This is part two of my Summer Haze baby quilt project and focuses on in-the-hoop quilting using the B570 QE embroidery module. You can return to part one to learn all about selecting fabric and pattern, as well as cutting and piecing the quilt. high.
I spent quite a bit of time deciding how I wanted to do the quilting for this project – the B570 QE has many options for quilters! I could have done a simple stitch in the quilting with my Edgestitch foot, or opted for a free motion using the Bernina stitch regulator (I still really want to try that!), but ultimately, the call of embroidery took away and I decided to use my Small tightening hoop for the first time.
I had previously used (and loved) the Snap Hoop Monster with my 79 bernette, so I was curious about the differences – but before I could get to that, I needed a quilting pattern!
Set up and draw the pattern
I looked through the built-in patterns as well as a few embroidery websites, but ultimately decided to draw my own. This quilt is a gift for my sister and her new baby and the nursery is forest themed so I landed on an acorn and oak leaf pattern. I decided to create a continuous line pattern where the ends of each stitching line would line up with its neighbors, creating a pattern that looked continuous. In order to make it look truly continuous, I had to split it into two separate sewing paths, so that it connected on all four sides. This is what my final design looks like:
I drew the design in Adobe Illustrator on my iPad. I like to use Illustrator for this sort of thing because of the “repeat” feature, which allows you to automatically display a single pattern repeated multiple times. I used this to make sure the ends of my lines were aligned so that they would attach to each other when sewn side by side.
Digitizing the quilting pattern
Once happy with the design, I imported it into Bernina Creator Plus software to digitize the dots. I had to create a new embroidery hoop in the software using the available sewing area of the small clip hoop, but it's a very simple process: you just enter the dimensions and a name, then press Save.
The pattern is set on a single set of stitching and measures a 5.5 inch square. The dimensions of the hoop are 6.5 inches square, and I had originally planned to size my drawing to 6.5 inches to match, but I realized that would mean I would lose the ability to refine the placement of each repeat in the hoop, so the lines would match. Doing it at 5.5 inches gave me half an inch of wiggle room on each side of my pattern, which took the pressure off by making sure the quilt was perfectly circled to the millimeter!
Of course, it's always a good idea to test sewing. I circled a “quilt sandwich” with my batting and two layers of quilting cotton for this purpose. At this point I was focusing on getting the thread tension right – I used the regular hook instead of the high tension yellow hook that I normally use for embroidery. I found that I needed to increase the tension slightly to help the bobbin thread rise through the batting so that the stitches were even on both sides. I suspect this will vary greatly depending on the fleece you choose, the design and your machine, so it's definitely wise to do a test!
Quilting in the Hoop
Once everything looked perfect, I circled the center of my quilt in the drawstring hoop. When strapping, start by using the acrylic template to center the design, then add the clamps one at a time, in pairs, so that the pairs are directly across from each other. This will help ensure that the quilt is not warped.
Once you're happy and all the clamps are in place, you can remove the acrylic template and get to sewing!
From there, I went down one column, then back up to finish that column before sewing the neighboring columns on the right. When preparing your quilt sandwich, you will want to make sure that the batting and backing are both approximately 5 to 10 inches larger on all sides than the quilt top. Of course, there is usually some shrinkage, but you will also need that extra fabric for the clip to grab onto as you approach the edges of the quilt.
One of the benefits of this strapping setup is that you don't need to remove the hoop and quilt from the machine between strappings: you can simply remove the clamps, move the quilt, and retighten. My method was to simply move the quilt so that my new area was within the sewing area and completely straight, so that I could fine-tune my pattern placement using the machine without having to worry about rotating the pattern.
It worked very well! I learned that the clips can pull or distort the quilt if you let them, so it pays to be careful and take your time when reattaching the clips.
Once I finished the right side of the quilt, I rotated my pattern and quilt 180 degrees so I didn't have to deal with the large mass of quilt in the throat of the machine.
I managed to quilt the entire project on my small sewing table, although I was prepared to take it out to a larger work surface if necessary! I think if I had been quilting something larger than a baby quilt, I would have needed the extra space around the machine.
Observations after using this method
I really enjoyed quilting this project this way and love how it turned out – but I'm not sure I'd do it again the same way, so here are some of my observations – I hope they help!
Choosing a continuous design that needed to be precisely aligned was the most difficult way to start. I think quilting in the hoop with the clamping hoop would be better suited to a centered quilting pattern in a block or similar, rather than a continuous line pattern like the one I made. It's not impossible, but I definitely spent a LOT more time working on block alignment than I did with a focused, contained design. It was quite difficult and not my favorite part of the process. It didn't help that my design had multiple points that needed to line up – even the slightest tilt made a difference, and I have a few places on my quilt where I couldn't get the design to match. Exactly.
Size-wise, my quilting issues were minimal, although everything had to line up perfectly, but I think larger quilts would be better suited to the Bernina Series 7 machines, with their larger needle plates. This wouldn't really be a problem with regular quilting, but with the extra space needed for the hoop, I think it might be a little tricky with a Queen or King sized quilt!
I always keep my chair at a certain height when sewing, but I found that I needed to increase the height slightly to get better leverage when adding the clips to the hoop. Your mileage may vary here, and it's worth noting that you need to have reasonable hand strength to secure these clamps. I've used the Snap Hoop Monster before, and it might be a better option for those with less hand strength.
Very helpfully, the B570 pulls both thread tails back and takes a few stitches to tie before starting a line of stitching. In embroidery, this is great because everything is held on the wrong side, but since the back of a quilt is always visible, we want to keep it clean! I experimented with this a bit and found that the best way to prevent nests from forming was:
When you are ready to sew, press the needle down button twice (down, then up). -pull the thread up, which brings the bobbin thread towards the front of the work, and pinch both the bobbin and the top thread (hard!!!) while the machine forms the lockstitch of start and the first five or six points of the work. design. Then, depending on your design, pause the machine to cut the tails or wait until the end of sewing to cut them. You may also want to weave in the tails, but since my design included the interlocking stitches, I didn't. The tails at the end don't tend to nest, so I was able to cut them off normally.
Overall, I love the way this quilt is put together, and I'm glad I chose the hoop quilting technique because I learned so much! I'm really looking forward to trying different quilting techniques on future projects. The quilt still needs its binding and a very special quilt label, so stay tuned for part 3 if you want to see those finishing touches!