Waterwheel Quilt Update

That waterwheel quilt I made sat on my work table for months unquilted.  I just wasn’t motivated to quilt it.  It came out fine – looks good and I let it sit there.  I promised myself I would not start another quilt until this one was done.  Then my best friend moved back to Saint Louis.  She has made a few tied quilts, but hadn’t done actual quilting.  Her machine is capable of quilting, but it isn’t designed to fit into a table and she didn’t have the darning foot.

I brought over to her house one of my old Kenmores with table and set it all up for her.  The waterwheel became the perfect learn to quilt quilt.  I had a little practice piece with which I showed her how to meander and I gave her my notebook of quilting ideas.  I told her she could quilt it anyway she wanted – that mistakes have to be made to learn and that whatever she did would be totally fine.

So far, Amber has done the center in meander and is working on leafy vines for the green border.  It looks great.  She has taken to quilting like a fish to water.  No broken needles or anything!  I am so happy I could facilitate her learning this and that both of us got into quilting.  It is so cool.

You may remember this quilt was basted with the dissolving thread and not pins.  I wanted to see how thread basting worked and if using the dissolving thread could be quilted without removal.  It can’t.  Amber is having to remove sections of thread as she quilts.  I tried it too and I had no better luck.  The thread gets caught on the darning foot.  Amber says she likes snipping out the thread better than removing pins, but I am still undecided.

So now that the waterwheel quilt is being quilted, my mind has started thinking about what to make next.  Amber has a 10 year old son who is teaching me to play guitar.  I am thinking I should make him a quilt.  I have a box of 8×10 samples of fabric with the Warner Brothers cartoon characters on them.  They should make a nice quilt for a kid.

I am also still knitting dishclothes.  I am trying to use up the bits of cotton yarn I have.  So all in all, my crafting block seems to be lifting and it is too hot to be outside – time to make stuff!

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.