In Progress…

It has been a while since I just wrote something unplanned for this blog.  Actually, both my blogs seem to be perpetually on the farthest back burner.  Even writing weekly is too much for me, but I want to do more than once per month.  Sigh.  I am happy to not stress over it and let whatever blog posts that do happen, happen.

Over the summer, I was too busy socializing to have spent much time crafting.  I did knit a few dishcloths.  But I was too busy to take the time to take pictures and write about it.  Part of it is that I don’t see the value of writing all the details of what I am doing unless I can see some benefit to you, the reader.  Mostly, it is time.  It is time consuming to write a decent tutorial.  I love the process of doing that, but it does eat time.  So does photography.  As I am a novice with the camera, I am probably going about things inefficiently, too.

Speaking of inefficiency, my latest quilting experiment’s basting was the most tedious of processes.  I ended up basting 2 quilts a total of 5 times.  How did this happen?  Well, as the experiment involves 2 quilts made at the same time, things get complicated.  Quilt number 1 is a giant double nine-patch on the front, with a giant snail’s trail for the back.

This one was basted 3 times.  The first time was my usual method.  When I was all finished, I noticed the back was wrinkly – too wrinkly to be able to leave it.  Argh.  I fixed the issue by starting in the center and slowly working outward, removing a section of pins and smoothing out the wrinkles and repinning on the backside.  Then, when I had completely gotten all the pins on the back, I did the same thing to get the pins on the front of the quilt, since I intend to quilt from  the double nine patch side.  But I am thinking I really want to rebast it again to get the pins back on the back to quilt from that side.  The person who is getting the quilt reacted so favorably to the back that I think it would be best to make it the front.

Which I did for the second quilt.  Originally, I intended this be the front side of the quilt.  I am very pleased with how it came together and like it mucho.  I decided to do another giant snail’s trail for this backside.  It came out so well, I decided I had to quilt it from this side. I learned a lot from doing the first one and applied it to this one, but even so, there are plenty of errors.

The most important thing I learned is that it is absolutely critical to heavily starch the fabric for a giant snail’s trail.  I didn’t do that on the first and I am sure that is why it wrinkled so badly.  On the second, I starched both fabrics with undiluted Sta-Flo and had zero wrinkling issues, plus, it was a ton easier to work the fabric during the sewing process.

I also learned the limits of what I can cut size wise.  I can cut up to a 28 inch square with my 15 inch square ruler.  Larger than that would be a pain to cut.  On the first quilt, I got to that point and discovered I did not have enough of the white fabric to cut the next size square anyway, and just finished it to size with the dark paisley.  On the second quilt, which I think looks much better, I was still 28 inches shy of what I wanted as the finished size, so I sewed strips on, continuing the illusion of a spiral.

I really like the way this came out and am seriously debating making this the standard backside of my quilts.  I am going to do this as the backside at least once more, posting my notes from that, with pictures of some of the pitfalls.

Of course, this brings up the quilting part of finishing these quilts.  I think I am going to try all white on the double nine patch on both the front and back.  I am curious to see how keeping to the traditional white thread will look on all of it.  For the second quilt I am thinking I will use white on the white part of the spiral and a brown on the dark spiral.  I am trying to decide if I want to use those colors for the other side or use a blue and green.  I do have a pretty blue green, so I may try to work that in for the patchwork side.  I am going to stick with a plain simple meander for both because i think that will make both sides look good at once.

Doing 2 quilts at once has taken all my crafting time since I started them in the beginning of November.  I am aiming to get them done by the end of December, but they are not even quilted yet and here it is the middle of the month.  I am also trying to knit my roommate a hat and this has been very slow going.  I am just not watching enough tv to get any appreciable knitting done.

I hope all of you are having a good winter so far.  Keep on crafting!

Basting Experiment Commentary

Initial post about this basting experiment here

Basting experiment here

Basting so far.

I am still basting the first section.  It is slow going.  Slower than putting in pins, but I have a lot of pin experience and no thread basting practice, so I expect I will speed up as I go.

I am going to the fabric store to see if they have small curved needles.  I have a large upholstery needle and the curve was very handy in taking a stitch quickly, but it left Huge holes in the fabric.

I am having a hard time taking a stitch thru all 3 layers with the straight needle.  It doesn’t want to go thru the botton layer.  The curved needle had no such problem.

This Vanish thread is very thin and seems too delicate to do a good job, but it does seem to be working on the bit I have done.

Back from Jo-ann’s Fabric.  They had 2 different needles I am trying, both from Dritz:

  • Curved Needles for Tying Quilts
  • Quilter’s Basting Needles

The basting needles are straight, but much longer than what I have, and the curved needles are much smaller than mine.  So both are worth trying.  The curved needles are regularly $4.49. Luckily, I had a 50% off coupon. The basting needles were $2.

So far I have about 35 dollars invested in this new basting method.  I have maybe 10 dollars in safety pins, so this method is a bit more expensive, but the boards and needles should last a long time.  The thread is .014 cents per yard and I estimate 300 yards will be used in a queen size quilt. That is about 4 dollars in thread per quilt.  If it is faster than pinning, then it is worth the expense.  If it isn’t faster, then it isn’t worth the cost.

