corners, fold the binding up and away from the corner. Ensure that the right side of the binding aligns with the edge of the quilt.

Mitering the binding

Fold the binding back down, leaving the excess in the corner. Make sure the top of the fold lines up evenly with the top edge of the quilt. I called this the “funky fold.”

Grasp the top and bobbin threads and carefully sew down the next side of the binding. It will be thick at the corner where all of the bulk is.

Binding Corner

Once you sew a little ways, check the front of the quilt. It should form a nice crisp miter at the corner if you’ve lined everything up correctly.

Attaching the binding

Continue sewing down all 4 sides of the binding, taking care to get nice crisp miters at the corners. When you get close to the starting point, leave several inches between the starting and ending point of the binding, so you have room to attach the two ends of the binding.

Step 4 – Secure the Ends

Open up the end of the binding and place the start of the binding (the angled cut end) on top of it. Be careful that the strips don’t shift.

Matching up the binding

Open up the beginning binding “tail” (below), and notice that the angled end runs in the opposite diagonal direction in which it was folded. Mark a line on the uncut strip, following the direction of the cut end.

Matching up the binding ends

Measure and cut 1/2″ away from the marked line. This will add the amount needed for seam allowances on both ends of the binding.

Trimming the ending tail

Match up the binding right sides together and make sure it doesn’t get twisted. Pin the binding, offsetting the triangle tips by about 1/4″ and sew with 1/4″ seams to close the binding. This will create a hidden join that is smooth, with no bumps.

Join the binding ends.

Finger press this final seam open (it’s hard to get an iron in there at this point), and pin the un-sewn binding to the quilt, easing in any fullness. Attach this last bit of binding to the quilt, overlapping the starting and ending stitches.

Pin the binding in place

If desired, press the binding away from the quilt with a hot dry, iron. This will help the binding wrap around to the back of the quilt much easier.

Secure the binding to the back of the quilt with pins or binding clips. When you get to the corners, fold them in opposite directions and clip in place.

Secure the binding with Wonder Clips

Finish with small hand stitches on the back side. I use a single  16″ – 18″ length of Aurifil thread in a color that matches the binding. I use a thimble to push the needle through and sew from right to left, with the bulk of the quilt away from me. I’ve noticed that some quilters prefer to sew the oppoiste direction with the quilt toward them, and that’s okay, too – whatever works for you!

Of course, you can finish the binding by machine if you prefer, but I love the slow pace of hand stitching while I relax and cuddle with the quilt.

Binding by hand

Here’s a quick bonus video of me hand-stitching  the binding on another quilt:

Step 5 – Share, Share Share!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! You are welcome to share on pinterest or your favorite social media (with attribution). I hope that binding doesn’t seem so scary and feel free to mix it up with your favorite binding method.

This concludes the quilt along tutorials – next week I’ll share some finished pics of Squiggles, taken in the desert behind my neighborhood. Be sure and share your progress and finishes with me on instagram #squigglesqal or in my ChristaQuilts Facebook group. I love seeing them!!

Squiggles Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to get an autographed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

Click here for links to all of the Squiggles Quilt Along blog posts.

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.

Squiggles Quilt Along Week 5 – Basting

Spray Basting the quilt

I prefer to use 505 basting spray for my quilts, but pin basting works, too. (Just be sure to use a LOT of pins so it doesn’t shift!) Although I’m going to show you how I basted Squiggles using my design wall, know that you can apply this method using a table, too. Just work from the center out and move the quilt as needed to secure the layers.

Step 1 – Spray the Backing

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Use a large sheet as a drop cloth to catch any over-spray. It will also protect the quilt from the ground, too! Generously spray the wrong side of the quilt backing with basting stray, ensuring coverage in all areas. Work your way across the quilt from one side to the other. Your quilt will stick better and use less spray by spraying the top and backing separately, rather than spraying the batting as provided by the instructions on the can.

Although I’ve pressed both the backing and quilt top, some wrinkles and fold lines may reappear, but that’s okay. You’ll smooth everything out later.

Step 2 – Spray the Quilt Top

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Spray the wrong side of the quilt top, just like you did for the backing. You can still use the same sheet as a ground cloth, and then wash it when you are finished. It’s easier to spray the top because you can use the blocks as a guide to help you remember which areas to spray. I usually spray row by row.

