Even though I've been quilting for 15 years and consider myself an experienced quilter, I've come to the realization that really isn't true. I'm an experienced hand-piecer and hand-quilter, but I'm still somewhat of a newbie when it comes to machine piecing, and especially machine quilting. This quilt proved to be a learning experience in so many ways.
First lesson: When blocks of two different patterns are to be joined together side by side, be absolutely sure they work up to be the same size. Did I check this before I started? Nope! These blocks aren't markedly different in size, but it's enough to make putting them together and machine quilting them less than optimal. The Kansas Star block, the block that resembles more of an X than a star, is a teensy bit bigger than the Time and Tide block, which strongly resembles a star. (Who thinks up these names anyway?) Yes, I fudged them together during the piecing, and thought I was in the clear. I failed to forsee that the bigger block would be "puffier" during the quilting process.
Second lesson: Have the right sewing machine for the job. I began machine quilting this quilt on my trusty Kenmore. The Kenmore is a great machine for piecing, but not so much for machine quilting. The small harp proved to be an issue for this 62 X 74 inch quilt. Also, the motor wasn't geared low enough. When I slowed down to the speed I needed to go for accuracy, the motor wanted to stall out. Enter the Juki TL-98Q with its large harp and motor that is able to slow to the crawl I sometimes need, or do 1500 stitches per minute. Huge difference!
Third lesson: I must not let my mind wander when stitching in the ditch. This was the first time I've ever stitched in the ditch. I love this technique! It's great for doing the primary anchoring when beginning the quilting. And when used around certain elements in a block, it can really make those elements "pop". However, if I start to think about what I'm going to fix for supper, doing errands, or even just another quilting project, all of a sudden I'm no longer stitching in the ditch; I'm stitching on the curb.
Fourth lesson: I will never again do stars, squares or other various and sundry shapes with straight line quilting. Turning the quilt, even with the ample harp space of the Juki, is a major chore. My shoulders wear out quickly. I will learn to do free motion quilting or my straight line quilting will be straight lines. Period.
The good news is that the quilt is done. The bad news is that because I had so much trouble with it, I see all of its flaws. The quilt is for a dear a friend, and I wanted it to be perfect. Sometimes we just have to suck it up.