Quilting troubles

This weekend I’ve sandwiched two quilts. One, a gift, shall remain under wraps, the other is my latest version of the Purple Stitches Beginners Quilt which I’ve been making whilst demonstrating various quilt making techniques to my class.
Beginners Quilt (3) Allison Reid New Every Morning Patchwork & Quilting
I put together this little quilt, measuring approx 45″ square, using 5″ squares cut from a Moda 30’s Playtime layer cake. The border is Kona Snow and the backing is an extra wide fabric by Carolyn Friedlander for Robert Kaufman. I’ve used my last piece of Quilter’s Dream Poly batting in the middle of the sandwich.

Back of Beginners Quilt (3) Allison Reid New Every Morning Patchwork & Quilting
Back of quilt showing orange peel design

As I was pin basting the quilt I gave some thought to which quilting pattern(s) I could use. My final decision: to secure the layers by stitching in-the-ditch between the centre of the quilt and the borders before continuing to use the walking foot to create a large ‘orange peel’ pattern across the quilt centre. The in-the-ditch stitching went without a hitch (that’s a lot of ‘itches’!), my troubles began as I stitched out the gentle curves of the orange peel design. Fabric puckers at the intersections of stitching lines and baggy fabric as the orange peel lines finished against the border quilt stitching. *SIGH*
Fabric puckering against the border. Allison Reid New Every Morning Patchwork & Quilting
Fabric puckering against the border.

Fabric bulging as stitching lines cross. Allison Reid New Every Morning Patchwork & Quilting
Fabric bulging as stitching lines cross.

It was getting on for 9pm – time to stop and not the best part of the day for reasoned decision-making (not for me anyway). So, I left the quilt, got a good nights sleep and took a long hard look at it ‘in the cold light of day’. Hum! Continuing with the same type of stitching pattern would only exacerbate the puckering issues I felt sure.
Stitch ripper meets puckers. Allison Reid, New Every Morning Patchwork & Quilting
Stitch ripper meets puckers Double 🙁

Sad to say, my conclusion is I should unpick the orange peel lines and begin again. Doh! Doh! Doh! Two years ago I had problems with puckering whilst using a walking foot – I posted ‘Quilting and the monster in me!’ and received some good advice which I’ve carried through all my projects since then.
So why has the puckering problem returned???? I think it has a lot to do with the action of turning a quilt under the machine’s pressure foot to achieve a curved line of stitching when the machine was designed to stitch lovely straight lines. I reckon the layers of the quilt get pushed across each other whilst under the foot (despite the presence of basting pins) and then the fabric relaxes back against the stitches once out from under the grip of the pressure foot and my fingers. I found a couple of useful pucker-avoiding demonstrations on You Tube: Aurora Sisneros shows how to aid the walking foot by pushing the top fabric towards the foot and Marguerita McManus gets to grip with saying ‘presser foot pressure’ and demonstrating how adjusting the presser foot pressure can significantly affect the efficiency of a walking foot.
Once all the stitches have been removed *SIGH* I will consider:

  1. Starching the top and backing as a way of preventing the fabric being distorted by me attempting to stitch curves (this would involve ‘un’basting and ‘re’basting 🙁 );
  2. Being more diligent re. lifting the foot and re-positioning the quilt several times through each curve rather than relying on stitching slowly and turning (but probably twisting) the quilt sandwich;
  3. Using Aurora’s technique of actively pushing puckering fabric towards the presser foot;
  4. Doing 3. and sticking to straight line quilting.
  5. Free motion quilting the orange peel design (or a completely different design?).

If you have any other suggestions to avoid puckering when quilting with a walking foot please do add a comment to the end of this post. Much appreciated, thank you!
Linking with Kathy at Slow Sunday (un)Stitching. Kathy asks at the end of her linky post:

What are you hand stitching today? Are you having success or do you need a little help from your friends?

Well! Kathy….as it happens… 😉

5 thoughts on “Quilting troubles

  1. I find that this happens when I haven’t done a good job of basting. Usually it’s because I don’t pull the fabric taut enough and ripples develop. Also I usually quilt from the inside out to push any excess to the edges (just in case!)

    • Thanks for these thoughts Kathy. I’m going to rebast having finished the marathon unpicking task. I will try doing some stabilising in the ditch quilting in the centre of the quilt before doing the decorative quilting.

  2. I think sometimes a fabric seems stretchy. I don’t know what the answer is. I usually unpick and starch and iron a section to shrink it up a bit, but this is not ideal at all, it’s messy and annoying!

    • Yes! I agree there is a lot of variation in 100% cottons. I think sometimes those variations plus whatever wadding and backing are used can create very different and unexpected conditions for quilting. I’m having more success now I’ve used starch on the top and backing and basted the layers together with pins just 2″ apart 🙂 But it is a nuisance and I don’t feel entirely confident about the outcome – one thing for sure, I’m not unpicking it all again!


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