And what is more stitch-intensive than quilting?
I am making a quilted bag for my AEG 760 overlocker – and it’s a cube! 30cm x 30cm x 30cm.
I decided to quilt all panels individually and then sew them together with flat seams: the batting will always remain in single layer but the top and bottom fabric will be folded. I am using cotton poplin on both sides.
For this technique, cut the top fabric to the correct size (don’t forget to add seam allowances of 0.5cm to 1cm or 1/4″ – choose a number and stick to it), but cut the batting and lining a bit larger, perhaps with extra 1cm around the edges. This will ensure that you will always have enough lining to join the panels, even if (or rather when) your sandwich layers shift a little during quilting. Start quilting in the centre and work your way towards the edges to minimise shifting.
The main attraction is this cute fabric with crafting girls drawn on it, in frames too!
So I’m quilting along the lines of the drawing with contrasting black thread, then I quilt the background with matching tan thread.
The backs are really busy – just look at that black/brown/cream batik! But this is absolutely perfect for my purpose – brown quilting stitches completely disappear in it.
And which gears are requiring work? I’m using two machines here: 1902 Singer 48K for straight and free hand quilting and 1955 Necchi Supernova Automatica for the fancy stitches.
This Singer is the ultimate transverse shuttle machine. It is based on model 12 but rather than using its own old style needles and bobbins, it was brought in line with the Singer’s latest models of the time: 15 and 27. The new model 48 uses 15×1 needles (to this day known as the “standard domestic”), it has a new bullet shuttle (no more winding thread around a pin to regulate tension!) and uses the same bobbins as model 27. This machine is also a little larger than model 12 and is more like model 13 “Medium”. However, it still has old style feed with a spring to push up the feed dogs, which is rather weak and most importantly – it is only on the left of the needle hole, so you cannot use a zipper foot in the right position with it.
Well, I am being unfair: zips had not been invented yet! 😁 Model 27 has the same feed dogs, so also only left-handed, but it has an active feed that pushes up the feed dogs with considerable force.
But this weak feed on model 48 is a blessing when it comes to quilting. I am not a real quilter and doing proper free motion quilting is beyond me. So I cheat: using a quilting foot that only engages the back of the feed dogs, keeping foot pressure quite light and working with a short stitch (under 1mm), I can move and turn the fabric under the foot enough to stitch around tight curves. Of course turning is out of the question on a large quilt, which is why I am only doing small panels! 😉
Another machine needing work is my new 1955 Necchi Supernova Automatica – I had a free arm before but finally found this flat bed version. I’m using it for the fancy stitches.
With the Supernova, you get a bunch of flat cams that you combine into stacks of three to make a pattern.
The bottom layer governs the feed, the middle layer – zig-zag width, and the top layer – needle position. You also get “empty” cams which disable automatic pattern in that position so that you can have for example satin stitch patterns which only change zig-zag width and nothing else, or only line drawing patterns without any zig-zag.
Then you modify the pattern with machine knobs: stitch length, minimum zig-zag width, left-most needle position and pattern length.
I say it in this way because that’s what the knobs do for fancy stitch patterns: for designs with a needle position cam*, the needle position lever regulates how far to the left the needle may come. If set left, you get the full pattern width; if set centre, the left half of the pattern is cut off, so you only get the right half of the pattern. Setting the needle position right is senseless because all you get then is a straight line! Unless of course you are after a straight line with some reverse motion in it.
*For designs with an “empty” cam in the top position, the needle position lever determines whether the design is centred, left-handed or right-handed. For yet other designs it does something along these lines but a bit different… I am not entirely clear on that!
Similarly, the zig-zag width lever regulates the minimum and maximum zig-zag width, and the cam determines the variation within these bounds. If the cam asks for a narrower zig-zag than your minimal setting, you still get the minimum width, and if it asks for a wider zig-zag than your maximum setting, you get the maximum set width. So to allow the cam full control, don’t limit the zig-zag width.
The stitch length knob regulates stitch length as usual, unless modified by the feed cam. I am not yet entirely clear on how exactly it fits together, so follow the manual or experiment to see what happens.
The pattern length knob regulates whether and by how much the pattern is to be elongated. Set to 1, it does the shortest pattern. Then you can elongate it with higher numbers: for example, set it to 2 to double the pattern length by doubling the number of stitches in it, set to 3 to triple or set to 4 to quadruple the pattern length. That makes very long patterns indeed! You can also use all the values in between. The actual pattern length depends on the stitch length and the amount of reverse movement incorporated in it.
So, this is all rather complicated. 🤔 But that’s where the manual comes in. 😉 It lists 90 basic designs to get you started – with cam numbers and all other settings.
Then it has 10 more pages showing the effects of different knobs onto a basic design. Well worth a read! Download from here.
I have four girls, so that’s perfect for the sides, although the panels are not wide enough. So I’m adding narrower panels between the girls that will form the corners: it’s embroidered cotton which I’m quilting over the embroidery. I quilt the entire area – from edge to edge because the seam allowances on the edges are very small here – only 0.5cm.
When the panels are done, I’m putting them together. Stitch a leaf panel to the girl’s top layer only – just fold away the batting and the lining. Open the seam with the lining up and cut away the batting that overlaps onto the other panel. Do not cut the lining! Just fold it away. Flip the lining back and fold it to cover the seam. Sew it on by hand.
The right side now has neat seams and the batting forms a continuous layer. It is often recommended to sew the batting together before covering it with lining, but I’m going to put a fancy stitch over the top of it, so it will be secured that way.
I am now adding the fancy stitch over it.
That looks nice and even almost everywhere.
Ugh! That stitch is awful! What’s the problem?
It’s the feed. The piece is now quite big and the machine is struggling to feed it evenly. To improve the situation, I’m doing two things: increase the foot pressure for better grip and help to manage the large quilt.
I have rolled the quilt along the sides so it would not get caught on things and interfere with the feed. I’m also holding the rolled up sides in my hands lifting them a little so as to allow the machine to do its thing unimpeded. Unfortunately I am lacking the third and fourth hand needed to take a picture of me doing it! 😣
Mind you, I am not unpicking that uneven stitching! It’s a hellish job as the reverse stitching is very dense here. It’s not all that bad really taken as a whole (or at least not bad enough to sign my life away to unpicking!).
But I learned how to do it better next time (see above).
For the top panel I’m using the borders from the same fabric. They are not quite wide enough to cover the area, so I need to be creative!
Next is to make a quilt sandwich with batting and lining and to quilt it!
My overlocker has a handle molded into its body.
It is a very handy way of carrying it around, and I want to preserve it in my cover rather than make conventional handles. What I need is essentially a pocket made in the top.
A zip around the top, then the bottom sewn on with the seam on the outside and finished with a matching band – this gives the edge a bit of structure.
This is it!