Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WIP: Monkey Quilt FMQ Status

Last week I did the piano key borders on the Monkey quilt with an orange peel pattern and liked the way it came out. It can be seen in my previous WIP post dated May 7th, 2014. This week I started out by FMQ'ing the corner blocks.

I did not want to quilt the corners too heavily, following the rule of thumb that quilting density should be kept pretty equal throughout a quilt top. I circled each brown dot in brown thread. When I was done the dots did not really stand out. Perhaps if I had done the white and orange dots as well, the puffs would have shown up more. I was too lazy to change to white thread for the white dots and orange thread for the orange dots. Plus, it was tedious lifting up the pressure foot and moving from dot to dot even doing just the brown ones. So I decided to use brown thread and repeat the honeycomb type ring pattern about all the dots, using continuous quilting.

I did not like the results of the honeycomb approach. Here are the before and after pictures. The brown lines printed on the fabric (left) look like whimsical scribbling but brown stitching lines (right) look sloppy on the quilted block. And the dark brown on the turquoise was overpowering and showed every glitch. Of course I did not firm up this conclusion until I had completed the four corner blocks. I moved on to the center panel portion of the quilt, planning to re-visit the four corners at a later time.

The water section, with the fish, and the grass section, with the frog and alligator, came out much better. In the water section, I did not want to change color for each fish so I used the background blue color and went around each of them, even each little bubble, using a non-continuous quilting pattern. It was not as onerous as I thought it would be. On the grass section I was emboldened to do each tuft of grass individually. Cutting all the connecting threads was a bit pesky but well worth the results.

I like that the critters, water ripples, and tufts of grass give added dimension. Here is how flat the green section looked before the quilting.

And here is how the water and grass sections looked after the quilting. I followed the same "rule" when I quilted in green around the bicycle section in the grass.

Next up was the upper beige background section where the monkeys and giraffe and trees are. Taking my cue from the blue water and green grass sections, I did this in beige thread like the background. I outlined the leaves, bicycle, and animals. Yay! They came out great. So technically my FMQ on this quilt was finished. Here is the upper left corner of the panel.

But now I became convinced those scribbly corner blocks looked awful by comparison – way too densely quilted and unforgiving of crooked quilting. Hmmm. Perhaps I should go back and re-do those corner blocks with blue thread (camouflages goofs better) and circle just the colored dots (less quilting density).

  1. Those scattered round puffs of color would look really cute raised up.
  2. I will not be reminded of my poor scribbly decision every time I see the quilt.
  1. The blocks are in the corners, not center, of the quilt and not that noticeable. 
  2. I would risk tearing a hole in the quilt.
  3. It would be very time consuming and tedious picking.  
I decided to try picking out the brown thread and see how it would go. I started on some of the obvious brown wobbly stitch lines, but like peeling sunburn or wallpaper, once started I was suckered in. It is an awful lot of picking out. As a novice FMQer, my stitches were tiny due to my poor coordination between the speed control with my foot and the fabric movement with my hands. Not only did I sew slowly with tiny stitches but I did each row of circles by doing the top half on the way across and completing the bottom half on the way back. This meant each circle had a region of overlapping stitches in two places, making those places in particular very, very, difficult to pick out. The tools of my torture were some curved thread snips, a sharp pointed seam ripper, and a pair of tweezers. Even so I left a few brown lines at the edges and a couple double stitched circle overlaps so as not to risk ripping a hole in the quilt itself.

Four hours later I had one corner block picked out and ready to re-quilt with puffy individual dots only. Here it is re-quilted. I tried to photograph it at an angle so you can see the puffs at the colored dots. They will puff more when the quilt is washed. They really do look happier than those angry brown scribbles did.

But now I am committed to many more hours of anti-progress, picking out the stitches in the other three corners. I got up this morning and in 1.5 hours I had picked out a little over half of another corner block.  The stitches were not quite so tiny on this one so score a few points for inconsistent stitch size in the correct direction. My revised estimate is three hours per block. The lower "with" and upper "without" scribbles version, seen side by side really do convince me that my decision to pick out was the right one, as tedious as it is.

My FMQ on the quilt was "done" until I got picky – picky in more ways than one. This week I started no new projects and worked exclusively on this monkey quilt. My project count and progress stats are unchanged from my previous WIP post.

For now I am going to take a break and re-engage my feed dogs to do some straight stitching in the frame of the center panel and to attach my binding.  Once I get to hand-sewing my binding I can always alternate between putting stitches in as I attach the binding and taking stitches out as I remove the quilting lines in the corner blocks. I will channel my inner self (and fingers) like in that 1984 movie The Karate Kid with a minor difference. Instead of "Wax on, wax off," I will be reciting "Stitch in, stitch out."

During my picking break I will also visit Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday for this week. Perhaps I should nickname my blog Freshly Picked.


  1. Man... You are hardcore! I love the look of the little bits of grass (Like mother like Daughter - I end up doing a lot of stuff like that as well) but sixteen hours of picking... ugh! May the process be kind of meditative, maybe...

  2. Yep - "stitch in, stitch out". Too funny! Even though it took a really long time, i bet you're glad you took the time to change the quilting. I won't say 'fix' the quilting - I liked the look of the brown circles. :) For me, quilting density is something I am still getting a handle on, and re-doing the corners here looks like a good move. I really like how you did the grass, it's so cool looking.

    1. When I went back and re-read this post I agree - it really was not sooo bad. At the time though, I thought those scribbles were a real mess and just god-awful. The pictures did not truly reveal the uneven stitches but then I guess no one else would have seen them either according to the "galloping horse" criterion either!