Sunday, May 6, 2007

Circling Back

I happened to see on an episode of "That's Clever" a woman sewing a quilted fabric journal cover. She rotary cut strips, sewed them together, then proceeded to quilt and embellish. I have a rotary cutter! I thought. I have an interest in journal covers (and experience sewing a pseudo-quilted journal cover)! I have painted fabric! I have a new machine that requires use to justify its expense!

I attached the quilting foot and proceeded to try to understand 1/4" seams. I had read online how to cut three strips, sew them together, then measure the overall width of the piece to make sure my seams were true 1/4". I completed this little exercise, then was shocked to discover my piece was off by 1/2". How was this possible? For years I had been sewing standard 5/8" seams, and I just knew intuitively that a 1/4" seam was that little mark on the metal plate just to the left of the 5/8" mark (have you guessed yet that math is not my strong suit?). I got out the ruler, stuck it under the presser foot, and learned quickly that a 1/4" seam is much smaller than I thought. By about a 1/4". Duh.

It turns out that the right edge of the quilting foot actually indicates the 1/4". Duh again. Oh, and that tiny metal sliver on the right edge of the quilting foot? I'm guessing that's used to keep the top layer of fabric from walking to the left when sewing a seam. Don't ask me how much time or how many ripped-out stitches were required to figure that out.

With the seam thing figured out, I proceeded to cut my strips and sew them together. I layered the top, the batting, and a piece of backing. Now I just had to figure out this free-motion quilting thing. I panicked. Take a deep breath! I thought. It can't be that hard!

I took a scrap of plain white fabric and made a quilt sandwich (I'm slowly learning the language--who could have guessed a sandwich would refer to inedible fabric?), attached the darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, and increased the presser foot pressure. I then spent the next 1/2 hour playing a quilter's version of pat-the-head-while-rubbing-the-belly. Supposedly, you want the needle to move pretty quickly while you move the fabric around at a slower pace. Of course, the harder I pressed on the foot pedal and the faster the needle flew, the faster my hands wanted to move the fabric under the needle. I ended up with stitches that were so tiny they were barely visible, and some that would have made decent basting stitches. Right next to each other. Oh well, I thought, my quilt sandwich comprised a couple of dollars worth of fabric, batting, and paint, and a few hours of labor. What did I have to lose? I chickened out anyway.

I put the standard presser foot back on the machine, decreased the presser foot pressure, and selected a decorative stitch on my machine. Of course I forgot to raise the feed dogs, so I ripped out the beginning stitches, raised the feed dogs, and started over. I added a feather stitch over the top of each of the strip seams. That's nice, I thought. I still had vast areas of unquilted fabric on my journal cover.

I fused 3 diamond-shaped cutouts to the top of the cover. I fused a heart-shaped cutout to the lower-right front. I zig-zagged stitched around them all. Finally, I knew that I couldn't put it off any longer. I gritted my teeth, replaced the foot with the darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, increased the pressure, and starting running like crazy.

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