Step 3 – Fold up both layers and bring inside

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Right now it will look like a bit of a sticky mess. But that’s okay – the layers are tacky to the touch but not stuck. You can easily peel them apart again. Your hands will get a little sticky during this process, but the glue easily washes off and won’t cause any problems while quilting. You don’t have to baste right away as it will still maintain its stickiness for awhile afterward.

Step 4 – Hang UP the Backing

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Pin or stick the backing to the design wall, wrong side out. Start at the top and let gravity help you. I’m short so I use a step ladder to get up high enough and I’m not trying to center the backing perfectly. I’m just glad that this is a process I can do completely by myself, without help.  Notice how the backing might stick to itself and get a little scrunched up at the bottom. That’s perfectly fine for now – see the next step.

If you don’t have a design wall, you can use a table instead. Just smooth out the center of the backing, add the other layers and smooth out one section of the quilt at a time.

Step 5 – Smooth Out the Backing

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Take about 10-15 minutes to completely spread and smooth out the backing. Work your way from top to bottom, smoothing it out as you go. Use a long acrylic ruler to help you. Think of it as an extension of your arm, giving you more coverage.

The acrylic ruler will get sticky over time, so I have an extra ruler that I use ONLY for basting. You want the backing nice and smooth before you add the batting.

Step 6 – Add the Batting

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

I’m using Hobbs 80/20 batting in black for this but natural is great, too!

Before I add the batting, I will actually iron it first to get out any wrinkles. If it’s cotton batting, you can iron right on the batting. If it has polyester or wool in it, you can protect it with a length of fabric. I use a hot, dry iron with no steam. You can iron wool batting with no problem – just use a lower setting and don’t press too hard. If you use steam, it might shrink or felt, so always test a small piece first.

Just like the backing, start at the top and place a few pins in the design wall if needed at the top to secure it. It’s okay to peel off part of the batting and re-position if needed.

Step 7 – Smooth the Batting

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Take time to smooth out the batting, using your hands and the long acrylic ruler.  Notice how it’s getting a bit wonky. That’s okay as long as the batting and backing are larger than the quilt top – the excess will get cut away.

I like being generous in my batting and backing so I don’t have to try and line things up perfectly. That’s above my skill level for sure!! I guessed where the rough middle of the backing and batting are and like a good friend of mine says, “close enough is good enough!”

Step 8 – Add the Top

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

At this point, it looks a little bit like a hot mess, but don’t worry – it will all work out in the end! Fabric is flexible and it’s okay to smoosh things up a bit – your quilt can handle it. (Those that are familiar with my scrunch and smoosh method of machine quilting can relate!!)

Repeat the same process as before: add the quilt top layer and let it drop down the wall with gravity; take time to peel it apart, and smooth it out.

Step 9 – Smooth the Layers

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Make sure there’s enough batting and backing sticking out on all sides and take plenty of time to smooth out the top. By smoothing each layer as you go, it will vastly eliminate the chances of puckers and wrinkles appearing on the back.

If you are too far off to one side or another, take off the top and try again.

Step 10 – Smooth Out Each Row

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

As you are smoothing out the quilt, use the long ruler to help ensure that each row is lined up vertically and horizontally. You can gently nudge the blocks into place if needed.

Step 11 – Roughly Trim off the Excess

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

Now it’s time to cut off all that extra bulk around the edges. I use these cutoffs for machine quilting practice later. Or you can wash the excess backing and throw it in your stash.

Notice that I trim it pretty close to the edge. You can leave more wiggle room if you like, by I usually only leave about an inch or two. This prevents the excess from getting flipped over underneath the quilt and accidentally stitched through while you are quilting.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has done that, right??

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

I use batting shears to cut through the bulky layers quickly and easily! You can trim the quilt on the design wall, or take it off and do it on a table or the floor.

Step 12 – Press the Quilt

Spray basting a quilt by Christa Quilts

I just love the vibrant colors and geometric prints in Modern Marks!

This is where the magic happens! For the final step, iron the quilt on the back side and then on the front. Use a hot, dry iron – no steam. This is a final chance to smooth out any wrinkles and nudge things into place. The iron helps set the glue so that every single inch of the quilt is stuck to every other inch, making it a breeze to machine quilt!

I use a “Big Board” that goes on top of my ironing board to give me more work surface. Also, the basting spray will not gum up the needle or cause any problems while quilting. And it easily washes out once you are finished with the quilt.

Next week we’ll tackle my favorite part – machine quilting. I can’t wait!!

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