How to Prepare Your Quilt Backing, Batting and Basting – Optical Illusion Quilt Along Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of the Optical Illusion Quilt Along! You’ve made it through the piecing, so congratulations! Now we come to what may not be your favorite part of the process: prepping the backing and batting, and basting the layers together in preparation for quilting.

Above is one of the alternate colorways for Optical Illusion. You can make something similar with red, light blue, and white fabric from my online shop.

But if you’ll let me guide you through the next steps, I’ll share some tips to make it less painful and move you along to the quilting that much sooner.

Prep the Batting

The most important step in basting a quilt is to ensure that the batting and backing are several inches larger than the quilt top all the way around.

If you look at the back of the pattern, you’ll see that for the batting size, I have added 6″ to the length and width of the quilt top. For example, the lap-size top is 45″ x 66″. The batting needed is 51″ (45″ + 6″) x 72″ (66″ + 6″).

Example of measuring batting from a previous Quilt Along:

The batting should be several inches larger than the quilt top all the way around.

Click here for the Block Chain Quilt Along shown above.

For me, the easiest way to measure the batting is to buy a roll of it, then unroll it across the width of the quilt top and roughly trim off the amount I will need. In the photo above, I’m using Hobbs Tuscany cotton/wool batting which is one of my favorites.

It’s 90″ wide and folded double on the bolt. So after I trim off a chunk from the bolt, I’ll lay the quilt top out and trim off several inches from the top of the batting. I save those chunks to make practice quilt sandwiches later.

Prep the Backing

I used Geo Pop Tiny Hex in black for the backing. Get Geo Pop Tiny Hex for your backing. 

Geo Pop Tiny Hex in black by Christa Quilts for Benartex/Contempo

Piece your backing so that it is a few inches larger than the batting size given on the back of the pattern.

For example, for the lap size, I would cut my three yard piece of backing fabric in half crosswise. This gives me two pieces about 40″ x 54″. I need backing a bit larger than 51″ x 72″.

Backing, pieced horizontally.

I’ll sew the two pieces together for a backing that’s roughly 54″ x 80″. The seam will be horizontal across the quilt.

Now you are ready to baste!

Basting the Layers: Quick Overview

I baste using my design wall and 505 basting spray. I make sure my batting and batting are bigger than my quilt top and I trim away some of excess after it’s been basted. I spray the top and backing outside separately, then assemble all the layers on my design wall, taking care to smooth each layer as I go.

Once everything looks nice and flat, I’ll roughly trim the edges so that only and inch or two remain around all 4 sides. I cut off as much extra as I can to prevent it from tucking under the back and quilting the quilt to itself!!

The final basting step is to iron the quilt on both sides to set the glue and smooth everything out one final time.

I didn’t have a chance to take pictures of this process while making Optical Illusion, but here are links and tips from previous quilt alongs.

I spray outdoors but assemble the layers indoors.

Click here for a step-by-step photo tutorial of how I spray baste my quilts.

If you’d prefer a video, watch my video quilt basting tutorial instead. The video below was made as part of my Infrastructure Quilt Along.

See the same process on my Color Weave quilt. I love sharing a  few different photos and tips, which sometimes helps!

And if you have any more specific questions, you can alway post pics and ask questions in my Christa Quilts Facebook Group!

Next week I’ll include a video showing spiral walking foot quilting practice to get you ready for the most fun part of making this quilt!! I can’t wait!!

Optical Illusion Detail

Spiral Quilting on Optical Illusion can be done with a Walking Foot or Dual Feed system.

For More about this quilt along

How to Sew Optical Illusion Quilt Top – Quilt Along Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Optical Illusion Quilt Along! I hope you are enjoying your fabric choices and feel confident in your cutting and sewing skills. Now I’m excited for you to start sewing the quilt top. It’s easy and fun!

Do you need a kit? The black, white and gray version is still available!
(Pattern is included with the kit.)
Do you need the pattern?
Get the paper pattern. 
Get the pattern instantly as a pdf.

If you haven’t already, please go through your pattern and highlight or circle the number of units to make for your size on pages 3 and 4. You’ll be so glad you did. 

Begin with Step 1 on page 3 of your Optical Illusion pattern. Remember to sew with the gray on top for each sashed square. If you do, you’ll automatically alternate the direction in which you’re sewing, which helps prevent your strips from warping.

I press all of the seams open on this quilt. Whether you press seams open, to the side or toward a specific fabric is up to you. The seams don’t have to match up with anything, which is one of my favorite things about this design.

Continue with each Step as given in the pattern, referring carefully to the diagrams in the pattern for each unit. I use sticky notes to label each little pile of units as I finish them.

