I took a great class this week from South African quilter, Telene Jeffries, aka Lady Jane Quilting. Telene is a superb and delightful instructor and patient with inept students, which I was in this class. The class was live on-line “Couched Applique as you Quilt“. I have not previously been successful with couching despite repeated tries. Yes, I know you need just the right kind of yarn/cord/thread and I have tried many. So I was excited about this class!
Telene is primarily a long-armer (Handi Quilter) and oh by the way, one of her quilts will hang at Houston this fall! I’ve taken her Inktense class also, so you can see, I’m a bit of a fan girl.
My completed class project – tada!
The back is fairly uneventful, but pretty in its own right:
I learned so much in class as well as playing around after class. This is an important concept:
Don’t make a class project too precious or you’ll be afraid to make mistakes and learn.
This was not meant to be something I enter into show – I wanted to play, learn, conquer. I got 2 out of the 3. I still have a lot of experimenting to do. Read on.
As Telene instructed, I layered up different fabrics to mark the petal shapes, a super easy lay-out. I am really happy with my design and my color/value choices.
And here’s how it looked after the cutting, but before the quilting:
The yarn/foot combination was everything in terms of the couching. If you’ve got the wrong combination, the yarn may not be caught by the couching and be unattached, you might break needles, the line may not be smooth and, you will cuss. A lot. Which I did.
The longarmers in class seemed to be able to get the right combination easily. After trying many yarn/foot combinations in class, towards the end I finally ended up with a working combo. I didn’t count but I tried at least 15 different yarn/cords, each with multiple tries of trying to pair with the right foot:
I experimented on a quilted scrap and broke 5 needles! I never break needles, but if you’ve got the wrong combo, the yarn/cording will bunch up all of a sudden in the foot and your needle will break from the bulk. I ended up with this measly pile of yarn/cord that worked:
It took 4 hours of frustration to yield that small pile, but now I know what works – wahoo!
I was lucky to have so many choices in feet: the proper BERNINA couching foot (#43), the BERNINA ruler foot with couching inserts and 3 wonderfully designed couching feet from my generous Taiwanese friend. I had the most success with the true couching foot. But there is more experimentation in my future.
Quilting this was a challenge. Realize that there is a huge bump around each area – 1 – 5 layers of fabric plus a line of couched yarn. That meant that I had to figure out a way to get over that bump and still be able to quilt. That means my foot choice is everything. Let’s look at that:
This is the foot that is made to skim over bumpy parts. It was not going to work. See that huuuuuuuge area behind the foot that is blocked? See how I’m quilting a grid? How can I quilt a grid that I can’t see?
This is one of my least favorite feet on the planet but I thought it might work for this. Nope. Once again, a huuuuuuge “no see” zone behind the foot, You can’t really see through that plastic. Also note, you cannot see where your needle hits the fabric with this foot. That needle is hitting right at the intersection of the 8 thread paths but you can’t see it. How can I hit my intersection if I can’t see it? The lip is too fat for this. This same foot with the front cut out might work. Also, this might work well for non-precision quilting, but not here.
Ahhhhh, there we go! See that visibility? I can see my needle AND what’s going on behind it. THAT is what I want. Bingo. Foot #15.
Ah, but we have another problem. That dog gone huge bump of fabric. I needed to be able to skim over that and quilt smoothly as I approach, hit and left the bump. Hmmm.
The only solution was to set my presser foot pressure up a bit higher than it should have been so that the foot sat higher. Your foot should just barely skim the surface of the quilt. If it rides high, you will get skipped stitches.
Which I did. I estimate that out of every 200 stitches, there would be one skipped stitch because the foot by necessity had to ride high. This was not a competition piece and I could accept a few skipped stitches. No other combo worked.
Allow me to pontificate for a moment. I’m a BERNINA girl and one of the big reasons is their feet. None of their feet are snap on, each one is a well-designed foot for that purpose specifically, and attaches in 2 seconds. BERNINA feet are divine.
The #15 foot is unique – its curved front allowed me to skim that huge bump, the elongated center gave superb visibility of the needle hitting the fabric and, the offset shank allowed me to see what was behind the foot. Also, the shaft on the foot is skinny, without additional “stuff” on it to obliterate my view. That is an excellent foot and one of the reasons I’m BERNINA.
Having said that, I say this also, with great passion:
I want you to LOVE your machine, no matter the brand.
It came time to bind, and cutting the edge was challenging with cording around the outer edge – the ruler wants to see-saw over that bump. So I got out Susan Cleveland’s Piping Hot Binding Tool:
You may not be able to tell from the photo, but there is a groove cut into the plastic to accommodate the bulk of the piping, making it a simple, easy and accurate way to cut your edge on a piped quilt. If you ever do a quilt with a piped edge, don’t trim it without this tool!
Similarly, attaching the binding when there is piped edge was also a challenge, I needed some sort of grooved foot to ride over that piping:
I have a number of grooved feet, so I tested them by holding them and riding it over the cording. The one that “held” the best was the #35 foot, the invisible zipper foot, go figure. I bopped my needle position to the right by 2 and aligned the foot’s edge with the binding edge and it. was. dead-on. perfect!
The right foot is everything.
A few other notes:
The couching foot comes with a gizmo that allows you to thread the thick yarn/cord through the small hole in the foot. You will constantly lose it if you have one. Of course I lost mine, so I used these:
Dental floss threaders worked great and there’s like 25 to a package!
Marking was a problem too:
I first marked with my air erase and I really could not see my line. So I tried my blue wash out – it too was difficult to see on the dark fabric. I rarely mark with chalk or ceramic because they wipe off before I quilt, but in this case, with such a small piece, they were the perfect solution.
Between the bumpy edge, poor marking decisions at the beginning and fumbling around for the right presser foot pressure, my first effort looked like this:
Ugh. That is really inept. So here’s the internal dialogue in my little brain:
That’s really bad. You should rip that out. But I rarely do that. Well today’s the day to do that girl, it’s bad. But it’s not that bad. Um, it’s your-butt-in-a-thong bad. Yeah, but I think it might be okay. It’s not and you know it. You know it’s gonna bug you. Every time you look at it you’re gonna cringe. Okay, I’ll rip it out. Glad I did.
I used fray check before cutting the layers. No matter how many times I trim away the errant threads, another appeared.
Well it was an adventure. I really like the technique! I have a ways to go on perfecting it for me. I had a wild ride. I’m pleased with the outcome.