Creative articles about quilting

Month 1 – Crazy Colors Mystery Quilt 2017

There was a tempest, back in December 2016 up till now! Cubbords were blown open, boxes turned upside down, bags and ziplocks emptied, sewing machines cleaned….  and when the wind died down, many of you have found wonderful materials to start this mystery project.  It is not the quantity of materials which determine the success of this project, because you will discover during making the blocks, that you can still use a lot more. Let everything you start with be a good foundation, and be sure to enjoy the fact that anything is possible!

The Three Basic Materials for this project are backing (off-white fabric), Matilda’s Own 100% Bamboo batting and Vlieseline L11.

Why an off-white backing? This fabric is a backing for all sandwiches: there will be quilting involved, sewing and adding sequins and beads, and this backing can look quite messy at the back when the block is done, which is just the way it is supposed to be. Why would one use a beautiful fabric when there will be another fabric added to the back of the project, after all the blocks are assembled and the off-white backing will not be seen anymore? But you still need this fabric, because the sandwich glides easily on your machine during sewing and quilting.  Just choose a extra, beautiful fabric for the final backing when the project is ready for binding, in month 12.

Why a 100% Bamboo batting? Because this is a thin, soft and compact batting. The decorative stitches, quilting etc. will be made in many directions, therefore it is recommended to use a batting that doesn’t shift while working, and has almost no loft: the higher the loft of a batting, the more friction it will give in all directions, and also more shrinkage. Matilda’s Own 100% Bamboo is also anti-allergic – which is very important! The fine scrim locks in fibres and prevents bearding. There are no resins used, no sprays, glues or bonding with producing this batting.
If you are using a polyester batting, there will be friction with every pass of the needle in the sandwich: the metal of the needle will react with the synthetic material of the batting, which can cause splitting or breaking threads, especially with metallic threads. And there will be a lot of passes of the needle, since there are thousands of stitches you will make with the decorative stitches and quilting.  So choosing for this 100% natural batting has many advantages!

What is Vlieseline L11 and why will you use it for the upper layer of the sandwich? This non-woven interfacing is thin but firm. It doesn’t add extra thickness to the sandwich, so even after sewing the fabrics on top and making the decorative stitches and quilting, the sandwich is somewhat flexible. Another reason to use Vlieseline L11 is that this material is transparent, which makes it easier to place a pattern underneath and see the lines you have to draw.

The pieces you will need for this project can be all cut in one session: you will need the same measurements from all three materials (Vlieseline L11, batting and backing): 9 pieces of 32 x 32 cm, 12 pieces of 16 x 32 cm and 4 pieces of 16 x 16 cm. I have cut all materials before sewing, and have put them aside for future use; I always like it when all preparations are done before I will start a project, but that is entirely up to you. You can cut the required pieces per month, if you like…. Download the information and the drawings of the three materials HERE to see what the most efficient way is to cut them. All remnants are for making samples and for reserve, so don’t throw anything away!

For the first block, you will be working on a sandwich, 32 x 32 cm. A sandwich is made from off-white backing, batting and Vlieseline L11. Cut these materials at the specified size, or take them from your stack of pre-cut materials.

Print the pattern for the Crazy Patchwork, download HERE for the left part (links), and download HERE for the right part (rechts). This pattern consists of two parts. Cut along the dotted line with one pattern part, and tape it on the other part. Make sure all lines are connected.

Check if the inner square is 25 x 25 cm: this is your control to know if your pattern is printed at the right size (sometimes printing a .pdf gives you a smaller size than 100% – be sure that it is ok).

Place the pattern on you table (preferable on a white surface), or on a light box. Place the Vlieseline L11 –  32 x 32 cm – on top of this, make sure the square – 25 x 25 cm – is exactly in the center of the Vlieseline L11. Use a pen and ruler, and draw all lines of the pattern onto the Vlieseline L11 (just the lines, NOT the numbers – they are for working order only). Draw the square also but preferably only on the dotted lines (26 x 26 cm) for the outer border of the square. Because of shrinkage during sewing and quilting, you will need this extra space to end with the right measurements. If you feel more comfortable with drawing ALL lines, feel free to do so – but beware that drawing clear, thick lines with a pen can bother you when using light colored fabrics: the lines can shine through, and that is not wat you want! Either draw thin lines, which must be clearly visible of course, or just draw the outer dotted line.

