January 14, 2014: Craftsmanship, Basting Woes, and other Updates


A couple weeks ago in the “Home” section of the NY Times there was an interview with Peter Korn, a furniture maker, about his new book, “Why We Make Things and Why It Matters,” in which he “chronicles his life as a craftsman and founder of the non-profit Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, ME.”  In the book he makes a strong case for creative processes, esp. those with a physical or material connection.  He says, “We have a certain innate biological character, and I think that working creatively with actual materials – bringing new and meaningful things into the world with your own skills – helps us inhabit our humanity to the fullest.  The more virtual the world gets, the more that hunger sharpens.”

This is well said, I agree, and it certainly applies to quiltmaking!

From the beginning of my quiltmaking adventure, basting has been my least favorite aspect of the process – in fact I don’t enjoy it, though I don’t “hate” it. I  actually enjoy everything else, even making and sewing on bindings, a process which many quiltmakers don’t like at all.  Last week I laid out the 3 layers of Spring Sonata – backing, batting, and top – on my dining room table and attempted to baste them together:

11314 SS Basting#1


(Click on all pictures for great enlargements!)

I don’t have an ideal setting for basting at home.  In the early days I used to baste quilts on the floor but that is ergonomically a disaster and after several episodes of back pain I realized that basting should never be done on the floor!  My cutting table isn’t big enough for large quilts, tho is ideal for smaller quilts, especially because it is higher than most tables and ergonomically excellent for tasks such as cutting, basting, ironing, etc.  So, for the last few larger quilts I’ve made, I’ve done them on my dining room table.  This is a hassle!!!  I must cover the table with several cutting boards to protect the wood underneath.  They don’t fit perfectly and must be slid around at times during the basting.  A major problem, however, is that for a large quilt it is nearly impossible to get the backing stretched tightly and secured down so it doesn’t slip.  Another issue is that the quilt has to be basted in sections because the table isn’t big enough.  Clamps to hold the backing secure along the sides of the table risk damaging the wood of the table so can’t be used.

I tried securing the backing with painter’s tape but the way my table is constructed made this not hold up well and the tape kept popping off.  Somehow I managed to successfully baste 2 other large quilts in the past this way.  This time I had concerns as to whether the back was flat enough as I soldiered on with the basting process intermittently over 2 days.  I did periodically check accessible sections of the back and thought it was OK.  However, when I was done and turned the whole thing over, it clearly was not OK.  There even was one area where there was a clear fold in the fabric.

I made an immediate decision to take out all the basting (it took about 3 hours to get all the stitches out – a great task to do while watching playoff football!) and have it basted by long-arm quilter, Linda Bevins. She basted the only other quilt I have ever sent out for this, my Baltimore Album, and did a great job.  Luckily she can do this for me by the end of the month, maybe sooner.  Unless I invest in a special table for basting that can be put away when not in use or find a place outside the house to do this, I have a feeling I will in the future have large quilts basted by someone else.  Seems like a wise investment!!

Following up on the question of whether to add a bird to the quilt, from my last post, I showed the quilt to my group last week and the vote was largely in favor of adding the bird.  One mentioned it adds “whimsy” to the quilt – I agree since the quilt seems more “folk” art than “fine” art.  Another person mentioned the idea of “sonata” being a musical term and birds “sing” and in spring one thing that is a change from winter is the return of birds singing in the morning.  So – I added the bird!

11314 SS Bird on!


During the process of making Spring Sonata over the past couple years, I saved most of the scraps in case I might want to use them for leaves, berries, etc.   With paper piecing a block as intricate as the “palm leaf” blocks in the center of the quilt, there are a lot of scraps left over!

11314 SS Leftovers#1


Here they are squished into a bag:

11314 SS Leftovers#2


I think I will offer the scraps to anyone in my quilt group that might be interested.  These are all pretty small pieces so if no one is interested I will pitch them!  I’m not a person that believes in saving these size pieces since I most likely will never use them.  I AM saving many larger leftover pieces.

The next step on Sveta’s quilt was to anchor the leaf pieces with machine buttonhole applique. Here are some pictures:

11314 S's quilt#1(full block)


11314 S'sQ #2closeup


11314 S'sQ closeup#2


This stitching not only secures the edges and keeps them from fraying but aesthetically defines and adds interest to the edges.  The points are somewhat challenging because it takes some skill and experience to manipulate the machine to get them done correctly, but it’s not that difficult and I’m getting the hang of it.

For those interested in the process, I use decorative Stitch #46 on my Bernina QE 440 – it’s a double buttonhole stitch so more visible than the “single” version.  For small pieces like the above, I use a stitch length of 1.6 or 1.8 and a stitch width of 2.2.  You can experiment with all different settings to find which combination you like best.  Also, Sue Nichols’ book on Machine Applique is a wonderful resource for advice on this process and how to stitch points, turn corners, etc.

I have periodically been working on appliqueing the “wheel” sections to their backgrounds for my Spirit of Japan quilt when I need a hand project.  I have the “quarter” sections for 5 of the 16 blocks done:

11314 SOJ blocks update


They are going more quickly than I thought they would and I may make progress more quickly on this since hand quilting Spring Sonata is being delayed.

Finally, I thought I would share a couple pictures of a great fabric I picked up at Keepsake Quilting.  As you know I went there recently to get my backing fabric for Spring Sonata.  Of course, when one is in a shop with thousands of bolts of fabric it’s impossible to focus on only what you are there specifically to buy!!!  I couldn’t resist buying a yard of this great “Paris” fabric which I’ll use to make a tote bag.  It seems so appropriate since Al and I will be spending a week in Paris in June, in addition to traveling to southwestern France.

11314 Parisfabric#1


11314 Parisfabric#2


Back to work full time the day after tomorrow!  I sometimes feel like the luckiest person in the world having extended summer and winter breaks in my job; however, when I’m working, I work exceedingly hard and put in long hours, including some weekend and evening work in addition to my full work weekdays.  I accomplished a lot of quiltmaking over this break, completing the SS top and getting ready for the hand quilting, starting Sveta’s quilt by choosing a pattern and getting the fabric ready and cut out for it, and making progress on the Spirit of Japan quilt.  The next “new” thing will be my guild’s “Challenge.”  I’ll tell you what it is next time, but won’t be able to share may project because it has to be a secret.  Am looking to start another doll quilt soon, too, and to making a couple of tote bags.

Thanks for visiting!!


2 thoughts on “January 14, 2014: Craftsmanship, Basting Woes, and other Updates

    1. gladiporsche Post author

      Margaret, thank you so much! I follow your blog, have seen your quilts at regional shows, and your work is truly amazing!! Gladi


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