Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Finishing Details - Part 1

They day has come.  The quilting is finished.  In fact, to keep me from overthinking this quilting any more (I could nit-pick, remove and restitch for what seems like forever, but the reality is that I am just NOT that vested in this quilt), I took it off of the longarm frame and proceeded to immediately cut away ALL of the excess backing and batting -- making it nearly impossible to reload it even if I wanted!  Take that as my drastic, "I will not overthink" anything else on this quilt move!
Many of you think that because the quilting is finished, that the quilt is essentially done. Unfortunately, I know all too well that there really is a considerable amount of time left getting this blocked, bound and ready to send off to its first show.  I thought I'd take this post to show what I am doing on that process, and document the actual time spent.

So, first things first -- Blocking the quilt.  I have documented the blocking process before, and wrote an article for Machine Quilting Unlimited that ran last year sometime.  This quilt is a little different though.  I pieced it 4 years ago, before I put an ounce of thought into prewashing fabrics, or if a material might bleed.  The bulk of the piecing was just a few weeks before I blocked Rainbow Nouveau for the first time and watched it bleed so horribly.  So, going into this blocking process, I have no fears, but I am taking the process a little differently.  I enter into it not thinking that this will bleed, but KNOWING that it will.

I put the quilt into the absolute hottest water bath I could run in my large tub.  Into this water, I added about 1/4C of Dawn dish detergent.  This is the cheap alternative to Synthrapol, which I cannot find in 15 minutes at my local grocery.  I add the quilt, and then submerge it with a partially filled laundry basket.
Suspicions confirmed...look at that water!  This soaked for 45 minutes or so and the water had that much dye in it.  The Dawn keeps the extra dye suspended in the water, and not in the fabrics that are not blue.
 Knowing that there is more dye to remove, I repeat this process.  The first bath is drained, and a second hot soak with Dawn is prepared.  The quilt soaks for another hour or so.  The water (below) is still tinged slightly, but I am pretty sure that there won't be enough dye left to bother with a 3rd hot soak.
 I drain the water, and then draw a 3rd bathtub, but this time it is fuller and it is cold water.  I add no Dawn, because I want this soak to be to remove the soap from the quilt.  After an hour, the tub is essentially clear, so I declare the process done.  The quilt is removed, rolled with 7-8 towels on either side of it to absorb as much water as possible, and then taken down to my basement to be blocked.

I block on 1-1/2" foam-core insulation boards.  The quilt is pinned to these boards, taking care to get it very square.  I use measuring tapes, a laser level, and rotary cutting squares.  I won't go thru this process, as I have before.  Suffice it to say, being on your hands and knees pulling and pinning is hard on all parts of you from your fingers to your back and knees.  I ached the next day!  I set a couple of fans to blow on the quilt to expedite the drying process, hoping sincerely that there would be no bleeding as the quilt dried.

Success!...It dried nicely.

How long did this take, you wonder?...To soak -- 3-4 hours.  To pin it down squarely -- about 1 hour. To Completely Dry -- 2 days.  It is faster in the summer (my basement is warmer than 63F then), but one cannot alter the seasons.  While it was soaking, I started on preparing the piping for the piped binding.

So let me take you now on the process of how I go about putting a piped binding on this quilt.  I decided actually to do a double piped binding.  This is a first for me.  It may be a major crash and burn, as this adds extra thickness under the binding, but I am seeking something challenging that will both look good AND maybe bring the quilt extra points.  Quilts at the high end are won and lost by small things like finishing.  I don't think that this is necessarily one of my better quilts, so something extra is maybe a good thing.

First thing I decided to do was make a small mock-up.  I pulled a scrap of already quilted fabric that would be on the side of my quilt.  You know - this is from the scraps I use to test tension every time the thread is changed.  By the time I am done with a show quilt, the entire side of my quilt on one side is lined with 3-4" wide strips.  I cut it off, marked the scallops (yea...another scallop-edged quilt), and stitched on the double piping.
My goal in this is twofold: I want to be sure that I can actually make the scallops with two layers of piping AND I need to determine what width of binding to eventually cut (that is, when it arrives.  It had to be reordered because I used all of the fabric on the quilt).
 So...45 minutes later (that's what it took to make the sample with 2 scallops)... As you can see, I am contemplating possibly doing some decorative stitching in the silver metallic thread.  I tested a bunch of patterns on my scrap.  It will be much harder on a heavy quilt, so I am holding off for right now.  It will also be a very slow process, that would not be easy to remove should it not go as desired.