Remove the paper after drawing and make the sandwich of the three materials: off-white backing first, then the batting anf after this the Vlieseline L11. Pin together with Flower Pins – these are large quilting pins with flat heads. No basting, just a couple of pins which you can ‘weave’ through the layers to hold them together. You can remove the pins quickly for making decorative stitches etc.  The sandwich is ready for adding fabrics and stitches.

I recommend to make a number of small sandwiches, 10 x 10 or 12 x 12 cm: you will use these as samples, for checking tension and to find out how a decorative stitch works.

Preparation of your machine: clean everything to make sure it is ready to use. Check if you have the right presser foot for making decorative stitches.  I am using the open embroidery presser foot #20C with my BERNINA 770QE : The wide opening at the front of the foot affords a clear view of the stitching area, while the wide wedge-shaped channel under the sole of the foot ensures perfect fabric feed even over dense stitch formations. If you are using a different sewing machine, check for a pesser foot that allows you to work with wide decorative stitches.

Some presser feet have cut-outs in the front: this is for guiding the stitches over a (drawn) line, or along a seam. If your presser foot doesn’t have this, don’t worry: you can always use the side of the foot as guidance, in different ways.

Make sure you have a lot of bobbins prepared for this project, with bobbin threads in different colors. I am using DecoBob/Wonderfil in matching colors: a wonderful bobbin thread (#80wt) that can be used in combination with all kinds of machine quilting threads and decorative threads. There are even pre-wounds available from this quality of bobbin thread: but BEWARE – these plastic bobbins, pre-wounds, don’t fit in every type of machine. Please inform with your local dealer if you can use them for the type of machine you will work with, before you buy them . I cannot use them for my BERNINA 770QE, because of the special bobbins.

If you want to use just one single color of bobbin thread, beware of the fact that – with a contrast color on top – you will sometimes see some of the bobbin threads turn up to the surface, which can ruin the effect of the decorative stitches! Better to match both top and bobbin colors to prevent distortion, and you don’t have to worry too much about upper tension.

About the fabrics for Crazy Patchwork, on top of the blocks: you can use any fabric you like, just remember they should be solid or semi-solid – your decorative stitches will blend in if the print of your fabric predominates, which is not wat you want, because the stitches have to stand out. TIP: the fabrics do NOT have to be pre-washed! Your project will be a wall hanging, which you will never wash… saves a lot of time and work, doens’t it?

Measure section 1 of the center of the block. You can make a template out of paper if you want to. Take a piece of fabric which you want to use on section 1 (batik or other fabric) and cut this piece EXTRA LARGE (aprox. 1 cm seam allowance on all sides). If you have a batik, there is no visible front or back, so it doesn’t matter how you place the fabric on section 1 of your sandwich. If you have a printed fabric, please beware how to cut it!

Place the fabric on secion 1 , right side up, with extra seam allowance, covering the four lines of the section and more, aprox. 1 cm. Pin the fabric to the sandwich. Use a blue or white water erasable pen to make some SHORT lines on the fabric for guidance. Use the blue pen for light fabrics, the white pen for dark fabrics. Just draw a single line and be careful not to make very thick lines: they are hard to wash out! Try on a sample before drawing the lines on the actual fabric. The white pen needs some time to show: just wait a couple of seconds before drawing lines over each other.  Draw about 2 or 3 lines divided over the fabric..

You can see that I have drawn white lines on my first (blue) batik, using a ruler: these are the first lines to use as center line while making decorative stitches. I have also drawn the outer lines of section 1 on the blue fabric, so I know how large the section on the fabric is to fill with stitches.

Check your manual or information on your machine: find the stitches and select one deocorative stitch to start.. just one that appeals to you. There are no rules for picking stitches, just vary as much as you can. Make some kind of log, to remember which stitches you have used. Usee them more then once, but with different threads, which will make them look as different stitches. Find a top thread and try the stitch out on a sample.

If you don’t have too many decorative stitches, don’t worry. You always have a straight stitch, a zigzag stitch (which can be manipulated) and probably also lock stitches: these are decorative too, if you use special threads.  I will post more about the effects of threads and stitches on this BERNINA block, besides the monthly directions.

It is also important to be aware of the difference between solid and variegated threads: the effects can make it look as if you have used a totally different stitch. Play with colors and threads, and just have fun!