Basting Start

I started basting section 1 with a single strand of the vanish thread and the larger of the 2 curved needle.  That left holes in the fabric, so I switched to the small curved needle. That worked ok.  The single strand of thread was difficult to see and broke occasionally at the needle.  I think it got weakened from the moisture in my hands, so i started using a little baby powder to keep my hands dry.

I also decided to try a double strand of thread and that worked better than a single thread.  I bought the Vanish Light and next time I will get the original thickness.

I also tried the straight basting needle.  It is long and flexible and worked not quite as well as the small curved, but good enough if that is all you can find.  I like the curved needle.  It lets you scoop a stitch fairly easily.

I didn’t time myself, but I will for section 2.  I thought a timing would not be useful until I am moving fast enough to be a normal speed and not a slow beginner

To load the needle I cut a length of thread that is 2x the width of my arms stretched out (about 11 feet), threaded the needle, brought the 2 ends together and tied a knot.

Section 2

I timed myself and it took 1.5 hours to do section 2.  This does not seem faster than pins, however the first 1/2 of the section took 1 hour and the last only 30 minutes.  I could tell I was going faster. I found the zone.  But it is still a tedious process.

Section 3

This section only took an hour to do, so I definately increase speed with experience.  It was easier too.

Finishing Basting

The last section was only about 10 inches wide, and took about 20 minutes to baste.

So the whole thing is now basted and seems fairly secure.  It doesn’t feel psychologically as secure, but we will see when I start quilting.  My fear is the big stitches are gonna get caught on the presser foot of my machine.  I hope not, for I think thread basting with dissolving thread is the best way to go.

However, those of you not wanting to invest in such expensive thread, could use this method to pin baste.

I LOVED how the boards kept everything straight and manageable.  I will never again baste without them.


As it turned out, I did not end up quilting the dissolving thread basted quilt.  My friend got to use it as her first foray into free motion quilting on a large scale.  She had been tying all her quilts and I knew she would love quilting.  Any way, the basting thread had to be removed as the quilting happened.  We both tried various ways of holding the quilt to get the thread to stay down, but it would not; it consistently got tangled in the darning foot.  Not a big deal and takes about as long as removing pins, however, I am going back to pins.  I will bast my quilts using the board method because it is the most efficient way to single handedly bast a quilt that I have found.  I would thread bast something that wasn’t going to be quilted for a while, but pins are best for me, as I tend to quilt as soon as it is basted.

Experiment In Basting

Up to this point in my quilting, I have pin basted all my quilts.  I think thread basting takes just as long to do as pin basting.  I work on my quilt in sections lugging it about and patting it smooth.  It takes hours and it isn’t pleasant.  Then the pins get caught on my machine and other things.  Once a quilt is pin basted, it can’t really be folded up and put away because those pins are stressing the fabric, plus they might rust in the long term.  Safest is to quilt it as quickly as is reasonable, removing the pins as you go.

Recently, I googled quilt basting and found this video by Sharon Schamber.  It is in 2 parts and takes about 18 minutes.  She changed the way I baste quilts.  In a nutshell, her method involves rolling the top and back up each on a separate board and unrolling in sections to baste.  She thread bastes with a tatting thread.  Her method of rolling would work for pin basting as well.

Her video is not as clear as possible. For the demonstration, she used the same magenta batik for the top and back and it was difficult to tell what she was doing, although she explains clearly.

A while ago I discovered there were such things as fusible thread and dissolving thread.  I wondered if one could baste with the dissolving thread and that is what this experiment is going to answer.

The thread I am using to baste my waterwheel quilt is Superior Threads’ Vanish light weight water soluble thread. I bought a 2000 yard cone from Sew Thankful for about $27, making it the most expensive thread I own.  Incidentally, I am storing this thread in a Ziploc bag and a few of those silica packs that absorb moisture.

For basic basting direction go here.

For commentary on the basting go here

Basting Saga con’t

Well, I sanded my boards and got them fairly smooth.  I started basting and taking pictures.  I got about 2×4 square feet done and thought I wonder if I could do this tedious task with dissolving thread.  I wasn’t sure there was such a thing but I found a recommendation for Vanish brand and found that at Sew Thankful .  A 2000 yard cone for about $27.00. Yikes! Sure 2000 yards is a lot and will probably bast a huge number of quilts, but that is kind of a lot for one cone of thread.  I am really hopeful this will work and I am willing to risk 30 dollars and my waterwheel quilt to see if I can bast my quilt using a variation of Sharon Schamber’s method.

When I get my just ordered dissolving thread, I intend to bast the entire quilt with it in the same fashion as Sharon, but I am using a different batting and my quilt is much larger than her example.  I am working in sections and beginning each section by starting in the middle and working out to the sides. I then intend to quilt over the basted quilt with my actual quilting, after which I shall wash in cold water and dry in a medium heat dryer.

I looked into the wool batting and the least expensive way to buy it is by the case from Batt-Mart.  But that is only saving about 5 dollars per queen size quilt.  Not a big savings, but worth it after I buy a couple and experiment.  I am not overly fond of the cotton batt.  I’m using an 80% cotton/20% polyester on the waterwheel, and I am not all that thrilled with it either, except I know it won’t shrink as much as 100% cotton.  But I am thinking from now on I will wash my quilts in cold water and medium heat dry.  I have neither space nor inclination to baby my quilts with a hand wash and lay flat to dry.