Piping... No make that Double Piping...Because I am very fabric limited (used every shard of the decent colors on the actual quilt), I really had to piece the heck out of that which goes into the pipings.  This took way longer than anticipated.  I made 4 pieces at 85" of each color - teal and royal. The outer one is cut at 1-1/2", and the inner is 1-1/4".  Both are pressed in half, and then the fine cotton cording is stitched into the crease, slowly, using a very fine coordinating thread.  My best matching threads were 60wt Bottomline.  I then stitched the two pipings to each other, thinking that this would be simpler to stitch to the quilt if they were a unit.  This may or may not be true, but I went on the assumption that it was.  The double piping is trimmed with the Hot Piping template (oh, why is the maker of this eluding me -- this is a fantastic tool!!).  7 hours later, I have piping that is ready to use.
The quilt's edge has to be prepared to add the piping and binding to.  I marked the curves onto the quilt using a circle template.  This was actually very quick, compared to everything else I have done!! The marked line is stitched with a VERY short stitch, and then it is cut about 1/16" inch outside the line.  The stitching keeps the bias edge from stretching.
 Here's a better look...The edge is following a line of quilting.  Preparing the quilt edge...1-1/2 hours

I am now ready to attach the piped binding, one side at a time.  It is massively time-consuming, stopping at every inverted-V to position the piping.  Total time -- 2 hours.  It may sound like a lot, but when I stitch the binding, that will double this likely.
I also ran a line of stitching using a smoke mono-filament thread between the two pipings.  This helps them to lay much more snugly.  The inner piping seemed a little floppy before this was done.  I didn't know I needed to do this, but I preferred the look after I did. Time -- 1 hour.  Yes, it is slow because you have to stay between the two and not stitch on the teal piping.
So now I wait...the binding fabric has been ordered, but hasn't shipped yet.  Hoping for end of this week.  There will be a few crystals on this quilt too.  I had the yellow, and added them (above), but others should be here Tuesday.   There is a sleeve to make and attach -- That I will do right off because I have the fabric.  Usually I need to mail off a quilt, and it doesn't yet have the sleeve!

I have three weeks until my kids are on winter break.  Sophie and I must take the 3 days that week to get her quilt, which is twin sized, quilted.  It is already entered at MQX, but not yet quilted!  I will have that binding to stitch too (unless fairies come visit me!).  Time is short.

I'll continue this series on Finishing in another post.  It is interesting to really know how long all of these last items take to do.  I don't want to predict how long the hand-stitching of the binding will be, but likely on the order of 15-20 hours.


Diane Russell said...

I love the quilt, but more importantly, for me atleast, is that you take the time to teach us all of the steps in the piping. Not having done piping before I would never thought of stitching close to the edge of the scallops for stability and keeping the bias straight. Thank you for taking the time to show and teach this.

Sandy said...

Thanks for all of the detailed explanation! It's so helpful to know these things. As for the Piping Hot Binding Tool, I love mine, too; it's from Susan Cleveland. :)

Suzy Webster said...

The maker of the Piping tool is Susan Cleveland. It's a fantastic tool.

Leeanne said...

Thank you for sharing the time consuming process. I am sure it will be worth it. Good luck!

ChristaQuilts said...

I would love it if you wrote a book about quilting for show. I've read other before but none have as much detail or useful information as you share on your blog

Heritage Keepsakes said...

Thanks for the detailed description of this process. It's very interesting and eye opening to know how long it all takes. Is the Dawn detergent a particular strength or do they all work equally the same? Thanks in advance.

Rettabug said...

Thank you SEW very much for walking us through the details of this process, Margaret! I learn something from every one of your posts. I'm glad you were able to get all the excess dye to discharge. I did not know that DAWN would work like Synthrapol...great tip. I'm a confirmed pre-washer ever since some red fabric bled with every shot of steam during construction.

Your quilting is magnificent...I enlarged each photo so I could see the details better.
Outstanding! I bet this wins ribbons wherever you enter it.

The Hot Piping template is by Susan the ruler & her, both! She is such a fun, creative person & was one of the very first quilting teachers I ever met. What a doll!

I can't wait to see your next post, with the finished quilt!

Quilt+Bitch said...

Stunning, jaw dropping. Thanks for sharing your process on the blocking.

liz gilbert said...

Your eye for detail appeals to me so I am looking forward to the next part of the process on your lovely quilt. This edging will be the making of it. The binding tool that you are using is by that other lover of exquisite finishing Susan K Cleveland at I agree it is almost a necessity for piping and binding. Best wishes.

RachelA said...

I have just signed up for your blog, and can't believe how much information you share. Thankuou. Not living in the US, I never get to actually see these beautiful quilts, and never get to classes. Books, while helpful are just not the same as classes, but your blogs certainly fill in a lot of the gaps. Thankyou again. I look forward to seeing the next finished stage and the final quilt. Good luck with your show entry.

Becky (My Fabric Obsession) said...

Thanks for sharing this process. It really gives me an appreciation for all the detail work that goes into a show quilt! Excited to see how this quilt does for you. Even though you feel it isn't one of your best, it's still stunning!

Quilting Dee said...

Thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge! So much information in one post. I look forward to learning more!