Optical Illusion Quilt Detail

Get the quilt kit for Optical Illusion. while supplies last!

When you’ve completed all the Steps, move on to Sewing the Rows on page 5.

Sewing the Rows

As I am making the rows, I keep them oriented horizontally so they match the diagrams. Be sure and notice that there are different diagrams for the Lap Size than for the Twin and Queen size. It will help to circle the diagram for your size!

Label the rows with their letters to help you stay organized. 

When your rows are finished, give yourself a high five!! Great job!

Quilt Top Assembly

Moving on to Quilt Top Assembly: In last week’s post, I mentioned alternating your sewing direction by keeping the long skinny strips on top. This will be helpful as you assemble the top.

The layout diagram below is included in the pattern. Refer to pages 6 and 7 of the pattern for more info as you assemble, including a method for trimming. Use your design wall to stay organized, or snap a quick picture on your phone for a helpful reference point as you progress.

Optical Illusion LayoutI pin generously during this process. I match and pin at each end, at the middle and at several points between. Remember to sew with the skinny strip on top each time so that your sewing direction will automatically alternate.

TIP: If you have a row or a sashing strip that is longer than its neighbors, sew with the longer strip on the bottom, next to the feed dogs. This helps to ease in the fullness.

Press the quilt top gently to wrap up the piecing.

SEW A VICTORY LAP!

When the quilt top is complete, you’ll want to “stay-stitch” the edges by sewing across the top and bottom of the quilt. Do this about 1/8″ away from the edge on the top and the bottom so it will be hidden when you add the binding. Just a note: When you make a quilt with borders, you can skip this step since the borders will stabilize the edges instead.

Congratulations! Your Piecing is complete.

Next week we’ll cover how to prepare your backing and batting, and how I baste a quilt. Here is the back of the pattern with info that you’ll need. Click the image for an enlarged view.

Optical Illusion Pattern Cover spread

You know how much I enjoy machine quilting. Just a few more weeks and we will quilt walking foot spirals—I can’t wait!! Being able to finish your quilt on your own sewing machine because you’ve built the skills to do it is a great feeling. You’re going to love it!

Optical Illusion Detail

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFO ABOUT THIS QAL?

Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – part 3

As we continue on with this series of trouble shooting your machine quilting challenges, be sure to read part 1 and part 2 for more helpful advice. And now, onto more suggestions:

Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

My goal is to help you love machine quilting as much as I do!

Problem: keeping size consistent on large scale designs
My suggestion: I have found that when it comes to domestic machine quilting, it’s much easier to quilt smaller scale designs because you have less room to work on the bed of the machine, compared to a long arm. If you want to quilt a larger scale design, I suggest marking it. Or if you are quilting a large scale textural filler, keep something nearby that is roughly the same size (such as a drawing of the motif, or a 3D item) so you can constantly refer to it for scale.

Problem: maintaining good speed control
My suggestion: free-motion quilting requires you to balance the speed of two things at the same time: the rate at which you push the quilt through the machine, and how fast your machine stitches. It’s like driving a car with a manual transmission for the first time – it takes some getting used to. Work on starting with a slower speed and aim for smooth stitches. Be sure and take a few “test drives” on practice scraps before you head out on the highway (quilting the real quilt)! Once you are comfortable with the process, then try to increase your speed.

Problem: I can’t get smooth curves
My suggestion: try a more modern, geometric design such as square boxes, triangle texture, or a more jagged stipple. Some people seem to have a natural inclination to quilt either curving or geometric shapes. If you struggle with either, practice quilting one design on a large section of the quilt with blending thread and don’t criticize yourself too harshly. It will get better with practice. Also, spend time sketching out your design on paper so that you can practice drawing the smooth, fluid shapes.

Triangle Texture and Pebble Quilting by Christa Watson

Try quilting both curves and angles to see which you like best. This is detailed quilting of “Broken V” from my book Machine Quilting with Style.

Problem: skipping stitches, nesting issues, thread breakage
My suggestion: these problems are usually caused by one or more of these factors – wrong needle size for the thread you are using; bent, nicked, or dull needle; incorrectly threaded upper thread; tension too tight; bobbin inserted incorrectly; machine not oiled or delinted often enough. Be sure to always thread with the presser foot up and then trouble shoot each of these issues one by one. A tiny silicone disc called a Magic Genie bobbin washer can also help on machines that don’t have built in bobbin sensors.  If all else fails, it may be time to take your machine in for service.

Problem: I don’t like free motion quilting
My suggestion: that’s perfectly fine, you can quilt tons of designs using just a walking foot! In my Craftsy class and in my books, I show how you can quilt several differnt quilts completely using walking foot techniques. Also, Jacquie Gering just wrote a fantastic new book called Walk that goes deeper into this subject.

