As I alluded last week in my Tips for Squaring a Quilt post, I have been busy with some secret sewing recently. For various reasons, I chose to use my domestic machine to do walking foot quilting on a rather large quilt (~60″ x 80″). The quilting culminates in a fairly dense crosshatch at the center of the quilt, and I learned some lessons along the way that I thought I would pass along.
Lesson 1: Quilt from the Center Out
I started on one edge of the quilt and made a long quilted line that would bisect the quilt roughly in half. Next, I rotated the quilt 90° and made another long quilted line that again marked the quilt in half. I then worked on a series of long lines perpendicular to the second quilted line, and after a short period of time, I ended up with tucks as I crossed over the first quilted line.
This was just the first handful of quilted lines on a large quilt, in an area I planned to end up with a dense crosshatch, and I chose to pause for reflection. Instead of panicking, I simply set the quilt aside and chose to take a walk. As I was enjoying my time outdoors, the perfect solution dawned on me: quilt from the center out.
Ultimately, I was slowly compressing the top of the quilt inward as I worked in one direction. The second, third, and fourth quilted lines were fine and did not need to be unpicked. The ninth, tenth, and eleventh were really started to develop a ripple between the quilted lines and tucks at the center. I unpicked, but only halfway back to the edge of the quilt, and I was very pleased with the results.
Lesson 2: Marking is my Friend
Working with passing a larger quilt back and forth through my domestic machine, my “straight line” quilting was pretty impressively straight. However, when I paused to take a break to stretch my shoulders and back, I decided to lay out a straight line across the quilt to make sure I was staying square. Nope. Not even close. I chose to make some marks every 14 quilted lines and that really helped me keep the spacing much more accurate and tidy. I didn’t mind ripping a few seams here and there, but I did want to keep that amount of effort to a minimum. 🙂
Lesson 3: Sometimes the Best Grids are Piecing Seams
If you look closely at the image below, you should be able to find a pieced seam running horizontally and vertically in the center of the image. If all had been absolutely perfect, my crosshatch lines should cross at the seams. Keeping that in mind helped me as I worked on the center quilting detail.
Lesson 4: Check Settings
I like to reduce the pressure of my walking foot when I am doing straight line quilting. However, every time I turn off my sewing machine and come back and turn it back on, I have to re-adjust this setting. I was pretty consistent about remembering to change this setting before getting started, but I developed a few more tucks and wrinkles before I caught my mistake. After that, I made a sticky note that I placed on my sewing machine every time I turned it off which was a visual and fantastic reminder to change my settings before getting started again after a break.
Lesson 5: I am only human
Ultimately, I had to find a balance between the absolute perfection that I craved to create for this project, and an acknowledgement of my humanness. Nothing is quite as humbling or strong a teacher as a large project with ambitious goals and a tight deadline.
Do you have any other tips for working with dense straight line quilting or crosshatch quilting that have made you more successful?