This was supposed to be the year set aside for learning some new things that I’ve wanted to tackle for quite some time.

Life has interfered with those big plans but I’ve been learning some cool smaller things. And there’s still plenty of time left this year and definitely the need to learn more.

So, ashamed to admit, I’ve never really learned how to master free-motion machine quilting. The straight stuff with feed dogs nicely engaged with a walking foot—no problem–but not as much versatility as free motion. But, oh my, drop those feed dogs and I freeze! Whoa—no control and we all know I’m about control……….

I can hand quilt quite nicely but there’s not enough time to hand quilt everything. Hand quilting looks so nice on small and mini quilts but there’s that time thing so I thought it would be nice to mix hand and machine quilting on the small recently finished Star Crossed quilt. I marked the border for hand quilting but just wasn’t sure about the machine part. Sometimes machine quilting can look awkward on the little ones while hand quilting always looks just right IMHO.

Star Crossed border marked for hand quilting. I'll do some inside the stars too.

Star Crossed border marked for hand quilting. I’ll do some hand quilting inside the stars too.

Once upon a time I remember hearing about there being a hand-look machine-quilting stitch on Bernina sewing machines. Well, dang, I have three of those machines so maybe it was time to set about learning how to master that for those little quilts. This could be the solution to my time problem.

Before diving in, I googled a tutorial and set about learning how to do it, making a test piece to compare variations in order to figure the best specs for my mini quilts.

The idea behind hand-look machine quilting is to use a clear monofilament thread on the top and a heavier thread in the bobbin. By adjusting the top thread tension up to about 8, the bottom thread is brought to the top where it will show and look like a stitch while the clear thread will disappear against the quilt top. Sounds like a plan!

To make the test piece, I cut two cream solid rectangles along with a piece of my favorite batting—Quilter’s Dream Orient. I spray basted the layers together (another new learning experience) and got to work learning the ins and outs of hand look machine quilting by first just playing around with it to get the hang of it all.

My practice warm up piece just playing with the stitches and settings.

My practice warm up piece just playing with the stitches and settings.

I rummaged through my stuff and found two types of invisible thread. One was decades old so I trashed that. The other is Sulky invisible thread. And actually, there was a third thread, Invisifil, which I played around with but, not liking the way it looked, set it aside.

So I loaded the Sulky on top and tested two threads for the bobbin. The first was Bottom Line’s white 60 wt synthetic. The second was Presencia’s 60 wt cotton in cream. There certainly are plenty of other threads to play with for the bobbin, but being lazy,I thought I’d start with two that were already loaded on bobbins. Sometime it would be fun to use colored threads on the bottom to create colorful stitching on top but for this reproduction type of quilt, it seemed best to stick with cream which was the tradition in the thirties.

Prescencia 60 wt cotton on the left and Sulky invisible on the right.

Prescencia 60 wt cotton on the left and Sulky invisible on the right.

My machine has three hand-look stitches. Number 1347 recreates 8 stitches/inch, 1348 recreates 10 stitches/inch and 1350 creates an irregular stitch length meant to look more hand stitched.

Bernina stitches

The three Bernina hand-look machine-quilting stitches.

So using my sample quilt sandwich, I sewed out a column of 7 stitching combinations with Bottom Line in the bobbin, Sulky on top, using the three different stitches, and varying the stitch length with each stitch change. I didn’t use the 3.0 stitch length in all of them because after the first time it just didn’t look as good as the shorter stitch lengths.

So take a look and tell me what you think. Remember the left column has Bottom Line on the bobbin and the right column is the same stitch combination as the left, only using the Presencia 60 wt cotton in the bobbin.

Stitch sample #1. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #1.

 

Stitch sample #2. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #2.

 

Stitch sample #3. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #3.

 

Stitch sample #4. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #4.

 

Stitch sample #5. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #5.

 

Stitch sample #6. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #6.

 

Stitch sample #7. Left is bottom line in the bobbin and right column is the cotton.

Stitch sample #7.

Wow—was there a difference! I’m not sure the camera shots show the differences, but they sure do look different in person. I’m learning more than expected from this exercise.

I’d love to know your take on it. Have you ever used a hand look machine stitch? What did you think? Which one of samples 1-7 in the left or right column do you think looks best? Why? Are you learning new things this year? It sure can be fun to try new stuff.

Until next time~

Best Stitches,

Donna