Oakleaf Hydrangea II Under the Needle

I completed this quilt top in May and have had it on my design wall while I thought about how to quilt it.

Franki Kohler, Top doneHaving decided upon a plan, I got down to the business of quilting a few days ago. Unfortunately, a ‘quilting romp’ — as my friend Jenny Lyon would call it — was not meant to be. Instead, it became my job to try, try, and try again, until I found a needle and thread combination that would work for me.

Let me back up and say that I am fastidious about machine maintenance. And not just with regular check ups at the Janome dealer, but between projects at home. Before I begin a new project I always clean and oil my machine, insert a new needle and do a test of the thread to be used on a small quilt sandwich.

So, with a clean and oiled machine, a brand new Superior 80/12 Topstitch needle — my go-to needle — and 100-weight silk thread threaded and tested, I was ready to quilt the center panel of this piece. The center is a cyanotype print on China silk fabric backed with Pellon Shirt Taylor and sandwiched with Dream Cotton® and cotton fabric backing. This is a combination that has been successful for me for many years. Not so this time. At barely 3″ of quilting, the thread did one of those little loops in the needle and skipped stitches. That kind of mess always means stopping, cutting the thread, taking stitches out and tying off before beginning again. After several of those drills, I changed to a Superior 70/10 Topstitch needle. This time I got the same looping in the needle and thread breaking. Yikes. My next step was to get out my back-up machine, an identical Janome 6500. I went through the regular maintenance for that machine and inserted the 70/10 needle and silk thread. More disasters of the same description!

Disheartened, but still determined, I went through my box of needles and pulled out a Schmetz Microtex Sharp needle, size 80/12. This needle has an even smaller eye that the 70/10 Topstitch needle. Finally, success.

Franki Kohler, Quilting begun -- Finally!I cannot remember the last time I had such difficulty using my normally successful tools. I guess it was simply time for me to learn some patience.

So, back to work!

8 replies
  1. 379christy
    379christy says:

    Thanks for the reminder that machine maintenance is good idea. Also, thanks for reminder that not every tool works for every project. Having an assortment of tools and experience with them all is the start of having on-going success.

    Keep up the good work, Franki. I love the choices you are making on this piece.

  2. vivian helena Aumond-Capone
    vivian helena Aumond-Capone says:

    I love your piece, and how white your cyanotype looks. I made one for a show and now it is starting to look, for a lack of better words, somewhat muddy. Not clear and crisp as your does.. Do you know if I did something wrong?.. I bought the cotton fabric with the chemicals on it and followed directions. It is a finished piece now, so nothing I can do. Probably would not be noticeable to any one but me or someone that knew what it could look like. Love how you put that together and know that your quilting will be marvelous.

    • Franki Kohler
      Franki Kohler says:

      Gosh, I’m not sure why your piece would become ‘muddy’ Vivian. I have a number of pieces I’ve done over the years and I’ve been paying attention to how they hold the color. So far they look the same as the day I printed them. I will say one thing about my habit: I do not expose the fabric to the sun as long as many directions say to (usually 30 minutes). I set my work out for 5-6 minutes and then rinse it like crazy. If you are exposing longer, perhaps it’s worth a try. Let me know if you do.

  3. dweinberg415
    dweinberg415 says:

    Really beautiful. Thanks for your “blow by blow” commentary and also for the resources! Hopefully they will help produce something as nice as what you’ve done.

  4. Ann Waskey
    Ann Waskey says:

    Oh, that sound somewhat familiar. After taking a wonderful class from Jenny Lyon in Long Beach I decided to get down to work “fancy quilting” a charity quilt top I had recently completed. What a disaster. There was one fabric that caused the thread to break at least 50% of the time when I crossed that fabric. It was a very tightly woven fabric and nothing seemed to solve the problem. But, I got lots of practice with the process of starting and stopping and had fun practicing a new quilting pattern.

    • Franki Kohler
      Franki Kohler says:

      I feel your pain Ann! Sounds like a dose of Sewer’s Aid might have helped with the touchy fabric. If you don’t have it, try it next time. It can make a huge difference.

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