Sunday, 6 May 2012

Zen and the Art of Satin Stitching

For one of our classes in high school, we had to read some chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Now, I'll be honest that I don't remember much of that book. My biggest takeaway was about learning to be in the moment and to get absorbed in whatever you are doing to truly understand it and, if necessary, to fix it. To be truly good at something, like motorcycle riding, you must be able to take your motorcycle apart, diagnose the problems, fix it, and put it back together. Now I've probably oversimplified the book, but that's what my 17 year old brain took from it.

So what does that have to do with quilting? I've been doing hours of satin stitching on Micah's growth chart. Stitch after stitch after stitch. It's been slow and boring and a bit of a slog, but it's helped me practice my satin stitching and improve my satin stitch points. It's also been rather zen-like at points (ha ha).

Satin Stitch tip
I hadn't originally planned to satin stitch all the flames, but when I saw that a bunch of the flames had come loose from the repositionable spray and that there was quite a bit of fraying of the fabric, I decided to go with satin stitching and I'm really glad I did.

I used a lot of shiny rayon threads, some cotton and some polyester. Basically, if it was the colour I wanted, I used it. I really like the mix of thread types for the satin stitch on the flames.

I had originally learned to make points in satin stitching by reducing your stitch length and then doing a 180 degree turn and just come back the way you came. That works well, but it didn't really give me a point, which is what I wanted on the ends of my Little Miss Sunshine and on the flames of Micah's Growth chart.

So I experimented a little and found that if I created a tiny triangle at the tip, then I get my point. I thought I'd share what I've learned with you.

As you come up to your point, reduce your stitch width gradually. I have a Bernina so I'd reduce my stitch width to 1.8 or even 1.6. For these photos, I kept it to 2.0 so you could see the triangle more definitively.

When you are ready to make your point, stop on the zig (my 'technical' term for the needle on the left), needle on the down position.

Rotate your quilt 60-90 degrees counterclockwise (towards the back of your machine), depending on how acute you want the angles in your triangle.

Do a zag so that your needle is down in the right and it forms the tip of your triangle.

Rotate your quilt again 60-90 degrees, again depending on your preferred angle.

Do a zig so the needle is on the left at the lower right side of the triangle and you've completed your triangle.

Rotate your quilt again so that you will be stitching back over your previously satin stitched line.

Start zig zagging back overlapping your previous satin stitched line a bit, gradually moving away and increasing your stitch length.
Finished point

So there's my tip on making a tip!

For Micah's growth chart, the backing is back on (I had taken it off to do the satin stitching) the growth chart. Now all I have left to do is some free motion smoke curls in the sky, do some free motion flames in the flames to stabilize that area of the growth chart, quilt the inch marks and secure the sleeve. I feel a finish coming on! Good thing too, because I'm hosting TGIFF! this Friday. I hope you get your finishes ready too and link up.

What have you been up to lately?


  1. Awesome tip! Thanks. I will try this for sure. I have the worst time with satin stitching.

  2. Nice job on the satin stitch and thanks for the tip! This chart is great! I really like the flames. Looking forward to see the completed version.

  3. Great tip! I always struggle with satin stitch.

  4. I can't wait to see the growth chart all done! Thanks for the tip, will definitely have to give it a try!

  5. This is excellent M-R. I'm saving this.

  6. This is a great tip. I'll try it out when I have time :)


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