After tryouts, you will know how a decorative stitch is made: this is important to know if the stitch is wide or small, if it jumps etc. Do you find working on a center line easy or is it hard to control the sandwich underneath the needle, if stitches are jumping? Sometimes you can widen stitches, or make them more dense… Is it ok to use metallic thread for dense stitches or should you lengthen them? It is better to find out when working on a sample, and not on your sandwich. Work slow, to discover all the characteristics of the stitches.

The first row of stitches… You don’t have to worry if the appearance of the stitch is different at the beginning and at the end: you don’t have to have a mirror effect, just let the machine do its work.

The next stitch is choosen, and stitched: it is nice to see a contrast between the top threads of both stitches. I’ve changed the bobbin while making the second row of decorative stitches, to match the top thread. The space I have left between the rows of stitches can be filled up afterwards.

I have made seven rows of stitches on the first fabric: some close to each other, some with more distance. With a couple of stiches I have used a variegated thread, for others polyester neon thread, metallic threads and regular quilting threads, but all suitable for machine. Important is to find contrasting colors to get a variety of effects. Sometimes you want a stitch to stand out: use a different color which will stand out on your fabric. Sometimes the sparkle effect of a metallic thread is enough, even if the color of the thread is the same as your fabric….  The most important thing is to understand that everything can be embellished, no matter the color or stitch. For instance, to enhance the color of stitches, you can use sequins and beads.

It is important to be aware of the fact that all fabrics are sewn through all layers of the sandwich, exept the fabric for section 1. Also check the numbers: they indicate the sequins for sewing. The fabric for section 2 is sewn onto the sandwich, using the line between section 1 and section 2, using a 1 cm seam allowance. With sewing the fabric for section no. 2 directly through all layers of the sandwich, all the endpoints of the decorative stitches will be covered, so no loose threads or ugly stitches. If you want to have more decorative stitches on section 1, please sew them before adding fabric for no. 2.

I have made the last stiches on section 1 with a machine quilting thread (not a metallic thread), I can use the same thread to sew fabric no. 2 onto the sandwich. There is no need to use a sewing thread, but use the last thread or the ‘next’ thread, if they are quilting threads or embroidery threads. The stitches will be invisible after the fabric is folded over.

Measure section 2, or make a template out of paper Be aware of the irregular shape of the section: add 1 cm extra seam allowance to all sides. Again: when using batiks, there is no visible front or back, but there is one with printed fabrics. If you are using a template, place this on the back of the printed fabric, and cut the fabric to the right size.

Place fabric 2 with the right side on fabric 1 – over the line between 1 and 2. Sew fabric 2 through all layers, using a straight stitch, with 1 cm seam allowance. Fold the fabric to the right side and check if it covers the entire section no. 2, with EXTRA seam allowance of 1 cm in all directions.

Finger press the seam – do not iron it! Pin it in place.

The first decorative stitches that will be made on fabric 2, are placed directly on the seam to hold it down. You can choose a stitch which runs along the seam, or one that covers it like the one I’ve used. Make more decorative stitches on fabric 2, in the same direction as the first row.

The left side of the presser foot is used for guidence while making the next stitches: this way I don’t have to draw lines. You can choose any distance for making rows of stitches, but remember that you can embellish afterwards, so don’t be afraid to leave an empty space between stitches.

The second fabric is filled with decorative stitches too..


Fabric 3 is sewn on the other side of fabric 1, in the same way as I have sewn fabric 2 onto fabric 1. But this time I have used a sparkling ribbon to sew over the seam: making straight stitches to stitch it down on both sides. I have made several rows of straight stitches, to make the thread stand out more. You can use a thicker machine thread also, to get the same result.

You can see the light blue stitches stand out on both sides of the ribbon. I can embellish this with beads if I want to. That is always something to remember: if you don’t like the result of colors of thread, or the effect of stitches, just change them by adding more threads, place the next decorative stitches directly against these stitches, or embellish everything afterwards with sequins and beads… but wait with embellishing untill the entire sandwich is done…

My next fabric is purple – I’ve found a beautiful deocrative stitch! How Crazy is that?

After the purple fabric is filled with stitches, I have sewn a red fabric onto the next section, and again, I have used the seam to place the first decorative stitches along. Sometimes you can place the inner side of the presser foot directly on the seam, when making the stitches, but with some stitches you will have to use the outer side. It depends on how a stitch is made: again, make samples to find out before sewing onto the sandwich.

And the first row of stitches is made.. if the stitches are not touching the seam, don’t worry – you know you can change that afterwards by adding beads.