Walk by Jacquie GeringClick here to preview Walk by Jacquie Gering.

Problem: I don’t know how to quilt a quilt that has a lot of blocks, like a sampler.
My suggestion: I’d go either super custom or super simple. An allover design either quilted with a walking foot or free motion is the easiest and would be quilted regardless of the piecing or block designs. This type of quilting adds a layer of tecture to the piece, and if done with a blending thread, becomes secondary to the overall design of the quilt. However, if you want to draw attention to the individual blocks, then custom quilting each one and treating it as a separate element is the way to go.

Free Motion Quilting a Sampler

I’d suggest taking a look at Leah Day’s Craftsy class, Free-motion Quilting a Sampler as a great place to start!

Problem: getting stuck in corner, missing areas in allover designs, getting boxed in 
My suggestion: Contrary to what the quilt police might think, it’s reall okay to stitch over previous lines of quilting, or cross over your lines if needed. I usually like to sketch out a quilting plan on top of a picture of my quilt top. That allows me to plan out the direction I’ll take to quilt each section of the quilt.

I hope you are enjoying these machine quilting tips. I love being a cheerleader for “do it yourself” quilting and I try to make the process as approachable as possible. I’ll be back again next week with more suggestions!

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Answers to Your Machine Quilting Challenges – part 2

Last week in part 1, I began this series to help troubleshoot the most common machine quilting challenges I hear from you all. I got a whole list of them via my followers on Instagram. I’ll continue to post this weekly series until I’ve gone through them all. Hopefully you’ll pick up a few tips that will encourage you and help improve your quilting skills.

quilting-table

Image from my Craftsy class The Quilter’s Path: Design It, Stitch It, Quilt It.

Problem: Not having a table flush with the bed of your machine.
My Suggestion: While it’s true that it helps to have a nice flat space for quilting, if you look closely at the images from my Craftsy class, you’ll notice that I quilted the whole time on a regular counter-top surface with my machine set on top of it. Google “sewing machine extension table” to find a wealth of resources for custom inserts and extensions. Using a large table will be more beneficial in the long run and you can always build up the area around your machine using styrofoam or heavy books. A small table or adjustable ironing board set up to your left, forming an “L” shape, will help keep the weight of the quilt from dragging, too!

Problem: Not feeling brave enough to to try something new.
My suggestion: Just go for it and don’t look back. Challenge yourself to make a small quilt as a gift or charity donation. Resolve to try a new design or technique and don’t stop until you finish! Then give it away so you never have to see it again. I promise the next one will be sooo much easier!!

Problem: Messy starts and stops.
My suggestion: If you are a beginner, try quilting an edge to edge design where you can start and stop the quilting design off the quilt in the batting. If you are more comfortable with quilting, start by bringing the bobbin thread to the surface of the quilt. Then take a series of 6-8 tiny stitches at the beginning and end of each line of quilting. This will be secure and much less noticeable then quilting forwards and backwards in place. And please, stay away from using the automatic tie off function on your machine. It just makes a mess!

If you want to up your game, check out this great 3 minute video tutorial from my good buddy Leah Day. She shows you how to tie off your thread ends using a self threading “cheater” needle.

Problem: Managing the bulk of the quilt under the machine.
My suggestion: I employ a not-so scientific method of “scrunching and smooshing”  the quilt out of the way however I can. Although it’s super helpful to have a large roomy area under the machine, just remember that you are only dealing with a small part of the quilt at anyone time. Ann Petersen recently filmed her outstanding class Small Machine, Big Quilts, Better results  using a regular sewing machine. She employs methods like quilt-as-you-go and using split batting so you have less bulk under the machine. It’s worth checking out!

Problem: I’m impatient and hate being a beginner.
My suggestion: Here’s a virtual hug – I know how that feels! XOXOXOXOX
When I was first starting out, I wanted things to be perfect. Over the years I learned to embrace my imperfections. Try learning just one or two designs to start and quilt them on everything! When I first conquered stippling, I stippled all my quilts for a solid year and that’s ok. Start out with walking foot designs and then when you are comfortable move on to free-motion. Just remember, if you start out as a beginning machine quilter the same time you start learning to piece, both skills will improve together at the same time.

stipples-spirals

Stipples and Spirals make a fun combination.

Problem: There are too many design options to choose from.
My suggestion: see above answer. 🙂 Just pick one or two you like and start with that. If you can’t narrow it down, write them all down on slips pf paper and throw them into a bag. Choose two of them randomly for your next quilt. Then choose two more for the next quilt, and so on. Wouldn’t it be fun to say “I’m quilting stipples and spirals today” and not even have to think about it?!

