I finished quilting the gift quilt yesterday. Here is the back, trimmed. I haven't decided what fabric to use for the binding. Several rather large batches of fabric are waiting for me at our mail receiving company in Green Cove Springs. We will have a good address for deliveries next week while in the Tampa/St Pete area, so all my goodies will arrive at once. It's always like Christmas when that happens!
As I said earlier, this quilt does not have any batting, just a cotton top and a fleece back. There are three reasons for that. One, this is a gift for fellow boaters, and we have found that our fleece blankets dry really quickly. Even when salty, they don't get that sticky, damp feeling as badly as cotton. So half cotton/half fleece seems like a good boat compromise. Two, while I've made two other fleece back quilts, I didn't do extensive FMQ (free motion quilting) on them and wanted to try that. Three, I was running low on batting anyway so this seemed like the right quilt to do my testing.
I'm pretty happy with the FMQ from the front. I had a nice selection of matching Aurifil 50 weight thread for each color cotton, so everything blends well. I tried a boxy spiral shape in the sashing that flowed well and gives good crinkly texture.
I'm not as happy about the quilting on the back, though. In order to make sure the bobbin thread didn't show on the front, I matched it to the top thread in all instances. That worked well for the front, but makes each motif stand out quite starkly on the back, especially on the big cream rectangles.
It's not that the quilting is bad; in fact, the fleece does a fantastic job hiding some variations in stitch length. It's just that the shapes that make sense on the front look odd and out of context on the back. It looks...unfinished. I really wish I had started with enough of the red argyle for the entire back, because it did a much better job of blending into the quilting.
The whole thing is very soft and cuddly, though, and I'm still stoked about the fabrics and the design. I just need to decide if my hesitations about the back are enough to knock it off the gift list. We'll see how I feel about it after binding and laundering. Once I make a final decision I'll be able to share the completed front with you.
One of the things that surprised me about using fleece on the back was how different it was to move the sandwich through the sewing machine. While sewing the pieces of fleece together to create the back, I kept thinking, "Wow, it's really easy to sew. Very forgiving." But I had read that it was hard on the needle and it did start to get what I call "thumpy." The machine sounded like it was working hard to punch through the cotton and then up to two layers of fleece at the seams. I kept checking to see if the needle felt dull, but it stabbed my finger just fine! I'll toss that needle out after binding, though, just in case.
The fleece was much harder to slide around on the machine bed during FMQ, even though it fed well when doing straight sewing with the feed dogs up. It's almost like the synthetic material got staticky rubbing against the plastic bed, although I never got "shocked." And of course, fleece is much stretchier than cotton so I had to be careful that I wasn't just pulling the backing around while the top stayed in one place. That happened several times, even with spray adhesive holding the layers together. The cream fleece was much stretchier than the argyle, so the whole sandwich moved and felt different as I moved from one section to another, with a really thick, "thumpy" transition across each fleece seam.
Lessons learned for using fleece backings: Look for less stretchy (thicker?) brands. Try to minimize seams in the fleece. Patterned fleece hides more quilting (that's true of cotton, too!) Try a different size or type of needle.
Today I started quilting this bright quilt top. What a difference and what a pleasure! The fabrics are mostly Kaffe Fassett/Rowan. They are very high quality, thin and smooth. Lovely to work with. These blocks were originally destined for our own bed quilt, but I didn't have enough of them for a queen size so I set them aside over a year ago. They are a sort of Bento Box design, so I'm calling this one Bright Bento.
The back is another quality brand, Studio E, and the line is an older one called "Tea Time," I think. It's a bit calico and traditional compared to the wild front, but that's okay. This quilt will most likely be a donation quilt for Hands2Help, so the recipient can flip it over as the mood strikes.
I'm quilting it with my "Unitarian Fans" motif that I first tried on Scrappy Chili Peppers. This time I'm making the fans tighter, almost half the spacing between the arcs, and I'm happier with it. It's taking twice as long, alas. It takes me about 20 minutes to quilt across one pass, about 55 inches wide by 8-10 inches tall. It's a meditative motion of gentle curves with almost no thinking or decisions to be made.
I really wanted the quilting to blend in on this one, after my disappointment on the gift quilt. I also didn't want to keep changing thread colors and take a break from burying threads. The top thread is a bright aqua and the bobbin is a soft baby blue, close enough to each other that there's no obvious color show-through between top and bottom, but nicely blending on each side.