Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WIP: Ghastlies Quilt – Backing and FMQ Start

This week I planned to insert a few rows of white and grey trees on the grey and pink striped backing of the quilt. I fussy cut them and joined them. I calculated how to space them out so they would fall roughly behind the Ghastlies panels on the front.  Both the Ghastlies and the tree panels would then be somewhat evenly distributed vertically. I'd even selected a lovely lilac thread for my FMQ that went both with the front and blended nicely with the grey/pink on the back. Then I laid out the striped material to cut it and had to change my plans. The stripe was a very light weight, almost like a thin shirting or blouse fabric. I doubted it would hold up as a quilt back – rubbing would wear a bare spot in it rather quickly. So I auditioned (and rejected) two alternate candidates from my stash.

Reject 1: The baby getting this quilt is named after a flower so I thought perhaps this print with roses would be a nice touch. The lilac background is like one of the polka dot bricks and the witch does have roses in her hat. But the overall tone and pretty colors I thought was too prissy for such a comical feature fabric. It was just plainly and simply ... wrong! I am all for a surprise on the back, but not a jolt of discord.

Reject 2: Then I thought this deep magenta border print was worth considering. The majority of the fabric is the dark band on the left and does go with those magenta colored polka dot bricks. I really disliked the introduction of the aqua color in the small paisleys, though  and I considered it to be overall too dark and oppressive for an entire back.

The Winner: I am going back to my gut feel for what works. I'd second guessed my original backing choice of the yellow with olive dots after both my daughter and one friend questioned "Really?" But, the green is the correct somber green, not the minty pastel nor the aqua color in the two previous pseudo-contenders. The splotchy stenciled dots are a nice eerie touch that remind me of clouded over moons. They match the trees in color and the bricks in spotted spirit. The serious green has a lots of cheery sunny yellow to balance it and make the overall effect happy, as it should be for a baby. Since I'd only had a half yard of the yellow, I searched for and found an additional one yard on eBay quite a while ago. After going to all that trouble, I am going to use this fabric for its intended purpose.

A five row high grove of trees on the back stretched my yard-and-a half of fabric to the length I needed and broke up the expanse of yellow. I set in accent strips of the black polka dots to give it a more crisp look and to tie in with a black and white binding. Monday night I trimmed everything to the right size and sandwiched it all together with bamboo batting. First thing Tuesday morning I basted it with 505 basting spray.

I auditioned thread colors on the front for FMQ. Black I thought would be too intense and I vowed to be braver than using a clear thread this time. Candidates were white (safe), grey (dull), mauve (too matchy-matchy), pink (serious contender), lilac (actually gave it a lift), or green (brings out shrubbery, trees, some bricks). I started with the green  thread, and began outlining the green tree row. So far, so good.

I have heard repeatedly from many home quilters, quilt class teachers, and professional quilters that they all use the same color thread in the bobbin as on the quilt top, claiming that no matter how well you adjust your tension, little dots of the contrasting color pop up on one side or the other. I want to use the lilac to outline the characters in the ghastlies sections and wonder if I dare continue with green in the bobbin for the back. On the other hand, using lilac in the bobbin and having it appear on the back might add a bit of interest. Deciding to stick with matching bobbin thread, I would FMQ the white trees in white, the grey trees in grey, and let the back be a rainbow of sorts. The white trees were next. I completed one row of eighteen trees. They looked fine from the front...

 ... but, uh-oh! Just look at the back!

Three trees in from my row of eighteen trees my bobbin thread broke. When I got situated again and brought the thread up through the quilt to resume, I apparently did not lower my pressure foot to the correct position. On my Pfaff there is a lowered position, for sewing with feed dogs engaged, and a fully raised position, where tension wheels are disengaged and you can slide your fabric freely out from under and away. A third mid- height plateau position is for darning and free motion quilting. I groaned, but thought that at least the threads were loose and loopy and would remove easily, kind of like when you find the right end to start ripping out a chain stitch. Not so much. The loose loops would become entangled with each other and not come out with just the pull of a thread. I was paranoid that I was going to get impatient and tear hole in the quilt from tugging. I took my time and remained calm and fifty minutes later I finally had the mess cleaned up and was ready to quilt again.

I have an index card that I tack up on my bulletin board to help me remember the steps to prepare to FMQ. I added the step about having the pressure foot at plateau height. I started to make the mistake again during the grey trees but thankfully half a tree into it I recognized my sewing machine sounded different and caught myself before I made too much of a mess.

After ninety trees I felt like Daniel from the movie Karate Kid when Mr. Miragi tells him, "Wax On. Wax Off." I had the motion engrained in my muscle memory. Here is part of my grove of trees.

Next up to FMQ are the Ghastlies figures. They should be fun to outline. The bricks will be last. I have not decided an FMQ pattern for them yet. It needs to be relatively simple since the thread will contrast with some of them and my inexperienced FMQ slips will show up more.

Here are my stats updated relative to last week's WIP post. I caved and completed two cloth books with a rainy day theme but mainly I have been actively working this Ghastlies quilt. The ongoing projects are unchanged from my 2/19/14 WIP post and mostly awaiting FMQ so I have not repeated them here.

Stats since 02/26/14 WIP:
     Completed  projects - 2 cloth books (see February 29, 2014 post)
     Currently in progress - 7 - but actively concentrating on Ghastlies
     New projects - 2 -  I caved and sewed two cloth books

I will link up to Freshly Pieced WIP to check out what has been keeping others busy.


  1. Hello Diane, Time choosing the fabrics was time well spent - the combination you ended up with is really lovely. Love, Muv

    1. Thanks for visiting and for the complimenting. Sometimes I really can obsess over the smallest details.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.