Problem: I don’t know enough design ideas.
My suggestion: Do some fun research. Take a look at beautiful quilts you see in public at quilt shows or online on social media. Pay attention to the quilting details for design inspiration. I also recommend increasing your collection of quilting books – both those that teach machine quilting techniques (like mine), plus books that are a library of design ideas such as 180 Doodle Quilting Designs. Before long, you’ll have too many to choose from! (See my answer to that dilemma above.)

b1381_cover

Problem: I don’t have a very nice sewing machine.
My suggestion: Remember that the most important tool in your tool box is a “can-do” attitude. I started out with a cheapie-not-very-good sewing machine but I persevered. When I knew that quilting was here to stay, I upgraded to a nicer but still low price range machine that could do a little bit more. Once I became more serious, I got my first “nice machine.” This was about 20 years ago and I bought it used from a dealer, for less than half of the original price. It’s only been in the last 3-4 years that I could justify a “really nice” machine. So don’t let the tools stand in your way. Buy, borrow or rent the best you can afford and get as much use out of it as you can.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. I’ll be back next week with more!

 

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Quick Quilt Tips Tour – 5 Tips for Faster Quilting on Your Home Machine

Hi old friends, and welcome new ones! I’m happy to be participating in Amy Smart’s Quick Quilting Tips Tour – Round 2. Amy has gathered together several bloggers to offer some of their favorite tips for faster and better quilting. (Click here to read all of the tips shared in Round 1.)

20150529_tips_amy_smartMachine quilting is one of my great passions so I thought I would share some of my favorite tips for faster quilting on your home machine.

Tip #1 – Use Basting Spray

I am a recent convert to using basting spray and I don’t know if I will ever go back to using safety pins. While it takes me the same amount of time to spray baste as it does to pin, I save a ton of time not having to stop and remove pins while quilting.

spray_basting_0Click here for my spray basting tutorial.

Tip #2 – Embrace No-Mark Quilting

When I jumped on the modern bandwagon (after considering myself a traditionalist for so many years), the best thing I embraced was letting go of perfectionism and symmetry. This meant I didn’t have to mark all of my quilting lines anymore, or use stencils to quilt perfectly aligned motifs. What freedom!

herrinbone_quiltingThere’s nothing quite like a good random stipple to add texture to your quilts. Herringbone, shown above is one of my fastest finishes to date!

My quilting has improved because I can just doodle with my needle and thread while enjoying the improvisational nature of quilting random free-motion shapes and textures.

More TextureNone of the quilting was marked in String of Pearls – I just eyeballed the FMQ and used the edge of my foot as a guide for the straight lines.

Tip #3 – Try Quilting Designs from Edge to Edge

I love quilting lines which can start on one edge of the quilt and end on the other side. This is a huge time saver because there’s no need to bury threads when you start and stop. I quilted the uneven lines of Modern X starting on one side of the quilt, pivoting to follow the design, and then back off the other side.

straight quiltingWhen I felt like my bobbin was getting low, I switched it out so I didn’t have to worry about running out of thread halfway through a line of quilting.

(Bonus tip – since I use Aurifil 50 wt cotton for both piecing and quilting, I use up any partial bobbins on my next piecing project!)

Tip #4 – Use the Same Color Thread in Top and Bobbin

This is a huge time saver because I don’t have to hassle with my machine’s tension to keep tiny pindots of thread from poking through the top or bottom of the quilt. When I want a super-fast finish, I prefer to quilt with one blending thread color over the entire surface of the quilt so that I don’t have to stop and change threads.

test_blockThis recent test block from Modern Logs shows how a thin neutral thread blends in to many different fabrics. It’s such a time-saver when you don’t have to switch thread colors. (I also quilted this quilt using an edge to edge design and it went so fast!)

Tip #5 – Wind Plenty of Bobbins Ahead of Time

It’s much quicker to wind a bunch of bobbins at the start of a project rather than having to stop mid-quilt for more winding. I recently upgraded to a new Bernina 710 sewing machine. One of my favorite features is the huge bobbin capacity, compared to the older machines. So if you get a ever chance to use a machine with a bigger bobbin, I highly recommend it. 🙂

Bernina BobbinsI keep plenty of bobbins on hand and use the biggest capacity bobbin I can.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips for faster machine quilting! Be sure to check out the other stops on the Quick Quilt Tips Tour. You just may learn something new. 🙂

Be sure to check out Amy’s new book, Fabulously Fast Quilts. In case you missed it, I recently reviewed it here on my blog.

20140520_fabulously_fast_quilts

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