And the fun goes on. The picture above shows that I have used a larger seam allowance with fabrics which will fall over the edges of the square 26 x 26 cm (the dotted lines – remember that the sandwich itself is 32 x 32 cm!): to add more seam allowance to the fabrics at those sides (aprox 3 cm) is to be sure you will  have enough fabric placed for shrinkage and to cover the entire sandwich.  Do not use pieces of fabric that ‘just’ fit: they have to spaciously cover the sandwich on the sides, almost to the edges. Also make sure the beginning and ending of the decorative stitches are made over the entire length of the fabrics. It is important that the fabrics are covered with stitches, almost to the edges. If you are making templates for these outer sections, remember to add aprox. 3 cm seam allowance to the sides. If you are cutting the fabrics without templates, be sure that the pieces are large enough!

After making the first row of decorative stitches on the pink fabric, I’ve noticed a disturbance along the seam: even though I’ve worked slow, the stitches do not match up with this seam, which I don’t like. This happens sometimes, and there are a couple of things you can do if you notice this. You can rip out all stitches and start anew, but you can also use a permanent pen in the right color to tip onto the fabric, and cover this. Also, you can add beads afterwards, again… everything can be fixed and embellished!

With the next stitches, I am again using the inner side of the presser foot as a guidance. The downside of using your presser foot as guidance can be that the distance between the last and next row of stitches is almost always the same. If you want more space between stitches and also be sure that the rows are straight, use your blue or white water erasable pen and a ruler. Afterwards you can remove the lines with a damp cloth.

An easy way to change decorative stitches, is to mirror them. The picture above shows stitch 735 on the BERNINA 770QE, default.

The next picture shows how easy I can mirror stitches. Sometimes a mirror stitch gives a better result. If you do not have this option on your machine, just turn your sandwich and start making stitches from the other direction for the same result!

And this is an overview of my first block. Remember: it is far from finished! There is so much more I can do to embellish this…

A detail from a section of the block, still without sequins and beads. You can see how ‘tight’ the stitches are, and how beautiful it is that the beginning and ends of the stitches are hidden under the ‘next’ fabric.

For embellishing with sequins and beads, it is important to keep an area of 5 cm free, at all sides of the sandwich! 
When the blocks are assembled in Month 12, you will need this space to place your presser foot and needle – you cannot make stitches directly on sequins and beads .. because sometimes you cannot finish adding sequins and beads on rows on the outside of the block, it is important to keep a log, and note which ones you have used, with number and/or color. After assembly in Month 12 you can fninish adding the last embellishments on the quilt.

Sequins and beads… what wonderful products…

I will embellish some more, in between making the next blocks. A wonderful way to alternate work..  There is so much more I can do…

WOW, the first block is ready, so far. This picture is of the back of my block. Well, the back is not as messy as I thought, but then again… I am not ready yet! At this point it woll do… I don’t have to cut anything yet, the sandwich/block can stay the way it is. For the moment I will put it aside until Month 12.

Next month, on February 15, you will receive patterns and instructions for block 2. You will not only work with decorative stitches, but also with Freemotion quilting.

Please share as many pictures of your work as possible: you can do this in our Facebook Group ‘Crazy Colors Mystery Quilt 2017’ if you are a member. If not amember, it’s easy to join this group: we can enjoy and learn from each others work.

It would also be nice to show your work at this BERNINA Blog – you can do so in the COMMUNITY of the  Blog. Go to the Homepage, check the right column and click on ‘Sign in and upload your projects’. It will show ‘Welcome at the community’, at which time you can register or log in. After this you can upload your pictures whenever you want to. If you are already signed in, just click on ‘Upload a new project’: show your blocks and tell your story! We love to hear from you!

If you have any questions, you can ask them directly on this BERNINA Blog: just click on ‘comment now’ on top or below this blog, or – it that doesn’t work – further below this blog on ‘start the discussion’. I will always answer, so that other quilters can use tips etc. too.

I wish you a lot of fun making this first block!

Happy Quilting!
Sylvia Kaptein – designer/initiator Crazy Colors Mystery Quilt 2017 (CCMQ2017)
Sylvia’s Art Quilts Studio
Mient 10, 1655KR Sijbekarspel, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands
mail me via [email protected] if you have questions about this project, or send me a personal message via the FaceBook group. Questions and answers with pictures will be frequently placed in that group, because we can all learn from each other (if you object to this, please let me know).

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