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How do I quilt difficult material ?

Shoshine's picture

My Mother-in-law put together a quilt with blocks her mother made in the 60's. She used a cotton/polyester fabric for the pieces between these old blocks and then she used a percale sheet for the back. She then safety pinned the quilt together and started to quilt it using a lap frame. She did about 5% of the quilt before she died. I wanted to finish it for my sister in law and I have found that this combination is horrible to quilt.
I can't get the needle through the fabric without using a pair of needle nose pliers. She doesn't want to lose the stitches her mother did or I would unpick it and start over with new fabric. She also doesn't want to have it machine quilted.
I am not a beginner but I am still a novice when it comes to quilting. I have done a wall hanging and helped with 3 queen size quilts and I have quilted one king size quilt by myself.
What can I do? Would a professional quilter be able to quilt such a difficult situation.
Help me if you can.... Shoshine


Edited 12/7/2008 12:25 am ET by Shoshine

MaryinColorado's picture

You might call the churches in your area and see if they have a quilting group.  Also, in our area some of the Senior Centers and Recreation Centers do this, there may even be a group through a hospital or nursing homes.  It may be unrealistic to hand quilt it, maybe that's why your mother in law didn't finish it. 


Good luck!  I hope you will be able to get some help on this lovely heirloom.  Your sister in law might change her tune about having it machine quilted if she learned "first hand" how difficult it is to get the needle through it.  My Husqvarna Viking machines have a "hand look" quilt stitch.  You use clear polyester (not nylon) on the top and cotton machine quilting thread in the bobbin, it does a step type stitch that looks very much like hand quilting. 

Shoshine's picture

Thanks for your suggestion. I will look into the machine you mentioned and show it to my sister in law. Thanks

MaryinColorado's picture

Also you could click on the Thread Free motion quilting right below your question here, Damascusannie has photos you can see.  She does her work on treadle machines and has a website you can go to.  She does beautiful work, as do many others here beautiful quilting by machine.  Maybe your sister in law has only seen the machine quilted ones in stores that do not compare. 


Also if you click on the Red title Quilting and Home Decor, it gives you lots more Threads related to quilting...hope this helps!  Mary


Edited 12/7/2008 10:05 am by MaryinColorado

damascusannie's picture

Unfortunately, I think you've discovered why this quilt was never finished! I'm not surprised that she stopped after only 5% of it was quilted. Percale sheeting is just about the worst fabric in the world to hand-quilt because it is so tightly woven that you can't get a needle through it by hand, as you've learned.

As a professional quilter (both hand and machine) I would flatly refuse to hand quilt this quilt because of the sheeting used for the backing. It is literally going to be impossible to finish. Obviously, your sister-in-law doesn't know the first thing about quilting or she'd be finishing this herself, so it's going to be up to you to explain to her what the difficulties are. While I understand why she would like the quilt finished the way her mother started it, there is a good reason why her mom stopped working on it.

You have more than enough hand quilting experience to finish this if it weren't for the percale, so don't feel that it's some sort of problem on your end--it really is fault of the backing material chosen.

Annie in Wisconsin, USA
~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

Annie in Wisconsin, USA ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine. See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damas...
KharminJ's picture

I have an "outside the box" thought ~

Since the stitching already completed can't be removed, but it's only done in a very small area (right?) how about this: Cut off the unquilted area of the backing, and put a whole new backing over it. The area already done would have an extra layer - the sheeting - and the rest of it would be far easier to work.

You may want to partially restitch (or double stitch) that 5%, so that the backing is attached in that area, too, but it would be a much smaller project than doing the whole darn thing with a pliers!

If the "extra layer" is objectionable, you might trim out the between-the-stitches percale too, sort of like one does reverse applique.Good stitching to you! Kharmin

damascusannie's picture

That is an excellent idea! Thinking outside the box is usually a good thing.

Annie in Wisconsin, USA
~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

Annie in Wisconsin, USA ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine. See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damas...
KharminJ's picture

LOL ~ It's a lot more fun out there! K